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Bishop's Homily for Christmas

Reflect on the marriage of humanity and God.

By Bishop Larry Silva
December 25, 2021

[Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace, Honolulu; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu]

Starry skies and starry eyes.  Magic moments and majestic music.  Fear and trembling amidst fantasy and romance.  Multitudes of well-wishers and choirs of angels.  Yes, we reflect tonight on the wonder of – marriage.

Yes, marriage normally starts out that way.  There is such romantic fire between the couple that nothing else seems to matter, and whatever challenges may lie ahead are shrugged off because the man and woman can see nothing but their love and their desire to share it forever.  They prepare a magnificent feast so that family and friends can celebrate their undying love.  They dance into the night with great joy.  And they become one in body and soul.

But, we know, of course, that the romance soon melts away into routine; the fire is too intense to maintain for very long; the poetry and magic soon turn very mundane.  In a word, the honeymoon ends.  When faced with the daily routines of work and commuting, of child care and home maintenance, of disputes and discord, and of worry and boredom, the couple’s love can grow cold to the point of extinction, if they allow it to do so.  There is the threat of being attracted to other people or of having to care for one who is extremely ill.  This is why every so often a couple must deliberately renew the romance through a regular date night or by being sure to stop and check in with each other.  From time to time it helps to remember the romance, because the memory itself can rekindle the fire.

Today we celebrate the day on which God married humanity; on which two very different natures were united as one in the person of Jesus.  We also celebrate this with starry eyes and recall the starry skies that led sages to see the Bridegroom in a little baby.  We recall how God prepared for the ultimate sacrifice of himself for us by sending an angel choir to shepherds to tell them to go and see that finest Lamb they had ever seen, the one who would give himself as the ultimate sacrifice on the cross.  We recall all the romantic things God did to prepare for this great marriage by sending prophets to prepare the way and preparing the Immaculate Virgin Mary to be the one who would give flesh to the eternal Word.  Is any time of the year more romantic than Christmastime, with its lights and music, its gift-giving and rich foods, its joy and its wonder?

But what will happen next week when the lights are taken down and the carols are put to sleep for another year?  Then there will be the hardships of dealing with a pandemic, with conflicts among us, contaminated water and broken promises.  Then there will be the natural disasters and the wars.  Then we will face once again the horror that much of our nation has accepted the killing of innocents as a right that promises a better life, just as Herod’s ambition killed the innocent children of Bethlehem.  We will deal with a culture that is rich in material goods while having one of the highest suicide rates in the world.  In a word, the honeymoon of Christmas cheer does not seem to last very long.

Yet God never goes back on his vows of love to us.  Even if the starry-eyed romance morphs into hatred for the faith and persecution of the faithful, God never abandons us.  He is God-with-us, Emmanuel, who can never withdraw his love from us.  When he began the marriage of humanity with God, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a name which means “house of bread,” and was laid in a manger, a feed box for hungry beasts.  Today the very same Jesus makes himself the Bread of Life, so that we beastly beings can feed on him and be transformed into the Godly beings he always wanted us to be.  And Jesus makes us the sheep of his flock, so that asking him to constantly purify us, we may be worthy to be selected for sacrifice, laying down our lives for the poor and the needy, for the unborn and the unappreciated.  Jesus our Bridegroom makes us his beloved bride by giving us the power to heal, to cast out demons of darkness and despair, and to speak the truth always with his eternal Word.  And though we may be weary or just plain bored with his love, he calls us to this place of intimate communion with him so that he can renew his love and strengthen us in it.  He sends us forth in wonder and awe to share this good news with others, so that all will come and adore him and celebrate once again his marriage with every human being on the face of the earth.  He calls us to this memorial feast so that we can never forget how madly God is in love with us that he wants to always be Emmanuel, God-with-us.