Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sunday 14: Christ's power as prophet is always present in His Church with the weakness of his human nature

Believers cannot pick their favorite "part" of Jesus Christ. We cannot love Him as God but reject Him as man, and we cannot prefer and focus on his human nature while neglecting His divinity. We must love and worship the whole Christ or we do not love Him at all.

Throughout history men and women have struggled to love God. Jesus Christ was not accepted in his home town: "Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?" said the people who knew Him from His youth. It was not easy for them to put together both parts: the part of Jesus they could see and hear and the aspect of Jesus that He presented to them with His words of prophecy: "The Father and I are one". And as a result many rejected Him.

In the history of the Church we find the same experience recurs over and over. The Christological controversies that gave rise to the Councils and the teachings on the human and divine natures of Christ are another expression of this same struggle to believe all that God reveals.

What can these facts from history teach us about our own story of faith? Our own flesh sometimes serves as a scandal: just as some doubted that God could be present in the flesh of Jesus Christ, so today we struggle to believe that Jesus Christ can be incarnated again sacramentally through the flesh of men and women in the Church.

But the flesh is the "hinge of salvation".

"The flesh is the hinge of salvation" (Tertullian, De res. 8, 2: PL 2, 852). We believe in God who is creator of the flesh; we believe in the Word made flesh in order to redeem the flesh; we believe in the resurrection of the flesh, the fulfillment of both the creation and the redemption of the flesh. (CCC 1015)

The flesh is weak. In the early centuries of the Church there were many Christians who fell away from the Faith when tested. They were told all that they were required to do was put some incense on a brazier to worship the false gods of the Romans and they would be spared a martyr's death and all too many took the Romans up on this offer, committing the sin of apostasy. We forget about this part of the story, or imagine it did not happen because, rightly enough, we hear much about the deeds of the Roman martyrs but we will never hear the stories of those who betrayed Jesus Christ and in our human weakness we presume it didn't happen. But it did. And it happens still today.

You see, Jesus Christ says He is present in the least among us. This group includes the unborn child. Sometimes all that we have to do is go into a voting booth, in complete privacy, and throw the switch to vote for someone who uses even the power of the highest of elected offices to promote through personal and vocal support, advance through appointed co-workers, support financially and fund through mandated taxes the killing of unborn children when we had a morally acceptable alternative and no one ever knows that we cooperated in a moral evil. Except God. And ourselves.

The real tragedy here is that the privacy given to voters should be seen as a protection for doing the good, the right thing, but the recent history of our weak human nature demonstrates that all too often even Catholic Christians have acted in such a way as to worship the false gods of the economy or of the dream of having a president who looks different than all the other presidents we have had or of saying that human sacrifice is ever necessary for some lesser moral good, even for a bit of food on the table.

But we are responsible, even in our weakness, for knowing and doing what is right. Saint Paul tells us of the promise of God that we may do what is right at all times: "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

And, if the time should come that we are ridiculed or rejected for doing what is holy and right in solidarity with Jesus Christ and with Saint Paul we too say,

"I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses,
in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me.
Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and constraints,
for the sake of Christ;
for when I am weak, then I am strong."

At this Mass today Jesus Christ will become present again for you and for me as he was for the villagers of the town where He was born and we will be free to accept or to reject Him as they did. And we will come forward in procession to see Him present under the sign of bread but knowing through the power of Faith that He gives Himself thus as God. Our act of receiving Him in this way will be a sign that we accept all His teachings and commandments as our own way of life.

And we will remember that His power is given to us in the Eucharist that our weakness may be the strength of Faith by which we say "Amen", "I believe", and that we may then go forth to act as believers in all that we do for His sake.

Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever.


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