27 June 2020

Homily - 28 June 2020 - The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Dear brothers and sisters,

As we watch society drift further and further into chaos, people of good will on both sides of the political aisle frequently ask how we have come to this moment in our shared history. The answer to such a question is both simple and obvious. Indeed, it is so obviously simple that it is often overlooked and even dismissed. The answer, of course, is sin. Our society has reached such moral lows because of sin, both personal and communal. If we seek any remedy to what ails our society that does not take into account the undeniable reality of human sin, such attempts at healing will necessarily fail.

When Saint Paul spoke of sin, he used an analogy from archery. To sin, he said, is hamartia, to miss the mark. The mark at which we aim, the target whose center we hope to hit, is Christ Jesus; he is the mark, the target, the aim of our lives. To miss this mark is both unpleasant and yields unfortunate results, but we can always repent and aim again; to not even aim at the mark is utterly disastrous, as is abundantly evident today.

A moment ago, the Apostle reminded us that “we were indeed buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This, however, is not quite what Saint Paul wrote. Where we have the word “live,” he used the word peripateo, which “literally means ‘walk,’ since walking is a Hebrew idiom for ‘conducting oneself’ in relation to God.”[1] This means that while the baptized have been joined to Christ by sharing in his Death and Resurrection, each of the baptized remains free to conduct him or herself well or poorly in relation to God. Today, we have to acknowledge with great sorrow that many of the baptized are not walking in newness of life.

The Christian, of course, is called by virtue of Baptism to lose his or her life in Christ, and in so doing to find life Himself (cf. Matthew 10:39). Saint Augustine said, “To be baptized into the death of Christ is nothing else but to die to sin, just as he died in the flesh.”[2] This, we might say, is what it means to aim at Christ.

Every Christian who aims at the mark of Christ - and who hits the mark - can be said to have died to sin. Ambrosiaster put it this way:

It is clear that those who have crucified the body, i.e., the world with its vices and lusts, die to the world and die together with Christ, and that they are also conformed to his eternal and saving life so that they might deserve to be made like Christ in his glory.[3]

Too many Christians today do not strive to hit the mark of Christ; they do not strive to grow in conformity with the Lord Jesus and be made like him in his glory; they do not lose their lives in him.

Failing to hit the mark of Christ, failing to love with his own love, has wide-ranging consequences which extend far beyond myself.

We are a community of those who line up on Black Friday to grab every last deal, even if we must commit violence upon our neighbor in the process. We engage in a politics that views our fellow member of the polis solely through the lens of suspicion and condemnation, a vision that erases his or her humanity. We profess faith in an economy of scarcity, of endless consumption that falsely promises to make us whole.[4]

The less whole we feel, the more we fall into various forms of the capital sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger, and sloth. The greater these sins, the more we miss the mark, the more the divide between God and humanity grows. We see this especially today in the breakdown of the family, in the failure to understand human sexuality, in growing forms of racism and bigotry, and in a failure to see and protect the dignity of every human life. Each of these sins, whether personal or communal, has had a grave effect on our society and we must strive to overcome them, both personally and communally.

We recognize the symptoms easily enough, but, as a society, we have not recognized the cause of these symptoms and have denied the reality of the sickness of sin. We continually strive to make ourselves whole through everything that cannot make us whole. The only way we can become whole, personally and communally, is through union with the Crucified and Risen Lord, through reconciliation with him who offers continual worship to the Father. Only the Divine Physician can heal us and make us whole, for

Wherever communion with God … is destroyed, the root and source of our communion with one another is destroyed. And wherever we do not live communion among ourselves, communion with the Triune God is not alive and true either.”[5]

This is why we must strive to participate ever more consciously and intentionally in the Holy Mass, not as “strangers or silent spectators,” but as those “conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration.”[6]

The fundamental purpose of the Holy Mass is to join in Christ’s eternal worship of the Father. This is why the Second Vatican Council said, “Christ indeed always associates the Church with Himself in this great work wherein God is perfectly glorified and men are sanctified. The Church is His beloved Bride who calls to her Lord, and through Him offers worship to the Eternal Father.”[7]

This is why we begin the Holy Mass saying to the Father, “We praise you, we bless you, we adore you, we glorify you, we give you thanks for your great glory…” Because his glory is so great we have nothing worthy which we can offer him; nothing this side of heaven comes close to approximating the Father’s glory and honor. The only worthy sacrifice we can rightly offer is that of his only Begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This is why in the Holy Mass the Death and Resurrection of his Son is re-presented to the Father and we are, by his grace, allowed to share in it through the Eucharist, which is all symbolized in some way in the offertory.

This humble and simple gesture is actually very significant: in the bread and wine that we bring to the altar, all creation is taken up by Christ the Redeemer to be transformed and presented to the Father. In this way we also bring to the altar all the pain and suffering of the world, in the certainty that everything has value in God's eyes. The authentic meaning of this gesture can be clearly expressed without the need for undue emphasis or complexity. It enables us to appreciate how God invites man to participate in bringing to fulfilment his handiwork, and in so doing, gives human labour its authentic meaning, since, through the celebration of the Eucharist, it is united to the redemptive sacrifice of Christ.[8]

We praise, bless, adore, glorify, and thank the Father for allowing us to offer the totality of our lives to him through Christ his Son in the Holy Spirit; this is why, at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, the priest offers praise to the Father, saying, “Through him, with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.” “While the priest announces the doxology, he lifts the chalice and paten – not to show them to the people, but to present the sacrifice to the Father. This gesture says with the body what the words themselves proclaim: that through, with, and in Christ our voices – and ourselves – are lifted up to the Father.”[9]

At this great moment when the priest is united to the worship Christ Jesus offers the Father, you, too, are united to his worship. Your “Amen not only confirms [your] engagement in this final act of praise, but also [your] engagement in the whole of this prayer.”[10] Jesus

is not standing before His Father as a lone petitioner, as He had been during His earthly pilgrimage when He spent quiet nights on the mountain praying alone; now His redeemed are around Him. They have learnt how they can, with Him, praise the Father who is in heaven. In truth they are in Him, taken up into the living union of His Body and therefore drawn into the fervent glow of His prayer, so that are really in a position to worship the Father “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24).[11]

If we have truly offered ourselves to the Father, if we have conformed our hearts to the love of Christ and died to sin, then “our actual participation in the Sacrifice of the Word [made Flesh] resounds, not only in the nave and sanctuary of our churches, but also in the temples of our hearts.”[12]

Let us, then, strive to worship the Father by offering ourselves with his Son so that we, like the bread and wine, may be transformed so that we might hit the mark by living lives that give glory to the Father in all things. By walking in this newness of life, by conducting ourselves well in relation to God, may his love transform us and, through us, our society. Amen.

[1] Scott W. Hahn, Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2017), 96.
[2] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Against Julian, 1.7.33.
[3] Ambrosiaster, Commentary on Paul’s Epistles.
[4] Timothy P. O’Malley, Liturgy and the New Evangelization: Practicing the Art of Self-Giving Love (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2014), 79-80.
[5] Pope Benedict XVI, General Audience Address, 29 March 2006.
[6] Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48.
[7] Ibid., 7.
[8] Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum caritatis, 47.
[9] Christopher Carstens and Douglas Martis, Mystical Body, Mystical Voice: Encountering Christ in the Words of the Mass (Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 2011), 204.
[10] Edward Foley, “The Structure of the Mass, Its Elements and Parts,” in A Commentary on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Edward Foley, Nathan D. Mitchell, Joanne M. Pierce, eds. (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2007), 180.
[11] Joseph A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite: Its Origin and Development, Vol II, Francis A. Brunner, trans. (Notre Dame, Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2012), 265-266.
[12] Christopher Carstens and Douglas Martis, Mystical Body, Mystical Voice, 204.