Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, January 5, 2020

Isaiah 60: 1-6

Ephesians 3: 2-3a, 5-6

Matthew 2: 1-12

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         We call the visitors from the East who followed a star and came to Bethlehem by different names:  the Magi, the astrologers, the wise men and the three kings.  But in spite of their many names, they came for a single purpose:  to worship the Christ Child, the newborn King.

         Their reason for following that star is found in the name of today’s feast:  “Epiphany.”  It means “a manifestation,” “a showing.”  Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary, manifested Himself, showed Himself, to the entire world

through these non-Jewish visitors.

         “The Gentiles are coheirs” with the Jews, “members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel,” Paul tells us today in his letter to the Ephesians.

         There are many legends about these wise men.

         One says that after the star that was leading them came to rest over the stable in Bethlehem, it then dropped into a well.  And that if you have a pure heart, you can look into that well and see that star shining beneath its water.

         Another legend claimed that there were twelve wise men.  But later on, it settled upon three, although the Scriptures do not tell us how many there were.  The number three is very logical since they brought three gifts:  gold, frankincense and myrrh.

         Another gives them names:  Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar.

         But the Scriptures do tell us that these visitors from the East were not Jewishbut followed a star and found the Christ Child, offered their gifts and paid Him homage.  And in the three gifts that they brought we find a lot of symbolism.

Gold was a gift for a king.  We have a practice today that, when you visit someone’s home for dinner, you take a small gift with you to present to the host or hostess.  In the East, if you were fortunate enough to be invited to visit the king, you would take a substantial gift to present to him.  And gold was considered the most appropriate gift to give to a king.

         The gift of gold was the Magi’s acknowledgement that Jesus truly was a king – but a different kind than the rulers of this world.  Jesus did not rule by fear but by love.  He did not reign from an earthly throne but from the throne of His cross.  And we need to submit to His kingship.

There is a story from years ago about Lord Nelson in the British Navy.  He was known to be kind and gracious when other military officers came to him to surrender.  One day an enemy admiral boarded Lord Nelson’s ship to surrender and approached Lord Nelson with an outstretched hand.  And Lord Nelson, with his arms at his side, said to him:  “First your sword and then your hand.”  He needed to submit.

         Christ our King comes to us in friendship, making us a part of His family.  But first we must submit to his kingship.  And so gold was the first gift of the Magi to Christ the newborn King.

         The gift of frankincense was for a priest.  In temple worship, incense was used as a sign of our prayers rising before God with a pleasing fragrance before Him.

         The Latin word for high priest is “pontifex,” which means “a bridge builder.”  Jesus our Priest – as true God and true man – is the bridge between God and the human race.  Jesus makes God available to us and takes our prayers to God.  And so frankincense was the second gift of the Magi to Christ the Priest.

         The gift of myrrh was for someone who was going to die.  In those days, a body was prepared for burial with a spice called myrrh.  It was an early form of embalming.  This gift of myrrh was a sign that Christ, the newborn King and Priest, would one day die on the cross so that we could live forever.

         There is a painting by Holman Hunt that depicts Jesus in His teenage years.  He is working hard in the carpenter shop late one afternoon and is tired.  So He goes to the doorway and stretches out His arms against the door frame.  And the sunlight comes through the door and casts a shadow on the back wall of the carpenter shop.

         In the background is Mary who sees the shadow of the cross on that back wall and her face registers sorrow because she catches a glimpse of what will happen to her Son one day.  He – our King and our Priest and our Saving Victim – will die on the cross so that we can live forever.

The gifts of the Magi are full of meaning:  gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh for someone who would die.  This feast of the Epiphany celebrates the manifestation of Christ to the world:  to Jew and Gentile alike.

And so the response to Psalm 72 that we sang today after the first reading continues to ring true down to our own day:  “Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.”  And so we are doing at this very moment.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Sunday, December 29, 2019

Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph-A

Sirach 3: 2-6, 12-14

Colossians 3: 12-17

Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

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Today we celebrate a very warm feast – the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  And this Feast of the Holy Family, during this Christmas season, invites us to reflect on our own home and family life.

         Some time ago, Reader’s Digest carried “a family quiz.”  Here are three of the questions:  1) If, on a TV show, a teenaged boy kissed his mother and father good night, would your children consider this normal?  2) If you and your spouse were both reading in one room, would your children come in and sit with you?  3) Have your children ever told you that they want to have a family just like yours when they get married?

         All three of these questions involve the whole family at the most basic level of family life:  the love level.  Let’s take closer look at this level.

         One of Bob Hope’s favorite jokes was about his love for his friend, Bing Crosby.  He said:  “There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Bing Crosby, and there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for me.  But that’s the trouble.  We spend our lives doing nothing for each other.”

         Bob Hope’s point is a good one.  In family life it is so easy to take each other’s love for granted.  Perhaps we rarely express our love in a verbal or visible way.  For example, when was the last time that you told a family member, in a conversation or in a letter, that you loved them?

