There are many members, yet one Body. [1 Cor. 12:20] Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass in honour of the glorified Lord Jesus.
During the Gospel Reading, we heard Jesus proclaiming, today the year of the Lord's favour as it was written in the Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. [Lk. 4:19, 21] What did Jesus mean by the words that the year of the Lord's favour had been fulfilled? He meant that the long awaited messianic jubilee had finally arrived. The promised messianic salvation had finally arrived. Jesus affirmed that He was the long awaited Messiah that God the Father had promised to His people throughout the days of the Old Testament.
Two thousand years ago, on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, [Acts 1:4, 2:2] Jesus established the visible Church to which we belong. At the same time, He established the invisible Kingdom of God on earth as it is in Heaven. Both together, the visible Holy Catholic Church and the invisible Kingdom of God compose the Mystical Body of Christ.
The Holy Catholic Church, visible in nature, is part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of members who share in the life of the Risen Christ. The invisible Kingdom of God is also part of the Body of Christ because it is composed of all the saints who have persevered in their living faith in Christ, therefore receiving their just eternal reward and salvation. The visible is our first step; the invisible is our final step. The visible is our journey and blessed hope towards the invisible; the invisible is our eternal joy and peace in the continuous Divine presence of our Lord God and all His heavenly creations.
In His proclamation, Jesus said that He had been anointed to bring good news to the poor, He had been sent to release the captives, for the recovery of sight of the blind and to let the oppressed go free. Literally taken with a worldly approach, these words imply that Jesus had come to bring abundance to those who were poor, to free the slaves and the prisoners, to heal the blind and to stop all worldly oppression. But this was not what Jesus meant.
Embracing a spiritual approach, it becomes clear that the proclamation of the Lord Jesus was to announce the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth. The Kingdom of God was the good news that Jesus was proclaiming. For the arrival of the Kingdom of God to be fulfilled, it meant the arrival of the promised Messiah. It meant that those who were spiritually blind would be enlightened, now being able to see the way, the truth and the life. It meant that those who were captives of sin, slaves of Satan, would be free, first through the Sacrament of Baptism and then through the Sacrament of Confession so that they could instantly enjoy eternal life after their physical death.
It meant that those who were spiritually poor would finally have a living hope in Christ. We as Gentiles, had we been born prior to the coming of Christ on earth, we would have been spiritually poor. We would have had no living hope of the eternal glory that comes with salvation because we would not have been part of God's chosen people, the Jewish nation. Before our new birth in Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we were poor; now, we are spiritually rich.
The way of life [Acts 2:28] that has been made known to us through Jesus Christ requires our humility and our obedience to the Lord God.
As Christians, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, we are commanded to clothe ourselves with humility. [Col. 3:12] Whoever becomes humbles like a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven. [Mt. 18:4] He who humbles himself before the Lord, the Lord shall exalt him. [Jas. 4:10] For God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. [1 Pet. 5:5-6]
As Christians, we are also commanded to obey God's Commandments. Today's First Reading from the Book of Nehemiah tells us how much importance was placed in those days on knowing and obeying the law of Moses. In the days of Nehemiah, anyone who had reached the age of reason and could hear with understanding, he was required to be present and to listen to the reading of the law. I can assure you that there was more than one law. It took from early morning until midday to hear them all while they were being read. That would be equivalent to listening to a three or four hour sermon.
