Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Psalm 80; Luke 1:39-45
In most churches, especially those that print up a weekly bulletin, it is standard practice for a homily, or sermon, to have a title. I have never gotten into the habit of doing this, but if I were going to give a title to this homily it would be “The Significance of the Insignificant.” In other words, God’s ways are not our ways. In our lessons today we have illustrations of insignificant people and places that in God have great significance. The prophet Micah writes, “But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to rule in Israel.” In the Gospel lesson from St. Luke, in the meeting between Our Lady Mary, St. Elizabeth and their unborn children, we see four people imbued with the grace and power of God who changed the world more than any other four people ever, who were wholly insignificant and unknown at that time and place. In the Letter to the Hebrews we read, “On coming into the world Jesus said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you have prepared for me.’” That body was the body of a helpless infant, born to a poor family in an obscure and troublesome backwater of the Roman Empire, among a people despised by their neighbors. There was nothing significant, to the world, in Jesus’ birth, in his family, his culture or his prospects, the son of a carpenter and his teenage bride, born in a stable or a cave where animals were kept. That is what the world saw, and still sees, but to the eyes of those who trust God and have faith in his promises was, and is, revealed the glory of God, the song of the angels, the light of the star, the holiness of the little family in that humble shelter.
God’s ways are not our ways, and we, as people of God, need to learn to see as God sees. What is important to the world should not be important to us. In our reading from the Fathers yesterday, St. John Chrysostom wrote, “The things that make up countless evils are these; being a slave to the appetite, doing anything for vainglory, being a slave to the madness of riches, and, most powerful of all, desiring more…For nothing makes us fall under the devil’s power as surely as longing for more and loving covetousness.” I like that phrase “loving covetousness” because it means not just being covetous, but reveling in it, having the chief joy of one’s life being the acquiring and desiring of THINGS. Things, whatever they are, cannot bring us anything of true value; not virtue, or love, or mercy, or faith, forgiveness, kindness or humility. It is difficult to live in this world and not succumb to the siren song of consumerism, we are inundated with it from the cradle, and even before, to the grave, and even after. I read an interesting article the other day by a young man named Rob Archangel (great name), entitled “Creativity vs. Consumption.” The gist of the article was that a life spent mostly in consuming soon becomes empty, depressing and unhealthy. To get out of this we need to create. And it doesn’t really matter what; gardening, cooking, crafts, yard work, home repairs, tinkering, as well as the more formal pursuits of music, art and dance. From a Christian point of view this is an essential expression of being made in the image and likeness of God. Creativity is not only a balance for consumption, it can also be a weapon against it. The next time we, or our family, need something, instead of running to WalMart, first look and see what you already have that, maybe with a little tweaking, will work, or maybe something can be made, or traded for, or possibly decide it is not needed after all. It is amazing how many things, if we just resist buying at the first impulse, we realize we don’t need anyway. We are so blessed at this time in history to have the Internet, I’m not kidding, never before in history has information been so easily and widely and freely available. Just Google anything; how to build something, how to find something, how to make this thing into that thing. I have always wanted to learn how to play the piano, I took lessons as a child but have forgotten most of it, so I googled, “How to play the piano” and there is a whole series, free on You Tube, by a master pianist who just wants to share his knowledge and joy. For our health and wholeness of body, mind and spirit, as well as the health and safety of our communities, we need to become creators and not just consumers, we need to give and not just take, we need to become, not independent, but interdependent, not self-sufficient, but mutually sufficient. People who live in this way are not significant in our society, are often ridiculed and harassed, regarded as strange and drop-outs. Sounds like a lot of Saints lives, doesn’t it? That’s OK, to drop out of this world is a sign of sanity and good sense. To be deemed insignificant means we’re being faithful to our calling of service and humility. We are significant to God and to God’s kingdom, we have meaning, purpose and value in the Church, the Body of Christ. But even here we cannot just be consumers, waiting passively to be led and fed. We must be active builders of the kingdom, vigorous scholars of the Word, enthusiastic receivers and users of the spiritual gifts, lively proclaimers and livers of the Gospel truth.
But, most of all, we must give – give ourselves, all that we are, all that we have, to God. As Christ said in our second lesson, “I have come to do your will.” We are here to do Christ’s will and to trust in the Father’s promises.
Let us pray that it will be said of us as it is said of Our Lady, “Blessed is she who trusted that the Lord’s words to her would be fulfilled.”
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