Archive for the ‘Advent/Christmas Homilies’ Category

Homily – Mary, Mother of God MMXI 1/1/11

Friday, December 31st, 2010

Homily – Mary, Mother of God MMXI 1/1/11

Today when we write out the date we will put 1-1-11.

And today the Church honors a person who is number one in every way: #1 saint, #1 human being, #1 woman, #1 creature even higher than all the angels, #1 disciple, #1 enemy of Satan, #1 friend, #1 mother: Mary, the Mother of God and our Mother.

During Holy Week, it is a traditional practice to reflect on the Seven Last Words of Christ – those seven statements Jesus made while hanging on the Cross for Three Hours on Good Friday.

Jesus spoke Seven times from the Cross, but Mary speaks only Seven times in the whole of Sacred Scripture. So as we end one Year of Grace and begin a New Year, let us briefly look at those Seven Words of our Mother Mary and see what they can teach us.

The first Word we hear Mary say in Sacred Scripture is at the Annunciation: How can this be, since I am a virgin?

Immediately we see Mary as a woman caught up in the Wonder of God. Mary is amazed that God is doing such awesome things through such a young humble virgin as her. Throughout her life, Mary never lost that childlike wonder for God and Creation: How can this be that God is so good to me?

Mary teaches us that we too should be caught up in a childlike wonder over God’s nearness to us and over how He works in and through our lives.

The second Word Mary says, also at the Annunciation, is Behold, I am the handmaid, the servant, of the Lord.

Whatever God wants me to do, no matter what it is, I will do it. Mary teaches us obedience to God and Christian service to God and neighbor.

The third Word Mary says is FiatLet it be done to me according to God’s word.

Not only will I do anything for God as His servant, I will let God do anything to me – I will let God pour His Holy Spirit upon me, I will let God make His Son be born in me, I will let God give me special gifts that He wants me to use, I will even accept as coming from His permissive Will sufferings and crosses if that is in accordance with God’s mysterious plan.

May our Mother Mary teach us to also say Fiat – be it done to me according to God’s Word.

The fourth Word of Mary, appropriately right at the center of her seven words to us, is not a Word but a Song from the depths of her being – Magnificat! – My Soul Magnifies the Lord . . . for He that is Mighty has done great things for me, and Holy is His Name!

Mary magnified and praised God for the great things God did for her, and she teaches us, who too often magnify our worries and trials, to also reflect on God’s goodness to us.

The fifth Word Mary says in the Scriptures is at the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple: “Son, why have you done this to us? In sorrow your father and I have been seeking you.”

Mary, the Mother of God, prayed “God, why are you doing this to me?” Mary, God’s Mother, lost Jesus for a time. Mary experienced bitter sorrow in life, even though she was sinless and had the greatest Son and Husband in the world.

Here Mary teaches us that life will have it’s sorrows and crosses, and at times Jesus will even hide from us, will even appear to have abandoned us, but if we keep seeking after Him we will find Him in an even deeper and joyful way than before.

The sixth Word Mary says is at the Wedding at Cana: They have no more wine.

Mary asks Jesus her Son to give this young couple the wine that they are in need of.

And Mary our Mother is constantly up there in Heaven, looking down on us and saying Jesus, this disciple of yours needs more grace, this other one needs this grace, that one needs this other grace – give them the grace they need my Son!

And just as Jesus, at his mother’s request, gives them not just a normal amount of ordinary wine, but an abundance of the best of wine, so Jesus at Mary’s request gives us an abundance of the best of graces for us to serve Him with and get to heaven.

It’s interesting that this married couple didn’t just invite Jesus to their wedding, they invited Jesus and His Mother Mary. And if they had invited just Jesus and not Mary, Jesus wouldn’t have worked the miracle!

May you and I and all Christians be sure to invite Mary into our lives as well as Jesus, so that she can obtain many special graces for us we wouldn’t otherwise receive.

