Friday, September 30, 2011

Homily 3: The Creed

Did you notice how the first reading talks about
Wisdom not just as a quality—but as if a person?

One of the things the Jewish people were thinking about,
just before Jesus came—when the Book of Wisdom was written--
was this idea that God’s truth is so powerful in the world
that the world can’t exist without God’s Wisdom holding it together.

Of course, when Jesus was born and he revealed to the Apostles
that God is a Trinity of Persons, this idea came to full flower.
So the Gospel of John tells us, Jesus is “the Word”—
the truth of God that spoke the universe into existence and holds it together.

What does that mean to us?

It means two things.

It means that the truth of who God is, and who we are in God, isn’t secret.
It’s been made known to us in Jesus Christ.

And more than that, our knowing God isn’t just knowing things about him,
but having a relationship with him: God dwells in us, in the Holy Spirit.

And the part of the Mass where we really delve into this Wisdom is the Creed.
Along with the rest of the Mass, it too has been newly translated.

Let’s turn to page 5 in those booklets, and take a look at some of the changes.

The first thing you’ll notice is we’ll now say “I believe,” not “we believe.”
Actually, both forms of the Creed come down to us
from the early Church. So why use “I”?

Well, because it emphasizes that while this Creed
isn’t just something we say together; it’s something each of us makes our own.

Then, scan down to where it says to bow.
Notice the wording changes to, “was
incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
This used to say, “was
born of the Virgin Mary.”

Why this change?

Well, this more accurately expresses what we believe.

The old version says Jesus became flesh—became human—when he was born;
but this is incorrect. We celebrate his becoming human
nine months before Christmas, at the Annunciation in March,
when he was conceived. That’s when he “became man.”

Now, let’s focus on a change that folks have wondered about.
Scan up a four lines, and you’ll see the word, “consubstantial.”
That replaces “one in being.”

Some object it’s a hard word to understand; but that can’t be helped:
it’s describing a reality that’s just as hard to understand.

Now what I’m going to say here is kind of heavy. Please bear with me.
This is one of the most profound mysteries of our Faith,
so it’s supposed to be hard stuff.

This Creed was adopted by the Council of Nicea in AD 325.
They had a particular thing they wanted to say about God’s true nature.
They prayed and debated over key words—and this was one of them.
The thing is, what they were trying to say is just doggone hard to say.

So why isn’t “one in being” good enough?
The problem isn’t that it’s false, but that it’s not precise.
It’s not a stretch to imagine two people: friends, lovers, spouses—
describing themselves as “being one” or “one in being.”

Consubstantial means something much more specific than that.
It means that what the Father is—as God—the Son is too.
But not two “substances”; but only one.

It’s describing a reality that only applies to God.

So, for example, two spouses become “one”—
but they don’t cease to be individual human beings, individual human souls.
They aren’t one in the way that only God, himself, can be “one.”

The bishops at the Council—struggling for the right word—
were trying to say this: whatever God is, there’s only one;
and the Son is that one and same reality.

The issue, back then, was whether Jesus is God.
And even if you call Jesus “God,” what do you mean?
Is he sort of God? Is he a kind of junior God?
Even to this day, a lot folks take “Son of God” to mean
that Jesus may not be quite as much God as the Father is.

For example, without thinking about it, folks might say, “God and Jesus.”

With this Creed, they wanted to make as clear as a bell
that Jesus truly, really and totally is God.
What the Father is, as God, the Son is too.
One and the same—to the nth degree.

OK, so what’s that mean to us?

It has to do with what our eternal hope is.
Paul told us in the second reading,
the goal of our Faith is to be with Jesus forever.

If Jesus is not God—why is he our hope?

If he is only near God—that means that’s as close as we’ll ever come.

But here’s the truth the Creed tells us:
When we become one with Christ through baptism,
and we stay with Christ through our life,
and we go to be with him in eternity,
our destination isn’t somewhere in the “neighborhood” of God.
We’re not going to be in the cheap seats!

Our future “home address” is the heart of the Son—
which is also the one and same heart of the Father.

Another practical application: for everyone who wonders
why we Catholics make such a huge deal about the Eucharist: here it is.

Our “communion”—union with—is with Jesus himself.
And this Creed tells us, that is also union with God the Father.
Every time we are at Mass, we are challenged to ask ourselves:
am I ready for this? Have I fasted?
Do I believe what the Church teaches me? Do I live as a Catholic?
Have I confessed my sins?
Am I at peace with my neighbors?

Am I ready to say, “I believe?”

No comments: