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  • Father David M. Knight

Immersed in Christ: Saturday 6/24/17

June 24, 2017 (The Birthday of Saint John the Baptizer): Saturday, Week Eleven

Vigil readings: Jeremiah 1:4-10; 1Peter 1:8-12; Luke 1:5-17 (586)

(Day readings: Isaiah 49:1-6; Acts 13:22-26; Luke 1:57-66, 80)

The Responsorial (Psalm 71) invites us to hope in God’s strength for what we are called to do: “Since my

mother’s womb, you have been my strength.”

Christians minister authentically only as the body of Christ. At Mass we join Jesus in saying to the whole world, “This is my body, given up for you.” In this act we surrender our bodies to let Jesus, living within us, express himself with us, in us and through us to give his divine life to others.

This sounds presumptuous. Do we really believe Jesus himself is speaking and acting in us when we express our faith and love to others? Do we dare?

In Jeremiah 1:4-10: God says he has chosen Jeremiah and is sending him:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.

Jeremiah is afraid to accept the mission: “Ah, Lord, look! I do not know how to speak, I am a child.” But the Lord answers, “Do not say, ‘I am a child.’ Go now to those to whom I send you,… For I am with you… I am putting my words in your mouth.”

What Jesus says to us is stronger:

I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit…. You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last,

So every baptized member of the body of Christ is just as chosen, consecrated and sent as Jeremiah was. Why are we not aware of it? Paul was:

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God…. what Christ has accomplished through me.…[1]

The answer, in part, is that we were not properly catechized. This is no reflection on our teachers; four of the last popes have called for a “new evangelization,” meaning that they recognize we have not really heard the Good News. This is a problem in the whole Church, one that is being addressed and overcome. But we have to make it happen in and around us.

What Luke 1:5-17 says of John, “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit,” we must hear as spoken to us. Acts says it constantly of the early Christians.[2]

John was called to “bring back many to the Lord.” So are we. If we can’t believe this, how can we believe the mystery that by Baptism we “became Christ”? Or say with Paul, “it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.”[3]

We need to hear, ponder and believe the mystery of our Baptism. Then we will understand the mystery we celebrate in Eucharist. We will say with new meaning, “This is my body, given up…”

Now read 1Peter 1:8-12 in context:

You have been chosen, destined by God the Father, sanctified by the Spirit… You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, [sent to] proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.[4]

Initiative: Believe “all the things announced to you…through the Holy Spirit.”

Same Day: June 24, 2017: Saturday, Week Eleven

The Responsorial (Psalm 128) is an encouragement both to reverence God and to hope for great things from him: “See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.”

In Genesis 17: 1-22 God promises to make Abram (renamed Abraham) “the father of a host of nations.” And he promises to do this through Sarai (renamed Sarah), blessing her even more than Hagar in spite of her vindictiveness. He promises to give Abraham a son by her, although Abraham was ninety-nine years old and Sarah ninety! Understandably, they both laughed at the idea (Abraham in 17:17, Sarah in 18:12). So God told them to name the baby Isaac, which in Hebrew means “laughed.” Those who laugh last laugh best!

This is the first example of a principle God applies regularly: “The absence of a human cause is evidence of a divine cause.” Since it was impossible for Abraham and Sarah to conceive, their child had to be a special gift of God. Sampson, Samuel and John the Baptizer were conceived in the same way. So was Jesus, except even more so, since Mary remained a virgin. And when Jesus sent his disciples out on mission he instructed them to go without provisions, so that it would be evident they were relying on God — not just for their physical needs, but for the fruit of their ministry. “See how the Lord blesses those who fear him” — and rely on his power, not their own.[5]

Matthew 8: 1-4 is the first miracle Matthew records during Jesus’ ministry (although he refers to others 4:24), and some of its elements are typical. First, it is a response to the leper’s faith: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” Second, it involves physical contact with Jesus (although there are exceptions to this: see 8:8): “Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.” Third, Jesus cures without using any human means, by a simple word of command: “I do will it. Be made clean!” Finally, the physical cure is a sign of spiritual healing: “Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (as we are of sin).

Christian ministry has the same characteristics as Christ’s ministry. We try to alleviate physical and emotional distress, but as a sign of God’s love. Our ministry involves human presence to people: Jesus “touches” people in and through us, his body on earth. That is why we say with Jesus in the Eucharistic Prayer, “This is my body given up for you.” We pledge to use our bodies to give physical expression to the healing faith, hope and love within us. In this way we let Christ within us express his truth, his love to everyone we deal with.

Like Christ’s words and actions, our ministry is always an expression of and invitation to faith, and only a response of faith makes it fruitful. Finally, although we use human resources, we do not rely on them, and we refuse to give them priority. Our experience is and should be: “See how the Lord blesses those who fear him.”

Initiative: Be a priest. Rely on God, not on human resources.

[1] Romans 15:17-18.

[2] See Acts 2:4, 4:8,31, 7:55, 9:17, 13:9,52; Ephesians 5:18. See the “gift of the Spirit” in Acts 1:8, 2:38, 8:15, 19:1-6, Galatians 3:2, 1:14.

[3] Galatians 2:20; Catechism of the Catholic Church 795; 2Corinthians 11:10, 12:9, 13:3.

[4] 1Peter 1:2, 2:5-9.

[5] Judges 13:3; 1Samuel 1: 5-20; Luke 1:7, 34-35; Matthew 10: 9-10.

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