17 December 2010

Being members of the family of God

NB.  I laid around in bed 'til 6.00 this morning, so this homily is a little more muddled than usual.

3rd Week Advent (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Ss. Domenico e Sisto, Roma

My paternal grandmother was a genealogy machine. Give her a name and a basic family relationship—aunt, cousin, sister-in-law—and she could calculate exactly how that person was related to everyone else in the family. On occasion, I would try to trick her by making up a complicated relationship to see if she was really as good as she seemed. She never missed. It was an amazing talent nourished by the great southern tradition of knowing “who your people are.” Of course, American southerners aren't the only ones who cherish this tradition. Knowing your family, your tribe, the history of your house is as old as creation. The most basic decisions in one's life can be made based on who you are within a family, within a nation. Who inherits the property? Who gets married? Who takes care of the children if the mother of a family dies? Who is expected to serve in the temple, the Church? We are who we are largely because of who our family is and who we are in that family. Genealogy is more than just a science of calculating familial relationships; it's the art of picking yourself out of the crowd so that you can be part of the crowd without losing your unique place among those you love and those who love you. When we hear Jesus' genealogy read aloud at Mass every December 17th, we are reminded again that he was and is a member of a family, an extraordinary individual who belongs to history, a man who is deeply rooted in the long, long story of Jewish people's history with God. And because we are heirs to His kingdom, Jesus' family history is our family history. Quite literally, we are the sons and daughters of the Father.

Knowing our family roots in the generations that precede us is vitally important to knowing who we are right now. But the work of the Church is not done in the past. We are not charged with spending our time and energy looking back to Achim, to Eleazar, to Ahaz. Our work is done today and tomorrow. We have the roots of the Jewish people firmly grounding us in the story of God's creation. We have the sturdy trunk of Jesus' preaching and teaching to support us when the Enemy comes against us. We have the thriving branches of our Church family to spread out and grow, reaching out and up to declare the Good News. And we have each one of us—the leaf, the flower, the seed—taking in the graces our Lord gives us, feeding the whole tree and bearing witness to His abundance. Our work as members of God's family is to flourish in His mercy and love and to make Him known to every tribe, every nation and people. With roots growing back to the day of creation, we are to spread out and plants the world's fields with the seeds of the Word. This is who we are in God's family. This is what we do as His sons and daughters. And our inheritance is nothing less than eternal life.

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