Homily for December 2017 – Year of the Eucharist
Psalm 98:1, 2-3, 3-4, 5
(all readings taken from readings for Christmas – various Masses)
In four days, we will begin our Christmas celebration but not yet. Earthly preparations have been busy for Christmas but tonight is not about baking, wrapping presents, or planning parties. Tonight is for us to reflect on what Christmas means.
I almost want to say that Christmas is not about the earthly but that’s not quite true. It’s not about the earthly in the sense of presents, holiday treats, and parties. These things are fine but they are not the purpose of Christmas. They are tangible ways of expressing what Christmas is really about.
Yet, Christmas does involve the earthly in the sense that it is about Jesus becoming earthly, incarnate in the flesh, just like you and me. Tonight is about the Word made flesh forever!
All of the readings I selected for tonight come from the readings listed as Christmas readings. Our first reading from Isaiah comes from the readings suggested for a vigil Mass. It speaks of the promised one to come and the vindication of Jerusalem to shine forth. Jesus is the promised one. He is our light in that he helps us see the world as God sees it. Jesus helps us to see the truth.
Our responsorial psalm speaks of how God makes his salvation known and that “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” We see the act of our salvation in Jesus’ death on the Cross but it begins in his birth. Right now, we can look at what will become our nativity scene in church. We see the stable structure, the straw, and the animals as they would be when Mary and Joseph arrive but they are not here yet.
We know what is coming. Soon Mary and Joseph will arrive and we will see the baby Jesus in the manger. In the Old Testament, there are various stories of God appearing. In Exodus 3, God appears in the burning bush to Moses. In 1 Kings 19, God comes to Elijah in the tiny whispering sound but it is at Christmas that God becomes incarnate and we see Jesus.
If we look only at the Old Testament, it is easy enough to see that God is involved in the lives of his people but it might often seem distant. One might think God is watching over us but yet distant.
Jesus’ birth changes that. Now God has appeared so that we might see him as a brother and not just a distant God.
Jesus has always existed. Our gospel reading tells us that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…All things came to be through him…the light shines in the darkness.” Jesus is the Word that became flesh, the Word incarnate. As we see Jesus, we see God.
As we see Jesus, we see hope.
Why does Jesus become flesh? As Paul writes, “not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy.” We must try to live our best but salvation is a gift that comes from the mercy of God.
I mentioned before that God had “appeared” in various ways in the Old Testament period but it’s different with Jesus. Jesus did not simply “appear” for a few minutes, offer a message, direction, and/or a miracle and depart.
No, Jesus “became” one of us for a lifetime. Jesus was conceived as a human being in Mary’s womb just as we are conceived in our mother’s womb. Jesus was born just like you and me. Jesus experienced childhood just like us. Jesus learned a trade (carpentry) just like we learn a job. Jesus became like us in all things but sin.
I want to emphasize that I just said he “became” like us. He did not just “appear” to look like us. He actually became human in a physical body just like you and me.
And was not just for a moment in time. He was human from the moment of his conception and throughout his life on earth. Then, even in his death on the Cross, he did not cease to have a human body.
His body was laid in the tomb but after three days the tomb is found empty. Then Jesus came to his disciples resurrected body and soul. Even when he ascended to Heaven, Jesus did not simply disappear to return to the Father only in divine form. Jesus ascended body and soul to the Father. Once Jesus becomes human at his conception, he always has a body.
It is his body that we receive in the Eucharist. It is his body present in the Blessed Sacrament that we can gaze upon in the monstrance on the altar right now. It is the Word made flesh forever.