03 January 2006

But does it matter?

Christmas Weekday 3: I John 2.29-3.6, John 1.29-34
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St. Albert the Great Priory, Irving, TX

He is here! The true Light that enlightens everyone, the Word made flesh, our life of grace and truth. He is Lamb of God, Spirit Come Down, Son of the Father. He takes away the sin of the world. And he is here! After so long a wait, so long in anticipation, he is here among us, a child, a man, a victim, God. Finally, he is here.

And why could that possibly matter?

John the Baptist witnesses the arrival of Christ with this ground shaking truth: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Look! There he is: the One who will reconcile creation to the Creator, the One who will bring us back to the Father in love, the One who will dwell in Spirit with us always. John is announcing the historical healing of the wound that alienates us from our God, the breach that feeds and encourages our lawlessness, that makes us rebellious, hard-hearted, and mean. Separated from God we are less than we can be, much less than we should be, and nothing like we will be! To be everything that we can be, should be, and will be, we must wait for God, resting eagerly in anticipation of His arrival. We have. Now he is here! “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

And here is the truth of the Incarnation, the Christmas Event: Christ became flesh then so that we might become Christ now. In his letter, John, writes: “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.” Right now we know that we are God’s children, but what we will become hasn’t been shown to us yet. Whatever we become it starts with being children of the Father. He continues: “We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” This is our redemption! We shall be like him and see him as he is. That we were not like him and could not see him as he is was the result of “the sin of the world,” the yawning chasm between Creator and creation that only the Creator could close.

“See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are.” The chasm is closed, bridged, healed and we are children of God now, heirs to His kingdom, prophets of His Word, priests of His Temple. We are Christs, like him, through him, with him, in him—forgiving, healing, preaching, teaching, making peace, hoping, loving, and sacrificing.

Christ became flesh then so that we might become Christ now. He becomes flesh now at this sacrifice so that we might become Christ now. To eat his Body and drink his Blood, to take into ourselves everything that he is for to us and for us, to become his flesh as he become ours—this is our redemption, this is why his coming matters, why his Incarnation makes a difference.

A witness must know that which he testifies about. John knew Christ b/c the Spirit revealed him. We know Christ b/c of John’s witness, the witness of the apostles and the continuing Church, and b/c we are children of God, given the Bread of Life, the Cup of Salvation. If any of this is to matter, if any of it is make a difference, it must be made known, proclaimed, heralded, preached aloud in word and deed. We cannot be quiet, deeply private, merely devotional Christs, praying in the desert! The Word is spoken. It is done. Made real for the world. Given flesh for us, for all.

We are the most faithful children of the Father, the brothers and sisters of Christ, when, in righteousness, we live our lives as witnesses to the destruction of sin, as living signs that we are no longer slaves to sin. That’s the difference. That’s why any of this matters.


  1. Fr. Philip,

    I like homilies that ask real questions like "why could that possibly matter?"

    You do a splendid job of making the case of why the Incarnation matters. Also, you make strong connections with the Eucharist and with public proclamation in word and deed.

    As a listener, I would wonder about one thing following this homily: what now? how can I act as if the Incarnation matters?

  2. My apologies for intruding this remark into this inappropriate context, but I wanted to thank you for your insightful and witty comment on my blog responding to the renegade Irish priest, Fr. Joseph O'Leary. You wrote: "A little editing on Spirit of Vatican II's comment above," and then put:

    "The fetishistic cult of the spirit] of Vatican II is a crafty strategy intended to annul [the power of the actual words of the] Council [Fathers] and [replace them with elitist wishful-thinking, academic speculation, private fantasty ...." Remember?


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  4. Fred,

    Philip is referring to a comment I left on his blogsite...a rather sarcastic gibe at a commenter named "Spirit of Vatican Two." My comment was a little too barbed now that I look at it again, but my patience runs very thin with those who claim to channel in some special way the "Spirit" of the council w/o honest reference to its texts.

    Fr. Philip