Homily for December 27

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Homily for Holy Family Sunday
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

You have probably read or heard
that Pope Francis has declared a “Year of Mercy” in the Church
which officially began on December 8
with the opening of the “holy door” at St. Peter’s in Rome.
That’s an actual door which is usually sealed and not opened
except in Jubilee Years.
A Jubilee year is a special time of prayer and blessings –
the last one was in 2000, 
called to mark the beginning of the third millennium.
The opening of the holy door is a symbolic action, inviting us all
to come in, to enter into the spirit of the Year of Mercy.

Might be a good time to look up the word mercy in the dictionary
where we find this definition of mercy:
compassion or forbearance shown especially to an offender
or to one subject to one’s authority;
lenient or compassionate treatment;
compassionate treatment of those in distress;
a blessing of divine favor or compassion.

That certainly sounds like today’s second reading:
Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,

gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another;
as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.

In the document announcing the Year of Mercy,
Pope Francis’ first words were these:
Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.
Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy…

This Year of Mercy calls on us to discern where, in our own lives,
each of us stands in need of God’s mercy.
AND, the Year of Mercy also calls us to discern
when and where and how, in our own lives,
each of us has the opportunity, the responsibility,
to be merciful to those around us.
If Jesus is the face of the Father’s mercy,
then each of us is called to be the face of Jesus for one another.

I chose this day, Holy Family Sunday, to be the first time
to speak of the Year of Mercy in our parish.
I choose this particular day because I believe it’s in our own families
that in many instances we have the first opportunity,
the first responsibility, to be people of mercy.
And by that I mean both
seeking the mercy of family members whom we’ve offended
and being merciful to family members who’ve offended us.
They say that charity begins at home.
I believe the same is true of mercy: mercy begins at home.

If Jesus is the face of God’s mercy,
then Christmas is the perfect time to ponder this reality.
What better time than when we look upon the image
of the infant Jesus in the manger,
what better moment to see how tender, how gentle, how beautiful,
how warm, how inviting -- is the face of God’s mercy.

The face of the infant Jesus invites each of us to approach God,
without reluctance or fear, seeking the gift of his mercy.
And the face of the newborn Christ shows us
the face that should be ours
when we consider the relationships in our own families,
especially relationships that have spoiled, are broken,
damaged or wounded,
asking ourselves two questions:
what part of the brokenness in my family is my fault?
and what part of the brokenness in my family waits
for my compassionate, lenient, gentle merciful response?

Mercy has its enemies and mercy’s enemies infect our families:
Some of the greatest enemies of mercy are:
grudges, resentments, envy, spite, revenge,
anger, stubbornness, and pride
It’s sad, tragic even, that at a time like Christmas,
 (a time when the face of God’s mercy is right before us)
these enemies of mercy can become even more pronounced.

Not just the Year of Mercy but the gospel itself - Jesus himself -
calls us to be show mercy to one another
and that includes compassion extended
to those who have wronged us.
It includes that because that’s precisely the mercy offered to us.
We are the ones whose sins have offended God
and yet, in response, God shows us the face of Jesus, on the Cross.
Here is the face of the Father’s mercy.
There is the face of mercy we are meant to mirror for one another.

Not for a moment do I think, nor am I suggesting
that being merciful this way in our own families is easy.
It’s particularly difficult when resentments and estrangements
are years, even decades old.
It’s especially difficult when problems have led to damage
that simply can no longer be repaired.
But even then can mercy, can compassion be in our hearts
for those who have offended us.

Again, so it is between us and God.
Though my sins and failings may have caused irreversible damage,
the pardon and compassion in God’s heart is still there
ready to be shared with me.
The damage others have done to me
may be beyond repair
but I am still called to hold my brothers and sisters
in a compassionate and forgiving heart.

We’re gathered at the table of mercy, the altar of God’s mercy.
Here he gathers in us who have no reason, no right to claim
a place at this table
and yet Jesus, in his mercy,
has saved a seat for each of us here
because of his compassionate love and mercy.

As we come to his table today,
let’s pray for the grace to see where we need God’s mercy                   
in our own lives
and feel free to approach God, seeking that gift.

And let’s pray for the grace we need in the coming year
to walk through that holy door of the mercy of God,
seeking what we need to show mercy to one another.

Let us put on, as God’s chosen ones,
heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility,
gentleness, and patience,
bearing with one another and forgiving one another,
if one has a grievance against another.
For, as the Lord has forgiven us, so must we also do.


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