Homily for the Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B), October 21st, 2018:
What religion would you die for? What religion would you live for? Today’s readings answer those questions. They also identify the chalice and the baptism which we must drink, the chalice and baptism James and John participated in.
The reading from Isaiah explains the theme of vicarious atonement. The prophecy is of a “Suffering Servant.” God’s Suffering Servant will assume the punishment due to us for our sins. This Suffering Servant will do this in our name. The Suffering Servant will be regarded as guilty and he will be associated with the wicked, even though he was completely innocent. His suffering will be for a positive purpose-salvation. Christians see clearly Jesus Christ in this model of the Suffering Servant. God Himself speaks in Isaiah’s prophecy. God affirms this prophecy and the spiritual reality that the Suffering Servant achieves in his vicarious atonement. This vicarious atonement, this undeserved suffering, is the Chalice that Jesus must drink from, faithfully. Jesus’s vicarious atonement is meant to attract attention from others, Jews and Gentiles. In our time, this model of the Suffering Servant makes a positive sense of suffering, particularly unmerited suffering. It shows us how to evangelize our faith by bearing burdens and setting an example.
In the reading from Hebrews, this Suffering Servant is also a “great high priest.” The author identifies this great high priest as Jesus Christ. The author encourages us to approach Jesus on His throne of grace because this Suffering Servant and Great High Priest is merciful. He is merciful because He is human, as well as divine. Jesus Christ’s mercy is rooted in His sharing of our human nature. He was tempted in every way but did not sin. Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest has successfully entered into God’s presence. We sinful human beings can have hope and confidence in Jesus. So if we can hope in Jesus, we can and ought to proceed to Jesus’s throne of grace, to worship God and His Only Son, Jesus Christ. The author of this reading from Hebrews assures us that we shall find mercy and obtain grace in the form of help suited to each time and circumstance in our lives. In fact, God sends us His Holy Spirit. This is the third person in the Blessed Trinity. The Holy Spirit is a divine being who encourages and helps us reach up to our higher nature, the nature of holiness. The religion which has such a Great High Priest, who has a fully human nature along with His divine nature, in such a sanctuary, who is the very Son of God Himself is the very religion to which we must hold on to. Here’s the kicker: We must drink from the same chalice that Jesus has drunk from, and James and John. We must be immersed in the same baptism of suffering Jesus was immersed into. Suffering and sorrow will overwhelm Jesus. And for us too, our suffering will be unmerited and innocent. The example we must give is to serve the needs of all. The example we give is meant to attract others to us, to our religion, to our carrying out of our faith in Jesus Christ.
The words of St. Teresa of Calcutta identify the chalice we must drink from and the baptism we must be immersed in. “People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway. If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway. What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today will often be forgotten. Do good anyway. Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway. In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”
February 12, 2017
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