Sunday, December 26, 2010
House of Bread - House of Flesh
Homily from the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord - Year A
Luckily, I had a GPS. So I typed in 1502 East Wallen Road and added St. Vincent’s to my “favorites” list. And my handy little friend told me how to get back home.
A few weeks ago I changed St. Vincent’s from being a “favorite” to being “home.” Home used to be 5028 Greenleaf Lane in South Bend. But my home is St. Vincent’s now.
We all know that Christmas Carol, “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays.” And it’s so true. No doubt, most of us have traveled or will travel to be with family on the holidays. We get the word “holiday” from “Holy Day.” So, you could say that “There’s No Place Like Home for the Holy Days.”
1502 East Wallen Road isn’t just a “favorite” place for us. It’s our home. It’s a house. The house of God.
The name of that little town, “Bethlehem”, is so significant, that one can’t help but recognize the obvious fact that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is the work of God the Father.
In Hebrew, “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread.” The little town of Bethlehem is the house where we find Jesus, the Bread of Life. It is where God becomes food for mankind.
And in Aramaic, “Bethlehem” means “House of Flesh.” The little town of Bethlehem is the house where the Incarnation, the Word of God becoming flesh, takes place. It is where God becomes man.
God becomes bread… God becomes man. Why?
Why did God choose to become a man like us? God became a man like us so we could become like Him. One of the greatest things I ever read in six years of seminary studies was a line from “Gaudium et Spes” a document from the Second Vatican Council. It says, “The truth is that only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word [Jesus Christ], does the mystery of man take on light… Christ… fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”
How many times do we attribute our mistakes and failings to our so-called “human nature”? Quite the contrary. Jesus became a human being so he could show us the true meaning of “human nature.” By himself being born into poverty, Jesus shows us that true human nature is not full of pride, but full of humility. By his own obedience to His Father in Heaven and his service to mankind, Jesus shows us that true human nature is not full of envy, but fully of love of God and neighbor. And by taking up his cross, Jesus shows us that true human nature is not full of selfishness, but full of sacrifice.
And in Bethlehem, God becomes bread? Why?
Why did Jesus become food for mankind? We cannot live without food. Without food we die. We cannot live without Jesus either. Jesus says, “I am the living bread that comes down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world… Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood will have eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.” (Jn 6:51,54).
Ordinarily, when we eat food, it becomes part of us. We ingest it and assimilate it and it becomes part of our bodies and helps us grow. However, when we receive Jesus in the Eucharist, we become part of him. He assimilates us into his body and helps us grow in holiness.
This first happened over 2,000 years ago and over 6,000 miles away. As another Christmas Carol states, “Away, in a Manger.” But the truth is, the manger is not “away.” It’s not some past event in history. It’s not halfway around the world. The manger is right here and right now. This is Bethlehem. This is the “House of Bread” and the “House of Flesh” where Jesus becomes man and food. This is the place where Heaven comes down and touches Earth. So that for one hour every week, we can leave Earth behind for a moment and come to this Church; and in Jesus, see who we are truly called to be and received eternal life, and enter into our true home.