Sunday Sermon for June 12, 2016, the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Zec 12:10-11, 13:1; Gal :26-29; Lk 9:18-24
In the second reading today St. Paul speaks to us of our great dignity. This dignity is presented in two ways, both regarding the person of Jesus Who is the Son of God and a Son of Abraham. Because we are baptized into Jesus we also become partakers in everything that He is. Therefore, we become children of God and we become children of Abraham. It needs to be noted, as St. Paul does in his Letter to the Galatians, that when Scripture speaks of Abraham and his offspring, the word “offspring” is singular. This is also true of Genesis 3:15 when speaking of the woman and her offspring.
This becomes important because the Jewish people rightly saw themselves as descendants of Abraham and, therefore, as heirs to the promises made to Abraham. They look at the singular offspring as being Isaac and, since they are in the bloodline of Isaac, they are eligible to receive their share of the inheritance that was given to Isaac and passed on through his lineage. St. Paul, however, makes the point that Abraham was justified by faith in God and that those who have faith like Abraham are his descendants.
If we consider this, while most of us cannot claim Abraham and Isaac as part of our ancestry, Jesus can; so even in this manner we can claim, in Christ, to be descendants of Abraham. But the way St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presents things, is that Jesus is the singular offspring spoken of in Scripture. As members of Christ, we have become members of that solitary offspring and are, therefore, heirs to the promises made to Abraham. In this way, we are not children of Abraham according to the flesh, but having faith like Abraham’s, we are heirs because of our faith in God’s promises that are fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.
This all sounds wonderful, and it is. However, there is so such thing as cheap salvation (someone else did the work, we get the benefit). It is is interesting that in the Gospel when Jesus asks who people say He is, He scolds them when Peter says that Jesus is the Christ. The context seems to suggest that they had a wrong understanding of what that meant because He begins to tell them what He, as the Christ, would have to suffer.
Those who believe that they are going straight to Heaven because they believe Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God appear to have ignored the next passage in the Gospel where our Lord speaks about those who would come after Him: they have to take up their cross and follow Him. They have to lose their life if they want to save it.
Let’s look at this in the light of what we saw above. We are members of Jesus, therefore we are children of God and children of Abraham. We are heirs with Christ to the promises made to Abraham because we are members of Christ. So far this is all pretty great. But if we are members of Jesus we not only share in what we see as the good things, but we have to share in everything that is Christ. He is the Christ, not because He is the Son of God or the son of Abraham, but because of His Passion, death, and resurrection.
The Apostles were scolded because they, like most of the Jewish people of their day, ignored all of the passages about the suffering of Christ and looked instead at all of the passages about the glorified Christ. Human nature has not changed and we tend to fall into the heretical idea that Jesus did it all and we have nothing to worry about. In fact, He wants us to be rich and have an easy life. That sounds a lot better than take up your cross, die to self, be crucified with Christ, and so on. Unfortunately for people with this mindset, the first idea is not only non-Scriptural, it is just plain wrong. The second idea, which comes right from Scripture, is the truth.
Zechariah says in the first reading that there will be a fountain to purify from sin and uncleanness, but that fountain flows from the open Heart of Jesus. We can only be purified if we look upon Him Whom we have pierced. But this does not mean being a bystander. Only those close enough to have this saving stream wash them can be cleansed. That means only those who are at the Cross with Jesus, sharing with Him in the work of redemption as members of Christ, will be close enough to be washed. This is also our dignity that must be lived as members of Christ.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visitwww.thewandererpress.com.