Summary: When we are baptized into Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, we take our place within the embrace of the Holy Spirit.
Psalm 131–a homily for today
Today’s psalm, “O Lord, my heart is not proud,” is the kind of prayer-gem that can stimulate hours of meditation. If you pray it quickly, it takes less than a minute, even with a “Glory be. . .” But let’s start with the declaration to God right in the middle: “Like a weaned child in his mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.” The words invoke a memory of my eldest daughter with her youngest son running to her and crawling into her lap. She’s in a wheelchair due to a debilitating disease, but there is such joy in that interaction as overflows into smiles in those who are near them. The single word you can use is “contentment,” but it’s a contentment that flows from parental and filial love.
Now I’ve never been a mother, but I understand the feeling of a child or grandchild nesting in my lap. As a parent, I’d like that feeling of joy to last for a long time, but my experience is that the child sees or thinks of something distracting him from the experience, he starts to fidget in my lap and first thing I know, he’s off doing something else. It’s nice as long as it lasts, though.
Consider what the metaphor means. The one who prays the psalm is imagining the relationship with God, who we know is Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father speaks the Word who is the Son, and the love that is between Father and Son is the breath of the Holy Spirit, truly God. When we are baptized into Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, we take our place within the embrace of the Holy Spirit. We are like that child in mommy’s lap, as we rest in the possession of our God. But we are God’s children feeling the effects of the Original Sin taken from us in baptism. We turn our eyes from the Supreme Good when we are distracted by lesser goods, like entertainment. We squirm in our Father’s lap. When we actively pursue those lesser goods as if they were god, or start acting like a god ourselves–something called mortal sin–we try to tear ourselves loose from the Trinity. And only the sacrament of reconciliation can restore that baptismal innocence and put us back where we belong.
So the process of Christian maturation is a gradual acceptance that the will of the Trinity for us is the only real way to happiness for each of us. Little by little, day by day, we settle ourselves into the divine lap, share with the Trinity our thoughts and feelings and adjust them so that they truly become one with the mind and will of God.
This, then, is our way into an understanding of the high priestly prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper, recorded so wonderfully by the man who reclined on His bosom during the supper, John. Jesus is praying that we all become one, one in Him, so that we can be one with the Father. When I am taken into the Mystical Body of Christ, I become, with all my weaknesses, an image of Jesus Christ, and as time goes on I am afforded all of the graces needed to become in every respect that image. I am one with Jesus, especially as I receive His entirety into my being through Holy Communion.
But the process is the same for each of you, for all of us together. You become one with Jesus as I do, and we do this each in his own way. That means we are united to each other in a way that is as fundamental as it is mysterious. We are united, first of all, because at the most fundamental level of our being, we live a life centered on the God revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Logos. It is a life vivified by the Holy Spirit. I am enfolded in the arms of the Blessed Trinity, and so are you. We are then as close to each other as anyone not married to each other could be. We are one in purpose, one in belief, one in the Love that is the Holy Spirit.
Of course, that is not limited to us who are here, comfortably nestled in our easy chair or, someday, in our pews, with our middle-class lifestyle and middle-class expectations. It’s also true of the primitive Catholic in some third-world country, or the out-of-work family in the local barrio. These are our brothers and sisters, and no less so than the folks who look better and healthier and smell good. When we bring them up from destitution to poverty, we are not so much showing charity as we are restoring justice. We are brothers and sisters, and we help the members of our family when they are in trouble. It all fits together, or, as St. James tells us in his letter, we are phony Catholics.