|Midnight Mass Homily - Canon Pat Browne
|Posted: Thursday, December 29, 2011 5:59 pm
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Canon Pat Browne, Parish Priest at Holy Apostles in Pimlico, London, gave the following homily at the parish Christmas Eve Midnight Mass 2011.
Pic: Airshow Gdansk
John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown were the first people to fly in an aircraft, non-stop, across the Atlantic Ocean. They took off from Lester's field in Newfoundland - John was the pilot and Arthur was the navigator. They landed in Clifden, Ireland, 16 hours and 27 minutes later. It was 8.20am on Sunday 15 June 1919.
Shortly after they landed they went to the local post office and sent a telegram to their families – "we will be home for Christmas". One of their sisters was so overjoyed at their success and that they were safe she wanted to share the news with everyone. She went to her local newspaper offices to speak to the editor. She told him the news – “My brother will be home for Christmas”. His response was “How nice!” He didn’t get it!
What a scoop he missed – the first time one of these flying machines had crossed the Atlantic! It would change the history of aviation, of travel, of war, of trade, forever.
The world would never be the same again.
But he missed the moment. He did not see the bigger picture. He thought she was just telling him her brother was coming home for Christmas.
“How nice” is how many people will treat our celebration of Christmas. It will be their reaction as they look at the crib and that is as far as they will see or understand. They won’t get it! They will miss the bigger picture. Do not be numbered among them.
This is more than a cuddly baby born under shining stars with singing angels and adoring shepherds. The world will never be the same again. We are no longer hemmed in and confined to the limitations of this world or our own lack of virtue. We are no longer the victims of our own sins no matter how bad they have been. There is hope.
This child grows up to be a man. He lives the virtuous life in the face of all sorts of anger and bitterness and sin. He shows us how to die as well as how to live. But more than that; he removes the veil that prevents us seeing the bigger picture and shows us “the beyond”. That our time here is precious but not all there is; that it is in fact only the preparation for Life eternally with God. Jesus is God with a human face, with a human heart. He shows us how to get to his Father. He leads us there.
The story is told of the man who did not believe in God, or in Christmas. He could not accept that if there were a God he would want to become one of us.
He stayed at home while his family went to Midnight Mass because he felt it would be hypocritical of him to join them when he didn’t believe. When they were gone he went to the window and watched the snow falling and the flurries getting heavier and heavier.
“Well, if we must have Christmas “ he reflected, “It’s nice to have a white one.
A few minutes later, he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another and another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window.
He went to the front door to investigate, and found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window.
“I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?”
Then he remembered the barn . It would provide a warm shelter. He quickly put on his coat and wellingtons and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on the light. But the birds didn’t come in.
“Food will bring them in,” he thought. So he hurried back to the house for bread crumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow.
He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm, lighted barn.
“They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “ and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me.”
“If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety.”
Just at that moment, the church bells began to ring.
He stood silently for awhile, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.
Then he sank to his knees in the snow.
“Now I understand,” he whispered, as he looked at the geese floundering around in the freezing snow. “Now I see why You had to become one of us.”
It was then he understood the Big Picture.