HOMILY – Christmas Eve (Vigil Mass) 2010 – The Church As Family

Okay – I’ve been away for some time – apologies for that.

I’m going to post this homily – and try and post mine on a more regular basis now (once you get to far behind it’s tough to try and catch up. Easiest thing to do is make a resolution to do better, and pick a new begninning point.)

My wife is very sparse with her comments and compliments on my homilies – she knows it could lead to me getting a big head about it sometimes so her caution is actually a good thing – but this one she said was my very best ever – which surprised me but gave me the impetus to decide this was the place to go for a new beginning.

It’s about the Church as Family – I took from His Awesomeness Archbiship Dolan of New York and I hope – as I said in the homily – he will forgive me for using his words for the very best of reasons (and that I gave him credit as the original author shouldn’t hurt either I hope.)

As always – comment is invited.

HOMILY – 

Christmas Vigil – 2010 – The Church As Family

Is 62:1-5, Ps 89:4-5, 16-17, 27, 29, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 or 1:18-25

First of all, I would like to welcome all of our family, friends, visitors and guests here tonight – a Merry Christmas to everyone indeed and praised be Jesus Christ, both now and forever!

Tonight, I want to talk about one thing and one thing only.

It is one of the main dimensions of the Gospel Passage which I just proclaimed – and I think it is actually the PERFECT subject to talk about at Christmas time.

In a word – it’s FAMILY.

We just heard about Jesus’ family – 14 generations times three from Abraham to Joseph.

Matthew, you see, was “tying” Jesus by an unbreakable thread to the Jewish heritage of Joseph – and of all of those who came before him – stretching back through history as one solid line of ancestry – in other words, one solid line of FAMILY.

I’m betting a bunch of you tonight are here with your families – some from out of town, perhaps, and I hope we will all find lots of time to spend with them this holiday season.

I DO want to remind you all though – PLEASE remember those who have little or no families at this time of the year – especially those who might be here with us tonight or those whom we might know who fall into that category.  

A little special attention in that area is EXACTLY what Jesus would do – and so of course, should we.

You see – as Catholics – we, quite simply, can’t do anything LESS.

We understand FAMILY here because the Church VERY MUCH IS our family!

We all have our natural families – but we all also have our SUPERNATURAL FAMILY too – the Church!

Just like Jesus himself was both FULLY HUMAN and FULLY DIVINE at the same time – we are ALL a part of both NATURAL and SUPERNATURAL FAMILIES simultaneously.

I must admit that I didn’t come up with this on my own. Not long ago I heard a speech by New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan – HIS AWESOMENESS Himself – which he gave at the Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Los Angeles back in September – a priest friend of mine sent me the link – and I swear that I now think that what he said has changed me forever!

I want to let you know right up front that I plan to steal LIBERALLY and SHAMELESSLY from that speech tonight – and I trust and pray for Archbishop Dolan’s understanding and forgiveness on that account.

I expect that he will be fine with it, you know, for I am POSITIVE that he wants this message SHOUTED FROM THE ROOFTOPS!

Archbishop Dolan has essentially created what he called a NEW MODEL of CHURCH – the MODEL of the Church as FAMILY!

The CHURCH is our FAMILY!

That is why we are called back to Her time and time again – ESPECIALLY at Christmas just like we are with our natural families!

We want to be HOME! We long to be once again with our FATHER and our MOTHER!

No matter how young or old we are – we still crave to be with God Our Father and our Hoy Mother the Church!

And here we are tonight – we are HOME!

And yes, it sure feels good – no matter if we’re here every week, or are just back after many years!

You see, for so many of us cradle Catholics – whether we are active in our faith or not – Catholicism is in our DNA, it’s in our bones, and it’s in our genes and it’s part of the air we breathe.

And for those who converted into the faith – I suspect that it was that quality which at least in part helped led them to their conversion in the first place – am I right all you converts out there?

Actually, I think that CONVERTS tend to understand what I’m talking about here FAR BETTER than those of us born into the Faith!

For instance – my dad was the oldest of 11 kids – 2 boys, 9 girls and yes my dear grandmother will be 99 next June.

As regards my generation, there are 27 of us grandchildren – I’m the second oldest – and most of us are either married now or very likely soon will be – and yes, the number of great-grandchildren keeps changing now so fast it’s almost impossible to keep up!

Yeah – you think YOUR house is crowded on Christmas! Be fruitful and multiply indeed!

My Dad actually lost track of his nieces and nephews after about 12 or so – he would have to ask them which sister they belonged to in order to sort of keep things straight after that!

Yeah, ask any of the wonderful guys or gals who married any of my siblings or cousins – especially MY dear wife, of course, who got into this just a little over 20 years ago – if you REALLY want to know what a BOWLING is like – just marry one!

Yeah, with us Bowlings you kind of need a score card. We even joke that if any potential spouse can keep track of all the cousins and cousins-in-laws halfway decently – they’re definitely a keeper!

I’m telling you – it’s those IN-LAWS – those who CHOSE the FAMILY for themselves – who know it best of all!

YES – as it is with our natural families – also it is with the Church.

Catholicism is taught, yes, but more than that it’s caught, said Archbishop Dolan!

So yeah, we’re all connected to our spiritual family – and yes, we might occasionally drift away from it, as we sometimes do with our natural families, no?  

Often times we don’t really mean to, it just kind of happens, right? Especially when there’s tons and tons of relatives.

Staying CONNECTED requires serious WORK, doesn’t it?

And yes, we might even get mad sometimes at our supernatural family just as we do with our natural family.

At times we might be scandalized or shocked or angered by our spiritual family, the Church, just as we are by our natural family.

Because, yes, our supernatural family is not always perfect anymore than our natural one is – they are both made up of flawed human beings aren’t they?

I’d like to think that in BOTH families everyone really works hard to try and get it right – and also I hope that they work real hard at saying they’re sorry and trying and make amends – even when it’s tough.

But even when things are not as we might wish, we’re STILL proud of our family – we STILL love her and being a part OF her.

We STILL heartily appreciate the wisdom that our family passed on to us – we WANT to BE THERE with our families – both natural and supernatural – at Christmas and Easter and all of the PIVOTAL moments of life – like birth and marriage and death.

We see the value of being at our family meal on both Christmas and on Sunday – whether it be the Holy Eucharist or around our family table.

And sooner or later we realize that we’re stuck with that family last name – be it Catholic – or Bowling – or your own – and the older we get, the more we cherish it and appreciate it.

So you see the Church is not JUST an institution . . .

It’s not JUST a clearly defined set of creedal and moral convictions . . .

It’s not JUST a great agent of charity and education . . .

It’s not just a great place to pray and worship, all of those are essential, but it’s also my spiritual home and my family!

And it is yours too!

So I say thank you once again to Archbishop Dolan – and a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to all of you!

BUT mostly importantly WELCOME HOME!

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