Homily for the First Class Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
God wants to meet us where we are
Ideas affect actions. The idea that we have of another person affects how we relate to that person. If someone gives you a million pounds, most of us are likely to think he is a great guy, and treat him accordingly. If we find a friend has been stealing from my bank account, I will think he is a liar and a back-stabber, the relations between us will turn cold. Our ideas of someone affects how we interact with them.
What is our idea of God? What do we think God is like?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that God is the origin and end of all things, and
“man was created to live in communion with God, in whom he finds happiness.” (CCC45)
Communion with God, living in a relationship with God, this is what we were created for. Our relationship with God will depend on how we think of Him. If we were not to believe in Him, we could have no relationship with Him. If we think God is an angry, intolerant tyrant, we will have a fearful and unstable relationship with Him. If we think God is a distant and impersonal force, our relationship with Him will become cold and distant.
But tonight, we welcome the Christ-child to our earth, the small child who came to help correct our mistaken ideas about what God is like. Look at the baby Jesus, wrapped in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, smiling helplessly at His mother Mary. That image is the image of the true God, a God who comes to meet us right where we are.
God is not the Force
I have only seen one of the Star Wards films, but even I have heard of the Force, an invisible cosmic force holding the universe together, governing human history, much like the law of gravity governs moving bodies: an automatic, unchanging, impersonal force. Although Yoda may tell us of it, new an idea it is not. It is at the core of the ancient Chinese religion, Taoism, which goes back to at least five centuries before Christ. The same idea is behind the Hindu concept of Karma.
It has seeped into modern Christian consciousness, because there appears to be a certain comfort in the idea that God is a Force. But it is a deceptive comfort. It seems to off us total control – we become more and more powerful the more we tap into the Force. All we have to do (as Yoda might say) is to learn to manipulate Force, helping us to achieve a god-like status ourselves. This is why Luke Skywalker doesn’t pray to the Force: he just uses the Force.
If God is the impersonal Force holding the universe together, then He cannot be also the Person who created the universe. But in that case, there would be nothing outside the universe, so the universe itself would be god, which means that we are just little pieces of god, no different than a speck of cosmic dust, or an amoeba. We would have to say goodbye to our human dignity, free will, and the possibility of being loved, loving, and making a real, meaningful difference in the world.
Our Lord Jesus Christ became a little baby in the city of David, Bethlehem, two thousand years ago to save us from that lie – to climb into our arms and stir up our love, to teach us that God is not a Force, but a Father.
Bolstering our idea of God
The world we live in is fallen, flooded with sin, ignorance, and evil. We are surrounded by distorted ideas of God. Unless we put a good filter in place, these distorted ideas will seep into our minds and interfere with our relationship with God – the one relationship that makes or breaks our happiness.
The filter comes from taking the initiative to fill our minds with robust, vibrant, right ideas about God. If we do that, we will avoid being infected by the distorted ideas, and in helping to correct these ideas, we will find the good in them and fix the bad. We will become lights in this dark and confused world, just like the candles at Mass, or the stars in the sky. We will help those around us see their way better along the path to true fulfilment in life.
Filling our minds with the right idea of God is not difficult, we just have to do two things. First, spend ten minutes each day in personal prayer – there are many good prayer books that can help us. Second, we need to spend ten more minutes each day doing some spiritual reading – that is reading books about Christ, the Saints, the Church, and the Christian way of seeing the world. There is no shortage of these books either – it is even possible to download Podcasts of books and talks, so you can do your spiritual reading in the car or even in the gym.
Today, let us thank our Lord Jesus Christ for being a God who meets us where we are. Let us also show our gratitude by promising to let him take us a few steps closer to where he is, every day, through prayer and spiritual reading.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.