FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 4tH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, December 18, 2022:
A kindergarten teacher was telling her class the story of Christmas complete with the angels’ glorious announcement to the shepherds and the Three Wise Men recognizing the star in the sky and travelling a tremendous distance to see this new born King. At the end of the story she asked, “Now tell me, of all these people, who was the first to know about the birth of Jesus?” A little girl raised her hand and answered simply, “Mary.” How many of us missed that? Sometimes we can miss the obvious because we’re expecting more complicated answers, all the while the real answer is simple and obvious, and right in front of our eyes.
We can do this with God too. We have a tendency to associate God with the phenomenal and the spectacular, like the host of angels or the guiding star, so much so that we fail to notice God’s presence and action in the ordinary and normal moments of life. The child’s simple answer reminds us to look at the regular moments that we take for granted every day and see God’s hand in them. Especially at this time of year, we can get so caught up in the busyness of gifts and travel and parties, that we might miss the simple and profound reality right in front of us – that truth that God loves us and that God is with us.
Our gospel today begins with a seemingly casual statement: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about…” For the average person of Jesus’ time this statement would be a shock because popular belief in those days did not expect the Messiah to be born in a normal way, born the same way as you and me. Though they knew the Messiah would come from Bethlehem, people believed the Messiah would arrive unexpectedly and in an extraordinary way. The Messiah was to somehow suddenly arrive in all His divine power. He would arrive on the Temple mount – at the very heart of Jewish worship – in thunder, in glory, in majesty and in awe!
People found it hard to reconcile these expectations with the reality of Jesus who they knew was born and raised in their midst, like a regular kid. As we hear in John’s Gospel, “We know where this man is from; but when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.” They found the ordinary way of God’s arrival to be too simple, too obvious, to underwhelming to possibly be true.
We too are waiting for the arrival of God among us. How do we expect God to arrive? Sometimes when we feel that God is not with us, the reality is that He is standing right by our side, but we don’t recognize His presence because we’re looking for something different. Can we accept God the way He chooses to be present, the way He hopes to speak His word; or do we insist that He conform His presence to our desires?
Just think of how often we treat our experience of the Holy Mass as commonplace, as ordinary. And yet, God is with us – right here, right now. God is with us as we gather in His holy name today. God is here as His Word is proclaimed from Sacred Scripture. And, so profoundly, God is here among us as ordinary bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus – not a symbol, not a reminder, but the Real Jesus, right here on our altar and right here in our hearts as we receive Him. St. Francis of Assisi said, “O sublime humility! That the Lord of the universe so humbles Himself that for our salvation He hides Himself under the simple form of bread! Look at the humility of God and pour out your hearts before him.”
It is often hardest to see God in the people, places and situations that are most familiar to us, not to mention how hard it is sometimes to see God even in ourselves. But if the birth of Jesus is a bridge between heaven and earth, between the sacred and the ordinary, maybe we can see the presence and action of God more and more in the ordinary moments of our daily lives. Remember, when God did the most spectacular thing in the history of the world – becoming one of us – He did it in the most ordinary way. And He comes to us today in the same ordinary ways.
Today, in these final days of Advent, as we prepare for the great celebration of Christmas, we are challenged to open our eyes to the God who comes to us in ordinary ways, through the person on our left and on our right and in the everyday, normal, ordinary moments of our lives. My brothers and sisters, God is with us. Do you see what I see?
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.