Weekly Homily from Fr Jim Hogan, Fourth Sunday of Advent, December 18, 2016

•Isaiah 7: 10-14 + Romans 1: 1-7 + Matthew 1: 18-24•

Weekly Scripture Readings: Fourth Sunday of Advent

In this time of political transition and turmoil, the lyrics of Leonard Cohen’s song: “Anthem,” have helped me be focused in my Advent prayer.

“Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.                         There is a crack in everything.  That is how the light gets in.”

I am trying again on this fourth Sunday of Advent, to weave his words into my homily.

There is a crack in everything.  That is how the light gets in.”  Today gospel text from the first chapter of Matthew illustrates his lyrics.  Please remember the entire text is metaphorical.  Gospel metaphors speak of deeper truths!  I see three “cracks through which the light get in.”

First.  “Before they lived together, she (Mary) was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  The idea of the “virgin birth” has been drilled into me, into most of us from our youngest age.  That still happens today.  We take the “virgin birth” for granted, but wonder what it means.

Unfortunately our ancestors in faith forgot this is metaphorical language.  They read Matthew as  literal, historical fact. The results of that are mixed and varied.  The human body and sexuality became suspect as less than sacred. We see this in the evolutionary development of the institutional church: the monastic tradition with a vow of chastity; the law of celibacy imposed on secular priests like me; Augustine’s doctrine of “Original Sin;” Anselm’s doctrine of “atonement theology;” and the institutional Church focused on human sexuality as something sinful.

With his narrative of the  “virgin birth,” Matthew invites us to the One born of Mary.  He is a human being like us who never blocks out the light.  He was so fully human and so fully alive, that all who met him or were touched by him experienced the divine presence.  He was so aware of the divine presence everywhere that he was able to say, “to know me is to know God.”

Second. “An angel of the Lord, appeared to Joseph and said . . . she will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”  The name you give a child becomes his / her true identity.  The name “Jesus” means “God saves.”  That is his true identity.  What does it mean?

We humans have evolved from early primitive life forms and continue to be a developing life form.  The Garden of Eden story is about the evil, injustice and violence that burden us.  These are not the result of an original fall and separation from God.  We are outside “the garden” because we have not yet become fully human and fully alive.

Jesus ”saves us” by teaching us and showing us how to be human.  To be fully human is to know and love each other and all of creation.  In doing so we know and love God.  Evolution continues.  It will take us to levels of being human beyond our imagination.

Third.  “They will call him Emmanuel, which means, God is with us.” Joseph and Mary were people of deep and firm faith.  They had a profound conviction that “God is with us!”  They never allowed fear to overpower them as they followed the guidance of the Divine Spirit.

The text is clear.  “God is with us.”  This means the Divine Spirit is deep within us.  The Divine Spirit permeates us, filing us with life.  The Divine Spirit is our intimate companion always and everywhere. Ponder that:  “God is with us!”

Even in this time of political turmoil and transition, be steadfast!  Never allow fear to overpower you.  Like Mary and Joseph, trust the Divine Spirit guiding us from life to Life!

This is what I hear the lyrics of Leonard Cohen say to us as our Advent ends.

“Ring the bells that still can ring.  Forget your perfect offering.                                                   There is a crack in everything.  That is how the light gets in.”


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