Christmas - Homily 4

 Homily 4 - 2015

When I was down at the Royal Commission the week before last, I raised the question whether, if not all of us priests were celibate but some of us at least had raised our own families, we might have been more sensitive, as a group, to the children who were abused, and to what and how much they suffered. I also raised the issue whether, if women had shared in positions of management in the Church’s structures, the way we responded to the crisis might have been decidedly more effective. The power of the cultures and sub-cultures in which we are immersed [in the case of us priests the clerical culture we simply take for granted] can effect significantly how much we mature and certainly what we see and do not see. However, it is not abuse that I want to talk about tonight. Rather it is about the much broader issue of what we see and to not see, what we notice and what we do not, in general.

As Christians we do not just believe in God. We believe in God-with-us, Emmanuel, not moving around invisibly, as it were, but God alive and three-dimensional in creation, God, the one in whom we live and move and have our being, the God who even became human in Christ [whose birthday we choose to celebrate this night]. More than that! Because of Christ’s birth as man, and his subsequent death and resurrection to new life, we believe that each of us has been christened – christed! 

How can we talk about mystery? St Paul says we are the Body of Christ. St John’s Gospel says that our relationship to Christ is like that of branches to a vine. We live in Christ; Christ lives in us. We might not understand. But we can sit with it in silence, and quietly let ourselves be stunned. We can begin truly to see ourselves. We can begin truly to see others, each other – to see through the familiar mesmerising appearances to the reality.

Who saw the divinity in the Christ child? Did his mother? And, if she did, did she see it straightway? or did it take time for the truth to dawn, for her eyes to see? I read somewhere recently that the best context in which to find Christ is not monastic. It is domestic. There is no need to envy the Judean shepherds who, as Luke’s story went, saw the baby in the manger. We can learn to see him in each other – and we no not need to kid ourselves.

I shall read a poem to finish off. It was written by Gerard Manley Hopkins. His use of language is unusual, but his insights are wonderful:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;

As tumbled over rim in roundy wells

Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's

Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:

Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;

Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,

Crying Whát I dó is me: for that I came.


I say móre: the just man justices;

Keeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;

Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is —

Chríst — for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men's faces.

As I look downs the Church, I do not see Christ playing in ten thousand places, but, if I truly open my eyes, I see him playing to the Father through the features of your faces.

Thank God for the Incarnation! And Happy Christmas to you all!