Monday, July 1, 2013

Homily for 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Homily for the
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 30, 2013
Ursulines, Willow Drive, New Rochelle

“O God, through the grace of adoption you chose us to be children of light” (Collect).

In the Creed we speak of Christ’s eternal relationship with the Father as “Light from Light.”  St. John calls him “the true light that was coming into the world” (1:9) and tells us that Jesus announced himself as “the light of the world” (8:12).  Our Easter celebration begins with a bonfire, followed by all the symbolism of the paschal candle and the proclamation that Christ is our light, that he has conquered the darkness of error, of sin, and of death, and that he has set us free.
Easter 2012 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church, Queens, N.Y.
Photo by Rosalind Chan, courtesy of The Deacon's Bench
All that we evoke today in our prayer:  God has chosen us “to be children of light,” by adoption to share in the relationship of Christ with the Father.  In fact, in the Eastern tradition Baptism is often called “Enlightenment,” celebrating as it does our entry into this world of light, of truth, of forgiveness, of freedom, of divine grace.

The Collect continues by praying that we “not be wrapped in the darkness of error but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”  It’s one thing to be chosen to be a child of light, another to make a positive response.  St. John writes that the light came to God’s chosen people, “but the world did not know him.  He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him” (1:10-11), and later he comments, “The light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil” (3:19).  So a prayer that we be rescued from the darkness, that we come into the light and stand fast in it, is “right and just.”

Certainly we see regular evidence of people’s love for the darkness, of rejecting truth, in our own society and in others:  the truth of the natural order of human sexuality; the truth of God’s lordship over creation; the truth of the human dignity of the unborn, of children, of women, of immigrants, of refugees; the truth of God’s universal fatherhood which makes us all sisters and brothers.  We see repeated evidence of people’s wrapping themselves in the darkness of genocide, of terrorism, of the drug trade, of human trafficking, of environmental destruction, of the exploitation of workers and investors and retirees, of cheating in schools, in sports, in boardrooms, and in politics.  You and I could continue these catalogs for quite a while.  Each of these forms of degradation and error is a form of enslavement, a lessening of our freedom.
The World Trade Center, Feb. 24, 2005
We pray that we might “always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.”  That means not only an internal acceptance of the truth; not only a vigorous personal effort to adhere to the truth; but also taking a public stance for the truth.  The latest issue of Living City, the magazine of Focolare, in a little piece called, of all things, “On jury duty,” contains this line:  “We are called to bring the light of the love of God to the dark cellar of the world by living the Gospel wherever we are.”[1]  That’s why we descend on Washington every Jan. 22, for instance; why we lobby our legislators and write letters to the editor; why in the Fortnight for Freedom we protest the State’s intrusion into our moral behavior (and not only our purses and wallets); why we examine our behavior each day and seek what must be converted.

Every historian of the ancient world has remarked on how Christianity changed the culture for the better, e.g. by teaching respect for women, by defending the lives of the weak, by caring for the poor and the sick, by eliminating slavery, and eventually by converting the barbarian invaders.  Of course these changes for the better didn’t always run smoothly, and sometimes there were backward steps—e.g., one thinks of slavery’s return in the early modern world.  The temptation to wrap ourselves in darkness never goes away!  The flesh continually seeks its opportunities to “bite and devour one another” (Gal 5:15).

The prayer notes God’s choice.  As Jesus said to the apostles, “You have not chosen me; I have chosen you” (John 15:16).  In other words, this is grace, God’s gift to us:  to be chosen, to be adopted, to be set free from our sins (from our darkness), to come into the light and be loved—and to share that love, spread that love by “standing in the truth.”  We need God’s constant help and strength, individually, as a community of religious, as a local Church, as a wider community of persons who—whether they recognize the truth or not—are made in God’s image and are called to be children of light.

May these sacred mysteries in which we come to the light, we taste the light, we absorb the light, give us the help and the strength we need.

[1] Maria Luce Ronconi, “On jury duty,” Living City 52 (2013), no. 7 (July), p. 26.

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