Your Hands are a Manger When They Receive the Body of Christ

Homily for Christmas (Year B)
December 24-25, 2017
4:30 PM – Holy Trinity, Tabor
10:00 PM – Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks
10:00 AM – St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher

Focus: Your hands are a manger when they receive the Body of Christ.
Function: Stand in awe of this mystery.


Original Sin and the Fall
• At the dawn of humanity…in the Garden of Eden: 2 trees – Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; Tree of Life
• Adam and Eve, in disobedience, reach out and take from the Tree of Knowledge. Sin and death enter the world. They have to leave the Garden lest they reach out and take from the Tree of Life as well.
• The Original Sin: Pride, Disobedience, Taking

2000 Years ago…on this night
• In the silence…in the stillness…without much fanfare…the Lord comes.
• God becomes man – one of us
• Divinity takes up humanity
• Adam and Eve took the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge
• God gives his son and places him in the womb of the Virgin Mary
o The Son – the fruit of not the Tree of Knowledge, but the Tree of Life
o “Blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”
o “I came that they might have life and have it to the full…” John 10:10
• Mary then places the God-man in the wood of the manger
o Wood comes from trees…

What is a manger, if not a feeding trough? A place where animals eat…
• Foreshadows the Eucharist.
• Jesus is the Bread of Life from the Tree of Life

At the Cross
• Christ, in obedience, allows men to place him back on the tree.
• Un-does the sin of Adam: Humility, Obedience, Giving
• Christ dies, rises, and ascends to the Father…

Now at this Mass
• Adam and Eve reached out and took the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge
• God gives his Son in the womb of the virgin Mary. She places him in the manger.
• He allows himself to be placed back on the Tree of the Cross…The Cross that stands revealed as the Tree of Life.
• And now at this Mass, he comes to us again and is placed back onto the wood of this altar. The Fruit from the Tree of Life, the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, comes and is laid on the manger of this altar.
• The Body of Christ once again is placed on the manger of this altar…and then you come forward and receive him into the manger of your outstretched hands. And you take him into yourself, and he is born, tonight, not in Bethlehem like he was 2000 years ago, but he is born into your heart this Christmas night.
o May we never fail to stand in wonder and awe of so great a mystery!
o May we never spurn by indifference a love so fervent, a love so marvelous…but may we always stir up within our hearts a great love and fervor for the One who gave everything for us.

Our God has become so small that our very hands can hold him, like that manger in Bethlehem.
May we never fail to place ourselves within his hands, as he places himself within ours.

(Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI, “The Blessing of Christmas”, Chapter 3: The Tree of Life)

God Preserved Mary from Original Sin for Our Sake

Homily for Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception (Year B)
Friday, December 8, 2017
6:00 PM – Saint Francis of Assisi, Fisher; 7:30 PM – Holy Trinity, Tabor

Focus:             God preserved Mary from original sin for our sake.
Function:        Let us remain free from sin for His sake.


Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds!

Brothers and sisters, on this holy night we celebrate one of the most marvelous deeds of our God. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception…Mary conceived in her mother, Anne’s, womb…Mary conceived without original sin.

At the dawn of humanity, when Adam and Eve walked in the garden, they enjoyed friendship with God. Adam and Eve were created without original sin.  They were also created with free will.  They could choose.  They could choose because they were called to love.  One cannot love if one cannot choose because love is essentially a choice, a choice to will the good of the other.

We know how they chose.

The serpent approached Eve. “Did God really say that if you eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden, you would die?”

“No, we may eat of any of the trees in the garden, it is only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat of it, lest you die.’

But the serpent said, “You surely will not die! No, you will become like God himself.”

Eve looked at the tree. She had a choice to make.  Would she choose to trust God, to obey God, to love God?  Or would she distrust, disobey, and choose for herself?

She chose.
She chose to commit the original sin.

Sin entered the world, and with sin, the effects of sin. Our freedom to choose God was now wounded.  We experienced the effects of sin in ourselves.  We do what we hate and we do not do what we want.

Sin entered the world, and with sin, death.

Eve became the mother of all of the living. But all of the living would eventually die.

But already, at that moment, before the apple core had hit the bushes, God had a plan. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your offspring and hers.”

In the fullness of time, God himself would become one of us. God would become man so that man might become God and live forever.  But to become one of us, he needed one of us.

He needed a mother.

He who could make all things from nothing would not remake his ruined creation without Mary.[i]

And so, in the fullness of time, he chose and prepared a worthy mother.

He chose Mary, a humble girl. He chose her, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.

He chose her, and he preserved her. He preserved her from original sin.

He preserved her before he was born, suffered, died and rose.  He preserved her by the merits of his Passion before he underwent his Passion.

He preserved her, not for her own sake, but for ours.

We needed a redeemer who was both God and man:
Man, because man was the one who needed to pay the debt…
God, because only God was capable of paying the debt…

The Son already had a Father who was God.
What he needed was a mother who was human.

So much was riding on Mary’s cooperation with God’s plan to bring Jesus Christ our Redeemer into the world that he wanted to make sure she was fully free to choose.

God preserved Mary from original sin for our sake.
And Mary became the new Eve.
And, like Eve, she was presented with a choice.

But where Eve failed, Mary succeeded.
Where Eve distrusted, Mary trusted. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.”
Where Eve disobeyed, Mary obeyed. “Let it be done unto me according to your word.”

Mary undid what Eve had done.
God used the means of our Fall to redeem us.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds!

Jesus Christ is son of God and son of Mary. He is son of God in his divinity and son of Mary in his humanity.

And how great a redeemer we have! Christ died in his humanity to pay the debt for our sins, and in dying, he broke the prison bars of death and restored us to life.  He lives to restore us, even now, to the glory and freedom we experienced before the Fall!

God preserved Mary from original sin for our sake.
Let us who have been redeemed keep ourselves from sin for his sake.

Because of the Father’s love for us…
Because of Mary’s yes for us…
Because of the Son’s sacrifice for us…
We are able to be restored to our original freedom, to our original call.

Listen again to the words of Saint Paul:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.

Mary was preserved from original sin so that she might be worthy to bear the Lord in her body.
May we who have been redeemed by him keep ourselves from sin so that we might be worthy to bear the Lord in our bodies.

He dwelt in her. Now he comes to dwell in us.

Brothers and sisters, may we never take it for granted.

Like Mary, we have a high calling.
Like Mary, we have a choice.

May we, like Mary, choose Him.  May we choose to love.

May we who have been redeemed by him be quick to turn to him, to confess our sins, and to seek his mercy, so that like Mary, we might be made a worthy dwelling place for Christ.

Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds!

O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!


[i] St. Anselm.  Liturgy of the Hours, Office of Readings for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.