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God is up to Something Good.

I will begin with a commercial. Be sure to pick up a copy of today’s parish bulletin because it contains a copy of the press release concerning the new bishop for our diocese. His name is Father Patrick Neary, CSC and he will be ordained a bishop on February 14.


He grew up in a small town in Indiana near South Bend and he graduated from Notre Dame. He is fluent in Spanish because he served in Chile and he also served in Africa in Nairobi and Kenya. I mention these details because I want to emphasize that our church is the Catholic Church and “Catholic” means worldwide or universal.


That is who we are as a church. That is our identity. We are Catholic. We are worldwide. We are universal. Our diocese contains many people Spanish speaking people who work on our farms and in our meat processing plants. Our new bishop will be very prepared to serve them as well as the Catholics who have fled violent situations in Africa.


And now for my homily. The topic is paradox and that is a very difficult topic. A paradox is a person or thing that contains elements that contradict each other and yet both are true. Two things contradict each other and yet both are true. For example: Pearl Bailey said, “Some of my biggest failures turned out to be successes.” Life is like that. Success is the opposite of failure. But some of our failures turn out to be successes.


Saint Paul said on several occasions: “When I was sinful I was being saved. In fact, when I was most sinful, I was being saved. My salvation was located in the midst of my sin.” Another example of paradox that is found in the Bible is the story of King Hezekiah which is recorded in Isaiah, chapter 38.


King Hezekiah was the son of King Ahaz who was one of the main characters in today’s First Reading. Hezekiah was a believer whereas Ahaz was a non-believer. Shortly after he became king, Hezekiah was afflicted with a very serious disease and he was convinced that it was killing him. He told Isaiah, “I am in the prime of my life and I am dying. I am in the noontime of my life and my life is being cut off and ended like a tent that is being taken down. Every day I am getting weaker and weaker. I am leaving the land of the living. I will never again see another living being. I tell God about my pain. I am praying to God for healing but my prayers are not working.” Isaiah said, “Keep on praying. The Lord will give you a sign that He is listening. Look at the stairway built by King Ahaz. There is a shadow on those steps. The Lord will make the shadow go back ten steps.”


Hezekiah looked at the steps and the shadow moved back ten steps. Then Isaiah said, “That is a sign that the Lord will bring good from your pain.” And a short time later King Hezekiah was healed.


I call that a paradox. There was healing in the midst of his pain just as we have successes in the midst of our failures and salvation in the midst of our sinfulness.


Now let’s take a look at the paradox in today’s Gospel. Mary is the mother of the Messiah and Mary is still a virgin. How can that be? How can she be both a virgin and a mother? The angel has the answer: “With God, all things are possible. Mary has conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and she is truly the virgin mother of the Messiah.”


St. Paul brings forward another paradox in today’s second reading. This reading makes it sound like Jesus is two persons because he is the Son of David and the Son of God. How can someone be two persons? But Paul makes it clear that Jesus is not two persons. He is the Son of David according to the flesh and He is the Son of God according to the Spirit. From the human point of view, he is the Son of David. And from the divine point of view, he is the Son of God. Jesus is simultaneously the Son of David and the Son of God. Jesus has two titles, but he is really only one person. He is the Son of God and the Son of David, now and forever.


So far I have spoken about the paradoxes we see in the stories of King Hezekiah, Saint Paul, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Christ, our savior. Now I’d like to remind everyone that our celebrations of Christmas this year are going to be paradoxical.


We will experience joy and sadness, simultaneously. It won’t be pure joy and it won’t be total sadness. It will be a combination of the two. We will feel joy when the family gets together for a joyful celebration of Christmas, and we will feel sad when we think about those who are no longer with us. Christmas will do that to you. It will give you sadness in the midst of joy and joy in the midst of sadness.


Christmas is one big paradox. Simultaneously sad and joyful. It will not allow you to be completely joyful or completely sad. It always brings us some of both. We wish it could be different, but it never will be. The only thing we can control is our expectations. So, what expectation should we have as we experience the paradoxes of the Christmas season? I wish to recommend a faith statement which has been helpful to me on many occasions.


This message comes to us in a song on YouTube by Nancy Honeytree. I will close with her faith statement.


“I’m gonna believe that God is up to something good.

I’m gonna believe that God is up to something good.

When I can’t understand the things that happen in my life;

I’m gonna believe that God is up to something good.”

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