06 January 2012

By Water, Blood, and the Holy Spirit

NB.  I like this homily. . .but it is also a little. . .stiff?  formal? too ____?  Not sure.  Anyway, it's much better than yesterday's sad attempt.

Christmas Weekday (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, New Orleans

Listen Here (5.30 Mass)

John asks, “Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” Those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God are victors over the world? Hmmm. . .would Stephen, who was stoned to death, say that? Would the Holy Innocents say that? Would John the Baptist, his head resting on a plate, say that? Would the 40 or so Nigerian Catholics burned to death by Muslim terrorists in their church after Midnight Mass say that? If these believers were also victors, what sort of victory did they win? John says that those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God win a victory over the world. But in all these cases of brutal martyrdom, it appears that the world won a decisive victory over the believers. And it appears so b/c the world considers death a defeat. We do not; that is, we do not consider death a defeat b/c death is not an option for the believer. Of course, we die. Our bodies give out, surrender to disease and accident. But b/c we believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he lived and died for us, death is just a dramatic transition to an eternal life. God testified through His Son that by the Spirit, water, and the Blood of Christ, we are given “eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” We live our lives in His Son and not in this world, therefore our deaths are not of this world. We die in Christ and rise again with him.

To mark the transition from living in this world and living in Christ, we receive the grace of baptism. Washed in water made holy by the Spirit, we become blood brothers and sisters of the Son, the adopted children of the Father and co-heirs to His kingdom. Baptism not only joins us to the Holy Family by freeing us from the slavery of sin, it also makes us ready to live holy lives, lives constantly and consistently guided by the presence of the Holy Spirit. With the Holy Spirit and our family in Christ, each of us progresses toward holiness according to our gifts, enjoying the Lord's perfecting love and sharing that love freely and generously. The more we share our gifts, the more we use our gifts for the benefit of others, the more perfect, the more Christ-like we become. If Christ dies and rose again, so will we. If Christ will return, so will we. Death is not defeat, rather death is defeated through the re-creating love of God and our hard work in spreading that love. 

John the Baptist says, “I have baptized you with water; [Christ] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John baptized for repentance, turning from sin. Christ baptizes for life after repentance, the life of holiness. If the waters of baptism wash us clean, then the fire of the Spirit keep us clean. By constantly and consistently placing ourselves in the way of grace through the sacraments—especially confession and the Eucharist—we renew and reinforce our hearts and minds, leaving ourselves open and free to the guidance of the Spirit. This openness and freedom leave us vulnerable to the world's spite and in danger of ridicule and violence. So be it. Even as we live in this world, our eyes are set on world greater and grander than anything possible in this one. Not a “pie in the sky by and by” world, but the perfection of creation accomplished through Christ; the world as God made it to be. What we do with God's gifts adds to the world's inevitable perfection, brings it and us ever nearer to a holy end. What will you do today, what gifts will you use today to bring yourself and the rest of us closer to our Christ? Who will you forgive? Who will you love? To whom will you say, “Whoever possesses the Son has eternal life”?

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  1. It's a weekday. Here's a thought. Either the first or the last paragraph would have been fine and sufficient homilies by themselves.

    Breviter ac succincte? :)

  2. USM, thanks for the comment!

    However (you knew that was coming), weekday homilies are usually about 4-5 mins. Sunday's are about 10-12mins.

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