Saturday, December 24, 2016

Heaven - Homily for Midnight Mass (2016)

O Night Divine, O Heaven Descending!

It’s a heavenly night, isn’t it? A mystical, magical, and yet so very ancient night.

Even though midnight Mass is inconvenient and late and (let’s be honest) rather illogical, there is something so heavenly about tonight: about the music, the candles, the peace of a world at rest, and here we are joined by family and friends in one love.

Heaven, I think we would all expect, would have some of these qualities: of angels and saints in beautiful song; of brilliant light that leaves us kneeling, blinking as we behold the glad tidings of great joy; of peace in a world that is no longer at war but finally at rest. Heaven would be the place where we would be joined by family and friends, young and old, joined by saints whom we have loved but had not yet had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face. It would be the place of love so deep that it shows itself stronger than death.

And what is at the center of it all?

The equally inconvenient, seemingly-late, and illogical reality that from heaven, God himself chose to make His dwelling on earth and become one of us—and not any one of us, but a baby. An innocent, humble, adorable, and peaceful baby.

A Babe to Behold Beyond Comprehending

I say this is an inconvenient, seemingly-late, and illogical reality because whoever would have thunk it? It’s illogical because it defies all logic that the almighty God would become so tiny, so helpless. It’s seemingly-late because the night is half-spent—what can a baby do to overcome the power of the dark? And it’s inconvenient because if this is God, then not only does He destroy all preconceived notions, but He challenges me. He challenges me by the very fact that He has become so little.

And what is the challenge? To hold him.

And I don’t know if you remember the first time you held a baby—or if you have experienced that—but when I first held my godson, it made me uncomfortable. Was I doing it right? Was I going to break him? If you know this, then you will know that as the little one nestles its nose into your chest, you start to breathe differently—you notice your breathing because it moves the baby. And after a moment of being tense, you begin to relax.

And then, if you have the nerve for it, you begin to wonder. Who will this little one become? How will it see the world when it becomes old? Will it know what it is to love and to be loved? Will it know heaven? And maybe you begin to pray for it, knowing that so much of its journey is going to be spent in the dark—the darkness of being often frightened, alone, and uncertain.

But then it happens. The matter becomes spiritual: I’m no longer holding my godson-- "whatever you did to these little ones," says the Lord, "you did to me"-- I’m holding the baby Jesus. He knows what it is like to be held.

And because He knows that, He knows its comfort. He knows its peace. And in the darkness of your life, when you are frightened and alone and uncertain, He is going to hold you.

This became my prayer for all of my godchildren: May you always remember that you are a child held in the Father’s arms. It's my prayer for all of us: May you always remember that you are child held in the Father's arms!

.... How did I come to prayer? By holding the baby.

In other words: in order to know that in the night of your life God holds you, you must hold Him at some point. And He makes it easy for you: He comes to you as a child, as a little one. And Mary, his Mother, is going to help you.

This is all He asks from you tonight: to just hold Him. Even though it may be uncomfortable and unfamiliar ...

But if you do, then in that moment, I promise you: you are nearer to heaven than you know! And you'll start to know peace.

The Doors at Bethlehem, the Gates of Heaven Opening

A final thought:

In the church of the Nativity at Bethlehem in the present day, there is a main door. The door, in much earlier times, stood over fifteen feet tall. Now, however, after many reinforcements after many battles, the door is much smaller: four feet and some inches. It’s almost child-sized. In order to enter, a person must literally bow and become small.

Image result for how tall is the door church nativity bethlehem?
There is a spiritual reality here. And it’s not simply about humility. It’s about heaven: the gate to heaven, like the door in Bethlehem, is small. Child-sized.

“Unless you become like little children,” says the Lord, “you will not enter the Kingdom of heaven.” This is from the God who became a little child. But what does this mean?

To become like little children, we must put aside the constant delusions and doubts of the world and live as children do: in faith, totally trusting and totally dependent upon the heavenly Father.

For the child, there are not many races of human beings, but only one race: fellow children, all who may become friends in the end.

For the child, there are not aspirations for the bigger, better deal, but a child-like satisfaction in the simple, moved by the creativity of the spirit and wonder and the joy of everything being gift.

For the child, the night can be frightening and uncertain and it cannot stand to be alone another moment. And so it calls out, “Mom! Dad!”

And what happens then? The Father enters with love and takes him in His arms and holds him and says “My child, it’s going to be alright. I’m with you. I will always be with you.”

That, my friends, will be heaven and there will be rest there and peace. And it’s not far away: but near. Indeed, it's right now.

No comments:

Post a Comment