The Word

(Christmas Homily)

Fr. Pete Byrne, a Maryknoll priest in Peru, tells a wonderful Christmas story. He once observed a nine year old girl named Juanita selling cookies on a Lima street corner. A car pulled up to the curb and the girl ran over, hoping for a sale. However, instead of making a purchase, the woman went to her trunk, took out a beautiful doll and gave it to the girl. Juanita put down her cookies and clasped the doll to her heart. Father Byrne remarked, “The joy on her face as she looked at her doll was beyond words. The unexpected gift – isn’t that what God gave us in the person of Jesus on that first Christmas?”

Quite likely, Juanita had never previously received a doll. But, as Fr. Byrne observed, it represented much more than a material possession. For a child trying to survive in a huge, confusing – and frightening – city, the doll signified someone reaching out and caring about her.

The book of Wisdom describes a similar breakthrough:

For while gentle silence enveloped all things,
And night in its swift course was now half gone,
Thy all-powerful word leaped from heaven, from thy royal throne. (18:14-15)

Thus God comes to us at Christmas. Darkness has covered our world – and we ourselves have turned from the light. Centuries of human effort have not banished the darkness. It keeps returning to overwhelm us. Because of human impotence, as St. John explains, the Word had to physically enter our darkened world. Thus:

the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us. (Jn 1:14)

The Word has power we can only dimly imagine. It puts order into chaos. In recent years, science has provided some intriguing glimpses of that power. You have probably heard of the Human Genome Project. For thirteen years groups of scientist participated in a coordinated effort to identify all the approximately 30,000 genes in human DNA and to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA. A single microscopic strand of DNA contains more information than a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Scientists once imagined that cells emerged by a random process like tossing a bunch of ingredients in a cauldron. But the more they learn, the more they use expressions like purpose and design. Richard Dawkins, the most famous contemporary Darwinist, puts the heart of the problem this way: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

Design and purpose imply Intelligence - Someone capable of speaking a Word. When John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word” he uses a Greek philosophical term: Logos. It can also be translated reason or study. Anthropology, for example, is the study (logos) of man (anthropos).

But the Word is not some distant entity, like a philosopher in his ivory tower. Rather, the Word has come among us, taking upon himself our sorrows, joys, anxieties – even our very sin. In him we can know hope, divine acceptance.

Archbishop Brunett recounts a pastoral experience which speaks about that hope. When he was a young priest, he visited a patient who was in a coma. Since the person gave no response, the family and even the hospital staff began to act as he heard nothing. When it came time for the prayer they gathered around the comatose man’s bed. Archbishop Brunett took his hand and said, “I am Father Brunett. I have come to pray with you.” At the conclusion of the prayer, he felt the man squeeze his hand, as tears filled his eyes. The man said no words, but it was clear God had broken through his terrible isolation. On Christmas God has done that for each of us in a way more radical than we can imagine. I can do no better than conclude with the words of today’s Gospel:

No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father's side,
has revealed him.

From his fullness we have all received,
grace upon grace.


Versión Castellana

From the archives (Christmas Homilies):

2014: There is More
2013: Forgiving God
2012: Why Jesus Was Born
2011: The Gift of Freedom
2010: Let Him Come In
2009: When We Were Gone Astray
2008: The Tiny Footsteps of Jesus
2007: No More Fear and Hiding
2006: That Sacred Jest
2005: An Ivory Horn
2004: A Christmas Poem
2003: The Weakness of God
2002: The Word
2001: The Abundance of God
2000: I Am One of You Now
1999: Bigger on the Inside
1998: How to Receive a Gift
1997: Someone is Knocking at the Door
1996: The Gift We All Desire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.



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