Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category

Christmas Homily 2011

December 26, 2011

Christmas is probably most widely known in our culture as a time for giving and receiving gifts. The stores and the media have placed the importance of Christmas shopping before our eyes non-stop since before Thanksgiving. Christmas advertising seems to begin earlier and earlier. It is important for us to remember the reason that we give gifts to one another on Christmas: as Christians we must keep our eyes fixed on the reason for the gift giving.

Why do we give gifts to each other on Christmas? Part of the reason we give gifts is to let other people know how much we care about them. That is the reason we give a gift to a person on their birthday, for example. We give gifts to our family members and loved ones on the day that they were born in order to show our love and affection for them, to show them that we are glad that they are a part of our lives and we are a part of theirs. Why do we give gifts to each other on the day when we celebrate the Nativity of Jesus Christ? On Christmas, we celebrate the Birth of Our Lord and Savior in time: we celebrate the fact that God became man. Why do we exchange gifts when we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ? We give gifts to one another on this day in order to imitate the generosity of Almighty God, Who on this day over two-thousand years ago, gave the world the greatest gift ever given: the gift of His Only Begotten Son. It is said of the gift that God gave in giving us His Son that “Although God is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.”

To help us appreciate the greatness of the gift that God has given to us, let us reflect on this gift from two different aspects: first we will consider it from what God has given to us; second, we will consider it from the point of view of our need. God gave us the greatest gift because He gave to us what He most loves: His own most-beloved Son. From all eternity, the Eternal Son of God existed with the Father in Glory. The Father and the Son live in perfect union and in perfect love together with the Holy Spirit. From all eternity God has existed as a community of divine Persons. Within God there is perfect joy, perfect happiness, and perfect glory. When God gave to us the gift of His Son, He gave that which He loves most and He gave Him freely to us as a gift. When the Eternal Son of God became a man, He came to earth freely in order to reveal God to us and to give Himself completely to us in Holy Communion. God sent His Son, freely; Christ became one of us, freely; and this gift that is freely given to us shows us how much God loves us. In Christ the fullness of divinity is made manifest: God became a man, like us in all things except for sin, so that we could know God and have access to Him. Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He has been sent, He has willingly come to earth so that we might have life and have it in abundance: and the kind of life that He came to bring is not merely the earthly life that we have now but will one day lose; He came to bring abundant life to our souls: to give us a share in His divine life, and that kind of life is life that will never end.

That is the gift from the point of view of what God has given to us; now let us look at the gift from the perspective of our need. As members of the human race, we stand in absolute need of a Savior. That is the reality of our condition: we are fallen; we possess a corrupted human nature. We need a Savior and we cannot save ourselves. Our current state is not the way that God created us. We were created by God to know Him and love Him and to be united with Him: that is the purpose of our existence. Our first parents disobeyed God and thereby lost God’s friendship for the entire human race. Because of sin, suffering and death are a part of our lot in this world: no one can escape suffering and no one can escape death, they are part and parcel of our lives as human beings. Because of original sin, human beings are, by nature, estranged from God. Had God Himself not become one of us to save us from sin and eternal death, we would be forever lost; had Christ not been born for us, we would never have been freed from our sins; we would not have the access to God that we have as Christians, had Christ not been born, suffered, died and rose again from the dead for us. Had God not assumed our fallen human nature in order to redeem it, we would have no hope of ever seeing the joy of Heaven. Jesus, Himself, said that no one comes to the Father except through Him; through Jesus Christ, and through Him alone, we have access to God, through Him and through Him alone we have hope of attaining the union with God in Heaven for which we were created. If God had not become one of us in order to redeem us, the purpose of our very existence would be forever frustrated. That is the reason that God so willingly sent His Son; that is the reason that Christ so willingly shed His Precious Blood: so that we would not be lost in sin, and despair and death, but through Him we might have hope and through Him we have access to divine life.

Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given to the world because He is Himself God and nothing greater than God can ever be given as a gift because nothing is greater than God. We should appreciate the gift all the more because apart from Him we would be lost; without His coming among us we would have no hope of attaining the eternal union with God in Heaven that we were created for. Let us be truly grateful for this gift that God has given to the world this day: the gift of His Only Son. “Although He is all-powerful, He is unable to give more; though supremely wise, He knows not how to give more; though vastly rich, He has not more to give.” May our hearts be filled with gratitude and awe that such a wondrous gift has been given to us!

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Merry Christmas!

December 26, 2011

A Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all! May Our Lord abundantly bless you and your families and fill your hearts with joy during this grace-filled celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity!

