02 February 2012

Being freely reconciled to the Father

NB.  I want to acknowledge the didactic tone of this homily.  I've found that this feast sometimes prompts preachers to talk too much about Baby Jesus in a sweet, cutey fashion; so I wanted to point out the deeper theological meaning of the feast.

Presentation of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Jesus' presentation in the temple is yet another marker of his true nature and purpose; that is, along with his birth to the Virgin Mary; his epiphany as the Messiah before the Magi; his circumcision as a descendent of Abraham; and his presentation in the temple as the firstborn son, Jesus is revealed to be both human and divine, sent by God so “that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, the Devil. . .and free those who through fear of death had been subject to slavery all their life.” The feasts of the Lord celebrated after Christmas are celebrated in order to reinforce for us the ancient truth that Jesus is one person with two natures—human and divine. His dual nature is not accidental or whimsical but purposeful and necessary in God's plan for our salvation. The writer of Hebrews notes that the Messiah is sent in order to help “the descendants of Abraham; therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters in every way, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest before God to expiate the sins of the people.” So that he might offer us salvation through the forgiveness of our sins, he became one of us and died as one of us. When we celebrate the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the temple, we celebrate both his humanity and his divinity. And we anticipate our own perfection as those baptized into his life and death.

The Catechism teaches us that “the Word became flesh for us in order to [1] save us by reconciling us with God. . .[2] so that thus we might know God's love. . .[3] to be our model of holiness. . .[4] to make us 'partakers of the divine nature'”(457-60). Let's break this down even further. Since we are alienated from God by our sin and God wills that we be reconciled with Him, our sins must be expunged, washed away. With the birth, death, and resurrection of the Christ, our sins are forgiven. For God's forgiveness to take hold in our lives, we must receive His forgiveness as a gift—an unmerited grace, freely given. When we receive His forgiveness as a gift, we come to know the Father's love; that is, His love is made manifest, given another body and soul—our own. With a body and soul brimming with the Father's love, we begin a life of holiness, a life set apart from the world while living in the world. A life of holiness looks, sounds, and feels like the life that Jesus himself led: a life of mercy, sacrifice, love, perseverance, and courage. Living such a life—steeping ourselves in God's enduring love—trains us to participate more fully in His divine nature, making us both human and divine, and perfectly so in His presence. 

It is vital that we understand that God wills two things for us: (1) that we return to Him reconciled and (2) that we do so freely. To accomplish this, He offers us an abundance of His goodness, truth, and beauty, everything we need to come to Him clean and pure of heart. But he only offers what we need. As co-redeemers in His plan for our salvation, we must freely receive all that He offers. The Son became flesh so that we might see—in a man like one of us—how to receive God's gifts. Jesus was baptized, anointed, and he broke bread with his disciples. When we worthily celebrate—that is, freely, freed of sin—these sacraments, we receive God's gifts and participate in the divine life. Then, taking our experience of the divine life out into the world, we become apostles, preachers and teachers of the Gospel. And more than apostles, we become Christ-like; we become Christs.


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  1. Anonymous9:04 AM

    Imagine that. A didactic Dominican. Shocking.

  2. Anon, yeah, I know. . .but admitting to it somehow mitigates the didacticism. Maybe.

  3. It's said that complete honesty is the first step of recovery.

  4. fr. Dismas, OP10:43 PM

    I preached on the new translation of the Exsultet, which restores the bees giving up their wax for the Paschal Candle, and compared it with Mary giving up Her Child, a living Light that consumes itself in loving Sacrifice and tied it to a quote of Paul VI, asking if we are the Light of Christ, should we go and do likewise?

  5. I love the bees! My dad's an apiarist.