Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Homily - "God keeps His promises"

Click here to listen to Sunday's homily.

I didn’t realize that in high school and college I was an “enemy of the cross of Christ” until I pondered today’s second reading from Philippians 3.  “Their end is destruction.  Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their shame”.  There were many nights and weekends that my glory was in my shameful behavior.  One weekend in high school I went to visit my brother in college; he went to a party school in the south.  Those boys were crazy!  Half of my plan in going there was to have stories to tell my friends back in high school.  It’s more or less, “and then I did this sin and that sin, and then I got sick”.  “Cool!”  Our glory was in our shame.  I actually hung tough with the college guys…til about 10 or 11 when the lights just went out...!  I think I even scandalized my brother’s girlfriend at the time with my shameful behavior. 
Another story related to the second reading that is much more about controlled drinking involves our Theology on Tap which we have every other Wednesday at Newman (for 21 and over!).  We had a really good discussion on Lent last weekend…a couple rounds of beverages help with that.  Eventually, the discussion went to indulgences after we said that we can gain a plenary indulgence by praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays in Lent. I gave the Scriptural basis for indulgences which is Matthew 16 and 18; Jesus gives the “keys of the kingdom” to the first Pope (Peter) and the first bishops (Apostles).  He gives them his authority…the authority to teach, sanctify, and govern.  The Church, then, is the treasurer of God’s abundant graces. She is generous in giving out Grace as God is generous with His Grace.  Indulgences are a gift for showing faith in Christ and the Church in different ways.  When people complain or object to indulgences, I think of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard; the owner says, “are you jealous because I am generous?”

I took a step back from that discussion to look at what’s going on: a large group of GW Catholics are delving into the mysteries of our faith…heavenly mysteries.  St. Paul says that “our citizenship is in heaven”.  So, it’s good to know about the place (state, actually) where we will be citizens forever.  And, GW Catholics are asking questions about the things of heaven.  So many Catholics don’t.  You all know more about the mysteries of our faith than most Catholics!  Unfortunately, many Catholics give up on the things of heaven because they don’t ask questions and feel that it’s too much for them.  So, we all struggle with suffering (the Cross) and with mysteries of faith, but there is another struggle for many of us which I’d like to focus on: believing in God and that He will keep His promises.
I know many of you are struggling to believe that God is there and that He will do for you what you have heard Him do for others.  You might be seeing others have their prayers answered or get hooked up in different ways.  Or, just in general could be thinking, “has God forgotten about me?”  All I can tell you is that He has a track record or resume of keeping his promises. We have a great book at Newman by Scott Hahn called, “A Father Who Keeps His Promises”.  It goes through Scripture to show that God is constantly entering into covenant with us.  It started with Abraham and continues throughout.  We have this vision of the mean and vengeful God of the Old Testament, and then the loving and peaceful God of the New Testament.  He is one God!  And, when we study the Old Testament, we see that God is merciful throughout.  He is always offering His people a second chance.  In tonight’s first reading, we hear very graphically and concretely how committed God is to the covenant with His people.

He goes old-school by entering into the ritual of walking between animal parts.  Animals were split in two and the two covenantal parties walked through the parts to say that if they didn’t honor the covenant, they would suffer the same fate as the animals and be torn apart.  God walks through the parts!  The “smoking fire pot” (make sure I get that right…and not “smoking pot”) and “flaming torch” passed through the animal parts; these symbolize God.  Even though He is God, He is willing to be torn apart if He doesn’t keep his promises.

If we still struggle to believe that God will keep His promises to us, we can look at a Crucifix.  He is so committed to us that he sent His Son.  And, he established a New Covenant with us. When we come to Mass, we hear the words at the Consecration: “this is my blood…the blood of the new and everlasting covenant”.  God keep his promises and fulfills them in Christ.

Finally, we hear of a promise through St. Paul that corresponds to the Gospel, the Transfiguration.  The promise is that “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”.  While people like me glory in the earthly body and things of this world, our true glory will be in this heavenly scene of the Transfiguration.  Talk about heavenly mysteries!  We would have done as well as Peter in taking in such an event.  But, that is where our bodies are heading if we remain faithful to the New Covenant. “He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body”.  God keeps His promises. 

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