Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas homily

On behalf of Fr. Mike, our deacons, and our entire staff at St. Andrew’s, I wish all of you a merry Christmas! It’s always great to celebrate Mass, but it’s especially great to celebrate Christmas masses with large crowds. Wouldn’t it be nice if it was like this every Sunday? Hey, the Redskins have a full house every week, why can’t we? And, we don’t even charge $40 for parking!

I understand why the Church is full today. I understand that it is a big event to celebrate: God coming into the world. People waited thousands of years to see God, and He comes into the world as a little baby. The Creator of the world as a little baby! Christmas celebrates that event where God is in the flesh, He is Emmanuel - God is with us.

We hear it said often, ‘wouldn’t it be nice if Christmas were every day’. Well, at the heart of this feast – that God is with us - there are reasons to believe that this happens year-round. There are many reasons to believe that God is with us, especially here at St. Andrew’s. God is with us and it is profound.

One parishioner, like so many of us, struggles with controlling her anger and temper. She had just resigned herself to that fact that she would always just say things in anger when someone annoyed her or losing her temper. She has been going to Confession much more in the past year, and she is starting to see changes! She has been buttoning her lip when she gets annoyed at others, and has been much more patient. She is the first one to say that this has been God. God is with us and it is profound.

When the Pope came in April, the Archdiocese had a food drive with a certain amount that each parish was to give. We blew that amount out of the water! Any of you who saw the huge amount of food in the Gathering Space those few weekends knows how large a quantity that was. I estimated that it was about a TON of food – literally, 2000 pounds. God is with us and it is profound.

A month ago at our high school Youth Group, the teens were in charge of organizing and boxing all of the food items that the parish donated for the Thanksgiving Food Drive. Again, another huge amount of food. We looked at the amount and thought that it would take all night to box and put the food into the cars to go to the shelter. And, normally, you have to ask teens several times to help. It took the thirty teens 15 minutes! We asked them once to help, and they jumped right in and had all of the food in the cars in no time. Then, they came into the Church for Adoration which we do once a month – Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. There they were with their friends: 30 teens in virtual silence for 20-30 minutes, kneeling and praying to their God. Amazing! God is with us and it is profound.

This may not be the most important reason, but it is significant. If you have been following the weekly offertory amounts, you’ve seen the dramatic increase in the collection. In the past year, our collection has increased almost 30%! That is not just generosity, that is also faith. You could say that we spend our money on things that we believe in; this is a sign of faith in God and in the Church. God is with us and it is profound.

The final reason – there are many more but this is the last one I’ll mention – might be my favorite. We have seven young men who are seriously thinking about the priesthood. Seven high school and college guys who in the past year have gone to dinners and talked to priests about becoming priests. Amazing! The Archdiocese is starting to take notice of St Andrew’s with regard to vocations. I think in general the Archdiocese is taking notice that God is with us at St Andrew’s and it is profound.

Now, you hear all of this stuff, and think, ‘where is this coming from’? The Eucharist. Jesus promised this would happen. He said, ‘whoever remains in me and I in Him will bear much fruit’. The reasons I have just listed is not what we are doing for God, but what God is doing for us. It is the fruit of remaining close to Christ in the Eucharist. The Eucharist is changing lives, bringing about tremendous generosity and service, even to the point of laying down one’s life. I’ve been in a lot of parishes; this parish is among the most devout and respectful of the Eucharist, and we are seeing the fruit.

Also, when it comes to the Eucharist, we see the Christmas event happen at every Mass. It’s like Christ is born at every Mass. Ok, so it’s an altar and not a manger. Instead of looking like a baby, he looks like bread and wine. But, it is the same Christ. It is God in the flesh who we can see and adore. The Eucharist is the most profound reason to believe that God is with us. And, not only for us to see and adore, but to receive. God is not only with us in the Eucharist, but He is within us.

So, if you want to be a regular part of all of this great stuff, and not just twice a year, you’re wondering, ‘what do I do?’ When people ask me that, I say that, specifically, stay close to the Eucharist and Confession. In general, stay open to God. We know in the story of Christ’s birth, the innkeeper said that he had no room…no room for Jesus. God wants us to be open…to make room for Him in our lives. When we are open, He comes pouring in and revealing His presence and power. And, it is profound. When we experience that God is with us, we experience happiness, joy, and peace.

May each of us be open to God and experience true joy and peace. May we experience this joy and peace this day and throughout the Christmas season.


At 12:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Approaching Communion is a solemn yet joyous time for me. I keep thinking this will change, but it hasn't. It anything, my thoughts and emotions have become more intense as I wait for my turn to receive the Eucharist.