The seventh and final Word of Mary is also from the wedding feast of Cana. They were said right at the moment when Jesus was going to work His first public miracle and thereby begin His three year public ministry which would culminate in His death and resurrection.

As such, these final words were said by Mary on the day that Her Son, who had lived for thirty years under her roof, who had shared such an intimate love and life with her up until then, was now leaving home for good, and going forth into the world to save mankind.

Mary’s famous last words as she gave her Son Jesus to the world were: Do whatever He tells you.

And that is Mary’s words to us today as we begin a New Year: Do whatever He tells you. Every day take the time to listen to Him speak to you, in prayer, in the Scriptures, at Church on Sunday, in the teachings of His Bride the Catholic Church, and Do whatever He tells you.

Do this, Mary says, and you will have a year of growth in faith hope and love; a year filled with grace and lasting peace.

Homily – Epiphany MMX 1/2/10

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

Homily – Epiphany MMX 1/2/10

On Christmas Eve in the city of Bethlehem, there was “no room at the inn,” the inn was so jam packed with people.

Twelve Days later, on this Solemn Feast of the Epiphany, there is now “no room at the Stable”: that cave in Bethlehem is now filled to capacity with Mary, Joseph, the Cow, the Donkey, the Shepherds, the Sheep, the Angels, the Magi, and the Camels – all gathered around the Manger, where the Baby Jesus, the Lord and Light and Savior of the World, lays sleeping.

Those lowly and Jewish Shepherds must have done a double take when the stable door opened, and those rich, exotic looking, pagan Magi walked in with their camels.

“What are you guys doing here? This baby is our Messiah, not yours! He’s the one our God, not yours, promised to send to us, not to you, in our Holy Scriptures.”

One zealous Shepherd, not taking any chances with these idol-worshiping foreigners, started reaching for his knife in his belt, but Mary gave him a look and he stopped.

One of the Magi, the one who spoke the best Hebrew, very calmly and politely answered the Shepherds, “We know that this Child is Your King and Messiah, we’ve all been reading and re-reading your wonderful Scriptures while we were on the road.

“We are here tonight, because a tiny Star has drawn us. From our homeland, far far away from here, we saw this Star, this tiny light, appear nine months ago. It was like no other light we’ve ever seen; it spoke to us, it called us to follow it.

“And so each one of us broke away from our lands and from our old way of life and from the gods we were taught to worship, and we all set out to see where this Star would lead us.

“And while on the road, we all met up with each other, none of us had ever known each other before, and we began to journey together, and read aloud and talk about your Scriptures with each other.”

“And the more we read the Scriptures, the brighter that star began to shine, and the more we began to realize just who it was that we were searching for, the more we began to realize just how important this journey we were taking was for us and for our people back home.

“And now, the Star has faithfully brought us to Him and His Mother, and to you good and faithful Shepherds also, and we are overjoyed.

“Our joy is beyond words, and so instead, in silent adoration, we offer Jesus these gifts which the Scriptures enlightened by that Star told us to give Him: Gold for the King of Kings, Frankincense for the God-Man, Myrrh for the Suffering Servant who will be scourged for our sins.”

Today my brothers and sisters, there is “no more room” at the Stable: The Angels, the animals, the Jewish People, and all other Nations and Peoples now surround the Manger.

It is full to capacity, there’s no room whatsoever for Satan and his demons, they’ll just have to stay somewhere else, while we adore our Newborn King and Lord without him!

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 — Baptism of the Lord MMIX 1/11/09

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Homily — Baptism of the Lord MMIX            1/11/09

We read in the Book of Genesis, that after the 40 day deluge was ended, Noah opened the hatch he had made in the Ark, and three times Noah sent out a dove, to see if the waters had lessened on the earth.

The first time Noah sent the dove, the dove flew here and there over the flood waters, but finding no earth to land on, the dove returned back to the Ark.

Seven days later, Noah opened the hatch and released the dove a second time.  This time, Genesis says, the Dove came back during the night, carrying a tiny olive branch in it’s beak.