Remember that the celebration of Christmas does not end the day after Christmas; the Church celebrates Christmas time all the way up until the Feast of the Epiphany. The Mystery of the Incarnation cannot be adequately celebrated (or contemplated) in one day, so the Church gives us several.

The Solemnity of Christmas is one of those important Feasts within the Church that has an octave attached to it: eight days that are celebrated as one day. Even after the octave of Christmas, Christmas time continues until January 6th.

The fact that Christmas continues to be celebrated after Christmas day can be easily overlooked because the day after Christmas the secular world has already stowed away the decorations until next year. In the stores, the Christmas decorations go up at the beginning of November and come down the day after Christmas. (I assume that the reason for this is to get people thinking about Christmas shopping.) In the Church we do the opposite. We celebrate four weeks of Advent, the time leading up to Christmas in which we prepare our hearts for the Birth of Our Savior, and during that time the Church is relatively unadorned. Then, the Church puts up Christmas decorations the day before Christmas, so that the Church will be ready for Christmas vigil Masses, and the decorations stay up all the way until “Little Christmas,” Epiphany, the day we celebrate the adoration of the Magi.

May the joy of Our Lord fill your heart every day of Christmas time and may He bless you throughout the New Year.

God bless,
Father White

Christmas

January 1, 2011

Today we rejoice at the birth of Our Savior.  Today we celebrate the fact that over two thousand years ago our God took our human nature upon Himself and was born as a little baby, in a manger.  What a wondrous event.  Almighty God became man.  He Who had no beginning and will have no end took on a human nature: a nature that could suffer and die.  The same infinite God Who holds all things together in being, in Whom all things live and move and have their being, dwelt for nine months in the womb of the Virgin Mary and was born in Bethlehem.  The Creator of the universe and everything in it humbled Himself and took on our broken, fallen humanity in order to redeem it.

From the very beginning, right after the Fall of our First Parents, God promised to send us a Redeemer.  Throughout the Old Testament God renewed His promise again and again.   In the Old Testament God spoke to His chosen people in partial and various ways; in the fullness of time, God sent His own Son: born of the Virgin Mary.  Jesus Christ fully reveals God to us.  There is no further message to wait for: Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of God.  In the humanity that Christ assumed, God is made visible.  Through Jesus Christ we have access to the Father.

The Father sent His Son as Our Savior in order that we might have life and have it in abundance.  We were made for union with God.  Ever since sin entered the world, that union with God has been impossible; because of the Fall of our First Parents the entire human race was doomed to be eternally frustrated.  We were made for union with God, but sin makes union with God impossible because God and sin cannot abide together.  Sin is the choice to turn away from God.  Because of sin, we are incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which we were created; and we cannot redeem ourselves.

Jesus Christ became man in order to set us free from this separation from God.  By their disobedience, Adam and Eve lost God’s friendship for the entire human race.  Jesus Christ came to restore that friendship with the Father: Jesus paid the debt that we all owe due to sin.  Jesus took on a human nature that could suffer and die in order to take the punishment that we all deserve upon Himself.  He became a man, like us in all things except for sin, in order to redeem us from our fallen state.  He descended from His place at the Right Hand of the Father so that we might ascend with Him back to the Father.  The Eternal Son of God came to earth so that we might attain Heaven.  He took on our human nature and He shares with us His divine life.  God took our fallen humanity upon Himself and in return offers us a share in His divine nature.

God became man so that we might become like God.  God created us for Himself.  He wants us to be perfectly united to Himself; He wants to transform our hearts to become more and more like the Sacred Heart of His divine Son.  Love desires union.  The problem is that sin separates us from God.  In order to restore us to that abundant life for which we were created, Jesus Christ became a man, He suffered and died for us.  Jesus Christ gave us the Church and the Sacraments so that we could have access to the divine life that He won for us on the Cross.  Through Baptism, we become children of God.  At our Baptism, we received divine life into our souls; we became temples of the Holy Spirit.  Through the Eucharist God continues to feed us with Himself.  Jesus Christ allowed His body to be broken and His blood to be shed for us upon the Cross and He gives Himself totally to us Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.  Every time we receive Holy Communion, we are intimately united with our God.  We are never so close to our God on this earth as we are right after we have worthily received Him in Holy Communion.  God wants to share His divine life with us, but we have to make room in our hearts to receive Him.

