Why God came as a baby: A homily for Christmas

imagesThis year I’ve been reflecting on why exactly it might be that, when God came to us, he did so as a baby.  It seems illogical to our minds….wouldn’t it make more sense for the all powerful, almighty, all majestic God to come as superman, or batman, or a king, or GI Joe, etc??  But I think God came as a baby for some important reasons. I thought of three

  1. So we wouldn’t be afraid of him. We humans are often afraid of other humans. Sometimes we are afraid of each other. Sometimes we’re afraid to talk to those we don’t know, or our bosses, or those who are different from us. Middle schoolers are afraid to talk tot he boy or girl they like. But no one is afraid of a baby.  There is something innocent and calming about a baby.  God came as a baby so we wouldn’t be scared of him.  There’s a story of a farmer and his barn. There was a blizzard and a group of birds nearby were getting caught up in it. The farmer saw them and opened the door so that they could take refuge from the storm in his barn, but the birds didn’t enter…they were afraid of him, for he was a man and they were birds. Would that I could be a bird, he thought, for then I could — as one of them — tell them to trust me and follow me.  God came, not just looking like us, but as one of us, as a baby, in order that we might not be afraid but instead trust him
  2. God also came as a baby because a baby needs to be cared for. Fr Joe Moriarty tells of a school girl who was walking by an outdoor nativity set in the middle of a cold day. She took her scarf off to give it to JEsus.  HE asked her why. She said, “He must be cold.” Just as we must take care of a baby, we must take care of Christ. We do that when we take care of his body the church, and whne we take care of him inside one another. Jeuss lives in everyone. When we take acre of each other, we take care of Jeuss.
  3. God also came as a baby in order that we might love him.  Everyone loves a baby. Jesus want sthat  we love him.  If our love is not concrete, it is not real. How do you love Jesus?  Prayer? Sunday Mass? Sacraments? Scripture? It has to be all of that!  The states of the baby Jesus always have his arms extended out, embracing us. He wants nothign more than that we love him back.  Yesterday at the 4pm Mass with all the kids I had an idea given me by the Holy Spirit on the spot….I told the kids to take their hands, put them over their hearts, close their fist, and then throw their hearts to Jesus. I had his statue in front of me.  JEsus wants our hearts!  He wants that we love him!

May we always trust Jesus, take care of him, and love him!  Merry Christmas

We need a group, a star, and some gifts: A homily for the Epiphany (Year B)

camels-1150075_1920Today, as we close the Christmas season, we celebrate the three wise men, the three kings, the magi–whatever you want to call them!  Their presence in our Christian story teaches us a lot…I want to focus on three things.

We need a group.  We really don’t know how many there were in the group with the Magi. We do know there were three for sure–Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar–but there is lots of speculation that there were many more with them.  Their journey from Persia to Bethlehem was about from here to San Antonio–about 1500 miles.  On a camel.  Caspar never would have made it without the other two…and the same for them.  We need a group to get to Jesus.  That is truth!  That is why God gives us families, why he gives us parishes, why he gives us groups within parishes.  We need holy friends to get to Jesus, to inspire us, to keep us going.  The journey is too long for us to make on our own.

We need a star. Without the star in the sky, the wise men wouldn’t have known where to go. The same is true for us. The Catholic Church is our star!  Without the Church, we are lost.  And if we ever want to reach the Lord–just as the kings wanted so desperately to reach him–then we need to look to our star, the Church!  We look to her timeless teachings, her doctrines of love, her precepts and commandments. So long as we look to the star of the Church and follow after her beaming light, we’ll get to the Good Lord in no time.

We need gifts.  God forbid we should show up to the Lord empty handed one day!  We give Jesus our everything.  That is the lesson of these kings.  Caspar’s gift is incense–a symbol of the devotion, prayers, and heart we are to give to God.  Melchior brought the gold–a sign of the temporal goods we give to God, including our money.  Balthazar gives the myrrh, the stuff used over bodies when someone died. It’s a symbol that we give Jesus our bodies, our lives. They don’t belong to us anyway!

