Saturday, December 31, 2016

treasure Christmas in your heart

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
8th Day in the Octave of Christmas
1 January 2017
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
Daily Readings

Happy New Year, or Merry Christmas?  Which is more important to say?

We might rather ask the question of what event is more important - the birth of Jesus or the dropping of the ball in Times Square.  As glittery and glamorous as that ball is, the birth of Jesus caused the world to explode much more dramatically.

So it's more important to say Merry Christmas today than to say Happy New Year.  Don't be bashful or awkward about saying Merry Christmas!  For to say Merry Christmas on January 1st is to say that the Christmas celebration gets deeper and more fruitful and more full and joyful, as it gets to its 8th day.  The number 8 is huge, remember.  In 7 days, God created the universe out of nothing.  But on the 8th day, he did something even more miraculous - he showed his face!

As the Gospel tells us, Mary pondered all these things in her heart.  As we should know, we are to contemplate Christmas for a minimum of 12 days!  So on the 8th day of Christmas we turn especially to her, knowing that we will not have a better Christmas than Mary is having.  Nobody knows how to welcome Jesus, how to allow Him to be born in the deep recesses of our souls, or allow our lives to be changed by contemplating his face, more than Mary.  So as Catholics we entrust the 8th day of Christmas to her, knowing that being with her is the surest path to our best Christmas ever.

The turning of the new year, and the 8th day of Christmas, is also Catholic Mother's Day!  Today's Marian celebration specifically names Mary as Theotokos - God bearer!  We honor as the Mother of God, which is to say so much more than Mary simply giving a human nature to Jesus.  It means that all of God the Father entrusts Himself to this daughter, all of God the Son is completely dependent upon this mom, and all of the Holy Spirit is espoused and made perfectly one with this woman and bride.  There is no greater honor given to motherhood than to say that Mary is the mother of a God who is a Father but has no father.  So Happy Mother's Day!

So don't just say Happy New Year this year - celebrate Christmas - to the end and in all its fullness, and with Mary, ponder these great mysteries in your heart!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

come let us adore Him

Christmas Eve 2016
St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas
25 December 2016
Daily Readings

O come let us adore Him!  Christ the Lord!

Why did you come here tonight?  Answer honestly . . if you dare.  Have you come here to adore the Lord? Although I want to start this homily by welcoming everyone . . our regulars, our visitors, Catholics and non-Catholics, saints and sinners, those who are here all the time and those who are here only on nights like this.  All are welcome.  Yet my initial question and challenge goes out to all . . to each one of you the same.  Have you come here to adore the Lord?  For if you have come here tonight for any other reason, for anything less, then we are all wasting our time, and we should all go back to egg nog, cookies and Santa!  I do not want to go forward with this Mass unless we are all on the same page.  Each of us, and all of us.  We're all the same tonight, and we all must be one.   Come let us TOGETHER adore Him, Jesus Christ the Lord!

What does it mean for us to adore the Lord?  Adoration means nothing less than the deepest form of love and affection.  So if we have come tonight to do anything less than to fall ridiculous, helplessly, and hopelessly in love with God and each other again, so much so that after tonight we will never be the same, then we are in the wrong place.  If we have come tonight to do anything less than to confess that we need this night, for each of us has fallen out of love with God and each other, then forget the whole bit.

For the scene of Bethlehem that we have come to experience, contemplate and celebrate, is way too absurd for any kind of lukewarm response from us.  The biggest and most invincible person imaginable, the one through whom all things were made, the one before whom the whole universe if but a speck of dust, the one who doesn't need any one of us for anything - that person shows his ultimate power in allowing Himself to be made small.  Irresistibly small.  Helplessly small - begging us tonight to hold Him and take care of Him.

Our Lord at Christmas desperately wants to break through our fears and indifference.  He shows tonight that he is ridiculously in love with each of us and everything it means to be a human person, especially our weaknesses.  Knowing that we have an amazing capacity to resist love and to fall out of love and to fear love, even rejecting the depth of His love revealed on the cross, Christ comes as a baby at Christmas - begging our love,  - pleading that if He comes among us poor, naked and helpless that we may no longer fear God.  Do not be afraid, the angel tells Mary.  Do not be afraid, the angel tells Joseph.  Do not be afraid, the angel tells the shepherds.  Do not be afraid of this baby.

God is desperately in love with you.  Yes you!  He loves every circumstance of your life exactly where you are this Christmas.  Do not be afraid to allow him to be born in your heart tonight, and if you have come to do anything less that to fall madly, completely and hopelessly in love with God tonight, so much so that after tonight you can never be the same, the you are DEFINITELY in the wrong place.  We're here to do adoration tonight, and to do it together.  Come let us adore Him!  Jesus Christ the Lord!

Tonight we come to fall in love with God more than ever, but that is not all.  We also come to reclaim in a powerful way what it means to be a human person.  For not only do we confess tonight that we have fallen out of love, we also confess that we need this night to remember who we are.  Our smart phones makes us capable of so much more, and we are busier than ever, but we are horrible at keeping things simple.  We are in danger of becoming worse at prayer, and worse at having intimate, personal, meaningful and spiritual conversations with each other.  We are less capable of falling in love and staying in love. We are worse at making and keeping promises to God and each other.

