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We Three Jesuits: Homily for Christmas

A Franciscan priest gets a haircut and a shave, and asks the barber “How much do I owe you?” The barber says “The Franciscans have cared for so many people for years. You take a vow of poverty. I can’t charge you. It’s almost Christmas. Consider it a holiday gift from me to you.

The next morning when the barber opens the shop, he finds a basket of fresh fruit and freshly baked bread from the priest.

That day a Dominican priest gets a haircut and a shave, and asks the barber “how much do I owe you?” The barber says “The Dominicans are such tremendous preachers. You have been a model of the simple life. I can’t charge you. It’s almost Christmas. Consider it a holiday gift from me to you.

The next morning when the barber opens the shop, he finds a book on Christmas reflections by St. Thomas Aquinas.

That day a Jesuit priest gets a haircut and a shave, and asks the barber “How much do I owe you?” The barber says “The Jesuits have been such courageous missionaries for years. They have taught countless students. I can’t charge you. It’s almost Christmas. Consider it a holiday gift from me to you.

The next morning when the barber opens the shop, he finds  – twelve more Jesuits.

Epiphany is in a few weeks. So let me offer three Christmas reflections from thee Jesuits.

Jesuit priest Father John Foley, S.J. is a Scripture scholar and a composer at Saint Louis University. For years he agonized about what to get friends and relatives for Christmas. He writes about getting the perfect gift:

I used to second-guess myself on every gift I shopped for. Look there, I would say, that is the perfect gift for this person, just right! But wait a minute, they don’t have a fireplace mantle to sit it on. Or, will it go with their décor? Or does he or she even like that kind of thing. Maybe I will look like a fool. Or, or, or, or.

That’s normal, isn’t it? But agonizing.

A great friend of mine from South Africa helped me out with this dilemma. Kolile was his name (Ko-lee-leh, pronounced with a click instead of the beginning “K”), and he told me, “You are trying to do someone else’s job. Do your own. Your task is to give the gift. Let them take care of receiving it.”

 

2019 was a rough year for the Catholic Church. News flash, 2020 might not be any better. .. or 2021 or 2022. That has caused many people to leave. Now, so many people say “No thanks” to the Christ child at Christmas. So many people say “No thanks” to Christ during the year as well. Jesuit Father John Kavanaugh, S.J. was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University. He has a interesting take on this

The babe is not born in order to get accepted.

Reliable sources tell me that “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is about a jealous critter, posing as Santa Claus, who steals all the gifts set aside for children. A little girl spies the theft; the rest the children, undaunted by their loss, celebrate Christmas anyway.

Like the young girl and all her friends in the story, the little ones—the little people—somehow celebrate Christmas anyway.

When God looks into the heart of his people, he sees hurt, anxiety, disappointment, betrayal, confusion, fear ..  And, like the girl in the Grinch story, they come and celebrate Christmas anyway. Why? A child is unassuming. It does not make demands. It does not threaten. It is so approachable.  God sensed that the baby Jesus is the perfect Christmas gift. So he gives it … again … every year.

Look at the Christmas Vigil Mass readings from Isaiah:

No more shall people call you “Forsaken,” or your land “Desolate,”but you shall be called “My Delight,” and your land “Espoused.” For the LORD delights in you.

You shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the LORD. You shall be a glorious crown in the hand of the LORD, a royal diadem held by your God.

Image result for Picture of Fr. Karl Rahner S.J.

Some of us here tonight feel forsaken. We feel alone. We feel abandoned. Karl Rahner (…the third Jesuit)  once said, “Christmas is God giving us permission to be happy.” Here tonight, on Christmas, God gives us a new name “pronounced by the mouth of the LORD.” When “The Word” is spoken, things can change – things can be different.

But there’s a catch! It’s the catch mentioned by Father Foley’s South African friend. If any gift is to have value..

  1. It has to be good.
  2. It has to benefit others.

When someone is hurting or in trouble, you can throw them a rescue rope – but in order for them to get out of their situation, they have to grab the rope.

The Word didn’t stay in heaven, looking down on our pitiless predicament. “”The Word became flesh – and dwelt among us.” You came tonight. You came to approach “The Child.”  Why? Maybe to hear a word…..

A word of comfort, hope, healing, happiness, joyfulness.

If you’ve been away from Christ for awhile, consider approaching Him again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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