My friends, we need a group, we need the star, we need gifts!  Praise the Lord he gives us everything we need!  There’s a great line in Eucharistic Prayer I about how we give to God what he himself has given to us.  In other words, even our gifts–it’s all God’s!  Praise the Lord.  Together may we follow after the star, may we seek Jesus and give him everything.  He is worth it.

All because God fell in love: A homily for Christmas

IMG_9957I’ve been visiting all of our shut-ins and folks in nursing homes recently, in order to wish them a Merry and happy Christmas. I always love looking at the pictures on people’s walls. Often there are dozens and dozens of pictures of family members and loved ones. You should always send pictures of you and your family to loved ones who are homebound, or in nursing homes. Often it is looking at faces of children and grandchildren that gets people through. Some also tell me they pray over those pictures.

About four days ago I visited a husband and wife who have been members of our parish for ages. They live in Ashford Place. Like so many, they had pictures everywhere of family members.  At the top of it all was a picture of the two of them.  Above that was a frame that said, “All because two people fell in love.”  In other words, none of the 100 or so people below would ever even exist were it not for the love that brought together this couple.

Brothers and sisters: today we celebrate that Jesus came to earth, that God has been born among us.  All that has followed–everyone who has been baptized, every family that exists, everyone who has been brought together in matrimony, all whose sins have been absolved in holy confession, every person who has received the Body of Our Lord at Holy Mass, every soul that has been born on earth and every soul that has entered heaven–it is all because God fell in love.

God is not out to get us!  He’s out to love us!  Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds and the wise men–all were told, “Do not be afraid!”  The same is said to us!  God comes to us, is born among us, because he fell in love.  No one is afraid of a baby!  Everyone wants to hold the baby, kiss the baby. For that, when God entered the world, he did so as a beautiful baby boy.

So that all might love him, too.  And fall in love.  Among the many Christmas cards I got–and I am so very thankful for them all–there was one that really got me.  It said, “Dear Fr. Mike, Merry Christmas.  We appreciate what you are doing. Thank you for caring.”

Today Jesus invites us all to care a little more–about our faith, about our families, about living a good and upright life.  So I had this experience in prayer.  I was sitting there with Mary who was holding, and she asked: Do you want to hold him?

We are all asked that today my friends.  Do you want to hold him?

Friends: Hold onto Jesus, hold on to him with all your life, all your heart, all your soul.  Do it.  Never let him go.  Look him in the eyes, behold him, love him, kiss him.  Cherish him.  Do that, and only then will you be able to let go of everything else–all your angers, resentments, failures, mistakes, addicitons.  Just fall in love with Jesus and hold onto him.

So much has happened because Jesus fell in love with us.  What might happen, my dear friends, if we fell in love with him, too??????

Everyone of you–please, for the love of God, think of one way that you will hold on to Jesus in a better, more passionate way this coming year.

May God bless you and your families with a Merry Christmas.

Mysteries of the Magi: A homily for the Epiphany of the Lord (Year A)

three-wise-menToday Holy Church celebrates the Epiphany of the Lord, his manifestation to the Magi.  There are several Magi mysteries and I want to consider some.

First, the Bible does not tell us how many people exactly it was that made the journey to the Child Jesus.  We do know there were three presents, so we assume that there were most likely three magi—one for each gift. Our tradition does name the Magi Casper, Melchior and Balthazar, and their remains are preserved in Cologne Cathedral.  That said, there was probably an entourage of people with them. However many there were, we know there was more than one.  That teaches us our first lesson: we cannot search for Jesus alone.  We need one another–which is why God gave us families, friends, parishes.  Had Casper been on his own, or any of the others, he would not have made it.
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Christmas, an invitation to live in the Light: A homily for Christmas (Year A)

14199294_10206930735689402_7346692487453914529_nSome years ago, a friend of mine got me bacon jam for Christmas.  It is not good.  I used to think that everything is better with bacon.  No more.  Jam is not better with bacon.

