Occupy Bethlehem!

Nativity by William Bell Scott

Homily for Christmas 2011
(Scriptures for the liturgy: readings for Mass at Midnight)

Audio for homily

Occupy Wall Street; Occupy Seattle;
Occupy Boston; Occupy London; Occupy Sao Paulo…

Whatever your political take on this movement,
it’s likely that the verb OCCUPY is a word you’ll remember
from the news reports of 2011.
to take possession of;
to take up space or time;
to claim;
to reside in
I wonder if this word might not help us this day
towards a deeper understanding of Christmas...

If we take away all the red and green and the glitter…
If we take away the mistletoe and the merriment…
If we take away too much food and too much drink…
If we take away time spent on endless shopping
and worrying about wrapping everything we bought…
If we take away all the work of what we like to call holidays --
with what would we be left?

We’d be left with God’s desire to occupy the world around us.
We’d be left with God’s desire
to take possession, once more, of all creation, to claim it as his own -
to occupy it: to live within us and among us.
We’d be left with God’s desire to occupy each of us.

If we took away all the holiday hoopla,
we’d be left with the Spirit of God
claiming Mary of Nazareth as spouse
and occupying her whole being, body and soul,
with the power of divine love.

We’d be left with the Word of God occupying human nature,
taking flesh in time and space, in Mary’s womb,
and claiming her as his home.

We’d be left with Mary and Joseph, alone in the city,
occupying a barn because there was no room for them at the inn.

We’d be left with Jesus,
occupying our humanity, claiming us as his own in his divinity,
taking up residence among us: one like us in all things but sin.

If we take away all the decorations and distractions of Christmas,
we are left with God, occupying the world:
intent on taking possession of each of us,
and pitching his tent in our hearts.

God’s occupation of our world began some 2,000 years ago
and no authority on earth has succeeded in ending it.
It’s that very occupation we celebrate this day, this Christmas.

And it’s God’s desire to occupy the hearts of 100% of his people:
no exceptions, no exclusions.

In the birth of Jesus God claims each one of us as his own,
as his beloved,
and seeks to occupy our time and space, our nights and days,
our hearts, our minds, our bodies,
our imaginations, our desires and our hopes.

And most of all, the Lord wants to occupy those places within us
where we might least welcome him:
the places where we are selfish, wounded, ashamed, fearful,
anxious, and empty.

The Lord wants to take possession of whatever keeps any of us
from his love, his mercy, his peace, his embrace.

And no one sees more clearly than does the Lord
what already pre-occupies us, what restrains us,
holds us back and keeps us down,
what prevents us from being, from becoming the persons
he created and called us to be, from before all time.

Will we welcome, this day, the Lord who came to occupy our lives?
Will we invite the Lord to claim our hearts?
Will we yield to Jesus time and space in our day-to-day lives,
and especially that one hour of time and place on Sunday mornings?
Will we honor that place in our hearts
where Jesus has already pitched his tent and lives within us?

Jesus, who occupied Mary’s womb and the manger in Bethlehem,
claimed also for himself our place on the Cross,
taking possession even of our sins
that we might be free to live in his peace.

This day, he will claim our hearts again
when we receive him in the sacrament of this altar,
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist.

As a newborn child claims our attention and affection,
let’s pray that the Christ child will occupy our lives
and claim all of us as his beloved on this holy Christmas day.

Occupy Wall Street;
Occupy Boston;
Occupy Concord;
Occupy Holy Family Parish;
Occupy each of us, Lord Jesus and make your home with us.


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1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Fr. Fleming for yet another awesome Homily!


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