Thursday, January 23, 2014

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Hic Est Filius Dei

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time
19th of January 2014, 2014

Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish (Union Street)
Saint Joseph’s (Troy, NY)[1]

Rev. Michael Taylor

Now I have seen him, and have borne my witness that this is the Son of God.[2]

            So, for the second week in a row, we have the baptism narrative, this week from the Gospel of John as compared with the account from the Gospel of Matthew last week. The question should be for us, why? Why do we come back to the narrative so quickly? The key to this is the last verse in today’s Gospel; And I saw, and I gave testimony, that this is the Son of God.[3] In the past couple of weeks, we have seen the Word made flesh brought forth into this world, accompanied by choirs of angels, praised by the shepherds, and adored by the Magi. We have seen Son of Man lowered into the waters of the River Jordan, and upon surfacing, seen the skies of heaven opened, the Holy Ghost descending, and the Father declaring, this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.[4] And today we are affirmed that Jesus is truly the Son of God. Now, having celebrated these great feasts, we must turn ourselves to the question, “so what?” What are we going to do with this information? What does that information have to do with me and my life? What difference does it make in my life that God now walks with us?
            The answer to that question, in part at least, is found in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel” which I’ve conveniently just read! And now, let us begin our journey through this remarkable document. First, as I’ve said before, go and read what the Pope actually says rather than what people think they heard someone say about what he said. It makes for a much better understanding of the faith. Pope Francis, like Popes Benedict XVI,[5] Blessed John Paul II,[6] Paul VI,[7] and Blessed John XXIII[8] want us to rediscover the joy of evangelization. Pope Francis opens up his exhortation with the following; “The joy of the gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus. Those who accept his offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew. In this Exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy, while pointing out new paths for the Church’s journey in years to come.” [9]

Times change but the Gospel stays the same,
for Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. [Heb. 13.8]

So why do we need to evangelize? Well, here is the objective truth. We need faith in Christ Jesus for salvation. Apart from Christ, we find no hope of salvation. I realize this is not always immediately taken for truth, so let’s spend some time with it. First, our Lord Himself says numerous times. In Matthew, Jesus says, No one knows the Father, but the Son, and those to whom is shall please the Son to reveal the Father.[10] In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus says, He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.[11] When speaking with Nicodemus, Jesus tells him, For God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish, but may have life everlasting. For God sent not his Son into the world, to judge the world, but that the world may be saved by him. He that believeth in him is not judged. But he that doth not believe, is already judged; because he believeth not in the name of the only begotten Son of God.[12]  And again, in the same gospel, Jesus says, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.[13]

I think he, our founder, meant it

In the Acts of the Apostles we read the Apostles’ preaching, Neither is their salvation in any other [than Christ Jesus of Nazareth]. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we may be saved.[14] Paul, in his letter to the Romans, writes; if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved; for man believes with his heart and is so justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved.[15] The Beloved Apostle writes, Who is a liar, but he who denieth that Jesus is the Christ? This is Antichrist, the one who denieth the Father, and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father. He that confesseth the Son, hath the Father also.[16]

They, like our founder, meant it too
And let us not think that we can earn our way into heaven, or that people, simply by doing good, can earn salvation. In Hebrews it is written, without faith it is impossible to please God. For he that cometh to God, must believe that he exists, and rewards those that seek him.[17]  In Ephesians we read For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, for it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast in himself.[18] In Galatians, we read, knowing that man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ. Now that’s not to say that simply saying “I believe” is sufficient for salvation, for as it also written, faith without works is dead.[19] Now, lest any of you think that this is just old teaching, the II Vatican council teaches; “By this revelation then, the deepest truth of God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation” [20] and that “This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism…”[21]

They, like the Apostles, and our founder, meant it too

Furthermore, we cannot be silent and choose not to preach the Gospel, for Christ himself hath commanded us to do so; Go therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.[22] Saint Paul exclaims, if I preach the gospel, it is no glory to me, for a necessity is laid upon me; for woe unto me if I preach not the gospel! [23] Pope Francis, in his exhortation, notes “when the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfillment. For here we discover a profound law of reality; ‘that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means’.” [24]
Now, all of these things being said, that’s not the message we take out into the world. I tell you these things so that you might understand the seriousness of the situation. The salvation of souls is at stake and the only means of salvation we know of is faith in Christ Jesus. That being said, I don’t want you go out there telling people that unless they believe in Jesus they’re going to hell. That’s proselytism and that turns people off more often than not. What it sounds like is “unless you belong to my club you’re going to hell…oh….and since I belong to this club and you don’t, I’m a better person than you.” That turns people away and it’s not evangelization. Evangelization is about being a witness of the person of Jesus Christ. Pope Francis, writes; “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’.” [25]
The joy of evangelizing is the joy of the one who has been redeemed. St. Paul never tired of saying how he was the worst of sinners, of how Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief. But for this cause have obtained mercy; that in me first Christ Jesus might shew forth all patience, for the information of them that shall believe in him unto life everlasting.[26] Pope Francis, in his interview this past summer, was asked by his interviewer, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J. “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” After a pause, Pope Francis answers, “I do not know what might be the most fitting description…I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” [27]
So let me say, I am a sinner. I, James Michael Taylor, am a sinner. I do not say this as a pious thought or a false sentimentality. I am a sinner. I have done horrible things, and in some of those sins, I have harmed others most grievously. I have broken every commandment, in some way, to some degree. I do not deserve God’s love. I deserve the wages of sin. I deserve eternal death.[28] But thanks be to God, who hath given us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.[29] Praised be to God that he did not agree with my situation, and, in order to save me, sent his only begotten Son into the world, who loved me so much that he would rather die for me than live without me. That truth is the same for you as it is for me. It is the same for everyone as it is for you. I am so happy about what God has done for me that I can hardly keep my soul from singing. How could I not want to tell people about what great things he hath done for my soul? [30]

