Fr. Peter Robinson
Preached: December 24-25, 2023
On this holy Christmas morning, we find ourselves surrounded by gifts! I remember, as a child, dragging my dad out of bed in the pitch darkness at 0500 in the morning. Then, my sisters and I would race to the Christmas tree to see what “Santa” had left us. Meanwhile, dad was soon sound asleep again — on the couch. As you all know from experience, those moments are burned into our memories for the rest of life.
So, this morning I want to turn our attention to a wonderful gift that God himself has given to us on this Christmas Day. In particular, I’m referring to an event that happened many years after Jesus was born. I’m speaking of the occasion in Luke’s Gospel (11:27) when Jesus, performing a miracle, heard a woman’s voice call out in the crowd: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!”
Because Jesus’ miracles gave proof of his divine power, this woman wanted to honour not just Jesus, but his mother, too. That is, given Jesus’ greatness as a miracle-worker, this woman wanted his mother to share in that greatness. After all, she gave him birth, right? Millenia later, that woman was right — think of every Rosary that you have ever prayed: “Hail Mary … blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb …”
But the Lord Jesus had another priority: that is, he did not wish for people to seek happiness only in a purely physical relationship. That is why he replied: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” You see, as great as the honour is that we give to Mary in a physical way (because she is Jesus’ birth mother), Mary is to be blessed in another way, in a spiritual way: she, as a teenage woman, heard God’s word and kept it.
Which is why, in Jesus’ opinion, Mary is truly blessed. She kept God’s truth in her mind — even while she carried the body of God’s Son in her womb. The truth of Jesus’ identity (as God the Son) and the body of Jesus (the man) were both Christ.
Four centuries after Jesus, St Augustine would write that Jesus was kept in Mary’s mind, insofar as he is truth; and he was carried in her womb, insofar as he is man. But St Augustine teaches that what is kept in the mind is of a higher order than what is carried in the womb.
So, though the Virgin Mary is both holy and blessed, the Church is greater than she. Why? Because Mary is a part of the Church. She is the first member of the Church, the first to profess and follow Jesus. She is a holy and eminent – in fact, the most eminent – disciple of Jesus. But she is still only a member of the entire body of the Church. The body of the Church is greater than Mary, who is the first of its members. In fact, this body of the universal Church has the Lord Jesus himself for its head. And the head (who is divine) and the body (which is us, and all believers) together make up the whole Church — including Mother Mary.
Brothers and sisters, on this Christmas morning our greatest gift (from God himself) is belonging to the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church: of belonging to Jesus, through the Church, and to his beloved mother, Mary.
22nd Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 28, 2022
What kind of church is needed today? What kind of priests are needed today? What kind of Catholics are needed today? All of these actually go together. The kind of church we want to be depends on the kind of priests we have and the kind of Catholics that we are.
The speech of Jesus to the Pharisees in the Gospel today could perhaps be something Jesus would say to us in the Catholic Church today. Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, he sees their pride, their desire to be praised and acknowledged. They want to be put on pedestals and seen as superior to others. Jesus is clear about the importance of humility. A humble way of being in relation to others and to God.
We need a humble church, so we need humble priests, and we need humble Catholics. What will a humble church look like? What will humble priests and Catholics look like?
- Humility always means facing the truth about ourselves. Seeing ourselves honestly.
- Humility means that we see our own sins, our own weaknesses, before we look at those of others.
- Humility means understanding that there is one God, one Messiah, and it is not us. We are not the centre of the universe.
- Humility allows us to serve those that cannot give us anything in return, to serve those who seem unimportant to our world, to serve those who will not even thank us.
- Humility means that we do not see ourselves as superior to others.
- Humility means we do not need to win every debate or argument.
- Humility means we realize that we are not always right.
- Humility means we do not have all the answers.
- Humility means I only worry about how I am seen by God, I do not need recognition or praise from others for doing what is right.
We have a seminarian, William Meehan, with us this summer. As he continues his discernment and formation for the priesthood, there are some things that I hope for him. First, that he is a better priest than me!!! But, seriously, if he is to be a good and happy priest, he will need to avoid wanting to be put on a pedestal, not see himself as more important or holier than others, not think he is closer to God.
A priest is one willing to take a demotion, to get down low to the least within society, who is not looking for praise or honour or recognition. A priest is to be intimately united to Jesus because a priest is to serve the way Jesus did. My hope is that he will be a humble priest. So far, I am glad that I see this humility in William.
As we listen to Jesus speaking to the Pharisees in this Gospel, we should hear Jesus speaking to us as Catholics today.
We need to be a humble church today, so we need humble priests and we need humble Catholics. Sometimes people come to me in confession or spiritual direction and they say that they want to pray for humility. I always smile and warn them about praying for humility, because you might get it!
The challenges the church and priests face in society today due to scandals and criticisms just might be God’s way of forming a humbler church, humbler priests, humbler Catholics.