Bottom line: God made this beautiful, but messy universe. And in Jesus, God entered his own creation. In him we see the worth of the body.
Merry Christmas! Feliz Navidad! At Christmas time we have wonderful stories of shepherds, angels and an infant placed a manger. These stories contain deep truths that we have explored in the past and will continue explore them. This year I want to go more directly to the meaning of Christmas.
I'm doing this as part of a homily series on Discovering Life's Purpose. That is the task above all for a young person: to ask, Why am I here? Does my life have significance? Am I part of a bigger plan? We find the answer by turning to the Bible and our two thousand year Christian tradition.
The Bible tells about how God formed a people - speaking to them through the prophets. Then at the right moment he sent his Son:
In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through the Son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe,
Jesus is more than a great teacher like Socrates or Confucius. He's more than a prophet like Isaiah or Jeremiah. Jesus is the eternal Word. In the very first lines of his Gospel, John says:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be.
Before the earth was formed, before the galaxies were born, before the Big Bang, was the Word. All things came to be through him and without him nothing came to be. I remember when I was child, our family had a small dairy farm on the banks of the Stillaguamish River near Arlington. I used to walk alone and wonder why is all this is here. It seems logically there should be nothing, just darkness and emptiness. But there is something. When I studied philosophy I learned this is the question of being - why is there something and not nothing at all? If you look in the Bible, you get this answer: Something exists because God exists. He is the Fact on which all other facts depend. Through Jesus God created something out of nothing.
Now, matter is messy. It can go wrong in a thousand ways - from volcanos to viruses. I had my own experience this year when my doctor discovered my aorta had expanded from one inch diameter to about three inches. Fortunately there was a remedy for my aneurysm. Nevertheless, our physical bodies are subject to constant afflictions. That didn't stop Jesus from taking a human body. St. John says:
And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.
From the beginning this was a difficult teaching. Some people said Jesus, being God, did not really suffer. They were called Docetists from the word for "appear" or "seem" They thought Jesus only seemed to suffer on the cross, that he only appeared to be human. The Church responded that, on the contrary, Jesus has true human flesh like you and me. And that because of the resurrection, Jesus continues to have a human body, although now glorified. You know, there are modern Docetists who look down on the body. They say it doesn't matter what a person does with his body, only the mind counts. That's not what Jesus says. For him, the body, the flesh matters greatly.
And why? We get a glimpse in the great prophecy of Isaiah:
As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; and as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride so shall your God rejoice in you.
Isaiah is describing a love which is a little crazy. It leads a young man to throw caution to the wind. He binds himself to the most beautiful creature he has ever seen. And they enter a life-long union which bears enormous fruit.
When I became a priest, in the person of Christ, I took the Church as my bride. A beautiful bride, but full of flaws - like me. In spite of all that, from that union would come children, through baptism and the other sacraments.
We'll see more about that tomorrow when we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. I know it comes quickly on the heels of Christmas, but don't miss it. Family provides an important key to answering the question: Why am I here? What is my purpose? Am I part of a bigger plan?
For Christmas take this home: God made this beautiful, but messy universe. As C.S. Lewis observed "God likes matter. He invented it." And in Jesus, God entered his own creation. He took flesh from the Virgin Mary and became man. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Amen.
Spanish Version (Word document)
From the archives (Christmas 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.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Kurt Nagel
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru