As many of you may well remember, this Sunday’s celebration of the Holy Family at Nazareth is my nemesis? I have long found it difficult to be comfortable in preaching...
The structure and sequenceof our liturgical year, in itself, teach a basic lesson. So, we have completed our celebration of the Resurrection, the absolutely basic Christian mystery (without resurrection we do not exist as Christians – as Paul tells us we would be “the most foolish of people”). Then we celebrated our entrance (under the power of the Holy Spirit which overshadows us) into the Christian Era in which we are essential parts in the telling(and living)of the story!
This Sunday we face the fact that our living and loving God is, indeed, the one and same God who created, redeemed, and now calls (empowers) us to get on with the job. In a very real way, Christians are MADE, not born! Getting on with the job is what makes us.
Who IS this God of ours?
THIS SUNDAY’S FIRST SCRIPTURE [DEUTERONOMY 4: 32 – 34. 39 – 40] asks and begins to answer this question. “Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God … All this the Lord your God did for you … understand and take it to heart. The Lord is God indeed.”
TODAY’S PSALM [32 or 31] adds a special dimension. “The word of the Lord is faithful … to be trusted … (he) is our help and shield.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are faithful and to be trusted as our help and shield.”
Is this the reason for the content of the Christian call to prayer? Have you ever realised that, like Jews and Muslims, we have a specific Call to Prayer? Here it is – In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Each and every time we name our God we NAME OURSELVES! We are baptised in this name – and we commence each and every Christian celebration with it! We bless ourselves with it. Each time we invoke this NAME we are (as Paul reminds us in our New Testament Scripture)“moved by the Spirit …. (and) bear united witness that we are children of God …coheirs with Christ.” Take a look at this extract [ROMANS 8: 14 – 17].
There, Paul adds a vital dimension. He tells us that “the spirit you have received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives, it is the spirit of sons (and daughters) … coheirs with Christ.” Now, if we are coheirs then we have to set about making the inheritance our own! It is in this sense that (as stated earlier) Christians are made, not born. Yes, we ARE born again in baptism. However, we have to MAKE that birth come fully alive. It is in this creative effort (under the influence of the Spirit) that we slowly but surely make the inheritance our own.
It is impossible to achieve this if we see ourselves as fearful slaves (puppets). Never forget Jesus words “I call you servants no longer … I have called you friends … I chose you.”(JOHN 15: 15 & 16). There are too many Christian-Catholics who live in fear, hesitantly, and by mechanical routine, hoping that by contributing the minimum premium they achieve maximum coverage! This is not the way to make the inheritance our own.
Now, it is worthwhile to spend a little time reflecting on a few points from TODAY’S GOSPEL EXTRACT [MATTHEW 28: 16 – 20].
In passing bear in mind that Matthew’s version of the Gospel begins by tracing the family tree of Jesus Christ, but the apostle’s STORY commences (v 15) with the words “this is the story of the birth of the Messiah.” Our Gospel reading is the end of Matthew’s story. It is interesting, however, that his story ends with the commissioning of the Church to begin its own story. This must always be composed holding on to two essentials: (i) to BAPTISE(in the name of the Trinity – our hallmark!), and (ii) acceptance of the solemn assurance that in this new era, the Christian Era, Jesus himself is always with us.
Every one of us has a share in this baptismal commission, which is not confined to the pouring of water. There are much wider implications. Sometimes the going is tough and rough but we MUST anchor ourselves on the fact that the Lord is always with us. (Each and every time we bless ourselves in the NAME of our living God we remind ourselves of this presence.) Blessing and involvement – they go together! You cannot have one without the other.
Finally, as the disciples “set out for … Jesus had arranged to meet them,” so we have to set out into life, living, and the world. This is where the Lord has arranged to meet us. This is where he promises to be with us – always!