15 March 2013

Christ was sent and so are we. . .

4th Week of Lent (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

The inhabitants of Jerusalem are sure that Jesus can't be the Christ b/c they know where he is from. Why would knowing this bit of information make them so sure? Floating around at the time were several odd interpretations of the Messianic tradition from Isaiah, Micah, and the Psalms. The most prevalent myth about the Christ is summarized in the Letter to the Hebrews: the Messiah will come to the nations “without father, mother, or ancestry, without beginning of days or end of life”(7.3). The idea seemed to be that the Christ would be a divine being, and only a divine being; that is, there would be nothing at all human about the Son of God. But Jesus constantly refers to himself as both the Son of God and the Son of Man, human and divine. So, given their commitment to the odd-ball myths of who and what the Messiah would be, it's no wonder the inhabitants of Jerusalem dismissed Jesus out-of-hand. How did he respond to their dismissal? “You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own. . .” Jesus the Christ didn't come among us on his own. He was sent. And so are we. 

Let's make all the connections clear. The Father sent the Son to us and the Son sends us to the rest of the world. Who is this “us” who are sent to the world? In his response to the unbelieving citizens of Jerusalem, Jesus notes that they do not know the one who sent him. Since they do not know God the Father, how can they possibly know the Son? But if they were to come to know the Son, then they would know the Father. The “us” sent by Christ to the world are those of us who have come to know the Father through Christ. Know the Son, know the Father. How does this work? The Father and Son are one. And we are sent by the Son with the Holy Spirit to introduce the rest of the world to God's freely given mercy to sinners. The Father sends the Son to tell His sinful creatures that all of their sins are forgiven. The Son not only tells us that our sins are forgiven, he dies on the Cross to show us that the last sacrifice for our sins has been accomplished—once for all. But before he dies, the Son sends his disciples out into the world to shout the Good News: you are all free from your sins! Repent and receive God's mercy! Those same disciples send out their disciples and then those disciples send out their disciples and so on until we reach 2013 and now we're the disciples who are charged with shouting to the world the Good News of God's freely given mercy. 

The Son was sent, and so are we. We're sent into our homes, our schools, our places of work, the streets, the alleys, the malls, everywhere and anywhere a sinner might be, we are sent to anyone who might hear: you are no longer a slave to sin. Repent and receive God's mercy. Will we be thanked for delivering this message? Probably not. There are few souls out there who want to hear that they need anyone's mercy much less God's mercy. Instead they will say, “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions. . .He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. . .He judges us debased.” With that reaction waiting for us, is it any wonder that we might hesitate to proclaim God's forgiveness? Let's be reminded that Jesus suffered and died for doing and saying what he was sent to do and say. And b/c he suffered and died in obedience to the Father's will, we are free from sin. The least we can do in gratitude for eternal life is to give the Good News to the world and welcome any who would hear it and repent. 

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