Bottom line: Open yourself to God's power, his mercy, his promise. For him nothing is impossible.
(Some practical details, especially for visitors - rest rooms, collection procedure, times for kneeling, etc.)
Before giving the homily, I want to say a few thank-you's. Regarding "thank-you's" here at St. Mary of the Valley - like other parishes - we have the discipline of not applauding, but praying. After Mass, you can express your gratitude any way you want: applause, shouts, whistles, whatever. But in Mass we express gratitude by praying, by thanking and glorifying God. I certainly feel that way about my forty years as a priest. If I have done anything good, the credit goes to God.
With that in mind, I want to express some words of gratitude. First, to all of you for coming to this 40th anniversary Mass. I thank my brothers and sister, their spouses, children and other family members and friends. I thank the parishioners here from Holy Family, Seattle, where I served for 14 years before I came to St. Mary of the Valley in 2009. I also thank those from Ferndale, Blaine and the Lummi Indian Reservation, as well as St. Luke in Shoreline and St. Alphonsus, Seattle. And I thank those who put with my Spanish back in the 80's - Hispanics from Kent, Christ the King and St. Mary in Seattle. In a particular way I thank the Peruvians - the members of Brotherhood of Our Lord of the Miracles who have supported the Mary Bloom Center in Peru.
Speaking of Peruvians, I am grateful for Fr. Narciso Valencia. Fr. Valencia recently arrived from Peru and will be here at St. Mary of the Valley for the next two months.
And, of course, Fr. Treacy. He is the senior priest of the Archdiocese. He is in his nineties, but going like sixty - a wonderful model for younger priests. Fr. Treacy, for many years, was pastor of St. Cecilia in Stanwood where he got to know my parents, Melvin and Mary Bloom.
I want to thank, above all, Archbishop Sartain for being the celebrant of this Mass. Archbishop Sartain came to Seattle a little over the year ago. At our priests gathering last June, he said that people have confused him with Fr. Phil Bloom. The priests started saying to me, "Hello, your Excellency" and "Good morning, archbishop." I told them that I am finally getting some respect. Part of the reason for the confusion is that we have similarly shaped heads. When I was growing up, my older brother made fun of my head and I always felt self-conscious. Now, it has finally paid off. There is a lesson here for young people: what seems like a liability can turn out be an advantage.
Now, that ties in with the homily for this Mass.* God can turn a liability into an advantage - not because we are so great, but because of his promise. In the first reading we hear about the promise God made to King David. The prophet Nathan tells David that his house and kingdom will endure forever. The amazing thing about this promise is that it does not depend on David's worthiness. Remember that David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. God punished David - and he repented. In the Psalms we hear echoes of David's repentance.** Even though David sinned greatly, God did not withdraw his promise. There is a message here for us: Not to go out and sin. When we turn from God, we suffer the consequences. When we turn back to him, we experience healing. We realize that every day we depend on God's mercy - and his promise.
We can see God's promise in the ordination of a priest. God chooses men who are weak - like David - and through them accomplishes amazing things. In my years as a priest, I have been astounded by what God does. Once a man told me, "Father, when I was having some troubles, you said something that got me through them."
"What did I say?" I asked. He replied, "You told me to trust God." It was not me; it was the Holy Spirit. The simplest words can sometimes make the greatest difference - because of God - his power, his mercy, his promise.
We see the promise of God in today's Gospel. The angel Gabriel tells a Jewish maiden that she will conceive a son - by the overshadowing of the Most High. That child, he says, will receive "the throne of David."
So God's promise comes down to that - a child, a child smaller than a sesame seed. Jesus began his human existence like you and me - a tiny embryo.*** Using ordinary human biology, God does something unexpected. He fulfills his promise not by politics, not by military power - but by the birth of child: in the city of David, Bethlehem. God uses what seems insignificant to accomplish mighty deeds.
Something similar applies to the priesthood. A priest takes ordinary things and God uses them for something extraordinary: Water to bring re-birth, oil to heal the sick and soothe the dying - and, above all, bread and wine to renew Jesus' saving death. How does it happen? I can only respond with the words of today's Gospel, the words of Elizabeth, words Christian have known for two thousand years: Nothing will be impossible for God.
I hope I am some small testimony to that. People here from Stanwood and Camano Island - where I grew up - can witness that I am unlikely candidate for the priesthood.
If a young man here is thinking about the priesthood, maybe feeling a little afraid, I ask him to remember God's promise. With him nothing is impossible. The same applies to those thinking about marriage. For sure, we have seen a lot of family breakdown, but that does not mean God's promise is empty. He can do great things - and he will.
To sum up: Be like David. Open yourself to God's power, his mercy, his promise. For him nothing is impossible. Amen.
*To fellow homilists: This is the point to begin if you are looking for ideas and illustrations for your homily.
**Have mercy on me, O Lord, in your great mercy. Against you alone have I sinned. Blot out my sins and create a clean heart in me - and I will offer you a sacrifice of praise.
***Zygote is a more exact word, but even medical sites apply the word "embryo" beginning at fertilization.
General Intercessions for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle B (from Priests for Life)
From Archives (Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B):
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.
40th Anniversary Celebration
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru