Sunday, April 27, 2014

Homily for 2d Sunday of Easter

Homily for the
2d Sunday of Easter
April 27, 2014
St. Vincent’s Hospital, Harrison, N.Y.

“… that all may grasp and understand in what font they have been washed, by whose Spirit they have been reborn, by whose Blood they have been redeemed” (Collect).

The Collect or opening prayer of the Mass links us to 4 things:  1st, to God’s mercy—today is celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday; 2d, to Easter, with its reference to “the paschal feast”; 3d, to our Baptism, with its reference to the font, being washing, and the Spirit; 4th, to the Lord’s passion and death, with its reference to his blood and our redemption.

Christ’s blood, of course, is the concrete expression of God’s mercy for us sinners.  Thru that blood and thru our Baptism, God has touched us with grace and made us his own people.

We celebrate all this at Easter, this wonderful “recurring feast” that evidences the effectiveness of Christ’s blood:  for God raised him to eternal life after his crucifixion, and he will likewise raise us who believe in Christ and follow Christ.

Our prayer is that we “may grasp and rightly understand” our Baptism.  The prayer alludes especially to those who were baptized just a week ago in the solemnities of the Easter Vigil—thousands of new adult Catholics just in our country.  But Lent and Easter also call every Christian back to Christ and to the meaning of our Baptism.  They call us to renew our renunciation of sin and our commitment to Christ.

The prayer tries to bring this to our attention in 3 ways, reminding us of and praying for our understanding of the font, the Spirit, and the blood.
Baptism banner
Holy Name of Jesus Church, N.R.

1st, we allude to “the font in which [we] have been washed.”  That font of course is the baptismal font in which cleansing water was poured over us.  But, as you know, that was no ordinary bath or shower such as we’ve taken thousands of times since.  In that font our sin—or our sins, if we were adults at the time—were washed away, flooded away by Christ’s overwhelming grace.

That is the literal font in which we were washed.  There’s also a figurative font, viz., Christ’s Church.  No one can be washed clean of sin except in and by the Church.  No one can belong to Christ except in the Church—the Church to which Christ has committed his Word and his sacraments, thru which he bestows his Holy Spirit on his people.

2d, the prayer alludes to that Spirit, “by whose Spirit [we] have been reborn.”  The Spirit—the Holy Spirit—is the Spirit of the Father and the Son, sent by them for our sanctification.  We must be reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, Jesus says (John 3:5).  We come to life spiritually only thru the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit is bestowed upon us lavishly in the anointing with sacred chrism and in the pouring of the water of Baptism.  This is the Spirit who descended on Jesus at the Jordan River, marking him as God’s beloved Son.  This is the Spirit conferred on the apostles—and thru them, on the whole Church—by the Risen Jesus, as we heard in the gospel this morning, the Spirit given for the forgiveness of sins (John 20: 19-31).  In Baptism our sin is truly forgiven, totally erased, and like Jesus we’re designated as God’s beloved children.  In Jesus’ case, that designation pointed out who he already was.  In our case, it’s a radical transformation of our identity, from people in Satan’s clutches into Jesus’ brothers and sisters, God’s dear children.  Likewise, the Spirit of the Father and the Son is at work in the sacrament that renews our Baptism by forgiving the sins we commit later in life, i.e., the sacrament of Reconciliation (“confession”).

St. Mary's Church
Fredericksburg, Va.
3d, we allude in our prayer to the blood that has redeemed us.  This is Christ’s blood, shed totally for us in his passion:  in his agony in the Garden, in his being scourged and crowned with thorns, in his being pushed and dragged thru the streets of Jerusalem under the weight of his cross, and in his humiliating, painful death on that cross.  All that was an agony of love for you and me, sinners, that we might be purified by his sacrifice.  We reverently come to his body and blood in the Eucharist, to be renewed in our purification, to be more closely, more intensely united with our Redeemer.

Our prayer is that we may “grasp and understand” all this.  To grasp it means to lay hold of it, to make it our own.  It means to live by what we believe and understand:  to live with Christ our Redeemer, rejecting sin, practicing virtue, imitating the goodness of Jesus in our words and actions; like Jesus, God’s beloved Son, submitting ourselves entirely, heart and soul, to whatever the Father asks of us.  May the Lord help us do that!

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