Christmas Homily from Father Jim Hogan for December 25, 2013

There was a special reindeer named "Rudolph." I think you know his story, probably can sing the song. Rudolf is famous because he had a big red shiny nose. That made him different from the other reindeer.

This popular song is not considered a Christmas Carol. Yet, I suggest it as a metaphor of what "the Christ mystery" means for us. Because he was different the other reindeer made fun of Rudolph and would not let him join in their games. Rudolf felt the anguish of being alone and isolated. Then one foggy night, Santa asked him to guide his sleigh. That invitation changed Rudolf's life. You know the rest of the story. "You'll go down in history." The point is all of us are different, important and our potential is without limit.

There are four written gospels. Mark introduces his gospel with a reference to Isaiah and the baptism of Jesus. We find infancy narratives only in Matthew and Luke. These narratives are not historical memories, but are important to us because they are theological reflections created to lead us into the "Christ Mystery." John introduces his gospel with a mystical prologue. "In the beginning was the Word." That is our text today.

John's Jesus was a "mystic." "Mystics" are people who had some sort of vivid, profound experience of God. Abraham, Moses and the classical prophets were mystics. Jesus of Nazareth had visions, fasted, spent hours in prayer and lived a life radically centered in God.

His insight, discourses and parables astonished people. He spoke to them about God and their own personal struggles. The focus of his teaching was an entirely new reality he called "the reign of God" It would be characterized by the sort of nonviolence and unconditional love so visible in his life. He showed us what it is to be human, and although his life span was brief, we correctly consider him the first among us to become fully human.

Jesus the mystic saw reality as ultimately Spirit. For him the final word about reality was "God." "The Word became flesh and lived among us." For us he is a manifestation of what God is like. He shows us the heart of God. He shows us what God is most passionate about. God's passion is that all peoples of all time have life, abundant life, fully human life.

Today the prologue of John's gospel gathers to celebrate Christmas. As we do so, I propose Rudolph with the red nose as a vivid metaphor of what "the Christ mystery" means for us.

There is more to reality than the tangible world of our ordinary experience! The Gracious Mystery we name God is an encompassing presence in everything that is. This cosmos, galaxies, atoms, our bodies are all made of stardust. A common DNA flows through all living things ae" sea plankton, dinosaurs, cabbages, apes and humans. All is interconnected and exists only in relationship with the whole. None of it is separate from God. None of it exists as isolated, independent nomads. Everything exists in God whose permeating presence is beyond our comprehension. The Gracious One is drawing us, empowering us to be fully human and fully alive. This is the "Christ mystery."

Like Rudolph, Malala and Nelson Mandela experienced loneliness, isolation, worries and troubles. Most of us have as well. Somewhere, somehow, deep inside, without naming it as such, both Malala and Mandela entered into the "Christ mystery." They risked loving without condition. As they embraced that risk she is becoming and he became more fully human.

Our presence here in this gathering and around this table signals our willingness, our desire and our intent to risk loving without condition. As we embrace that risk we find that we too have become more fully human and more fully alive. You are like Rudolf with the red nose, and like Malala or Mandela. You have accepted the invitation to enter "the Christ mystery and are in the process of becoming more fully human and more fully alive. Merry Christmas!

Christmas Homily from Father Jim Hogan for December 25, 2013

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