December 25, 2016


+  Pax et Bonum!    Peace and goodness to each of you this day!

It was just a couple of years ago when I went to visit some friends of mine for our annual Christmas dinner together.  It was actually several days after Christmas, but their tree was still up, and all their Christmas cards were still taped to their door, and the Spirit of Christmas was very much still alive in their home.  I had married Jeannie and Mike several years ago.  And four years ago, they had asked to me be to Godfather to their oldest daughter, Maria.  So while Jeannie and Mike were putting the finishing touches on our very special dinner, I had the great privilege of having some private time with one of my very special goddaughters.  So we were sitting on the couch, and Maria asked me if I wanted her to read me a story.  How can you pass up an opportunity like that, right?  So Maria ran over and grabbed her favorite book of the moment, which was When Jesus Was Born.  Now, at just barely four, I don’t think Maria was reading as much as she was remembering the story from her parents had read it to her.  But I’ve got to tell you, I was so proud, she had it all down.  She “read” to me about the census, and the no room at the inn.  She told me about the different animals in the stable.  She told me that that’s where Jesus was born, with just His Mommy  and Daddy, and there wasn’t even a doctor there!  She told me about the shepherds, and the angels, and the star!  And Maria seemed to be getting more and more excited with every line.  Then, at the end, she closed the book, and she looked her priest/ Godfather straight in the eye, and she asked me, “And do you know who that Baby was?  I was somewhat taken aback.  I felt like I was in oral exams again, at the University in Rome.  And I said, “The Baby was Jesus!”  Confident that I had the right answer.  And without waiting a second, Maria said, “No, the Baby was God!”  And then, exploding with excitement and enthusiasm, as only a four year-old girl could do, she stood up on the couch, did a little dance, and did a full-blown dive into a huge pile of pillows, and came up with the biggest smile on her face.   Tell me now, isn’t that really the only possible response to the good news of the Incarnation?   She had schooled me!  I felt like I had just heard the story for the first time!

Jesus’ coming into the world, nearly two-thousand years, caused people to do some pretty joyful, amazing things!  We know that John the Baptist leaped in his mother womb, when he first met Jesus, in the womb!  We know that St. Joseph had, in act of Faith, decided to trust God and take Mary as his wife.  His Faith and his joy overwhelmed his fear.  We know that Mary had taken a leap of Faith, and said “yes” to having a baby.  We know that Mary and Joseph both trusted in God, with joyful hope when they left their home, even though Mary was very pregnant, and went to Bethlehem.  The Three Kings were moved to leave their countries, and follow a star.  And even shepherds in the fields, were coaxed by angels and heavenly music, to seek out that stable and see what God had done!  Great Joy, at that first Christmas, was causing people to some amazing things.  The story affected them!  I don’t know if any of them dove into a huge pile of throw pillows, but you can’t hear this story and not be moved by it.

Perhaps all of these characters from the first Christmas story were so profoundly filled with great joy at what was happening, that they had to share their joy!  As the saying goes, “A joy shared is doubled”.  And joy was truly contagious that first Christmas!  It still is even today!

Tonight, we get together to hear this story again.  We listen.  We sing out.  We are moved to gratitude for what our God has done for us!  But there is no limit on what this story can cause us to do.  This story can change your life, if you let it.  This story can make you dance for joy!  This story can make you laugh or even make you cry.  This story may make you want to dive into a pile of throw pillows and come up laughing.  But if you really hear this story, and you take it into your heart, and today you realize just what our God has done for you, there is NO WAY you can be unaffected!  You can’t just sit there.  You can’t just listen.  You can’t ignore this story or this kind of joy!  You gotta share it.  You gotta live it.  You gotta celebrate it with some crazy, outlandish actions!

This Baby was God.  And He still is.  And He wants to do radical things in your life because of a kind of joy that this world doesn’t even know how to offer!   Today, let the joy of this story take over your life!  It will last for more than a few day.  It will last forever!

From Fr. Sean and myself, Deacon Steve, our seminarians and diaconate candidates, and our entire Parish and School staffs, may each of you have a joy-filled and blessed Christmas this year!  May the Spirit of Christmas dwell in your hearts always!

May God bless us this Christmas,  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…                                         AMEN !!!

St. Maria Goretti…           Pray for us !!!