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Sunday, December 30, 2018

A Homily – The First Sunday of Christmas


First Reading - 1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28 ©
Alternative First Reading - Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17 ©
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 127(128):1-5 ©
Alternative Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 83(84):2-3,5-6,9-10 ©
Second Reading - Colossians 3:12-21 ©
Alternative Second Reading - 1 John 3:1-2,21-24 ©
Gospel Acclamation - cf. Ac 16:14
The Gospel of the Day - Luke 2:41-52 ©
(NJB)


If you were to take the reading from Samuel and regard it only as narrative extoling the virtue of giving thanks to God, the creator of the universe, giving thanks for the good things we receive in this life, if you were to go no further than to accept the piety of Hannah as a woman intent on keeping her promises then you would be reading this passage well.

If you go further, and you sink into the notion that God actually granted her prayer when she became pregnant with Samuel, then you would be mistaken. God does not intervene in the lives of human beings. God does not work miracles like magic in the wombs of barren women.

If you were to accept the piety of the sacrifices she rendered at the temple as a thanksgiving for what she perceived was God’s direct hand moving over her in answer to her prayers than you would be compounding your mistakes. There is nothing pious in the act of an animal sacrifice, God does not desire it, and unless the food you offer is distributed to the poor, then nothing good comes from it.

Listen:

There is wisdom in the writings of Ecclisasticus and there is also falsehood, they present themselves as binary messages in the same reading.

Honor your father and mother, but do not expect a reward for it, neither from heaven or even from them, for there are no guarantees in this life.

Honor you mother and father, your sister and brothers, your cousins, your aunts and uncles, your nieces and nephews, honor them all. Honor your teachers, and your classmates, your co-workers and your employers, honor the stranger who comes into your midst, honor them.

To honor people is good in its own right. You honor yourself in doing so, and through the service you give to everyone, near and far from you, through that service you also serve and honor God.

Do it without the thought of reward to yourself, because you will not be rewarded.

Remember:

Do not fear God. There is no blessing in it. Fear is not a blessing but rather the path to sin and darkness.

Trust in God, have faith and confidence in God’s love and in God’s word.

Remember God’s servant; Job. Remember that the Sun will burn you, as readily as it will warm you; scorch the earth as easily as it will feed the crops.

God sends the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.

If you find yourself asking: Where is the house of the God? Know this, it is not a palace, or a temple. God, creator of the universe does not dwell in Zion; Israel, God is not a king, not a lord, and not a god among gods or the ruler of many gods.

God is infinite and beyond our comprehension, God is in all places at all times and in the hearts of each and every one of God’s children.

God dwells in the human heart, the heart is the temple of God, and that is where we true worship takes place.

Look into your own heart, and into the heart of your neighbor, you will see the face of God peering back at you.

Happy are they who dwell in the place of God.

God, the creator of the universe, is loving, compassionate, and wise. God created all of us with the capacity for each of these qualities, but God also created us in freedom and we are capable of much more. We are capable of their opposite and find it far to easy to fall into their darkness/

God has chosen you as God has chosen everyone. We are all of us, God’s children, it is for each of us now to choose God.

Be loving and compassionate, show genuine good will toward all of your sisters and brothers. Do not just mimc the expression of love you are most fond of finding in the world, this is the way to proceed in life, let it unify everything that you do as a servant of God, in the service of humanity.

A life of faith requires support and nourishment, we need it from those near to us. It is not absolutely necessary, but it is most helpful. You may practice your faith in isolation, but it is more difficult. The life of faith is not meant to be lived in a vacuum, it is meant to be lived through relationships and in community.

Be aware:

Live a life of prayer; yes, but the Apostle is wrong to ask you to do all things in the name of God.

Do what you do in your own name. Take responsibility for your actions, both good and bad, whether they were well intentioned or ill, whether you have succeeded or failed.

Strive to live a life of prayer.

If you are living and working for God. In whatever industry, in whatever capacity, at whatever calling has come to you through the world, you will be doing it on behalf of your neighbor, your sisters and brothers, your fellow human beings.

You will be working for the benefit of all people, now and in all generations yet to come.

If your work does not allow to you to do this…abandon it. Remember this always and hold it close to your heart.

When you are preaching and speaking to others about the faith, you are speaking to the children of God, the creator of the universe.

There is nothing you can do to affect their salvation. There salvation, as yours, has already been accomplished by God.

Love is its own reward, do not seek anything else in return for love, accept it as you find it in the spirit with which it is given.

Nothing good at all comes from believing in a name, it is only in loving, and in the act of caring that good things come through us and to us.

God is alive in all people, no one is excluded from the love of God. There is no proof of this, it is only faith that informs us that it is true.

Faith is not belief in a particular doctrine, or article of dogma, faith is trust in God. Faith is trust.

Trust and yet be discerning:

Beware of false prophets, go, look to everyone around you, especially those who claim to be “true believers.” Look to yourself. We are all imperfect, and we all have false understandings of who God is.

Each of us in our own way confounds our knowledge of the truth with our hopes and desires for ourselves.

Trust God, and be mindful God is beyond the propositions we generate about God.

The purpose of the church is to foster belief in God, which means to nurture faith, and faith is trust.

Trust God, trust the image of God that was present in Jesus. That same image that is present in you.

Trust God and forgive.

Accept forgiveness.

Allow yourself to love, and be loved.

You are worthy of it, as is everyone, and you no-more than anyone.

God lives in the obedient and the disobedient, the faithful and the unfaithful alike. Remember this, God lives in all people, God knows you and God knows them, God knows us, even as we know ourselves.

God knows us better.

God will hear you, God is with you.
Take the things we have been preaching on and apply them to the Gospel for today:

The narrative is a myth. It does not give us any reliable information about who Jesus was, or about his relationship with his parents; even though it purports to do so.