What wondrous love is this?
We are a people who have forgotten the joy of what it means to be redeemed. We have forgotten what great price was ransomed for our salvation. Remember that you were not redeemed with corruptible things as gold or silver…but with the precious blood of Christ, as a lamb unspotted and undefiled.[31] We must always be ready to extend the invitation of that message, the message of redemption. People need to know that the sins of our past do not have to be the sins of the future. They desire to hear that as sinners, they have a future as a saint. Again as Pope Francis writes, “No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’.[32] The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus; ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more in your redeeming embrace’.” [33] Let us go out into the world, so that those now separated from Christ might come to know the joy of life with Christ.

[1] If you attended the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, the Gospel was the miracle at Cana. While a different gospel, it is often included in the Epiphenomenal revelations of Christ’s identity along with the adoration of the Magi and the baptism of the Lord. It still challenges us to confront the reality of the Word made flesh and its meaning.
[2] John 1.34
[3] John 1.34
[4] Matthew 3.17
[5] Pope Benedict XVI. Deus Caritas Est §19: “The entire activity of the Church is an expression of a love that seeks the integral good of man: it seeks his evangelization through Word and Sacrament, an undertaking that is often heroic in the way it is acted out in history; and it seeks to promote man in the various arenas of life and human activity.”
[6] Blessed Pope John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris missio. §2: “But what moves me even more strongly to proclaim the urgency of missionary evangelization is the fact that it is the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity in the modern world, a world which has experienced marvelous achievements but which seems to have lost its sense of ultimate realities and of existence itself. "Christ the Redeemer," I wrote in my first encyclical, "fully reveals man to himself.... The person who wishes to understand himself thoroughly...must...draw near to Christ.... [The] Redemption that took place through the cross has definitively restored to man his dignity and given back meaning to his life in the world."
[7] Pope Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation. Evangelii Nuntiandi §9: “As the kernel and center of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God and being known by Him, of seeing Him, and of being given over to Him. All of this is begun during the life of Christ and definitively accomplished by His death and resurrection. But it must be patiently carried on during the course of history, in order to be realized fully on the day of the final coming of Christ, whose date is known to no one except the Father.”
[8] Blessed Pope John XXIII. “Opening Speech for the Council of Vatican II”: The manner in which sacred doctrine is spread, this having been established, it becomes clear how much is expected from the Council in regard to doctrine. That is, the Twenty-first Ecumenical Council, which will draw upon the effective and important wealth of juridical, liturgical, apostolic, and administrative experiences, wishes to transmit the doctrine, pure and integral, without any attenuation or distortion, which throughout twenty centuries, notwithstanding difficulties and contrasts, has become the common patrimony of men. It is a patrimony not well received by all, but always a rich treasure available to men of good will.

Our duty is not only to guard this precious treasure, as if we were concerned only with antiquity, but to dedicate ourselves with an earnest
will and without fear to that work which our era demands of us, pursuing thus the path which the Church has followed for twenty centuries.

The salient point of this Council is not, therefore, a discussion of one article or another of the fundamental doctrine of the Church which has repeatedly been taught by the Fathers and by ancient and modern theologians, and which is presumed to be well known and familiar to all.

For this a Council was not necessary. But from the renewed, serene, and tranquil adherence to all the teaching of the Church in its entirety and preciseness, as it still shines forth in the Acts of the Council of Trent and First Vatican Council, the Christian, Catholic, and apostolic spirit of the whole world expects a step forward toward a doctrinal penetration and a formation of consciousness in faithful and perfect conformity to the authentic doctrine, which, however, should be studied and expounded through the methods of research and through the literary forms of modern thought. The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another. And it is the latter that must be taken into great consideration with patience if necessary, everything being measured in the forms and proportions of a Magisterium which is predominantly pastoral in character.
[9] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation-Evangelii Gaudium. §1
[10] Matthew 11.27
[11] Mark 16.16            
[12] John 3.16-18
[13] John 14.6
[14] Acts 4.12
[15] Romans 10.9-10
[16] I John 2.22-23
[17] Hebrews 11.6
[18] Ephesians 2.8-9
[19] James 2.20
[20] II Vatican Council. Dogmatic Constitution- Dei Verbum §2
[21] II Vatican Council. Dogmatic Constitution- Lumen Gentium §14
[22] Matthew 28.19-20
[23] I Corinthians 9.16
[24] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium. §10; Inside quote from the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops. Aparecida Document, 29JUN2007, 360
[25] Pope Francis. Evangelii Gaudium, §7; Pope Benedict XVI. Encyclical Deus Cariats Est. 25DEC2005, §1
[26] I Timothy 1.15-16
[27] Pope Francis. “A Big Heart Open to God”. America Magazine. 2013.
[28] cf. Romans 6.23: For the wages of sin is death. But the grace of God, life everlasting, in Christ Jesus our Lord
[29] I Corinthians 15.57
[30] Psalm 66(65).16
[31] I Peter 1.18-19
[32] Pope Paul VI. Apostolic Exhortation- Gaudete in Domino (09MAY1975), §22
[33] Pope Francis. Apostolic Exhortation- Evangelii Gaudium, §3

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