Deacon Cornell's Homily


Genesis 15:1-6;21:1-3
Hebrews 11:8,11-12,17-19
Luke 2:22-40


December 27-28, 2008, Feast of the Holy Family, Cycle B

In the original Blues Brothers movie, when Jake and Elwood are being chased by the polices, Elwood says that the police won’t catch then because they “are on a mission from God”

Our readings today are about what it means really to be “on a mission from God”. The story of Abram, renamed Abraham, and the story of Jesus being brought to the temple for the purification rites remind us that looks can be deceiving when looking for someone on a mission from God. Abraham is commissioned by God to be the father of many nations but he and his wife Sarah are already in the 90’s. The people of Israel were looking for a mighty king or general to free them from Roman subjection so the tiny infant Jesus did not look very much like the anointed of God. Throughout our salvation history, those chosen by God and sent on God’s mission were often hard to spot in a crowd.

The same is still true today. Take a look around. How many people do you see who look as if they are on a mission from God? In fact, what do you see when you look in the mirror? Do you see someone who looks as if they are on a mission from God? Very often it takes someone who sees things more as God does to identify those sent by God, people like Simeon and Anna in the Gospel story. In other cases, it takes some ritual to help us see people in their roles as God has chosen them; as Catholics, those rituals that point most clearly to this missioning are the sacraments.

How many people have seen the movie, The Lion King? Can anyone tell me where Simba is the very first time that we see him in the movie? He is in the cave with his parents. Rafiki, the wise old mystic baboon, comes into the cave, comes up to Simba, breaks open a gourd and marks Simba with some of the gourd liquid. Then he takes some of the dirt from the cave floor and sprinkles it in Simba’s face, and Simba sneezes. Then, in that great cinematic scene, Rafiki takes Simba in his hands, carries him out to the tip of pride rock, and holds him up for all the animals to see. And what do the animals do? They kneel in allegiance to new lion king.

What is going on here? Simba looks like every other lion cub in the pride. Through the ritual celebrated by Rafiki, the animals are helped to see that even though Simba may look like an ordinary lion cub, the reality is that he IS the lion king. The ritual help make visible an invisible reality. Our sacraments of initiation, baptism, confirmation and eucharist, are like that. They help make visible the invisible reality that we have been called by God, by name, to help in the mission of bringing about the fullness of the kingdom of God here on earth. But like Simba, the rituals do not magically make us effective in that mission.

As you recall, Simba had to grow up and learn what it meant to be lion king. Yes the reality was that he was lion king but he didn’t know how to carry out that mission. So as a youngster he thinks that being king means that he gets to tell everyone else what to do, and no one can tell him what to do. All he sees is the power that goes with being king. But as he grows up and is tricked by his evil uncle Scar into thinking that he killed his father, he runs off to a new life where he does not think about being king. Instead he just drifts along in life, enjoying the good things without worrying. Then his childhood friend Nala shows up, and tells him that the kingdom is in ruins, and unless Simba comes back and acts like the Lion King, everyone will die. At first Simba wants nothing to do with this mission. But after remembering what he learned from his father, and some more help from Rafiki, he realizes that he is the lion king and until he lives up to that reality, he will never be happy. So he goes back and, as is fitting for a Disney movie, he defeats the bad guys and saves the kingdom.

So I ask you again: how many people here are on a mission from God? All of us who have received the sacraments of initiation are. In baptism, we are called by name and anointed with sacred chrism as priest, prophet and king for bringing salvation in to the world as the body of Christ. In Confirmation, we are again anointed with sacred chrism and given the gifts of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for our mission. We are given a new name, like Abram and Sarai being called Abraham and Sarah, or Jacob given the name Israel, or Simon the name Peter, to indicate the hidden reality of our being the body of Christ. In Eucharist, we are given the body of Christ as food for the mission, and the blood of Christ to remind us that we are called to offer up our body and blood for the sake of the world.

Just like Simba, this initiation takes time, and good teachers who teach us by how they live out their commissioning as priest, prophet, and king. Even Jesus took 30 years to grow and prepare to carry out the mission his father gave him effectively. And as with Simba, sometimes we need to be reminded that we can never be at peace until we start filling the role that God has chosen for us. And it is not just individuals who are on a mission from God; families too are an essential part of God's plan, revealing the truth about human nature, and nurturing those who are commissioned by God.

The reality is that we are priest, prophet and king, and until we start living a priest, prophet, and king, we will never find joy.  Let us enter into this celebration with full and conscious participation in the mission God has given us. Then we too will grow in strength and wisdom, and the favor of the Lord will be upon us.  

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