Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: An opportunity exists in the world to turn away from solipsism and bring all humanity into communion.

Thursday of 5th Week in Lent 2015

Joy of the Gospel

Abraham is, as the Roman Canon says, our “father in faith.” He believed that, old as he and Sarah were, they would have a child, and by the power of the Lord, Sarah conceived and brought forth Isaac. But Isaac was not the real child of the promise. The promise was not so much of a land and a large number of descendants. Because Abraham was totally dedicated to doing God’s will, he was even willing to give up his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice. God stayed his hand from committing such a crime. But God promised at that time that even if Abraham’s descendants strayed from God’s will, He, God, would pay the blood price for that rebellion. And in Jesus, the true child of the promise, the Father fulfilled that vow. Abraham did not have to give up Isaac, but the Father of us all gave His only-begotten Son as the price of our salvation. And we gather to share His Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity as our nourishment and the promise of our gathering together in the kingdom of God.

Abraham also stands out in Genesis and the rest of the Bible as a kind of loner. He alone, with his household, worshiped the one true God. But he was not alone, for God walked and talked with him, and gave him purpose. And if he was alone, it was only so that he could be the center and beginning of a huge family who would inherit not only his DNA, but his fierce devotion to the true God, to true justice, and to true worship. That is our heritage as well, one God, one faith, one baptism, one true communion.

The Holy Father sees opportunity to bring all humanity into this communion: ‘Today, when the networks and means of human communication have made unprecedented advances, we sense the challenge of finding and sharing a “mystique” of living together, of mingling and encounter, of embracing and supporting one another, of stepping into this flood tide which, while chaotic, can become a genuine experience of fraternity, a caravan of solidarity, a sacred pilgrimage. Greater possibilities for communication thus turn into greater possibilities for encounter and solidarity for everyone. If we were able to take this route, it would be so good, so soothing, so liberating and hope-filled! To go out of ourselves and to join others is healthy for us. To be self-enclosed is to taste the bitter poison of immanence, and humanity will be worse for every selfish choice we make.

‘The Christian ideal will always be a summons to overcome suspicion, habitual mistrust, fear of losing our privacy, all the defensive attitudes which today’s world imposes on us. Many try to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of their privacy or in a small circle of close friends, renouncing the realism of the social aspect of the Gospel. For just as some people want a purely spiritual Christ, without flesh and without the cross, they also want their interpersonal relationships provided by sophisticated equipment, by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command. Meanwhile, the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.’

As we look forward to Holy Week, beginning this coming Sunday, we see Jesus, surrounded by a great and supportive retinue on Palm Sunday, abandoned and alone on Good Friday. It was because of love that Jesus came to that sad end, an end that was just a beginning. Like Abraham, Jesus (and, of course, Mary His Mother) remained true to the vocation God had gifted them. His tenderness and pity, His healings, His teachings, all infuriated His oppressors, who were so infatuated with their own honor and power that they could not listen to or respond to Christ’s revolution of tenderness. They lashed out in violence, as the powerful tend to do when their plans are thwarted. Jesus responded with words that we must also use when we are misunderstood and hated: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

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