One Christmas, while his nation was suffering a terrible civil war, Archbishop Oscar Romero spoke these words:
“No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God - for them there will be no Christmas...
“Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God, Emmanuel, God with us.”
This past year our own nation has suffered greatly. On September 11 the terrorism, which plagues so many other countries, struck us as well. In the wake of the attacks, we saw how fragile our economy is, especially here in Seattle with so many lay offs at Boeing and the service industries. At the level of our parish and personal lives, we have also had humbling experiences. What does all this mean?
Christmas reminds us that we draw near God not from a position of strength, but fragility. God Himself came not with power, but the weakness of a small child.
Fr. Andrew Greeley tells the story of a parish, like ours, which had a Christmas procession with two children dressed as Joseph and Mary. They were supposed to carry the statue of the Child Jesus to place in the manger. However, when they went to the cupboard where it was kept, it was not there. They searched frantically, but all the children could find was a small basket of unconsecrated hosts. They carried them in the procession and placed them in the manger. The pastor did the best he could with the homily, mentioning that the original manger was a feeding trough for animals, that Bethlehem means “House of Bread” and that the Child Jesus would one day offer himself as the Bread of Life. After communion, without anyone knowing how it happened, the statue of the Infant Jesus reappeared in the manger, looking newer and brighter than anyone remembered. The parishioners continue to recount this event to anyone who will listen.
Brothers and sisters, the Mass is Bethlehem. The crib set represents the Infant Jesus, but on the altar He becomes substantially present. This Christmas I am using a most special chalice and paten. Fr. Neil Harrington, who died on November 16, bequeathed them to us. On the base of the chalice are inscribed these words: “Presented to Fr. Cornelius J. Harrington on the occasion of his ordination to the priesthood, May 22, 1941. By the members of Holy Family Parish.” As a priest for over sixty years, how many times did Fr. Harrington say the words making Jesus bodily present in that chalice and on that paten!
I invite you to approach Jesus in your weakness and fragility. None of us have it all together. Jesus comes into our broken world, our broken lives. He brings healing, hope. As Archbishop Romero stated, “Only by recognizing our poverty, can we have the abundance of God.”
From the archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (Top 10 Reasons, Jesus Video, Quotes from Koran)
Human Cloning: A Catholic Perspective (How the Unthinkable Became Inevitable)
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish
Washington state priest brings natural family planning to Peru's highlands Catholic News Agency article about the Mary Bloom Center by Benjamin Mann
Educan en regulación natural de la natalidad en sur andino del Perú Latin American Press (aciprensa) article on the Mary Bloom Center with video