Here is my homily from last night's Vigil Mass:
A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening, I returned to the rectory after hearing confessions. It was about 5 pm, and I had about a half an hour to relax before the next activity. I turned on the TV, hoping to find some sports on, maybe college basketball. And, there was nothing good on! We have the basic cable service which is now like 800 channels, and nothing good on! Of course, now with the Redskins making a playoff charge (yeah, Skins!), there is plenty of fantastic stuff on these days.
So, I get to the movie channels, and see that “The Nativity Story” is showing. I don’t know how many of you have seen it but I’ve always heard great things about this movie. Now, I was just looking to relax and take a short break from religious stuff. But, then I began to think, ‘you know, I am a priest, I probably should watch this’. It was about halfway over, but what I saw was really powerful. It was a beautiful depiction of the feast we celebrate today. I especially was moved by the wise men who were older men and very much respected for their wisdom. They had come from so far away to worship a baby, a little kid! Then, of course, there’s Mary and Joseph who went through so much to have Jesus born. And, the light that shines down from heaven on the manger scene…oh, if I just ruined the ending to those who haven’t seen the movie, I apologize. It was so powerful that I just lost it. I was balling, saying, ‘Lord, this isn’t fair. I’m just trying to relax here’. The magi really moved me. They had come to worship a kid, “the one who would save his people from their sins”.
Now, I haven’t always been interested in movies like this. Growing up, I would get into “Jesus of Nazareth” during Holy Week but that’s about it. I was raised Catholic, went to Church on Sundays, and attended Catholic schools. But, I never really ‘got it’ about faith. In fact, I was pretty clueless. I didn’t have much of a relationship with God; I only talked to Him when I needed something. Looking back on the first twenty years of my life, there wasn’t really a friendship there with Christ. I knew about Jesus, but I didn’t know Him. It wasn’t until I began to get to know Him that our faith became real to me.
There are some here today who haven’t been to Church in a while. To you I say, welcome. You are always welcome here. There are some who are struggling in their faith, questioning their faith, maybe asking, ‘what’s the point?’ or saying, ‘I can’t relate to any of this’. Wherever we are in our faith, I would suggest looking at your friendship with Christ. That’s where it all starts. The Catholic Church herself says that it’s not about a religion, it’s about a person, Jesus Christ. If there’s no friendship with Christ, then this is all pointless. But, when we get to know Christ, that’s when it becomes personal. That’s when it becomes real. He saves me from my sins. He wants to have a friendship with each one of us.
Many of you know that it started with the Eucharist for me. For whatever reason, I thought for the first twenty years of my life that the Eucharist was just a symbol, just a piece of bread. It wasn’t until I was twenty one that I got it. A priest said to me, “Greg, ‘this is my body’ means this is my body”. It was then that I realized, ‘wow, we really believe this. We really believe that the bread and wine is really Jesus’ Body and Blood’. The Church has believed from day one that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It’s really Him!
One of the first prayers that I said to Jesus when I began my friendship with Him was, “Lord, I am sorry. I didn’t know”. I thought about all of those times I had received Holy Communion and had done who-knows-what the night before. “I’m sorry, Lord”. There are many who feel that they can’t even approach Christ because of things they have done in the past. Nonsense. Throughout the Gospel, Jesus invites us to come to Him, no matter what we’ve done. If there are serious sins from our past, we can go to Confession, and get them cleared up quickly. Our Lord truly wants us to come to Him in friendship.
Now, if this is true about the Eucharist, that the Lord will be in front of us in a few minutes, then we have the same opportunity that the wise men, the shepherd, Mary and Joseph had at the Nativity scene. We will be able to see our Lord who will be born on this altar in a few minutes. Like the wise men, we have “come to worship Him”. Through the eyes of faith, we will worship our Lord and Savior. We will see the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Prince of Peace, the reason for the season. We will see our Lord, our Savior, our friend, Jesus Christ.