Homily by Fr. Flor McCarthy SDB
Once the people of a very poor parish set their hearts on acquiring an expensive set of figures for their Christmas crib. They worked hard to scape together the money to buy the figures that were made of rare porcelain. Eventually they had their crib. And were they proud of it!
The church was left open all Christmas day so that people could visit the crib. In the evening the parish priest went out to lock up. Before doing so he looked at the crib. To his consternation he discovered that the baby Jesus was missing. He wondered how anyone could stop so low as to steal baby Jesus.
As he stood there he spotted a little girl with a small pram entering the church. She made straight for the crib. Then she took the baby Jesus out of the pram and lovingly put him back where he belonged--right in front of Mary and Joseph and the adoring donkey and oxen. Before leaving she knelt and said a prayer in front of the crib.
As she was on her way out, the parish priest stopped her and asked her what she was doing with the baby Jesus. She told him that before Christmas she had prayed to baby Jesus for a pram. She promised him that if she got the pram, he would have the first ride in it. As she had got her pram, she was keeping her side of the bargain.
The little story shows the power of Christmas. Christmas evokes generosity in people, especially children. To look at the poverty of the infant King of the Universe cause us to open our hearts. By coming in weakness, God's Son evokes in us a feeling of compassion, thereby bringing our hearts to life.
It was the poverty of the child Jesus that evoked that lovely act of generosity in the little girl. It was the poverty of Jesus that caused the Magi to open their treasures of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and lay them before him.
It has always been the poor who have had to pay homage to the rich, through labor, payment of taxes, and so on. But in the visit of the Magi to the Christ-child, we see a reversal of the established order of things. Here it is the rich who pay homage to the poor. It was the first of many radical changes Christ would bring about in our world.
Instead of being impoverished, the Magi were enriched. It is through giving that we are enriched, because through giving we discover our own riches.
The poverty of Jesus is a challenge to us too. It gives us an opportunity to open our hearts. To open one's heart is to begin to live. Jesus no longer needs our gifts. But other people may. He wants us to share ourselves with one another. And we too will find ourselves enriched, if as a result of knowing Jesus, we are able to open the treasures of our hearts and share with others.
-Fr. Flor McCarthy SDB