Seven days after that second attempt, Noah opened the hatch in the Ark and sent out the Dove a third time.  This time, the Dove didn’t return; it had found a home on the new earth that had risen up from the waters.

This Scripture passage of Noah sending forth the Dove from the Ark out into the world can be read as symbolic of God’s sending forth the Holy Spirit from Heaven to our World.

The age of the Old Testament was the First Time God opened the Hatch to Heaven, and tried to send forth the Dove which is His Holy Spirit down to us.

But like that first try of Noah, the Spirit flew all over the world, and could find place no to land.  Humankind was still drowning in a sea of sin and unbelief.  And so the Spirit flew back to God, who brought the Spirit back into Heaven, and then closed back up the Hatch.

And so things remained, until about 2009 years ago, shortly after Mary had said “Yes” to the Archangel Gabriel, when God said “Let me try again to send out my Holy Spirit.”

So God opened up again the hatch which He, like Noah, had made for things to get in and out of Heaven, and He sent forth the Dove of the Holy Spirit a second time down to our World.

This time, like it did with Noah, the Holy Spirit flew back to God the Father at Night:  Christmas Night to be precise.  The Spirit had been unable still to land on the earth, but in His Beak, the Spirit had an olive branch, handed to Him by the New Born Baby Jesus, the Prince of Peace, a sign of hope that the waters of sin and unbelief were beginning to subside.

And Today, the Day of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan River by John the Baptist,  God the Father, as we read in St. Mark’s Gospel, tears open that hatch so that He’ll never be able to get it shut again, and for the third and final time God the Father sends forth the Spirit from the Heights of Heaven down to our world.

And just as the Dove didn’t return to Noah the third time, the Spirit doesn’t return to the Father.  It descends upon Jesus in the Jordan, and remains both upon Him and upon the Holy Waters of Baptism.

And we celebrate the Baptism of Christ as the end of the Christmas Season, because Baptism is our Christmas, it was the Day Christ was Born again in us, and the Day we were Born again as other Christs.

On the day of our Baptism, Heaven and Eternal Life was torn open and made available to us, and the Holy Spirit descended upon us, and the voice of God the Father was heard saying to us “You are now my beloved Son, my beloved Daughter, in you I am well pleased.

On this Christmas Feast of the Baptism of Jesus, let us thank God the Father for the tremendous gift of our Baptism.

Through Baptism, all the graces of Heaven flow out to us.  Through Baptism, we are cleansed of original sin, that sinful condition we are all naturally born into that deprives us of eternal life and happiness.

Through Baptism original sin, and all our personal sins committed before baptism are washed clean, and we are given the grace to resist any temptation the Devil may throw at us.  As St. John says in the second reading, for the Baptised believer God’s commandments are not burndensome to obey, for whoever is begotten by God in Baptism conquers the world and is able to joyful keep God’s Commandments.

Baptism also gives us the Gift of Supernatural Faith, Hope and Charity:  Faith which enables us to believe that Jesus isn’t just a human being, but the Son of God, Faith which enables us  to believe that Jesus died for our sins and is now truly Risen from the dead.

The Gift of Hope given at Baptism enables us to Hope for God’s graces to be with us in all circumstances, to Hope that the sins we’ve committed through weakness after our baptism have been forgiven if we have confessed them to a priest, and to Hope for Heaven and the Resurrection of our earthly bodies after this life is over.

And finally, Baptism gives us the Gift of Charity, enabling us to really love God with all our heart soul mind and strength and to love our neighbor, even our enemies, as we love ourselves with the very same Love Jesus had in His Sacred Heart.

Through the Gift of Baptism, God becomes our Father, Mary and the Church becomes our Mother, and Jesus becomes our Brother, and Teacher and Friend.

Thank you Father, for tearing open the hatch of Heaven, and for sending forth Your Spirit in the form of a Dove upon Jesus and upon all of us who have come to the waters of Baptism, and have experienced Christ Born again in us, by water and the Holy Spirit.

