13 June 2012

Rise from death and be holy

St. Anthony of Padua
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

When first century Christians were first discovered by their pagan neighbors, they were described as Jewish sectarians. In fact, most of the earliest Jewish disciples of the Way understood themselves to be Jews who were following the Law and the Prophets by following Jesus, the long-awaited Messiah. Scattered throughout the Gospel accounts of Christ's public ministry, particularly his teaching, we read sentences like, “He said this/did this so that the scriptures might be fulfilled.” In the Creed, we declare that Jesus' birth, trial, death, and resurrection happened secĂșndum ScriptĂșras—“in accordance with the Scriptures,” meaning that he fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The intimate and indissoluble relationship between the Old and New Covenants is most clearly seen in the Last Supper. Jesus transforms the thanksgiving bread and wine of Passover into his body and blood for our Eucharist. He teaches us the most perfect means of returning to our Father, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.” 

The Catechism presents a concise description of the relationship between the Old and New Testament, “[The OT] prophesies and [foreshadows] the work of liberation from sin which will be fulfilled in Christ: it provides the New Testament with images, 'types,' and symbols for expressing the life according to the Spirit. . .The Law of the Gospel 'fulfills,' refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection. In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the 'kingdom of heaven'”(nos.1964-6). Yesterday, we read the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus lays out a means for participating in God's beauty through acts of charity. When we embody His love and behave in a loving way toward others, we actively take part in Love Himself and achieve blessedness. The whole purpose of the Mosaic Law was to give God's chosen people a concrete means of acting in the world for their own good and the good of others. The Prophets were sent to preach and prophesy the spirit of the Law: as former slaves who were delivered from bondage by your God, do not think and treat others as slaves; think of and treat everyone as members of your family. Jesus fulfills this prophecy by successively transforming us from slaves of sin; to students of holiness; to friends of the Master; to brothers and sisters; and finally, into co-heirs of his Father's Kingdom! 

If we hope to take advantage of the most perfect means of returning to our Father, we must start by receiving His gift of mercy and throw off the chains of sin. Once freed from sin, we enroll in Christ's school of holiness to study the ways of charity and peace. When we have learned the basics of loving God, self, and neighbor, and how to live with one heart and mind, we begin to explore the love found in a friendship with God through Christ. Friends then become brothers and sisters through adoption into the family of God, and siblings become the inheritors of the treasuries of the heavenly household. This plan for returning to the Father has been the plan since the beginning. And none of it has changed. None of it has been abolished. Christ came not to abolish the plan but to fulfill it, to make it possible for us to start and finish our perfection through him, with him, and in him. Not only do we give God thanks and praise in this morning's Eucharist, we also take part in his sacrificial love for us. He surrenders himself to death so that we might be holy. Rise, then, from the death of sin and go be holy! 

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1 comment:

  1. Nice! Straight forward and clear. It doesn't happen too often anymore, but I thoroughly enjoy a little homily with my history lesson: this is why things happened this way, why this ties into this the way it does, and how that leads into our own present-day and personal mission: "Rise, then, from the death of sin and go be holy!"
    Kind of on a bit of a roll this week, aren't you? :-)