This is unfortunate but it is the normative experience of reading the gospels.

The reading for today does tell us something about what the author of Luke wanted us to believe about Jesus. That his parents were faithful and observant Jews. He wants us to believe that they obediently went to Jerusalem for the Passover as required of them by the law, where they were counted and made their offerings to the temple.

The authors of Luke were also trying to tell us that Jesus was wise beyond his years, that he was capable of self-direction, that he had a sense of mission and purpose for his life, even as a child. The authors of Luke also want us to believe that Jesus understood at this early age, long before his adult ministry began, that he was, in a unique way, a child of God. Finally, Luke wants us to understand that his submission to the authority of his parents was voluntary.

What is unfortunate about this narrative is this; instead of informing us about who Jesus is, it muddies our understanding by mythologizing him, and instead the reading only tells us what the authors of Luke wanted us to believe, what their followers hoped was true.

Though the authors of Luke could not foresee this, these writings would come divide the Christian community, to divide it from itself and precipitate centuries of bloody conflict over the question of Jesus’ divinity, his humanity and the relationship between the two.

I contend that the man who was Jesus of Nazareth, Joshua son of Joseph, would have been aghast at those developments. Jesus, the man spent his life and went to his death as a champion of justice, an advocate for mercy, as a healer, as an advocate for the poor, for the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the widow and the orphan.

Luke’s narrative is therefore a cautionary tale, reminding us of the necessity to cleave to the truth at all times, to separate our hopes, our desires, and most importantly our fears, from values we wish to convey.

Then and only then do we honor God, then and only then do we show the reality of our faith.


First Reading - 1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28 ©

This is the Child I Prayed For: He is Made Over to the Lord.

Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son, and called him Samuel ‘since’ she said ‘I asked the Lord for him.’

When a year had gone by, the husband Elkanah went up again with all his family to offer the annual sacrifice to the Lord and to fulfil his vow. Hannah, however, did not go up, having said to her husband, ‘Not before the child is weaned. Then I will bring him and present him before the Lord and he shall stay there for ever.’

When she had weaned him, she took him up with her together with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour and a skin of wine, and she brought him to the temple of the Lord at Shiloh; and the child was with them. They slaughtered the bull and the child’s mother came to Eli. She said, ‘If you please, my lord. As you live, my lord, I am the woman who stood here beside you, praying to the Lord. This is the child I prayed for, and the Lord granted me what I asked him. Now I make him over to the Lord for the whole of his life. He is made over to the Lord.’


Alternative First Reading - Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7,14-17 ©

He who fears the Lord respects his parents

The Lord honours the father in his children, and upholds the rights of a mother over her sons.

Whoever respects his father is atoning for his sins, he who honours his mother is like someone amassing a fortune.

Whoever respects his father will be happy with children of his own, he shall be heard on the day when he prays.

Long life comes to him who honours his father, he who sets his mother at ease is showing obedience to the Lord.

My son, support your father in his old age, do not grieve him during his life.

Even if his mind should fail, show him sympathy, do not despise him in your health and strength; for kindness to a father shall not be forgotten but will serve as reparation for your sins.


Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 127(128):1-5 ©

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

O blessed are those who fear the Lord
  and walk in his ways!
By the labour of your hands you shall eat.
  You will be happy and prosper.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
  in the heart of your house;
your children like shoots of the olive,
  around your table.

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!

Indeed thus shall be blessed
  the man who fears the Lord.
May the Lord bless you from Zion
  all the days of your life!

O blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways!


Alternative Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 83(84):2-3,5-6,9-10 ©

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
  Lord, God of hosts.
My soul is longing and yearning,
  is yearning for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
  to God, the living God.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

They are happy, who dwell in your house,
  for ever singing your praise.
They are happy, whose strength is in you,
  in whose hearts are the roads to Zion.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.

O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer,
  give ear, O God of Jacob.
Turn your eyes, O God, our shield,
  look on the face of your anointed.

They are happy who dwell in your house, O Lord.


Second Reading - Colossians 3:12-21 ©

Family life in the Lord

You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same. Over all these clothes, to keep them together and complete them, put on love. And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, because it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body. Always be thankful.

Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other, in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God; and never say or do anything except in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Wives, give way to your husbands, as you should in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and treat them with gentleness. Children, be obedient to your parents always, because that is what will please the Lord. Parents, never drive your children to resentment or you will make them feel frustrated.


Alternative Second reading

1 John 3:1-2,21-24 ©

We are Called God's children, and That is What We Are

Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.

Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.

My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is.

My dear people, if we cannot be condemned by our own conscience, we need not be afraid in God’s presence, and whatever we ask him, we shall receive, because we keep his commandments and live the kind of life that he wants.

His commandments are these: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another as he told us to.

Whoever keeps his commandments lives in God and God lives in him.

We know that he lives in us by the Spirit that he has given us.


Gospel Acclamation - cf. Ac 16:14

Alleluia, alleluia!

Open our heart, O Lord,
to accept the words of your Son.

Alleluia!


Gospel - Luke 2:41-52 ©

Mary Stored Up All These Things in Her Heart

Every year the parents of Jesus used to go to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up for the feast as usual. When they were on their way home after the feast, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations and acquaintances. When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere.

  Three days later, they found him in the Temple, sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions; and all those who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. They were overcome when they saw him, and his mother said to him, ‘My child, why have, you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.’ ‘Why were you looking for me?’ he replied ‘Did you not know that I must be busy with my Father’s affairs?’ But they did not understand what he meant.

  He then went down with them and came to Nazareth and lived under their authority. His mother stored up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favour with God and men.

The First Sunday of Christmas
Feast of the Holy Family