Sunday, January 01, 2006
God at his mother's breast (homily for 'e Theotokos)
we celebrate Mary in many ways.
Today, the emphasis is on “Mother of God”—
So this is about Mary,
but even more about her Child.
This Feast teaches us Jesus is both God and man.
Not half-and-half; not 60-40 or 80-20!
Jesus is all-God, and all-man, all the time!
He’s really human—so he has a real mother.
Mary guarantees Jesus is truly human.
Maybe you wonder, “who says otherwise?”
The thing is, Jesus being really human
There are those who say
Jesus was only “sort of” human:
He pretended to be human,
to show us how to escape being human.
If you’ve ever heard of “Gnosticism”—
This is part of that movement.
And if you say, who cares about Gnosticism,
The answer is—
it’s still around,
still trying to undermine
the truth of Jesus and why he came.
Gnosticism says being human
is something to escape;
And you do it through hidden knowledge.
You know that popular novel
that caused such a stir:
The DaVinci Code?
That’s what it was about:
The blockbuster “secrets” that it “revealed”--
what didn’t come
from the author’s imagination,
came from Gnostic writings.
Remember how we heard
that this novel lifted women up,
in contrast to the mean,
old Catholic Church?
Funny thing is,
Gnosticism can be
pretty hostile to women!
One of the things
Gnosticism said you escape is…
get this—being a woman!
Here’s a quote from one
of these Gnostic writings—
and please note—
this is not Christian, but Gnostic:
“Peter said to them:
‘Let Mary go forth from among us,
for women are not worthy of the life.’
Jesus said: ‘Behold, I shall lead her,
that I may make her male,
in order that she also
may become a living spirit
like you males.
For every woman
who makes herself male
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.’”
Now, I say again, that was not from our Christian Bible!
There have always been movements that said,
Being human is at odds with approaching God.
Our Christian Faith says, balderdash!
Christ shows us that union with God
is to become more human—
truly human—not less human!
Compare that Gnostic stuff I just read,
with what we heard today:
“When the fullness of time had come,
God sent his Son, born of a woman…”
God never demeans being human!
God chose to enter
our world the same way we do!
St. Irenaeus put it well:
“the glory of God is man fully alive”!
Now, let’s acknowledge:
Jesus really being human
can be a little shocking.
Think about our images of Jesus:
I don’t know about you,
but images of him
looking malnourished—pale, thin—
don’t have credibility with me.
Jesus had a beard—
he had hair on his chest;
He had muscles—
had to be pretty tough, as a carpenter.
Jesus grew up in a house with Joseph,
who worked hard and made tough choices.
Jesus was—and is!—a real man!
Not this “wimpy, wimpy” Jesus!
Can we picture the Lord laughing,
getting angry, feeling tired or discouraged?
Can we imagine him not knowing something?
What a tough question!
As God, he knew everything;
yet as a newborn baby, in his mother’s arms,
do you think he started
explaining Quantum Physics to her,
in five languages?
The humanity of Jesus is real—
not pretend, not for show.
When Jesus was a teenager,
what was happening in his body,
The same thing as all of us—
Except he was not darkened,
as we are, by sin.
He had the clarity to see
and choose what was right.
And that gives us hope.
If you’re trapped in a dark place
with others in darkness,
you need someone with Light
to come show you the way out.
God became human,
and lit up our humanity
as it is meant to be—
as it can be for each of us.
I’ve been stressing Jesus
is a real, flesh-and-blood man.
But today we also recall
he’s not merely human, he is God!
Not a “kind of” God, not hybrid:
true God, eternal, from forever and ever.
This, too, is controversial.
Everybody approves of
a “nice,” merely human Jesus.
But if Jesus is not God,
then he is no one’s Savior.
If he is not God,
we should take all this down—
the cross, the images;
we should take away this altar,
the tabernacle—all of it.
Because we’re committing idolatry!
If Jesus is not God,
then God remains distant.
Look at Islam.
Islam says Jesus was a prophet, but that’s all.
In Islam, God is distant.
Do you know what “Islam” means?
It means “submission.”
Yes, we Christians submit to God;
But we also call God our brother!
God came down and put himself
under the authority of a human couple—
who submitted to whom?
This is not a distant God,
But a God who comes so close he shocks us!
God became a tiny embryo in Mary’s womb!
God needed to be fed and clothed!
God knelt and washed the feet of sinners!
When God is distant,
he remains unknown, frightening;
the God of thunderbolts and retribution.
Yes, our God is the God of thunderbolts,
but our awesome God did not stay distant.
God was born of a woman.
God comes as close,
and intimate, as a mother’s womb,
a mother's breast, and a mother’s heart.
Why? Why did God do this?
Our holy father said it well, last week:
God does this
so that we might not be afraid
to love him!