14th Sunday of Ordinary Time
July 3, 2016
Gal 6: 14-18
Holy Cross, Champaign, Ill.
Your humble blogger has taken up his new pastoral assignment as assistant pastor of the Salesian parish of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and director of the local Salesian community. Here’s the homily from his first Sunday Mass at the parish. I don't have photos and artwork moved to the office computer yet--so just text here.
|The Crucifixion (Giotto)|
Paul continues with a blessing: “Peace and mercy be to all who follow this rule and to the Israel of God” (6:16). The rule that Paul means is the rule of grace, and the “Israel of God” he means is the new Israel gathered and redeemed by the passover sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
What is this grace that Paul refers to repeatedly? The basic term means a freely given gift, something you don’t earn or deserve—a Christmas bonus (which many of you may have received); a gubernatorial pardon (which I hope none of you has needed); a “grace period” for a late car payment. For us disciples of Jesus, grace is God’s gift of forgiveness, of mercy, of restoration to a healthy relationship with God. Grace makes us God’s children, heirs along with Jesus of the kingdom of God.
How does God’s grace come to us? Not thru anything we’ve done or can do. As Paul insists over and over again in Galatians and other letters, it doesn’t come to us because we obey the Law—the 10 Commandments and all the other regulations of the Torah, including the rule of circumcision, by which Jewish males entered the covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants. No; God’s grace, his free gift of pardon for our sins, his call to enter a new covenant relationship with him, comes thru “the cross of OLJC.” Jesus announced that new covenant at the Last Supper in words that we repeat at every celebration of the Eucharist: “This is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for you and for many.”
Paul’s saying this evening that the cross of Jesus is our only cause for boasting. It’s thru the cross of Jesus—which means the entire passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus—that we’re saved, restored to a good relationship with God, made brothers and sisters of Christ and with him heirs of the heavenly kingdom.
Paul preached that the grace of God in Christ is available to every human being. A couple of Sundays ago, we heard that in Christ there’s no distinction between Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free person (3:28). All are made participants in the new Israel of God by Baptism and Eucharist, by sharing in the paschal mystery of Christ’s cross and resurrection.
That kind of preaching made enemies for Paul. So he says, “I bear the marks of Jesus on my body” (6:17), meaning he’s been beaten and scourged and chained for preaching the Gospel. One of the results of original sin is that we humans tend to want to make distinctions between us and them, to exclude certain other people whom we want to regard as inferior to ourselves. So people fight wars over nationality, religion, and race; attempt to exterminate ethnic groups; enslave certain groups; or legislate against foreigners or different classes of people. As individuals, we criticize others and gossip about them as if we were superior to them—a grave sin that Pope Francis speaks against over and over.
Such an attitude of exclusion, or of regarding oneself or one’s “group” as superior, is part of what Paul refers to today as “the world.” His acceptance of the Gospel of JC has crucified him to the world, alienated him from the world, i.e., from the sinful tendencies and attitudes of the human race. We could include among such attitudes—as Jesus does in some passages of the Gospels and Paul in parts of his letters—the love for power or pleasure or money. It’s Paul who tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim 6:10) and also observes that those who make a god of their bellies—the pursuit of sensual pleasure—will end in shame and destruction (Phil 3:19).
On this weekend we proudly proclaim our American heritage; we boast of our freedoms and, I hope, of how much God has blessed our country. We may at other times boast of our ethnic heritage—being Irish, German, Italian, Hispanic, African, etc. We may feel inclined to boast of our education, our talents or accomplishments (like some politicians and businessmen), our wealth, our physical strength or beauty. And we know in our hearts that none of that lasts. In the light of eternity, there’s only one reason to boast: that God, for his own reasons, has chosen to love us and demonstrated that love for us thru the death and resurrection of OLJC. Like Pope Francis, we can say with grateful joy, we’re sinners whom God loves and forgives. We respond to God’s love and mercy with gratitude for his gift of grace—a presidential pardon, as it were—a gratitude that appreciates also God’s gifts to everyone, a gratitude that leads us always to combat our sinful attitudes and behaviors and to live like sisters and brothers of Jesus.
“The grace of OLJC be with your spirit, brothers and sisters. Amen.” (6:18).