Sunday, January 28, 2018

Our true identity as the Church (Sunday homily)

The readings give us an opportunity to talk about what a prophet is.
But stay tuned – it’s also about who we are.

In the first reading, when Moses says a “prophet” 
would come after him, this doesn’t refer only to one person, but many. 

Look all through the Old Testament: 
you will find one figure after another 
to whom God gave the gifts and inspiration necessary 
for them to lead his people forward. 

Now, there are a couple of things to notice about all those figures. 
First, they didn’t all make good use of the gifts God gave them. 
One of the really tragic figures is Samson. 
He was given spiritual gifts of wisdom, and physical strength, 
which he squandered.
Or there is King David, who also made terrible mistakes,
but also showed great repentance.

The other thing to realize is that all these Old Testament figures 
foreshadow the final prophet and king, our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Notice the Gospel shows us something 
you never saw anywhere before in Scripture. 
None of the Old Testament prophets 
ever exercised authority over demons. 

Only Jesus Christ does this. 
It’s a powerful sign that he is, of course, 
more than just a prophet, but God himself, become man.

After Jesus comes, something else changes. 
There are no more prophets.
Instead, the Lord calls the Apostles; 
and they are the foundation of the Church.

They go out in his name and – notice – 
Apostles do have authority over demons.
To this day, this is an attribute of the Church.
Christ gave his Church authority over evil.
It’s one of the proofs of who and what the Church is: 
The Body of Christ, the Voice of Christ, on earth.

Now, when I talk about power evil, I don’t just mean exorcism, 
which the entertainment industry finds so fascinating. 

Baptism is an exorcism: did you realize that?
Baptism casts out evil and welcomes in the Holy Spirit.

Likewise, going to confession. 

And when we use holy water, that’s a prayer against evil. 
And recall what we pray after each Mass: 
asking Saint Michael to cast down “Satan, and all evil spirits.” 
Indeed, all our prayer is rooted in this power 
that belongs to us as members of Christ.
There is a Protestant hymn 
that talks about “power in the Blood of Christ.” It’s true!

And there is also power in the Name of Jesus.
That’s why the devil wants us to misuse Jesus’ Name; 
to take what is precious and mighty and cast it aside as if it is nothing. 

This shows us who we are, as Christians, in the world. 
When Moses spoke to the people, 
he spoke about “a” prophet in their midst. 
And we believe that this was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

But realize that Jesus’ presence on earth, by his design, 
continues in the Church – which we call the Body of Christ.

Look again at what happens in baptism. 
The person baptized is anointed with chrism, 
and the prayer talks about how we receive a share 
in Jesus’ identity as priest, prophet and king.

Every one of us has a share in that. We’re a mighty force! 

We’re tempted to think we don’t make enough of a difference. 
On one level, that’s true, 
because so many Christians don’t realize who they are. 
We don’t live in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Now, if you hear me saying that, and you think, 
OK, but how do I live in the power of the Holy Spirit? What do I do?

My answer may surprise you, but it’s actually really simple:
Go to confession. Go soon, and go regularly.
Go, not only to have your sins forgiven – great as that is!
But go also to chart a new path.

Confession does two things for us: take away all our sins. 
And I do mean “all”! 
And, second, confession gives us the grace to change.

A lot of people will say, but I don’t feel like I’m changing.
The thing is, change is hard, and usually, slow. 
And in our modern age, you and I don’t want either hard or slow. 
We want “click” and “now”!
But if you make frequent use of confession, 
and if you go with a true desire to change, you will change.
But it will probably be painful and costly,
And it will require patience and perseverance.
And that is the process of letting the Holy Spirit be in charge. 

So to return to my main theme, 
about the true identity of the Church; 
that we are Christ’s Presence on earth; 
we have authority, in his name, to defeat evil.

Remember that any time you feel overpowered or discouraged.

Remember that when you are tempted to sin. Christ needs you!

Whether we face opposition for doing what is right, 
or we are tempted to give up, 
I think the right response is what Jesus says in the Gospel: 
Shut up, devil, and get out of the way!

God didn’t give us the power of the Holy Spirit to be passive,
but to make a difference. 

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