Archive for December, 2009

Homily – Christmas MMIX 12/25/09

Friday, December 25th, 2009

Homily – Christmas MMIX 12/25/09

Pieter Bruegel, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566

Pieter Bruegel, The Census at Bethlehem, 1566

Late in the afternoon that first Christmas eve, a man could be seen walking in front of a donkey, coming from the north on the road leading into the city. Passing by a field of shepherds with their sheep, this man, whose name was Joseph, led his donkey through the gates of the city of Bethlehem, to look for a place to stay the night.

Riding atop the donkey was Joseph’s young wife, whom he had married a little less than a year ago, whose name was Miryam, a name meaning “the perfect and beautiful one”.

Also riding on that donkey behind Joseph, in the virgin womb of His mother, was Joseph’s unborn Son by adoption, who He was to name Jesus.

Jesus came riding into Bethlehem on a donkey, just as he was to go riding into Jerusalem on a donkey 33 years later.

But what was Joseph, and his nine month’s pregnant wife and child, and his donkey, doing there? Why did Joseph saddle up his donkey and journey 75 miles from his home in Nazareth in the cold of winter?

St. Luke tells us why in the Gospel we read at Midnight Mass: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment.

A census was to be taken; the Roman Emperor wanted every man, woman and child in his Empire to be counted and enrolled in his census book, according to their ancestral home, (which in Joseph’s case was Bethlehem).

To ensure full participation, an army of census takers were employed in every town and village, and there were severe penalties if you were caught not getting enrolled.

But that stiff fine or threat of imprisonment wasn’t what gave Joseph the motivation to walk those 75 miles.

As he walked, and as Mary rode, along those long rough roads leading down to Bethlehem, they were thinking not about the enrollment newly decreed by the earthly Ceasar Augustus, ruler of the Roman Empire;

No, they were thinking only about the enrollment newly decreed by the Heavenly Ceasar Augustus, Almighty God, the ruler of all Empires, and Peoples, and Ages Past, Present and Future.

For in those days, a decree went out from this Caesar Augustus, from God Almighty, that the whole world should be enrolled.

God in those days wished to enroll not just everyone currently living in the Roman Empire, but every man, woman and child who had ever lived in any Empire, and even those who would one day live after those days, beginning His enrollment with Adam and Eve, and continuing down through the centuries, our 21st century included, and ending the enrollment with the last generation of men to be born at the end of time.

This was the First Enrollment Luke rightly says. All Nations, not just the Israelites, were now to be enrolled for the First Time in History, and their names written in an Enrollment Book which God the Father was to give to His Son that first Christmas.

On the first page of that book was written: “To my dear and only-begotten Son, from your beloved Eternal Father, given to you on the Night you came forth from your Mother’s womb. In this book are the names of all the people I sent you into the world for.

Go to them, call each one of them by name to follow after you, lay down your life, my Son, for each one of these people I have enrolled in this Book I am giving you Today.”

And just as Caesar Augustus had his army of census workers to do his enrollment for him, Almighty God had His Army of Angels to do His enrollment.

And as counting every human being ever created is a massive undertaking, God therefore must have employed every Angel He had in His service to do the job – including your Angel, the one God has assigned to guard you throughout your life.

Your Guardian Angel and mine were most probably among that multitude of Heavenly Hosts singing to those Shepherds that first Christmas night:

Gloria in Excelsis Deo – Glory to God in the Highest

and on earth Peace to men of Good Will!”

Let us then, whose names are written in that First Enrollment, go with the Shepherds and with our Guardian Angel this night to Bethlehem, and kneel before that Manger.

The Babe who lies there even now has that Enrollment Book memorized, even now from the Manger He calls us by name, and knows us, and loves us with His Most Sacred Heart.

And See! as you kneel there, how His Mother Mary takes Him in her arms out of the Manger, and turns to you and says “He wants you to hold Him. Don’t be afraid.”

His Mother, and St. Joseph, and God His Heavenly Father all want you to, and He most of all wants so much you and me, to take Him in our arms, and hold Him close to our Hearts, and believe with all our heart and soul and mind and strength that He alone is fully God and fully Man, born to us in Bethlehem this Night.

So may you and I be then found worthy, to have our names enrolled and written in the Book of Life,

which will be the Second Enrollment, very soon to be decreed in those Last Days, by God the Father, the Most August Emperor of Heaven and Earth.

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C 12/20/09

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent C 12/20/09

How does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? St. Elizabeth asks in today’s Gospel.

That question is one each and every one of us should make our own this last Sunday before Christmas.

How does this happen to me, Who am I that the Lord and His Mother should come to me?

Who am I, who are you, that God should come to you in the womb of the Virgin Mary? Who are you that Almighty God should come to you in the form of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes?

Do you know who you are in God’s eyes?

You are, first and foremost immensely loved by God the Father. At your conception in your mother’s womb, Almighty God, out of His sheer goodness freely created you, in His Divine Image.

As my old seminary professor from Hartford CT, Fr. Liptak would always say, “God created you singular, unique, and unrepeatable!”

God loves you so much, He wants to spend eternity with you in Heaven, a place of unending light and joy and peace and holiness and unity.

God loves you so much, that He even left these glories and riches of Heaven, and descended into to this dark and joyless and brutal world, and was born in that manger 2009 years ago.

No comforts of a palace, no modern comforts of electricity, heat, medicine or transportation. God was born the Son of a poor Carpenter because He wanted you to know love and serve Him in this life and be happy with Him forever in Heaven.

Who am I that the Lord should come to me? You are God the Father’s beloved child, God the Son’s beloved Friend, God the Spirit’s beloved Temple – never forget that, and don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise!

But you and I are also something else, that the Lord should come to us.

You and I are also sinners. Born under the curse of Original Sin, as the Hail Holy Queen says, “poor banished children of Eve” and of Adam, our disobedient parents; banished with them from Paradise, subject to the punishment of death.

We know the good we are to do, but left on our own we are powerless to do that good; left to our own, our flesh time and again gives in to temptation and breaks the Holy Commandments of God.

And yet, even when we were sinners and deserving of God’s wrath, God still unconditionally and passionately loved us, and sent His Son to be born of the Virgin Mary on Christmas night.

And so, because we were sinners, because we had all gone astray like sheep, everyone to his own way, Jesus with all his heart lovingly chose to be born into this world, in a cave, His tiny body wrapped up like a mummy in linen swaddling clothes, to remind us that He was born to die for our sins and be buried in another cave once more wrapped up in linen burial clothes, sprinkled with the myrrh the Magi gave Him that first Christmas.

Jesus was born in the cave on Christmas night, so that you and I would be able to Rise Gloriously from the cave with him on Easter Sunday, with all our sins forgiven and with His Holy Spirit within us.

How can this happen, Who am I, that the Lord and His Mother should come to me?

This Christmas, may we know more deeply the wonderful answer to that important question.