Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for the 4th Sunday in Advent

Readings: Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24

In this last week before the feast of Christmas the gospel passages at mass will recount all the stories surrounding the birth of Jesus Christ. They are stories that most of us have all heard many, many times. But they are worth re-telling each year. I think it’s important for all of us to remember that each and every year there are some members of our Catholic community who are hearing the stories for the very first time. For them the manner of telling the stories proves extremely important. The Catholic priest and writer, Fr. Andrew Greeley, has stated often that the most important theological teaching moment in the entire Catholic tradition happens when a mother takes her young son or daughter up to the Christmas manger for the very first time. She points out the baby Jesus lying in the manger and then she points out the baby’s mother, Mary, looking carefully and lovingly at the child Jesus. And she says, "That’s the way God loves each one of us—like a caring mother." That’s a powerful thought. Scenes like that will happen all over the world this Christmas season. They will happen in parishes all across this city.

That’s one of the most telling reasons why we, who have heard the Christmas stories so many times, need to hear them each year with renewed reverence. In so doing we contribute to the general reverence surrounding those teaching moments to the little ones who are learning it for the very first time. We don’t just hear the surface story, but we look for the deeper meanings within them. The older we get the more we need to do so.

Why do we need to look for deeper meanings the older we get? Simply because each year the weariness of life wears us down a little more. It does so for all of us. And if we let that go unchecked, it can bring us to the point where we doubt just about everything. Believe me, as someone who has given retreats all over this country to religious communities of men and women, to diocesan priests, to lay men and women—I can assure you that I have met a lot of people in each one of these settings who have been worn down by the weariness of life. It just crept up on them. Many times they never saw it coming. Then all of a sudden one day they realized that they didn’t believe in anything any more.

To prevent this from happening as we grow older, it’s necessary to cultivate anew each year a sense of "being surprised," an enthusiasm and excitement at the feast. One of the best ways to cultivate this sense of being surprised is by committing ourselves to someone or something passionately. And passionately is the key word. If we are passionate about some subject or person, we open our senses up to the unusual. We increase our capacity to be surprised. I was genuinely surprised this past week when I heard for the very first time a new Christmas carol that I hadn’t known about. It’s called "the first Canadian Christmas carol" or the "Huron Carol." It was written by one of the North American Martyrs, St. Jean de Brebeuf, in the Huron Indian language. You can look it up on the Internet. There’s one site that even gives some singing versions of it: first in its original Huron language, then a French translation, and finally an English version. That was something I found very, very exciting about the feast this year.

The readings we heard today also reflect a real passion. The prophet Isaiah writes with passion. St. Paul is always passionate. The Evangelist Matthew passionately proclaims that "God is with us." This Christmas many small children will passionately revel in the mystery and joy of the Christmas season. Let’s join them this year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who loves you...... God, Mary and Sr. Nicolette !!!!!! :)