Well, I’m back. For those who are new to this parish, or those who have bad memories, or those who have blocked me out, my name is Father Mike Keucher and I was a deacon here last summer. I’m still a baby priest, ordained a few weeks ago, so this is my first assignment. Poor Msgr has to break in another new priest. But I’m so happy to be here. I loved this parish so much it’s a dream come true, a prayer come true that I got to come back. I promise to serve this parish with all my mind, all my heart, all my life.
A little about me, actually just one thing. My birthday is December 9. It’s four days after the feast day of St. Barbara, patron saint of fireworks. She was the type of person you did best not to mess with. The legend is that when people messed with her, they were struck by lightening and turned into a fireworks display. Sometimes I wish I had that same charism. I’ve always liked fire, fireworks especially. Last night Msgr. Steven and I went to watch fireworks downtown, joining thousands of others. We Americans love fireworks. 190 million pounds of fireworks sold in America every year. We spend thousands and thousands on displays. Fireworks stores are all over the place. We love the thrill. Always have.
I wonder if they had fireworks in Jesus’ day. I wonder if they had a fireworks store in Nazareth, the venue of today’s Gospel. Jesus lived 2000 years ago or so. And history tells us that fireworks were first invented 2000 years ago or so. Now, Nazareth is about a 100 hour drive to China, but maybe it was faster on camel. Here’s the thing. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that fireworks and Jesus were born at the same time. I believe Jesus is the ultimate firework master, the source of all fireworks, and that the church is the biggest fireworks store. Jesus is continually, eternally, miraculously igniting fireworks in our midst. He gives us countless miracles each day, things that are meant to take our breath away, just as he was busy doing miracles in Nazareth in today’s Gospel.
I want to talk about three types of fireworks the readings reference: the sacraments, revelation, and humanity.
First, the sacraments. Each of the sacraments is a firework, each sacrament is the most amazing and breathtaking thing imaginable….or beyond our imagination. Baptism is a firework. The last baptism I did was my little niece on the day of ordination. She didn’t cry at all but my nephew was so excited he screamed through the whole thing. He was excited and couldn’t be silence. I think he saw the firework. Every time the host is elevated and the chalice raised, there’s another firework. Every time the words of absolution are prayed over us in confession, hands are laid upon us in the sacrament of the anointing when we are anointed on our sick beds, as we see in the gospel mentions today…that’s all fireworks. The sacraments are the most exciting things in our lives, the most exciting proofs of God’s love and desire for relationship with us! The Devil wants us to think they’re boring. We can’t let him win.
Then there are the fireworks that have to do with revelation. God reveals himself to us all the time, in the Scriptures, the Tradition, and the Magesiterium. It’s all fireworks. St. Paul in the second reading today is so excited over all this, and he calls it “the abundance of revelations.” He says thank God I have this thorn in my flesh because otherwise I’d be floating in the air in excitement for all God’s revelations, all of it is fireworks. Ezekiel is the same way and the first reading says it’s all God’s revelation that “set him on his feet” in order to celebrate it all and to share it. A lot of times we think this abundance of revelations is boring: we think the scriptures or the teachings of the church are boring, or antiquated, or childish or whatever. But they are part of the fullness of truth, they are worth getting excited about and defending and loving and sticking up for. The beauty of real marriage, to offer a timely example, is worth proclaiming to the whole world. We ought to not only agree with what the bishops say, but be so excited about it.
The third kind of fireworks is you and me. St. Paul finally came to realize he was a firework, that God wanted to amaze the world through him. For a long time he as hung up on his weaknesses, his failures, his brokenness. But then he finally comes around and realizes that despite those things, or maybe even in part because of them, God wanted to do so much through him, wanted to ignite him and enkindle his spirit and set ablaze his heart. Go wanted to set off incredble fireworks with him. God wants to do amazing things in us, too, just as he wanted to do amazing things through the folks in Nazareth. But you remember the folks in Nazareth? They didn’t have faith, and so scripture has this line: “So he was not able to perform any mighty deed there.” Jesus wants to do incredible things in and through us, he wants to ignite us, set us off, amaze the world with us, change the world through us. But we gotta let him. St. Paul finally got that. So does Katy Perry. She has a song out there with these lyrics
Cause baby you’re a firework, Come on, show ’em what you’re worth
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”, As you shoot across the sky-y-y
Baby, you’re a firework, Come on, let your colors burst
Make ’em go “Oh, oh, oh”, You’re gonna leave ’em all in awe, awe, awe
Those are the three biggest fireworks—the sacraments, revelation, and you and me. God puts off fireworks displays for us all the time, and he wants us to be lost in wonder, love and awe each time. In the Gospel, Jesus sets off fireworks of miracles, but everyone dismisses him. He’s just the carpenter’s son, nothing unusual going on here. They didn’t see the fireworks. Pray God that we will. And Holy Moses–can you imagine that day, that blessed day, when, pray God, we enter the land of unending fireworks in heaven.