         In his book, My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes an interview with Mark David Chapman, the convicted killer of Beatle John Lennon.  Chapman says, “I don’t think I ever hugged my father.  He never told me he loved me.  I needed emotional love and support.  I never got that.”

         Asked about how he would treat a son, if he ever had one, Chapman says, “I would hug my son and kiss him… and just let him know… he could trust me and come to me… and I would tell him that I loved him.”

         Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and to sons.  [It applies equally well to mothers and to daughters]:  “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care.  Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him.  Don’t wait until the death-bed to realize what you have missed.”

         Ann Landers received a letter from a mother, asking her at what age a father and son should stop kissing and saying “I love you” to each other.  Ann Landers gave the mother a one-word answer:  “Never!”

         Shortly afterward, Ann Landers received a letter from a father.  He told her:  “A few weeks ago I kissed my son for the first time and told him that I loved him.  Unfortunately it was at the funeral home.  My son had taken his own life.”

         The father continued:  “The greatest regret of my life is that I kept my son at arm’s length.  I believed that it was not manly to show my son affection.    I now sadly regret my ignorance and stupidity.”

         What is true of fathers and sons is also true of fathers and daughters, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, and brothers and sisters.

         It is not hard to imagine Jesus, who cried at the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, embracing his mother, Mary, and saying, “Mom, I love you.”

         It is not hard to imagine Jesus, who told how the father and son embraced in His parable about the Prodigal Son, hugging Joseph and saying, “Dad, I love you.”

         Today’s Scripture readings for the Feast of the Holy Family pose a very important question to think about:  “How well are we contributing to the love level of our own family life?”

         We are so blessed to have the prayers, the love and the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family, to embrace us and help us all along the way.

Fr. Tim’s Homily for Christmas Eve and Day

Christmas Readings click here

I welcome members of our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parishes to this Christmas Mass.  And I also welcome your guests and members of other parishes.

         I also want to offer a special word of welcome to those here who might be looking for a church to belong to.  We would love to have you in our parish families.

         And there may be someone here today who hasn’t been to church in a while.  I am glad that you came.  And I am personally inviting you right now to come home to your parish family.  Coming to Mass each week will have a profound effect on your life during the New Year ahead, I promise you.  I welcome you here today.

         Christmas is a season of gifts.  And today I would like to focus on our “Christmas gift-getting” – rather than on our “Christmas gift-giving.” 

When someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t necessarily say a lot about who you really are.  But it does say a lot about who they think you are, or who they would like you to be.

         Now, imagine someone giving you that “perfect gift” that they have selected.  And they want you to open it in front of them.  You do – and you are stunned!  You look for something to say:  “Isn’t this interesting?”  “Oh, who would have ever thought?”  “Where exactly did you find something like this?”

         That is what you are saying.  But what you are really thinking is more like:  “What am I supposed to do with this?”

         It is sometimes more difficult than we think to be the perfect gift-getter.  And today, we celebrate the greatest gift that God could ever give us:  His Son, born as a baby in Bethlehem.  “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”   God is the perfect gift-giver.  And God waits to see how we will be as gift-getters.

         We exchange gifts with one another at Christmas.  And this involves a three-part process:  the gift given, the gift received, and the gift accepted.

         Someone who cares about us chooses a gift carefully and gives it to us.     

We receive the gift and open it to see what it is.

         The gift given and the gift received are fundamentals in the gift-giving process.  But the third part – the gift accepted – is sometimes missing.  How many Christmas sweaters are never worn?  How many bottles of cologne are never opened?  How many games are never played?

         The stores were crowded through Christmas Eve with shoppers looking for gifts to give to loved ones.

         The stores will also be crowded during the days after Christmas with loved ones returning Christmas gifts they received – but did not accept.

         Look at the mounds of returned items in the stores after Christmas, which are no longer being handled carefully by the customers or by the sales personnel.   They are clear evidence of gifts given and received – but not accepted.

         God gives us the gift of His Son, Jesus. We receive God’s gift.  But will we accept God’s gift?  Or will we return God’s gift right after Christmas – thinking perhaps that what Jesus has to offer does not fit the way that I want to live my life, or that Jesus is Someone that I don’t really need? 

 “Today is born our Savior, Christ the Lord.”  God gives the gift of His Son to us.  And today God hopes that each of us will receive and accept His gift.

         We have a gift to give you, as you leave church today:  a copy of Matthew Kelly’s new book, Rediscover the Saints.  It is easy to read with  4 or 5 pages about each of 25 holy people, each chapter beginning with a life-changing question and concluding with a prayer – and the book is only 124 pages!

         This book does not just give a summary of each saint’s life.  Plenty of great books already do that.  This book brings the saints to life and puts them front and center in our lives.  Why?  Because the saints remind us that, with the gift of God’s grace, holiness is possible and that we have great friends in heaven who are always cheering us on!

         An anonymous Saint Joseph parishioner has given this gift to you, our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families and our guests.

Please receive and please accept this gift.  It will help you know Jesus and His friends, the saints, even better during this New Year.

         May the Christ Child bless you richly and warmly in your gift-getting – as well as in your gift-giving.  Merry Christmas, everyone!