18 February 2006

Homily - 19 February 2006

The Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

“See, I am doing something new!” says the Lord God to us; “I am doing something new!” (Isaiah 41:19).

Israel rejected her God, she had turned to false idols and openly broken the commands of the Lord. Rather than to turn to her Creator for help, Israel turned to the false gods of her enemies. As Israel sought her independence, she neglected the poor, the widows, and the orphans. To call Israel back to himself the Lord sent the prophets to speak on his behalf. Through these prophets, in his love and desperation for “the people [he] formed for [himself]” (Isaiah 43:21), the Lord lamented, saying, “Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob, for you grew weary of me, O Israel” (Isaiah 43:22). Have we not done the same?

We reject the Lord many times each day. We hear him gently calling to us,
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light (Matthew 11:28).

And even though we know in the depths of our hearts that his word ring true, still we do not come to him; instead, we run from him and look to everything else to satisfy our longings. We, like Israel, all too often have not called upon him and truly trusted him in our need. We, like Israel, have perhaps grown weary of what we perceive as the Lord’s unreasonable commands and rules.

Seeing us in such a deplorable condition, having called us back to himself time and time again and we having ignored his call, the Lord announces to us, “See, I am doing something new!”

He does not refuse us as we have refused him but instead, in his grace and mercy, he says to, “Yes,” for as St. Paul says to us,

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us, Silvanus and Timothy and me, was not “yes” and “no,” but “yes” has been in him. For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him (II Corinthians 1:19-20).

Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer of God; he is the great exclamation, “Yes!” to humanity. He is the final word of the Father, as it were; the great affirmation of life and of love. By his “Yes” God has claimed humanity for himself and has saved us; “he has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment” (II Corinthians 1:22).

In the life-giving waters of death – in the waters of Baptism – the Lord has done something drastically new: he has re-created us. Just before we rose from the waters created anew, the priest and our parents and godparents traced the cross of Christ on our forehead, saying, “The Christian community welcomes you with great joy. In its name I claim you for Christ our Savior by the sign of his cross” (Rite of Baptism, 79). No longer do we belong to ourselves “for [we] have been purchased at a price” (I Corinthians 6:20).

As we were clothed in the baptismal garment, the priest told us,

You have become a new creation, and have clothed yourself in Christ. See in this white garment the outward sign of your Christian dignity. With your family and friends to help you by word and example, bring that dignity unstained into the everlasting life of heaven (Rite of Baptism, 99).

As we died with Christ and rose with him in the waters of baptism, the Father said to us,

Remember not the events of your past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! It is I, I who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more” (Isaiah 43:18; 25).

Through our baptism, Christ the Lord placed his very own seal on our soul – the indelible mark – that can never be taken away, marking us for ever as his very own. We belong to him and all of our actions are to be done for him so that, as St. Paul encourages us, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31).

But of course we know that we do not do everything for the glory of God. We still, even after we have been given new life through Baptism and have been configured to Christ, we still ignore him and we still do not call upon him. We still try to be self-sufficient and independent. We still sin against the Lord and we grow paralyzed by sin. The Psalmist today gives us the answer to the plight that we are in; it is the same answer given us through Isaiah: the Yes of the Father in Jesus Christ.

When we feel the weight of our sin there is one who is waiting to lift this burden from our shoulders, for he has already borne the weight when he carried the wood of the cross on his upon his back. From the wound in his side the blood and the water – and symbolically with it, the Church and the Sacraments - flowed out. His very body became the fountain of eternal life. Even today Isaiah asks us, “Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19).

Are you burdened by your sin? Do your offenses weigh heavy upon you? Do you grow weary and tired as you run from him who is love itself? My dear friends, you need run no more, for he is doing something new! If you turn now to him in humility and integrity and say to him, “O LORD, have pity on me; heal me, though I have sinned against you,” he will wipe away your sins again and renew his Spirit within you (Psalm 41:5). Turn to him and live!

Just as he said to the paralytic in the Gospel today, so he desires to say us, but first we must come to him. When we do, we will hear him say to us, “Child, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). “Your sins I remember no more” (Isaiah 43:25). I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home” (Mark 2:11). As we return home, cleansed and renewed, let us announce his praise.

“Blessed by the LORD, the God of Israel, from all eternity. Amen. Amen” (Psalm 41:14).

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