That friend—he told me of how he once was in a science class and did an experiment.  He took two pots and put seeds in both of them.  He watered them the same.  The only difference was that one pot he put in a fairly dark room and the other he put in a very well lit room.
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Four things the wise men had that we need – A homily for the Epiphany of the Lord

wiseToday Holy Church celebrates the  the Epiphany. We celebrate those three kings–Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar–and their journey to the Lord.  In some ways, until this point in this Christmas season, we have been considering God’s journey towards us.  He had a far way to come, from heaven to earth. We’ve considered how he came to us through the Blessed Virgin Mary, how he came to the stable, how he comes into our lives.

Today we reflect a bit on the fact that we must journey to God, too.  It’s a pretty sweet deal he’s given us. His part of the journey, after all, is far greater, far more difficult. The distance from Heaven to earth is a lot more miles than from our house to the manger, to the church. We have only to go a bit.  I want to reflect briefly with you about how to make that journey to the Lord. The wise men teach us we need four things. They all start with G, so it should be easy to remember: a guide, a group, a gift, and grace.

First, a guide.  No one can find his or her way to God without a guide. Many try. We think that we can find God on our couches or in our armchairs. The only guide we have there is the television guide. We need a guide. The wise men had the star. They looked to that star for direction, direction to God. Who is your star? This is why God gave us his church–to show the way. It is why we have confirmation sponsors, godparents, small groups in faith communities, saints, teachers, parents, siblings, etc. It is why we have the bible, spiritual books, etc. Those are our stars. We cannot get to God relying on ourselves, our own sense to get there. It is not sufficient.  I stress this to our kids all the time: we have to be guides to others, we have to be stars that show the way. No matter who you are, someone looks up to you. Be a star for them. Young people: be stars to your families. Be stars to your friends. Get them to church. Get them to God. It might mean an awkward conversation. So be it. Be nice, but invite people and don’t easily take no for an answer.

Second, we need a group. The wise men had one another. We need each other. All of us are bumbling along the way. We need guides, yes, but we also need to be making the journey with others. This is why we have Christ Renews, why we have retreats and bible study groups. This is why I wish our classes at the school went to Mass together on Sundays. It is why I wish our families did, I mean everybody in the family. This is why I wish friends would bring friends to church. A lot of people would come to church if we invited them. So invite.

Third, we need a gift. The wise men gave their all. What they gave cost them. What do we give to God?  God deserves our money, our time, our talents. So we give.

Fourth, we need grace. That is the most important thing. In the end, it is everything. God’s grace. It works in ways we never understand. Which is why no one knows how to define it. But we all feel it, even in the core of our bones sometimes, deep in our hearts. God’s grace leads us on, it carries us, it gives us everything we need.

Here’s the thing. Every step the wise men took–it was either to God or away from God. Same for us. Pray God we will always have those four things with us, those four G’s–a guide, a group, a gift, and grace.

“All God wants is the warm breath of a living soul”: A homily for the Solemnity of the Holy Family

Pope John XXIIIPope John XXIII was canonized this past year. I want us to think back to Christmas 1958, when the world was waiting to see what the new Papa Roncalli was going say at his Christmas Mass. It was the first time a Christmas Mass would be broadcast on the radio waves. He was a peasant pope, and no one expected much from his homily. But then he began to speak.

He asked, “Who represented us at the first Christmas?”  He directed the world’s attention to the manger scene. He said it wasn’t the shepherds that represented us since most of us aren’t farmers. It wasn’t the wise men since most of us are kind of stupid. It wasn’t the angels, as humans can’t be angels. Nope. It was the jackass.  The pope explained himself: “The jackass was always feeling sorry for himself. He felt frustrated and thought his life was too monotonous—meaningless. He was habitually unhappy. He would always walk around with a long face…”

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