3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A ~ January 22, 2023
SHARING IN HIS DIVINE LIFE
As we continue our faith journey in Ordinary Time, we are being invited to examine our lives to see if we can share in his divine life who died on the Cross to give us eternal life. I do not know how many of us really notice that a priest adds a drop of water into the chalice and says a prayer “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity”. This short prayer which is said in silence reminds us of our creation on God’s image and then God taking on our image “he took flesh and dwelt among us” as St. John says in his Gospel. Notice at the conclusion of our prayer we never say, “through the Holy Spirit” but rather “through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord.” Through the mystery of the Incarnation, Jesus Christ became man, the mediator of God and man. He is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. By shedding his own blood, he entered once and for all into the Holy Places. He did not enter a place made by human hands, a mere type of the true one; but he entered heaven itself, where he is at God’s right-hand interceding for us. Quite correctly, the Church continues to reflect this mystery in her prayer. This mystery of Jesus Christ the high priest is reflected in the apostle Paul’s statement: Through him, then, let us always offer the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that profess belief in his name. We were once enemies of the Father but have been reconciled through the death of Christ. Through him then we offer our sacrifice of praise, our prayer to God. He became our offering to the Father, and through him our offering is now acceptable. It is for this reason that Peter the apostle urges us to be built up as living stones into a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices pleasing to God through Jesus Christ. This then is the reason why we offer prayer to God our Father, but through Jesus Christ our Lord. When we speak of Christ’s priesthood, what else do we mean than the incarnation? Through this mystery, the Son of God, though his state was divine…emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave. As a slave, he humbled himself and in obedience he even accepted death. Even though he possessed equality with the Father, he became a little less than the angels. Always equal to the Father, the Son became a little less because he became a man. Christ lowered himself when he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave.
By this condition, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, though himself ever remaining God, became a priest. To him along with the Father, we offer our sacrifice. Yet, through him the sacrifice we now offer is holy, living and pleasing to God. Indeed, if Christ had not sacrificed himself for us, we could not offer any sacrifice. For it is in him that our human nature becomes a redemptive offering. When we offer our prayers through him, our priest, we confess that Christ truly possesses the flesh of our race. Clearly the Apostle refers to this when he says: Every high priest is taken from among men. He is appointed to act on behalf of these same men in their relationship to God; he is to offer gifts and sacrifices to God. We do not, however, only say “your Son” when we conclude our prayer. We also say, “who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” In this way we commemorate the natural unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is clear, then, that the Christ who exercises a priestly role on our behalf is the same Christ who enjoys a natural unity and equality with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
I guess sharing in his divine nature, we are able to see him in other people and care for them just as in the following story…
There once was a farmer who grew the most excellent wheat. Every season he won the award for the best wheat in his county. A wise woman came to him to ask him about his success. He told her that the key was sharing his best seed with his neighbors so they could plant the seed as well. The wise woman asked, “How can you share your best wheat seed with your neighbors when they compete with you every year?” “That’s simple,” the farmer replied. “The wind spreads the pollen from everyone’s wheat and carries it from field to field. If my neighbors grew inferior wheat, cross-pollination would degrade everyone’s wheat, including mine. If I’m to grow the best wheat, I must help my neighbors grow the best wheat as well.”
In the Dogmatic Constitution on Church of Vatican Council II we read it is written the following “In his wisdom and goodness the eternal Father created the whole world according to his supremely free and mysterious purpose and decreed that men should be raised up to share in the divine life. When they fell in Adam, he did not abandon them but always kept providing them with aids to salvation, in consideration of Christ, who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Before the ages the Father already knew all the elect and predestined them to be made into the likeness of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers. God resolved to gather into holy Church all who believe in Christ. The Church, foreshadowed even from the beginning of the world, so marvelously prepared in the history of the people of Israel, established in these last times and revealed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, will be made perfect in glory at the end of time. Then, as we read in the Fathers of the Church, all the righteous from Adam onward—from Abel, the righteous, to the last of the elect—will be gathered in the universal Church in the presence of the Father.
Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are in their different ways related to God’s people. In the first place, there is that people which was given the covenants and the promises and from which Christ was born by human descent: the people which is by God’s choice most dear on account of the patriarchs. God never repents of his gifts or his call. God’s plan of salvation embraces those also who acknowledge the Creator. Among these are especially the Mohammedans; they profess their faith as the faith of Abraham, and with us they worship the one, merciful God who will judge men on the last day”.
I believe God himself is not far from those who seek the unknown God in darkness and shadows, for it is he who gives to all men life and inspiration and all things, and who as Savior desires all men to be saved. Eternal salvation is open to those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church but seek God with a sincere heart, and under the inspiration of grace try in their lives to do his will, made known to them by the dictates of their conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the aids necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet reached an explicit belief in God, but strive to lead a good life, under the influence of God’s grace. Whatever goodness and truth are found among them is seen by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel, and as given by him who shines on all men, so that they may at last have life. Prophet Isaiah rightly says, “There will be no gloom for those who were in anguish”. Those who follow the Lord will never live in darkness but enjoy his divinity who shared our humanity. Jesus being the light of the world, illumines the hearts of everyone who come to him.
This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the beginnings of the public life of Jesus in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission does not begin in Jerusalem, the religious centre and the social and political centre, but in an area on the outskirts, an area looked down upon by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of various foreign peoples; that is why the Prophet Isaiah calls it “Galilee of the Gentiles”. It is a borderland, a place of transit where people of different races, cultures, and religions converge. Thus, Galilee becomes a symbolic place for the Gospel to open to all Gentiles. From this point of view, Galilee is like the world of today: the co-presence of different cultures, the necessity for comparison and the necessity of encounter. We too are immersed every day in a kind of “Galilee of the Gentiles”, and in this type of context we may feel afraid and give in to the temptation to build fences to make us feel safer, more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the Good News, which he brings, is not reserved to one part of humanity, it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a proclamation of joy destined for those who are waiting for it, but also for all those who perhaps are no longer waiting for anything and haven’t even the strength to seek and to ask.
Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from the salvation of God, rather it is from the margins that God prefers to begin, from the least, to reach everyone. He teaches us a method, his method, which also expresses the content, which is the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel”.
Jesus begins his mission not only from a decentralized place, but also among men whom one would call, refer to, as having a “low profile”. Jesus’ message reiterates that of the Baptist, announcing the “kingdom of heaven”. This kingdom does not involve the establishment of a new political power, but the fulfilment of the Covenant between God and his people, which inaugurates a season of peace and justice. To secure this covenant pact with God, each one is called to convert, transforming his or her way of thinking and living. This is important: converting is not only changing the way of life but also the way of thinking. It is a transformation of thought. It is not a matter of changing clothing, but habits! What differentiates Jesus from John the Baptist is the way and manner. Jesus chooses to be an itinerant prophet. He doesn’t stay and await people but goes to encounter them. Jesus is always on the road! His first missionary appearances take place along the lake of Galilee, in contact with the multitude, with the fishermen. There Jesus does not only proclaim the coming of the kingdom of God, but seeks companions to join in his salvific mission. In this very place he meets two pairs of brothers: Simon and Andrew, James, and John. He calls them, saying: “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men”. The call reaches them in the middle of their daily activity: The Lord reveals himself to us not in an extraordinary or impressive way, but in the everyday circumstances of our life. There we must discover the Lord; and there he reveals himself, makes his love felt in our heart; and there with this dialogue with him in the everyday circumstances of life he changes our heart. The response of the four fishermen is immediate and willing: “Immediately they left their nets and followed him”. We know, in fact, that they were disciples of the Baptist and that, thanks to his witness, they had already begun to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
When choosing his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of scribes and doctors of the law, but to humble people and simple people, who diligently prepare for the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus goes to call them where they work, on the lakeshore: they are fishermen. He calls them, and they follow him, immediately. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure. Remember God does not call the qualified, but he qualifies the called. By calling ordinary fishermen and us, he invites us to share in his divinity as St. Paul says, “in baptism we not only share in his death but also in his resurrection”. This week are also observing Unity Octave which reminds us to pray for unity among the Christians around the globe. St. Paul in the second Reading is reminding everyone to be careful of our divisions and disunity but be united in the Holy Cross of Jesus “For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God”.
Other Sermons In This Series
April 22, 2022
March 11, 2022
September 08, 2023