We have forgotten that to be a human person is to be known and loved and desired beginning at our weakest point.  We don't become persons by getting big and important.  We don't becoming persons by pretending we are smart enough to create the meaning of our own existence.  We do not become more human by pretending we do not need God!  No, we become human persons by remembering where we came from, and by finding a way to remain small and poor and vulnerable.  We become persons only insofar as we remain like children, by keeping things simple, and by entering with awe and wonder into the great adventure of discovering reality as it is!  We become more human by rejecting the temptation of trying to manufacture or control the meaning of our lives.

Man has forgotten how much he needs God - and when we give into the agnosticism of our day we make ourselves miserable.  Man needs God - not as a slave needs a master - but as each one of us needs to be known and desired and loved at each moment of our life to reach our highest destiny and happiness.  Love is man's origin, love is his constant calling, and love is his perfection in heaven!  And only God can know us, desire us and cherish us in the deepest parts of our soul, where we cannot love or change ourselves.

Man needs God - and this Christmas must not pass with our giving into the pride and laziness of pretending we can manufacture the meaning of our own existence.  For this is a lie that makes man increasingly miserable.  Tonight we come to remember who we really are, and if we remain like a baby - poor, and vulnerable and dependent upon God and each other - we will always be able to realize the meaning of our lives - that for which we were created - to fall in love, to be in love and to stay in love.

When we do these two things - remembering who we are and falling in love - we participate as well in the remaking of our poor world from the inside out.  Tonight is a night chock full of hope!  For the sign we celebrate tonight - the sign of a baby born to a virgin mother - is THE SIGN that a new creation has dawned on the earth, a creation that is stronger and meant to last longer than the first creation of the entire universe out of nothing by our virgin Father!  Jesus, who alone has the power to rereate our poor world, makes himself as small as possible, being born through a tiny, insignificant mother, with complete vulnerability and poverty, at the darkest hour of the darkest night, adored at first only by the most uneducated and mangiest of shepherds, to show us that our world will be remade beginning with the weakest.

Jesus spends every second of his earthly life in perfect humility, always taking the lowest place and preferring the poor, the weakest and most neglected, the greatest sinners, to show us that the recreation of our world will take a different path.  For the first creation of everything from nothing began big but will be reduced to nothing.  It started in goodness but has been touched by evil.  It started with life but will end in death.

But the new creation is different.  It starts small but ends big.  It starts weak but ends strong.  It starts in poverty but ends in riches.  It starts with sinners but ends with saints.  It embraces death, but rises to everlasting life.  Caesar's kingdom that seemed so intimidating when Jesus was born is now gone, as will every kingdom that does not belong to Christ.  But Jesus' kingdom that started with nothing is still gaining strength, and His kingdom celebrates with exceeding joy throughout the whole world each Christmas.

Whenever you choose the path just described, you participate in recreating a world that will last forever.  So never fear the times!  Never give into the pessimism or discouragement regarding the evils that threaten our world and our lives and souls.  Choose to love, no matter what.  No compromise.  No excuses.  The hope of Christmas will continue to grow until the enemies of evil and sin and death are destroyed forever!

All that would be enough tonight - more than enough - falling in love, remembering who we are, recreating the world from the inside out with Jesus - but these three things are not the final and ultimate meaning of Christmas.  Christmas takes its name not from the miraculous birth that took place in Bethlehem, but from the birth about to take place on this altar.  For as small as Jesus made Himself at Bethlehem, he makes Himself much smaller, and more vulnerable, and more beautiful to fall in love with, as He allows Himself to be born on this altar.  So we fall in love with Him tonight not just by remembering Bethlehem, but in encountering Bethlehem becoming real for me at Christ's Mass.  It is through Christ's Mass that with Joseph we allow Jesus to be born under our roofs, and with Mary allow Jesus to be born physically in the deepest recesses of our own bodies.  This precise and original meaning of Christmas is what changes in our lives at the moment we receive the Eucharist at Christ's mass.  So dear Catholic Christians, let's put the Mass back in Christmas this year!

Let us recognize the richness of our Catholic sacramental faith, and confess that Christmas makes no sense at all without Christ's Mass.  Let us be present to the reality that Mary, the mother of our Church, is more excited for this Christmas than she was for the first Christmas - yes you heard me right - for what is happening here tonight, right now, in Lawrence, Kansas 2000 years later, is more dramatic, and more fruitful than what happened in Bethlehem, if only one of us, if any of us, let alone all of us, humbly accepts Jesus' desperate plea to be born in our hearts.

Jesus is begging us to receive him worthily in tonight's Mass.  Do not be afraid, my dearest friends, of this Christ who once came among us as a helpless baby, but who come to you now - yes you - even more helplessly at Christ's Mass.  This is the meaning of Christmas - right here, right now!  If you resist Him tonight, can you honestly say that you will ever receive Him?  So I beg you . . with Jesus . . do not let this Christmas moment pass with fear or indifferent in your heart.  Do not be afraid to fall helplessly, desperately and completely in love with God tonight, so much so that you will never be the same.

Come, let us adore Him!  Christ the Lord!