Sunday, February 19, 2012


It is now the second half of Feb.   Already most New Year’s resolutions have gone bust.  But not to worry, this Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, when we can once again screw up our resolve and commit to new projects:  perhaps giving up sweets – at least between meals - or going to weekday Mass once a week, or to be more patient and understanding, or for those seeking heroic virtue, to move all the way in to the center of the pew at Mass.  We will struggle for the 40 or so days of Lent to adhere to these commitments, and we will be glad when we sing again the Easter Alleluia so we can go back to our old, lazy, ways. 
            What is going on?   We know we should do some good thing, like lose weight, stop smoking, be more patient, pray more, etc.  We WANT to do that thing.  But even though we are committed, and we truly try, we are not 100% successful.  That is because we don’t have possession of ourselves to be able to do it.  Parts of our character, our personality, our personhood are NOT under our control.  We do not have full possession of our own selves.  We are not able to speak definitively of who we will be next year, or next month, or next week, or tomorrow or even a few hours from now.  We lack discipline, which is to say we are not in full possession of ourselves.
            Sometimes we try very hard to gather all we are and truly speak who we will be, truly posit ourselves a certain way in this life.  When two people marry each other, when a young man is ordained a priest, when adults are baptized, when we renew our Baptismal Promises each year at Easter, we summon up all of our commitment, all of our being, and say, YES, this is who I am.  The married couple say to each other, YES, I am for you for the rest of my life.  The newly ordained priest says, YES, I am for the service of the people of God for all of the rest of my life.  The parents and sponsors of an infant Baptism, the adults who will be Baptized at the Easter Vigil, all of us when we renew our Baptismal Promises, gather all that we are, we screw up our commitment and our resolve, and we give a resounding YES that this is our Faith, this is how we will act and believe and live in the world. 
            And we mean it.  But we all know that is not the end of the story.  As much as we try, there are little bits and pieces of our personality that are loose, that run wild, that have a mind of their own. 
Sometimes married couples get tired of each other, bored, upset with each other.  There are arguments and distance and coldness seeps in.  Sometimes priests lose their fervor, cut corners, start seeking more their own interests and comfort than that of the Lord’s flock.  Sometimes all the Baptized start making compromises to live in this world of sin rather than in the Kingdom of God.  Every day every one of us has to struggle to be true to our word, to our commitments, to our YES.
            Jesus also had to struggle.  But He was always, and is always, YESYES fully and completely to His Father, and YES fully and completely to each of us.  His love for you and for me is NOT partial, not compromised, not incomplete.  He is not 80% for each of us; not 90% for each of us; not even 99 and 44/100th % for us; but 100 COMPLETE, TOTAL, ABSOLUTE PERCENT for each and every one of us.  As we heard in our second reading today from St Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians: “For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was not "yes" and "no, " but "yes" has been in him.” 
            Jesus is in total and complete possession of Himself.  In Him there is no doubt, no misgivings, no hesitancy, no fear.  He gives Himself totally and absolutely to His Father in heaven, and in the exact same way He gives Himself totally and absolutely to us.  That is what we celebrate at each Mass in the Eucharist.  He gives us His Body and His Blood, in other words ALL of Himself, holding nothing back, in order to feed us and to save us.  He is all and absolute YES
            “For” as St Paul proclaims in our 2nd reading,  “however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him;”  And the promises of God are infinite and eternal, for the promise of God is nothing short of absolute, complete, eternal life with Him. 
            St. Paul states:  “The one who gives us security with you in Christ
and who anointed us is God;   he has also put his seal upon us
and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.” 
            God has put his seal on us.  In Texas we might say God has branded us.  This is a permanent, lasting, indelible mark.  It identifies us as God’s own, and under God’s protection.  If any evil spirit, or any persecution or doubt or misfortune messes with us, they have to answer to God.  This mark is permanent, more than any indelible marker can make them. 
This means that no matter what dirt, or filth or sin we try to hide and obscure this mark with, it will still be there just as clear and strong as ever, stating, THIS ONE BELONGS TO GOD.  Because this mark goes down to the very tips of the roots of our identity, our sense of who we are.  We are children of God.
            St. Paul says:  “God has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.”  The seal is the Gift of the Spirit that we receive in Confirmation.  Well, the Holy Spirit that we are sealed with is the LOVE that is breathed forth – or “aspirated” -  between the Father and Son in the inner life of the Holy Trinity.  This gift of the Holy Spirit pulls us into the very inner life of God.  This is a “first installment”, a pledge, a guarantee of the fullness of God’s life and love that we will enjoy for all eternity in heaven.  That is what redemption, what salvation, is all about.  That is our hope.
            We struggle to say YES to God’s invitation to be God’s children.  But God in Jesus is always, always, always YES.  So our hope is not on our ability to respond, but rather on God’s irrepressible invitation.  “For however many are the promises of God, their Yes is in him;  therefore, the Amen from us also goes through him to God for glory.”  Amen?  AMEN!!!

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