This post is my Christmas Homily almost verbatim. I posted it beforehand and changed a few things based on comments and on seeing an older crowd rather than the family crowd I expected. Enjoy!
I bet there isn’t a girl who doesn’t want to be called beautiful or a boy who doesn’t want to be called strong. Even adults are probably the same. I bet every woman would appreciate her husband giving her a peck on the cheek and saying “you’re the most beautiful woman in the State.” I bet every man who like it if her wife snuggled up and thanked him for being so strong. And the kids would love such compliments from their parents – even if the boys would give faces if their mom hugs them in public.
Yet what do we celebrate here tonight? A baby born in a dirty barn and wrapped in smelly rags. A baby who is so weak he can’t stop the ox from licking him. It seems like he has the opposite of beauty and strength.
Maybe there’s something more?
Yesterday, at 6:30am I celebrated mass for the Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Rome just before I left. They seem to lack external beauty and strength like Bethlehem. They dress in simple white robes with blue trim. Yet there is some deep beauty when you look at their face. Yet, the 20 sisters at mass have more beauty then 20 models in a fashion show. You look into their eyes and you see a beauty that can’t be faked. They have spiritual beauty. They are generally small women and lack many machines to grow their strength. Yet I’m sure they could withstand things we could only imagine. They have the strength to wake up at ungodly hours – they prayed about 2 hours before 6:30 morning mass.
Bethlehem has something similar; we see little with our eyes but there is great beauty and strength. Look into the eyes of Jesus; you’ll see greater beauty that all the most beautiful scenes you’ve ever seen. Everything else is beautiful because those eyes looked at it. Just like beautiful clothes need beautiful colors every other beauty needs him to be beautiful. Rulers tend to point out their power as they are losing it. In Rome there are parts of a 30 foot statute of an emperor – it wasn’t built at the empire’s peak but as the empire declined. The emperor needed the external signs of power to prove he had it. Jesus is just the opposite: he is so strong that he can become tiny. He is not just powerful but all-powerful so even as a seemingly helpless babe he has full power. As that babe, he had the power to destroy the world – power beyond our imagination.
The spiritual beauty we celebrate here with Jesus, Mary and Joseph is a greater beauty than that that’s portrayed on either Glamour or Muscle and Fitness. And here’s the good news! A lot of the external beauty and strength depends on genetics – just look at this face, even if I wanted to be, I could never be in a fashion magazine. However, spiritual beauty or strength is something any of us can have.
Now let me guess what at least a few of you are thinking. How can I have this beauty or strength? This beauty and strength takes work just like real any other beauty or strength. It comes from being close to God. For a good portion of you, I want to suggest one simple resolution: come to mass every Sunday till Easter. You won’t see that you grow in spiritual beauty and strength overnight. If you come till Easter, you should start to see it. If you only come at Christmas and Easter, you’ll be like someone who does push-ups twice a year. Something good but not something that will build solid muscle.
Those who already come every week, I’m sure you can find something else to grow your spiritual muscles even more.
As each of celebrate Christmas with our families, we need to look at Baby Jesus and see his beauty and strength. Jesus is calling us to that same beauty and strength. To share that we need to grow. The best way to grow is to come every week to mass.
Will you look baby Jesus in the eye and see his beauty? Will you work your spiritual muscles like him?