Sunday, March 22, 2015

Homily for Today

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today, we are entering the fifth week of Lent. Before long, Easter will be upon us. To remind us of the grace of God that was manifested in us through the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ that is celebrated on Easter Day, today's readings speak of the Lord drawing all people to Himself.

The First Reading was taken from the Book of Jeremiah. [Jer. 31:31- 34] From this Holy Book that is found in the Old Testament, we learn of God's promise of a New Covenant. We heard that God promised to write His laws in our hearts, that we will all know Him, that our sins would be forgiven and that our sins will never again be remembered by God.

As Christians, we all know that the New Covenant of grace was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. Sitting at the table with His disciples, Jesus took the cup, and after giving thanks He gave it to them, saying "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." [Mt. 26-27-8]

But what does it mean that God will write His laws in our hearts and that we will all know Him? What does it mean that we will no longer teach one another or say to each other, "Know the Lord." Some have interpreted this last question to mean that now, they only need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who inspires them in their heart. They no longer need the priests, the bishops, the pope or even the Catholic Church. When such a thought crosses the worldly mind, these individuals start their own new Church, alleging that the Holy Spirit inspired them to do so. But this is not what God was saying. To perceive the fullness of the spiritual meaning of God's Words, it is necessary to search the other Words of God within the Scriptures that are associated with the promise of a New Covenant.

Over and above the gift of a new heart, God promised to place within us a new human spirit. With the new heart and the new human spirit, we would become God's people and He would be our God. [Ezek. 11:19-20; 18:31] Over and above these free gifts, God also promised to place His indwelling Holy Spirit to help us to remain good, to obey His Holy ways. [Ezek. 36:26-7]

These gifts that are the fulfilment of God's promises are exactly what it means to be reborn. God literally placed a new heart and spirit within us when we received the Sacrament of Baptism through faith in Jesus Christ. [Jn. 3:3, 5, 7; 1 Jn. 4:7, 5:1, 4] Truly, we are not the same anymore; part of our creation has been changed.

This is the new agreement, the beautiful promise that God made with us as His people, that He would help us to become good by writing His laws in our hearts. [Jer. 31:33] Through this Divine manifestation, we as God's people will always know what is right and wrong, what makes God happy or sad. God's laws are always written in our hearts because, our Teacher, the Holy Spirit dwells within us. We have become living Temples of the Holy Spirit. [1 Cor. 3:16] Through this manifestation, God once more lives with us as His people. [Jer. 31:33]

Contrary to the teaching of those who have misinterpreted the Holy Bible, God's dwelling with His people is not a physical dwelling, but rather a spiritual dwelling through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

So, what does it mean that we will no longer teach one another or say to each other, "Know the Lord."? It means that, through our faith in Christ and the Sacrament of Baptism, we now know right from wrong, the righteousness of the Lord versus the evils of the prince of darkness. The indwelling Holy Spirit immediately convicts us of our sins when we disobey the holy ways of the Lord God.

The First Reading concluded by saying that our sins will be forgiven and never remembered again by God. [Jer. 31:34] What does that mean to us?

When Jesus commanded the apostles to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation, that those who believe be baptised and saved, Jesus made faith an important part of Baptism (C.C.C. # 1226) along with the forgiveness of sin. [Mk. 16:15-6] (C.C.C. # 985)

As God's children, when we were born again through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, our past sins were forgiven up until the moment that we received the Sacrament of our new birth. To maintain our ongoing righteousness, we must continuously receive the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Having done so, now being in a state of grace, we are able to receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, the Living Bread, as our assurance of salvation and eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Through the Sacrament of Confession, Conversion, Penance, Reconciliation, Forgiveness, whatever name you may choose to call it, your sins are forgiven and never remembered again by God. This holy Sacrament is the fulfillment of God's promise that is found in the Old Testament. Through this Sacrament, God is drawing us to Him in righteousness.

Today's Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews [Heb. 5:7-9] teaches us, through the example of our Lord Jesus, how we must respond to God's calling that draws us to Him.

During that reading, we heard that, in His human nature, Jesus learned obedience through what He suffered. Through suffering, Jesus was made perfect. Through perfection, He became the source of salvation for all who obey Him.

Reviewing this Bible passage that relates to Jesus in His human nature, we perceive from this reading that Jesus also had a fear of death. In His physical body, He was just as human as you and I. He ate, slept, cried when Lazarus died, got tired, and so on. Although He was God Himself, having lowered Himself to our humanity so we may learn from Him, Jesus prayed to the Heavenly Father. While He wished that the horrible death that awaited His physical body could pass away, He submitted Himself to the fullness of the Divine Will of God the Father.

From this perfect example of obedience and submission, we learn that through suffering, our souls are sanctified. When we endure hunger, we are spiritually enlightened to the needs of those who suffer hunger. When we suffer unemployment and have to set our pride aside to turn to social assistance, we learn in our hearts that we should not judge others who also are obligated to turn to social assistance because of their unfortunate circumstances. From every form of suffering, there is a spiritual lesson to be learned. Suffering sanctifies the soul so it may become more in the likeness of Christ who is perfect.

Jesus is the source of salvation for those who obey Him. Answering God's calling to be drawn to the Lord, we must always be thankful to the Lord for what He sends us, trusting in His infinite grace to sanctify us through His Spirit.

Today's Gospel Reading from the Gospel of John [Jn. 12:20-33] reaffirms what has just been said. In a parable, Jesus said, "Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies; it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour."

What is this grain of wheat that must fall into the earth and die? The grain of wheat is symbolic of the Sacrament of Baptism. When a person is baptised, his old sinful nature dies and is buried with Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] And, just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, through baptism, a new creation is raised from death to walk the new life that has been received through Christ. [Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12] (C.C.C. # 628)

The new creation is everything! [Gal. 6:15] By being baptised in the Name of Christ, the convert becomes a new creation. (C.C.C. # 1265) Everything has become new. The old heart and spirit that were stained by the original sin, they have passed away. They are dead! [2 Cor. 5:17] Because there is no more trace of the original sin or any other sin in the new heart and spirit, they are pure in the eyes of God. They have become suitable as a Temple of the Holy Spirit for God to live in the Christian.

As a new creation of God, the convert who was baptised through faith in Christ, by the grace of God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to bear much fruit so his soul may shine as a light in the world. To shine as a light in the world, he must hate his life.

Those who love their lives, they will lose it. This is because they choose to preoccupy their worldly minds with wealth, the flesh, desires, addictions, fames, etc... They are without any living hope. They have no eternal life awaiting them in the Kingdom of God because their lives are void of spirituality. They do not have the free gift of righteousness that comes from Christ, the gift that is necessary to be admitted into the Heavenly Kingdom of God.

But those who hate their lives, having chosen to live their living faith in Christ by embracing a spiritual life with heavenly thoughts, what is righteous, what is pious, what is according to the Divine Will of God, they will keep what they have. They will receive their salvation and inherit eternal life in the Kingdom of God, the rewards that awaits all those who embrace a spiritual life through faith, hope and love towards others.

Jesus said, "Whoever serves me must follow me." Yes, we must follow Him! And those who follow Jesus, they have the assurance that God the Father will honour them.

To follow Jesus is not always easy. The human nature always seeks to avoid suffering. At the same time, our spiritual nature tells us to self-sacrifice ourselves for others. Both natures are constantly in conflict with one another. How I wish I could always do what I want to do instead of doing what I do not want to do!

But, through Christ, I will conquer because the ruler of this world is being driven out. The days of the ruler of this world are limited. As the number of newly baptized children of God increases, the number of those who walk in the darkness diminishes. While the Kingdom of God is increasing on earth, the kingdom of Satan is shrinking.

This is sufficient reason to glorify the name of God. Before our eyes, we see the manifestation of the grace of God. Before our eyes, we see the fulfillment of God drawing all the people to Himself as He promised He would do in the days of the Old Testament.

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