When Our Savior was born all those many years ago there were not many there to welcome Him.  He came to His own, and His own received Him not.  We have to make sure that our hearts are ready to welcome Him; we ought to always receive Holy Communion with as much love and devotion as we can stir up in our hearts.  God wants to give us His divine life, His desire is that we be transformed and bear His image ever more perfectly, but we have to do our part.  Jesus Christ became a man to show us the way to the Father; He was born in order to reveal God to us: Jesus Christ enables us to see that God IS love.  Jesus is God in flesh; He is the standard for which we are all to strive.  May we all celebrate His Birth with joy; let us receive the gift that our God wants to give to us: the gift of Himself; and may we allow Him to transform our hearts and fill them with His divine life, His peace and His love.  Merry Christmas!

 

Christmas (Mass during the day)

December 25, 2009

We were all made to know and to love God.  Love is the purpose of our lives.  Apart from God, life becomes a meaningless search for fulfillment.  Ever since sin entered the world, the purpose for which we were created has become more obscure.  Sin darkens the intellect and weakens the will; sin makes it more difficult to see the things of God.  Jesus Christ is the Light of the world; He is the Light that scatters the darkness.  On Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Our God became a man and dwelt among us.  He came to dwell among us as a man in order to reveal God to us: that is what we mean when we say that He is the Light of the world.  Jesus Christ sheds light upon Who God IS, who we are, and how we are to connect with God.

Jesus is God and He fully reveals God to us.  In the Old Testament, God spoke in partial and various ways through the Prophets, yet that message was veiled.  In the fullness of time, God sent His Son.  The Eternal Son of God became a man, like us in all things except sin, in order to fully reveal God to us.  Jesus teaches us Who God IS by His actions, by His teachings and ultimately by His death upon the Cross.  When you look at a Crucifix, you are looking at how much God loves you.  He loves you so much that He would allow His Son to die in order to save you.  Jesus Christ loves you so much that He willingly laid down His life for each one of you.

Jesus also reveals who we are.  God created us all and He made us in His own image and likeness.  And we know that God IS love.  Before the world began, from all eternity, God has existed as a community of Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  We, who are made in His image and likeness, are also made to be in community with others.  We were made in the image of Love and we were made for love.  We know that after God created man He said that it was not good for the man to be alone.  We were made to know and love God; we were made to love others.  We become most fully what we were created to be when we love God with all our hearts and when we love others.  When we love, we are a clearer image of God.  Jesus summed up all the commandments with two commands: that we are to love God above all things and love others as ourselves.  These two most important commandments are really only trying to get us to live in the way that we created to live: in the image and likeness of love.

Jesus teaches us how to connect with God.  He taught many things and He gave proof of His authority to teach by the miracles He performed.  He taught that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for another: and He did just that.  He laid down His life to show you that He loves you more than you could ever imagine.

Jesus revealed that God is Our Father; God loves us and wants us to return that love.  Jesus taught us that we are to put God first in our lives.  The first of the Ten Commandments tells us that we are not to put anything before the Lord.  The Ten Commandments are not just arbitrary restrictions on my freedoms.  The Ten Commandments were given to get us to live according to the way that we were made.  If we loved God and neighbor the way that we were supposed to, we would not need Commandments forbidding us to do certain things.  If we had perfect love for God and for our neighbor, we would already be fulfilling the Law.  We need Commandments in order to help us to live in the way that we were created.

It is sometimes said that we were made with a God-sized hole in our hearts.  Nothing in this world will ever satisfy our hearts, because they were made for God and God is infinite: He is greater than everything in this world.  We can try to put all kinds of material things into this hole in our hearts, but they will never be satisfied.  Just look at any number of famous people in our own culture: actors and actresses, sports figures and others.  If God is not a part of their lives they usually get into a lot of trouble.  Why?  They have money and fame.  They seem to have everything that a person could want.  It doesn’t matter how much money you have, you will always want more.  We can be tempted to think that if only we had more, then we would be happy.  Then we get more and we want even more.  What our hearts were made for the Infinite.  Nothing finite, no created thing, can ever truly fulfill them.  Only one thing can give me lasting peace and true joy in this world: being connected to the Lord.

The Lord also knew that we have a weak and fallen nature which is inclined towards sin.  That is why He gave us extra help: Jesus gave us the Sacraments as visible channels of His grace.  The Sacraments enable us to participate in the very life and love of God.  Through Baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of God; we become temples of the Holy Spirit and sharers in the divine life of God.  In the Eucharist, God feeds us with Himself; in the confessional, we are restored to that share in God’s life whenever we have lost it through sin.

Jesus Christ came into the world and was born in a manger over two thousand years ago, in order to show us the Way to the Father.  Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He is the Light of the world: the Light that shines in the darkness.  Let us continue to open wide our hearts to the Lord during this Christmas season and allow His light to illumine our lives and His Spirit to inflame our hearts with love for God and love for others.  May God bless you and your families.  Merry Christmas!