As a Christmas present to Jesus, I finally gave Him some of my thoughts expressed through words.

As I Approach You

Helpless and homeless,
you entered this world,
with words spoken,
through the flesh of man.

My tears they roll,
freely and warmly,
down my cheeks,
as I approach you.

I gently bow, with joy & reverence,
my weak display of homage,
to the love, hope and eternal life,
your birth offered.

I gently bow, with sorrow & remorse,
for my many sins,
created from what I have said,
and what I have failed to do.

I gently bow, in needed submission,
reflecting my faint understanding,
of the life I must live,
to be worthy of your Kingdom.

My hands make a cradle,
I extend them in awe,
and treasure the touch and taste,
of eternal love, forgiveness and patience.

What strength and love you offer.
What strength and love I need.

Thank you, Jesus.
Welcome and Happy Birthday.

At 11:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many years ago my cousins hosted a monthly event at Our Lady of Mercy to meet and welcome the new families in the parish. I catered their first meeting, and it was a blast! My cousins set a welcoming and fun tone and many of those new families became very close friends. I wasn’t a member of a parish at the time, but when I did finally join one, I remembered that experience and also tried to be an ambassador of some what the church has to offer- love, support, compassion, generosity and fun- yes, fun!

There have been a great deal of changes at this parish in the past several years and I’ve thought a lot about why. There’s something special about the priest who puts on a baseball cap and chats about and actually plays sports with our youth. There’s something special about the priest who straps on a guitar and cowboy hat and sings a country solo or grabs a spatula to flip burgers. There’s something special about the camaraderie of families who sit in the pews near other parishioners, week after week, year after year and then go on to share their lives outside the church doors as well. There’s a sharing of self that exists in a growing parish. People want to be part of that. I do believe the desire to share of self is a fruit of the Eucharist. I think it starts with one’s person’s experience of Christ and a need to share that with others.

At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let us not forget the quieter partner in this venture! Fr. Mike may not wear the Santa Redskin hat, or play the guitar with a cowboy hat on, or shoot hoops with the school kids, but, he does live with and in a sense, mentor the youngin' you mention. Can you imagine being in his position!!

And that's not to mention the money talks he so diplomatically delivers in order to keep the parish financially sound, or the school he is partly responsible for, or the blue print of where and how to spend the parish's money. As for our older parish members, Fr. Mike's demeanor is probably a little more their speed; he stays relatively still during his homilies. My octogenarian father-in-law cracked me up when he said he can't follow the younger priest – he moves around too much!!

To be blessed with two different types of energy and dedvotion. Both loving and gentle, shown in different ways. We have a "right and a left hand", a "Batman & Robin", an "Odd Couple", a balance that reaches all of our family. We are a blessed parish. Thank you Fr. Mike & FG.

At 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of you may have been informed about the CRIME that took place at Holy Redeemer in College Park on Christmas Eve. How very sad when good people are brutallty beaten in a church parking lot by cruel and heartless thugs.
We can easily pray for Wayne Williams,the victim, and his wife Ginny and of course for Fr. George Wilkerson, pastor and the whole parish. But here comes the do we feel anything for the perpetrator(s)of this appalling crime? Social Justice is not working for me right now. I only pray that they are caught quickly.

At 4:36 PM, Anonymous Katherine said...

My parents love St. Andrew's! And to make it even better for them they saw our old childhood friends there! They really enjoyed your homily, Father Greg. You were a hit with my little brother, as well.

Thanks to everyone at St. Andrew's for being so welcoming to me, and my once-a-year-coming-to-church family.

At 11:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the anon of 3:42-

Fr. Mike was the priest with the cowboy hat and guitar!

At 7:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I commented on the brutal attack at Holy Redeemer in College Park and after reflection, the ending should be changed. ON Dec.26th we had the celebration of Stephen the First Martyr. (Acts of the Apostles 6:8-7)Saul stoned Stephen brutality but Stephen asked the Lord not to hold this sin against Saul. As we know Saul was changed to Paul and became more than great. It was Stephen's love that prevailed over the cruelty of the mob. I will be praying for the person or person (s)that committed this act.

At 8:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Oops - thanks for the correction!

At 11:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As I Approach You"
This is such a touching and personal understanding of our Lord. This poem is very moving and each time I read it I am moved and feel so loved by Jesus. Thanks Anon for sharing this gift with us.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger fran said...

Our family enjoys watching old movies (well, maybe some of us more than others..) and last night we tuned in to "Going My Way." It is the story of priests who play golf, sing, mentor the youth of the community and stabilize a parish which is having financial troubles. Need I say more?

Tonight's feature is the sequel, "The Bells of St. Mary's."


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