Today’s homily is for The Octave Day of Christmas The Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God, January 1, 2023, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video of the homily is here.
Happy New Year to all of you. I admit that I was not up until midnight to welcome in the new year, but I did have to get up at midnight to comfort my dog who is not a fan of all the explosions that go off when the clock strikes twelve! Ugh! The new year! Where did the last one go?
Today’s second reading from St. Paul speaks to us today about who we are and what has been done for us in Christ Jesus. Today we celebrate not only the first day of 2023, but also The Octave Day of Christmas Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. As a reminder, we are still very much in the Christmas season. Leave your tree up, wish people a Merry Christmas, and if it pleases you, keep giving gifts to those you love. The U.S. Bishops remind us that Christmas ends with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord, which this year falls on Monday, January 9th–but I digress.
St. Paul teaches us that with the birth of Jesus we have been ransomed by God! We are no longer slaves to sin and death! Our debt has been paid in full by our merciful God, in the fullness of time, born of a woman to ransom those under the law by making us adopted children of God. That’s what Christmas is all about. In Jesus we are made right with God, we cry out “Abba, Father!” and are no longer a slave, but a son or daughter, an heir to the riches, the freedom, and the power of children of God. Christmas is about freedom and receiving our inheritance. Say this with me, “In Jesus, I am free!”
Why, if we are free, if we are no longer slaves, if we have the Spirit and the power of God within us, are we still living as those who are a slave to sin, a slave to vice, a slave to selfishness and greed? That’s a problem isn’t it? Jesus set us free, but too often we don’t live as free people. It reminds me of a Chuck Norris movie I watched, where after he had broken out of his bamboo jail cell, he went down the line opening up the cages of the other prisoners of war. He threw open their cage and said, “Go! You’re free!” but they didn’t go anywhere. They just sat in their cell, weak and afraid. They had been prisoners for so long, they had forgotten how to be free! They were skinny, weak, and bent over out of years of confinement.
That’s what sin does to us, it makes us skinny, and weak, and bent over in shame, and many of us—who have indeed been set free—remain in our cell, afraid, and holding onto our knees–even with the door wide open. What a pathetic and sad sight. Christmas isn’t about a birthday cake with 2,000 candles. Christmas is a reminder that we are free. It’s about a new beginning. A new opportunity that has been afforded to the children of God, which is who we are. It’s about the most powerful force in the whole universe coming alive in us so that we cry out to God, our Father. It’s about standing tall as a son and daughter of God and resolving from this day forward to live differently, to love differently, and to never go back into the slavery of self-ishness.
The antidote to selfishness, sin, and death is Jesus, our brother. The path out of the prison cell that kept us broken and bent over, is prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. These must be our resolutions as we start the new year. Join me in changing the way we pray. Join me in changing the way we consume. Join me in being more generous towards others who are in need. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the tools that draw us out of the slavery of self-ishness to be the child of God who is self-less.
My challenge is quite simple, let’s get out of the cage this year. Let’s be free this year. Pray more, deny ourselves more, and give more. Not with New Year’s resolutions that quickly fade, but changes that radically transform our life. Prayer, fasting, almsgiving. However much we pray, pray more. However disciplined we are, fast more. However much we give, give more, and live as a child of God. I’ll let you work out the details