Homily — Epiphany MMIX Jan. 4, 2009

Monday, January 5th, 2009

Homily — Epiphany MMIX                Jan. 4, 2009

Today we celebrate the Twelth Day of Christmas, the Epiphany or Manifestation of Jesus to the Magi.

While the Jewish Shepherds have been kneeling around the Creche for the past 11 or so days, the Magi just arrive today because they had a longer journey to make than the Shepherds did — a longer journey geographically, and more importantly, a longer journey spiritually.

For the Jewish Shepherds, who geographically lived just a few miles outside Bethlehem, had to take a much shorter Spiritual Journey to get to the Manger as well.

The Shepherds started out closer to God and to Jesus than the Magi did.  This was because the shepherds had years of following the Law of Moses, the Ten Commandments, behind them, when Christmas night finally came.

The Shepherds also had all the Old Testament writings, the Word of God (although not yet complete), to walk by:  the History of God’s Chosen People, the Psalms to help them pray correctly, the Proverbs and other Wisdom books, the Prophets to call them to greater holiness.

The Shepherds also had great role models of faith to inspire them:  Abraham and Sarah, Israel, Ruth, David, Esther, the Maccabbee Brothers — all these Holy Men and Women and many others helped draw them closer to the One True God.

And lastly, the Shepherds had their Rabbis to teach them the scriptures, and their priests to offer acceptable sacrifices to God to atone for their sins and to thank Him for His blessings.

And so it was fitting that on Christmas Night, these Shepherds who were so close to God the Father to begin with would hear clearly the words of the Angel of the Lord announcing the Birth of Jesus the King of Kings;   fitting that these Jewish Shepherds would see clearly the sky filled with an army of Angels and hear loud and clear their Singing Glory to God in the Highest, fitting that the Journey to the Manger would be short and quick for these Shepherds.

In contrast, the pagan Magi had a much longer spiritual journey to make than the Jewish shepherds.

For they were raised in man-made religions, and were taught to worship false gods that pointed them in the wrong direction from where the true God could be found.

Their moral codes, while not totally bad in some areas, still were gravely insufficient to lead them to the fulness of life.

And so in each of these Magi’s country of origin, the words of the Prophet Isaiah in the first reading bore true:  Darkness covers the earth, and thick clouds the peoples of these lands where the God of Israel was not known.

And yet the Magi were men who made it their life’s goal to rise above the thick clouds of ignorance, doubt, despair and pagan sensuality.   And piercing through this cloud cover that hung over their lands, each of them looked up and saw, off in the distance, a tiny star.  They knew then and there that this was the guiding light each of them had been searching for in life.

And so each Magi set out by himself from his pagan country, unaware that at the same time other Magi from other pagan lands were also being guided by that same star.

And as they journeyed through mountains and valleys, they eventually met up with one another and realized they weren’t alone in their search for the New Born King, and they continued on the road together, and all the while the thick clouds began to get thinner, as the star began to shine brighter.

And today, the Magi reach the end of their Journey.  They now see and adore the child Jesus with Mary His Mother, in the House they now call their home.

Darkness and thick clouds no longer cover them.  Nor do they walk any more by the dim light of a tiny star.  No, the glory of the Lord shines round about them, as bright as it shines for the shepherds.

On this Great Solemnity of the Epiphany, let us journey with the Shepherds and the Magi to Bethlehem to Adore the New Born King.

Like the shepherds, we too can take the short and fast route to the manger by daily reading the Word of God, both the Old and now the New Testament, by living by the teachings of Christ and His Church, by following the example of the Saints, and by frequent reception of the sacraments.

And  like the Magi, may we too rise above the thick clouds of disbelief and anxiety and neo-pagan sensuality that cover our land once more, and journey by the dim light of faith.  We will not be alone for long in our journey, we will meet up with other Magi from other pagan lands along the road.

May the New Born Jesus manifest Himself ever more fully,  and shine out ever more brightly and gloriously, to all Shepherds and Magi this New Year of 2009.