Jesus must have known that some of us Gentiles can be very impatient when it comes to long sermons. So, He summarized the Ten Commandments and the law of Moses into two simple Commandments for us. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first Commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two Commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Mt. 22:37-40]
Those two laws are for the benefit of the one Body of Christ. Jesus did not say, "You shall love yourself and your ways." He said that with all your might, you shall love God first. Secondly, you shall love your neighbours. Why so much emphasis on love? It is because "God is love. [1 Jn. 4:8] Love is one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:22] "Love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God." [1 Jn. 4:7] "All who obey His Commandments abide in Him, and He abides in them. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit that He has given us." [1 Jn. 3:24]
Today's Second Reading from the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians revealed to us how important it is for the members of the Body of Christ to be united. Each of us has been called to serve the Lord Jesus. While I serve as a priest, you may serve in the choir as a musician or as a singer. Some are called to be Deacons, others as Extra-Ordinary Eucharistic Ministers. Still others may serve as Altar Servers, as Gift Bearers, as Lectors, as Ministers of Hospitality, as Secretary, as Knights of Columbus, etc... And let us not forget those who have the spiritual gifts of healing, speaking in tongues, of interpretation, of leadership, etc... With each calling comes spiritual gifts to equip each and everyone of us for the benefit of the Body.
If everyone said, "I want to be the musician" or "I want to be the Altar Server," we would have a very serious problem. There is a limit as to how many musicians or Altar Servers we can use during the celebration of one Holy Mass. (Optional: That is when Church Committees are very beneficial. In such situations, the pastor can delegate the authority to the Church Committee to resolve the problem.) As such, in His Divine Wisdom, the Holy Spirit has taken care of this potential problem. He made sure that each and everyone of us are equipped with a variety of gifts that would meet the diversity of needs within the living Body of Christ.
All of this tells us that while there are many members, there is but one Body in Christ in which all its member are indispensable. If someone neglects his functions as a member of the Body of Christ, all the members suffer. Why? Because there is something missing. It is like trying to point a direction to someone with a missing index finger. No finger, no pointing!
Some may choose to say, "Well, I am a part-time member. I am busy with my worldly affairs and so I go to Church once a year." To this, Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters, for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." [Mt. 6:24]
Another one may say, "I go to Church every Sunday but I do not want to commit myself to anything." To this, the Book of Revelation tells us, "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." [Rev. 3:15-7]
Now some may not like the previous answers and say, "I quit!" Sorry, but you cannot quit the Body of Christ. You see, when you received the Sacrament of Baptism, you were born again in water and Spirit. [Jn. 3:5] You received your new creation of the godly seed [1 Jn. 3:9] in fulfillment of the promises of the Heavenly Father that are found in the Old Testament. During your admission in the Body of Christ as a new creation, you received as "first instalment," [Eph. 1:13-4; 2 Cor. 1:22, 5:5] the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit for the purpose of your sanctification.
To quit the Body of Christ, you would have to totally and freely reject the grace of God and the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. You would have to reject the Advocate that the Father and the Son have sent to sanctify you in Christ.
So belonging to the Body of Christ is not the same as working for a Company. As an employee, if you do not do your job, the employer fires you and replaces you. Then productivity resumes with the new employee. But in the Body of Christ, it is different. If the index finger decides that it will not become actively involved in the ministry of the Church, then I am afraid that the Body of Christ will have to go without a pointing finger.
So you see, when you have a fallen-away Catholic who has shipwrecked and abandoned his living faith in Christ, he is still a Catholic. He still belongs to the Body of Christ. And the Body of Christ shall suffer as long as the faithful members of the Church do not commit themselves to evangelizing in their Parish to ensure that all the members of the Body of Christ are active participants of their local Church. That is what St. Paul was teaching to the Corinthians.
The Body of Christ cannot be divided. No one can say, "There are Catholics and then there are Catholics." For there is one Christ, one Spirit, one faith, one Baptism and one Body. When a small part of the Body of Christ isolates itself from the remaining of the Body, it creates disharmony that can lead to division. Such action is not of the Spirit of Christ.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, with a sincere heart, let us reflect upon our commitment to the Body of Christ. Let us ask ourselves, "Am I actively involved in my Parish?" "Am I making an effort to draw to my Parish those that I know who have shipwrecked in their faith?" Or, "Am I the cause of division within the Body of Christ?"
As we continue the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray for one another, that through our Christian Unity, the Body of Christ may come to its fullness so the Lord God may be glorified in all things.
Sunday, January 24, 2016
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