Summary: how can we reach out to the thousands of souls starving for faith, hungry for Christ?
Fourteenth Sunday in Course 2018
Power Made Perfect
“Where did He get all this?” We’ve all heard rags-to-riches stories of men and women who have started out with nothing and succeeded beyond all expectations. Abraham Lincoln born in a log cabin in LaRue County, KY, elected twice president, presiding over the most destructive war in U.S. History, has his image carved huge on Mt. Rushmore. Joan of Arc, a humble peasant, became the most famous war leader of her age, and a canonized saint, and is patron of France.
But the most memorable story of this kind is of the Galilean nobody, the woodworker who became the King of kings and Lord of Lords, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Sometime after His thirtieth birthday, Jesus made the two-day journey down to the Jordan River, just a few kilometers north of the Dead Sea. He got in line to be baptized by His cousin, John, and when the water was poured over His head, both men heard the voice of God: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” About three years of “mighty deeds” followed–miracles, timeless teaching, exorcisms of evil spirits, camaraderie with His disciples, and conflict with the Jewish authorities. They in the end hauled Him before an illegal inquisition, tortured and humiliated and had the Romans hang Him on a cross. But the following Sunday His tomb was found to be empty, the burial cloths left with a faint impression we now call the Holy Shroud. For forty days his disciples saw Him gloriously alive, after which He ascended into heaven and shared His own spirit, a Holy Spirit, with His disciples, who then went out and spread His message and sacraments and miracles to a world hungry for God. Just where did He–and they–get all this?
The prophet Ezekiel, hundreds of years before, had told the Babylonian exiles the answer. “Spirit,” that is the Holy Spirit, enters into any prophet of God, and he or she is changed. This happened to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the time of the Annunciation. She was already the holiest of humans–full of grace, according to the angel Gabriel. But the Holy Spirit overshadowed Her like the Shekinah covered the tabernacle in the Temple, and she became something more–the very Mother of God, of Jesus, of the Messiah. The Spirit anointed Our Lord to His mission to the Jews, and by extension, anointed the disciples to bring the Gospel to all the world. The Spirit anoints each of us in Baptism and confirms that anointing in Confirmation, so that we may be God’s witnesses to all the earth.
So why is this church, and every Catholic church in the land, not full right now? Why are there so many human beings wandering in ignorance and doubt and unrepented sin? St. Paul tells us in two passages the answer. The first is in his letter to the church at Philippi, the Macedonian assembly that was so dear to his heart. He quotes a hymn that some anonymous Christian wrote, about how Jesus was divine, the very substance of God the Father, and how He emptied Himself out of love for us poor sinful humans. He poured Himself out so completely that he willingly gave His precious life on the cross. It was the execution of a slave. This sinless human being who did only good for fellow humans died as a criminal. And for His pains and humiliation the Father raised Him up in glory, body, blood, soul, divinity into the heavenly state we will receive in just moments under forms of bread and wine. Paul said it best–He could have ignored our plight and still been divine, but He is now called Lord God because He earned it!
Paul applies this idea to his own life. Something about Paul wasn’t physically right. Many think it was poor vision, perhaps cataracts. Over and over he prayed for healing. God’s answer was an unexpected truth: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” In weakness, God’s power reaches perfection. Paul cannot pretend that whatever success he has is due to his own talents or efforts. None of us can do that. If someone takes something from this homily home and finds that it improves life, that’s really God’s spirit working in me, and in the parishioner. An anonymous Christian said it a little differently: “I am weak but Thou art strong; Jesus, keep me from all wrong; I'll be satisfied as long As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.”
So how can we reach out to the thousands of souls starving for faith, hungry for Christ? We need to do what Jesus did, what Paul did, what millions of disciples have done for two millennia. I need to find that part of my life that is too proud, too haughty, too self-absorbed, and pour it out as a sacrifice to God. We all need to humble ourselves so nobody can honesty look at us and say “what a hypocrite.” Not sure what that is? Ask your spouse. They know; give him or her permission to reveal it to you. And then ask the Holy Spirit to fill up that hole so you can participate in building up the Church, healing the culture, sharing our precious Faith.