Bottom line: Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart. Let him come in.
I have a Christmas present for you this year. After Mass I would like to give you a copy of Rediscover Catholicism (A Spiritual Guide to Living With Passion and Purpose) by Matthew Kelly. Matthew Kelly is one of the most popular speakers in America and Rediscover Catholicism is perhaps his most popular book. Because of his desire to help his fellow Catholics understand and live our faith, he has offered this book for the low price of two dollars. I want you to have a copy as a Christmas present - but only if you promise to read at least the first ten pages. Once you do, I am confident your will read the entire book.
Since I am offering Matthew Kelly's book as a Christmas present, I would like to begin my Christmas homily with story he told. It's not a laugh-out-loud story, but it might make you smile and it has a point in relation to Christmas.
This is the story: A Catholic priest had the custom of visiting his parishioners on Saturday afternoon. He came to one home and knocked on the door. No one answered, but he could hear the radio playing and even some footsteps so he knew someone had to be inside. He knocked louder. No one came. Finally, he pounded on the door, but got no response. So he took out a business card, wrote a Bible verse on it and stuck it in the door.
Ten minutes later a lady - who had been in the house all the time - opened the door. When she did, the card fell out. She saw the priest's name and the Bible verse: Revelation 3:20. Curious, she got out her Bible and read the verse. It said: "Behold, I am standing at the door, knocking...if anyone opens the door, I will come in and we will have a meal together."
Well, on Sunday morning the priest noticed his business card was in the collection basket. When he picked it up, he saw that his verse was crossed out and replaced by Genesis 3:10. The priest was curious so he went to the sacristy and got out his Bible. The verse said, "Behold, I saw you walking in the garden...but I was afraid and I hid myself."
It was funnier when Matthew Kelly told it...*
But it does tie in with the main point of my Christmas homily. Someone is knocking at the door - everything depends on whether you open that door. It would not make an enormous difference whether a person opens the door to their parish priest, but someone much more important is knocking at your door - and mine.
We see it dramatically at Christmas. God goes to great lengths to enter our lives. Before the universe dawned, God had a plan for you and for me. He has been at work in human history - focusing on a particular people, the Hebrews who are our "elder brothers" in the faith. And at the right moment, he took flesh from a Jewish maiden named Mary and became one of us.
Someone is knocking on the door. Our new Archbishop, Peter Sartain, has a motto that indicates how God knocks at our door. In his coat of arms, Archbishop Sartain has these words: "Of you my heart has spoken." (Ps 27:8) The human heart speaks of God.
How do our hearts speak about God? In his book, Matthew Kelly gives a way of listening to ones heart. Kelly asks us to take a look at our desires. For example, this Christmas a lady gave me a tray of fudge. I cut out a square and tried it. The fudge was so delicious that I wanted to eat all of it at one sitting. That was my desire, but I also have deeper desires - I want to have good health, so I restrained myself and tried to balance out the chocolate with other food, maybe some vegetables or fruit. I desire good health, yet at the same time, I know that no matter how many Brussel sprouts I eat, no matter how many sit-ups I do, this body will eventually deteriorate and wind up in the grave. Deep down, I desire something that will endure beyond the grave.
You and I desire something that will last. In this we are different from the other creatures on the planet. My dog - who I love very much - has simpler desires. If he has food, shelter, a little bit of affection, he seems content. I want those things too, but I (like you) want much more. We desire beauty. We desire truth. We desire goodness.
A young person who listens to his heart knows he wants a love that will endure. He wants more than a momentary feeling. He wants what Pope John Paul call "a beautiful love." A love that lasts, that involves complete mutual giving. When all is said and done, our hearts desire God. "Of you my heart has spoken."
Our hearts speak to us of God. We cry out for God. But, you know, none of us would call out for God unless he were calling out for us. C.S. Lewis makes this point dramatically in the Narnia series. (By the way, if you have not yet seen the new Narnia movie, I hope that you will this Christmas.) In Narnia one of the girls meets Aslan without really knowing who he is. Naturally she is afraid of such a hug lion. She explains that her friend had asked her to call out for "Aslan." Aslan - who represents Christ - says to her, "You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you."**
Yes, our hearts call out for God - but only because he calls out for us. Christmas is God coming to humanity. Christmas is God becoming man so he can call us to him.
Someone is knocking at the door. I would like to conclude with a famous painting. Perhaps you have seen it: It shows Jesus standing before a door, his hand lifted in a gesture of knocking. When the artist first showed the painting, some sharp-eyed person noticed that the door had no knob. He said to the artist, "you made a mistake. What kind of door is that without a handle?" But the artist replied, "You are correct, but it was not a mistake. The only handle is on the inside. Only you can open that door to Jesus." Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart tonight. Let him come in. Amen.
*Partly because he quotes all of Gen 3:10, which won't work in a children's Christmas Mass
**It would probably be too much to develop in Christmas homily, but C.S. Lewis has a provocative and famous quote on the ways Christ calls to us: "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
From the archives:
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)
Parish Picture Album
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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