Homily for 29 December

God is perfecting knowing, loving, joy in the communion of Father, Son and Spirit. There is no lack, no need, no imperfection in God. And yet the Son of God emptied himself to become one like us in Jesus, born of Mary. Jesus, the child of Bethlehem, is vulnerable, fragile, needy, happy, grumpy, dribbly like all babies. Jesus needs the warmth of his mother’s body, needs to be fed by her, needs to held by Mary and Joseph. God did not send his Son to be born into wealth and power with its slaves, with its seeming invulnerability to the tides of the world; he sent his Son into the most ordinary of families, to a young couple who had to learn to look after their first-born like all young couples; the Son came to a couple vulnerable to the whims and fears of the powerful of their time.

They had to flee Herod’s fear for the fear of the powerful and rich can make them violent. They became refugees fleeing to Egypt which had a large Jewish community before eventually returning not to their own land, but to Galilee of the Gentiles, a land on the periphery of their homeland populated by Jews and many Gentiles, from where, according to many, nothing good came. Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived with violence, threat and uncertainty from the beginning. But they also lived under the guiding hand of God. God did not give them a daily schedule. There was no angel to change Jesus’ diaper or advise Mary and Joseph what to do when the child of Bethlehem would not stop crying. They would have received much counsel from older and more experienced parents. Then as now everyone would have had advice. The extended family and village played a big role in the raising of the child, but this family did not know stability and were thrown among strangers.

This family is holy not because they were perfect in every way. What mother and father gets everything perfectly right? The family was holy because God is with them in the child, in the Spirit, in their seeking to respond to God’s will. God is present to this family amid violence, distress, confusion, incomprehension and forced movement. In Jesus God is with us and every family. No family is perfect even though some may look it from a distance. God is with us in our messiness, our struggles, our weakness and sin. God is with us. This means for us fear does not harden our hearts as fear did for Herod. God is with us.

Pope Francis said of the Holy Family: ‘Mary and Joseph, for whom there was no room, are the first to embrace the One who comes to give all of us our document of citizenship. The One who in his poverty and humility proclaims and shows that true power and authentic freedom are shown in honouring and assisting the weak and the frail.’

‘In the Child of Bethlehem, God comes to meet us and make us active sharers in the life around us. He offers himself to us, so that we can take him into our arms, lift him and embrace him. So that in him we will not be afraid to take into our arms, raise up and embrace the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned (cf. Mt 25:35-36). “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors for Christ”. In this Child, God invites us to be messengers of hope. He invites us to become sentinels for all those bowed down by the despair born of encountering so many closed doors. In this child, God makes us agents of his hospitality.’

God is with us in our imperfection and struggles inviting us to make our homes, our society, our country, communities of hospitality – bridges not walls. It is our loving response to God who first freely, lovingly, faithfully makes his home with us.