Deacon Cornellís Homily


1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28
1 John 3:1-2,21-24
Luke 2:41-52


December 26, 2021 Feast of the Holy Family Cycle C

A long time ago, my wife Betsy and I left one of our children at the temple. OK, at the church. The folk group used to rotate having breakfast after Mass at one of the homes of the other folk group members, so quite often members of our family would leave church in different cars as some would go to the house, and others would go for donuts or buns. My son Matt was an altar server at the time and must have been delayed clearing the altar or putting out the candles so that by the time he got out to the parking lot, we had all left. It wasnít until we were all together again that we realized that he was missing. I rushed back to St. Isidore. I didnít find him questioning the teachers and astounding them but that was only because none of the teachers had stayed around either. He was standing by the side door, patiently waiting for someone to realize he was missing.

As ordinary a family as we are, compared to Mary, Joseph and Jesus, or Hannah, Elkanah, and Samuel, there is a connection between these stories. Here on this feast of the Holy Family, the focus of all three of our readings is not so much the nuclear family as it is on the wider family of God, and how the nuclear family is to be of service to that wider family.

Both the first reading and the Gospel stories are about a family who dedicated its son to service to God. Each gave up their son for the benefit of Israel, in Samuelís case, and for the all of creation, in Jesusí case. I often wonder if the couples who bring their child for baptism think of that in terms of dedicating him or her to the service of God? Would they still be willing to dedicate him or her for that service even if it meant suffering the separation that Hannah did, or the pain that Mary did at the foot of the cross? And what about us who were brought for baptism. How do we live out our dedication to the service of God?

I think our second reading today gives us a clue. The author of this letter tells his community, and us, that through Godís love we are called children of God. We are called that because, that is what we are, especially through baptism. What we shall be when the kingdom of God comes in full, when we get to heaven, at the second coming of Christ, (use whatever metaphor that describes being fully in the presence of God), is something that our limited human minds cannot even comprehend. But he tells us that we know that we shall be like God for we shall see God as God really is.

And what is God, really? God is love. If we ever could see how passionately, how forgivingly, how unendingly God loves us, we would be transformed.But you know this, donít you? I would hope that every one has experienced knowing that someone really loves you. Doesnít that transform you? I know that I am a very different person because my wife Betsy really loves me. I realize that she has a long list of things that still need transforming in me Ė and I have my list as well.But real love transforms.

And this is Godís plan for transforming this world into the paradise God has always planned for it: to love it back into that state. God knows that we humans need to see God, not in all Godís loving glory Ė because we would probably explode; but in human form. That is why God came as a human being. And that is why Jesus calls us to continue his mission of enfleshing Godís love so that it is humanly visible.

100 years after Jesusí there was a rabbi who had this vision that the kingdom of God would start, the Messiah would come, when every Jew on earth followed the Torah for just 24 hours, one day when every Jew was completely Jewish. What would happen if every Christian acted like a Christian for just one day? For 24 hours, every baptized person acted completely out of love? Would that change the world? You bet it would. I donít know if it is every Christian or 2/3 of us or Ĺ but here is how I think it works.

By our baptism we are called to be the community of people who live in such a way, by loving, that people look at us and see God, true love. You see we are all made in the image of God but none of us, not even all of us, can really image God. But I think it is something like doing a jigsaw puzzle. When you only have a few pieces together you canít tell what the picture is. But as you start to put in more pieces, even before you have it filled in, if you step back and squint a little, you can start to see the picture. If all of us in this community start to act like Christians, start to love each other the way Jesus loves us, then someone passing by might stop and squint and see God, however faintly. That person might then be transformed and want to join us, adding one more piece to the puzzle so that the next person coming by can see this image of God a little better, and so on and so on till anyone passing by can become like God because they see God as God really is.

Do we as parents have the courage and faith to dedicate our children in the service of God, to bring salvation to this world? Do we as baptized have the courage and faith to dedicate ourselves in the service of God to bring salvation to this world? Look love in the face and we will.

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