Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"And the Friend Jumps In the Hole."

Homily from the Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God - Year C

A few years ago there was a popular television show called The West Wing and it was about  the behind the scenes activity of the White House.  In one of the episodes, one of the characters tells a friend a story about a man who fell down a hole.

"This guy's walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can't get out.  A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, 'Hey you. Can you help me out?' The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.  Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, 'Father, I'm down in this hole can you help me out?' The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on  Then a friend walks by, 'Hey, Joe, it's me can you help me out?' And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, 'Are you stupid? Now we're both down here.' The friend says, 'Yeah, but I've been down here before and I know the way out.'"

That’s basically what we’ve been celebrating this past Christmas.  That when God sees humanity fall into the hole of sin, He doesn’t just throw down a prescription or a prayer on a piece of paper.  Rather, he jumps down into the hole with us by becoming one of us; by being born as a man, in order to show us the way out of the hole of our sin and into grace.

That’s really what we’re celebrating today on this Feast of Mary, Mother of God.  It may sound like a feast to honor Mary (and it is, in part).  But primarily, it is a feast to honor Jesus for coming to save us by being born as one of us and lead us out of sin.

We call Mary, the Mother of God all the time.  We have no problem with it.  However, centuries ago, some people did have a problem with it.

Way back, in the 5th century, one person in particular, a bishop named Nestorius said we shouldn’t call Mary the Mother of God.  He was concerned with a couple things: first, that calling Mary the Mother of God suggested she was some sort of goddess; and second, that the all-powerful God could not possibly suffer and die.

Nestorius basically said that Jesus’ two natures: his divine nature as God and his human nature as man could not be united in the person of Jesus Christ.  That somehow, Jesus put aside his divine nature for a time; then was born as a man and took on human nature; suffered, died and was buried; then put back on his divine nature at the resurrection.

However, the Church said, that’s not what we believe.  Because no mere man can save humanity.  Only God can save us.  Jesus is God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.  And for us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

He, who is of the same substance, or consubstantial, with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, also became consubstantial with us.  He, who possessed the divine nature took on our human nature so he could lift us human beings into his divinity.

In a few moments, when we prepare the altar for the Eucharist, I’ll pour a little bit of water into the wine.  One of the things the water and wine represent are the two natures of Christ.  The water represents his human nature and the wine represents his divine nature.  And as I mix them, I silently pray, “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”  As St. Paul said to the Galatians in our second reading: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal 4:4-5)

That’s why Jesus jumped into the hole with us.  Because he knows we don’t belong there.  And he knows the way out.

In the story, the guy who jumps into the hole says, “I’ve been here before, I know the way out.”  In a sense Jesus has been here before too.  Not that he’s ever fallen into sin.  Rather, he knows what true human nature is.  He is the perfect human being.  He understands what His Father’s design for humanity was before Adam and Eve fell and took all of us with them into that hole.  So, it we want to know what it really means to be a human being in it’s fullest meaning, we must look to the person of Jesus Christ.

New Years is the time we make resolutions.  Allow me to suggest one; and I’m going to make it extremely broad so that you can discern how you want to do it.  This year, let Christ lead you out of the hole.  

We will be tempted to turn to so many other things to try to pull ourselves out of our holes: diets, self-improvement, intellectual pursuits, more money.  And while all of these can be goods, none of them can take the place of the supreme good: Jesus Christ and none of them, in and of themselves can lead us out of our holes.  Only Christ can do that.

Let Christ be the one who leads you out of your hole.  Recognize, that we’re all in the hole.   And at the same time, recognize that this isn’t our true nature.  It’s not where we belong.   There is a way out.  It may take a lifetime and beyond to get out of it completely.  But recognize that Christ has jumped down into the hole with us.  And he’s the only one who can get us out.  So let’s follow him more closely in 2013.

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