2 Chronicles 36:14-16,19-23
Today in the Gospel we hear one of the most beloved affirmations of God caring for the human race.
God loves the world so much he gave his Son to die on the cross so that those who believe in the crucified Son of God may have eternal life.
What do we believe about the crucifixion of the Son of God?
The cross is condemnation that the Son of God carries away on his own back so that the world may live forever rather than die from the condemnation that sin itself always contains.
The Son of God and his cross are also a light showing whether our works, or chosen actions, are wicked or godly.
The Gospel today warns about our works, our chosen actions.
Are they wicked, or are they for God?
Today in the Chronicles as well, God reminds us that wicked works won a wicked punishment— the complete loss of God’s Sacred Temple, the Holy City and the Blessed Land of the Promise.
Strangely, God also tells us in the Chronicles that he set up Cyrus, a pagan king of a pagan land, to send the people of God back from exile, back to the Promised Land and Jerusalem, to build their lives sincerely around God again, living and working with full awareness that God was truly in their midst.
Today we also hear God teach us through the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians.
There, God shines light on some of the special corners inside a kind of house called “works”.
We are the works of God.
He created us.
Furthermore, he tells us that he has prepared good works in advance for us to live in as in a house.
The good works that we do are a home of grace that God has built in advance for us.
IT BELONGS TO US FREELY TO CHOOSE— OR NOT CHOOSE— TO LIVE INSIDE THE HOME OF GOOD WORKS THAT GOD HAS GRACIOUSLY BUILT FOR US IN ADVANCE.
We are free to choose to live another way and elsewhere.
God alone gives the entire possibility and the entire ability to live inside the home of grace that he has built for us.
Yet he leaves entirely to us the choice of living there or not.
This home of grace that God offers to us is Christ himself.
Christ is the place, the event and the person in whom both God and the human race live.
Today and every Sunday in the Creed at Mass, we call Christ “True God” who “came down from heaven … and became man.”
Christ is both God and humanity living in one place, one event, one life, one person … one house.
Does the death of Christ on the cross represent a murderous divide between God and the human race, a collapsed marriage, a ruined home?
The death of Christ on the cross is the mountaintop event of God and humanity remaining faithful to each other even unto the sharing of death.
YET THE HOUSE— THE MOUNTAIN— IS STILL HIGHER THAN THAT.
The resurrection of Christ from the dead is God and humanity united to each other in a fidelity that both conquers death and cannot ever die again.
THAT is the good work that God has prepared in advance as a home to share with us.
Cyrus, an ancient pagan king of Persia, served as a prophet— without knowing it— served as a mouthpiece of Christ who is God the Word promising of old that he would build a house in Jerusalem where God and humanity would together rise from death in an unbreakable communion.
“[My Father…] the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem….”
The resurrection is the house of grace that God has built in advance for us to live with him.
That house— all the grace of the resurrection and the immortal communion of God with humanity— is present in the Eucharist.
Call it a sacrament— a sign and instrument.
Call it a house— a house of grace.
Call it BETHLEHEM, which means in Hebrew, “House of Bread,” where God was born in communion with humanity.
Call it what it is, “The Body and Blood of Christ— Amen”.
Call it EMMANUEL, which means in Hebrew, “God-with-Us”— and God has fulfilled it by being “God-with-Us” ALL THE WAY to death, PAST death and into resurrection.
Every possibility and every ability to live in communion with God belongs to us because God lived, and gave, and forgave, and worked, and suffered, and died and rose to make it so.
He did it in Jerusalem, which means in Hebrew, “Vision of Peace.”
In the Eucharist, we eat, drink and see the peace in which God embraces the human race, making it entirely possible for us to embrace God by the lives we freely choose to live.
Each of us is a Holy City that God is building— a Holy City where God receives praise and enjoys with us the vision of our own peace, joy and freedom.
God has made it entirely possible.
It’s our turn entirely.
Mass for the Scrutiny of Catechumens on the Fourth Sunday of Lent
1 Samuel 16:1b,6-7,10-13a
Today we witnessed God sending the prophet Samuel to pour holy oil on the young man David.
This holy oil of anointing changed David, because “from that day on, the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”
The Spirit of God rushed upon David through a prophet pouring holy oil.
In his Gospel today, the Lord does something similar for a man born blind.
However, instead of anointing the blind man with holy oil, the Lord spits in the dirt, makes mud out of it, rubs it onto the blind man’s eyes and sends him to wash it off.
The blind man goes to wash, and TWO— not one— TWO changes happen for him.
First change: he begins to see for the first time in his life.
Second change: faith and worship.
Jesus goes looking for the man who can now see.
He finds him and asks,
“Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
The man with newborn eyes answers,
“Who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?”
Jesus says to him,
“You are seeing him, and the one speaking with you is he.”
The man says to Jesus,
“I do believe, Lord,”
and he throws himself down in worship at the feet of Jesus.
First change: a blind man begins to see.
Second change: he has faith in Jesus and he worships him.
The prophet Samuel anointed young David, changing him by pouring oil on him, and “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David.”
We see Jesus anoint a blind man with muddy spit and send him to wash.
When the man receives his sight, meets Jesus, believes in him and worships him, we know that the Spirit has rushed upon that man.
Like this man with new sight, if we believe in Christ the Son of God and are here now truly to humble ourselves in the worship of Christ and his Father, then their Holy Spirit has also now rushed upon us.
Our believing in Christ comes from the Spirit at work within us.
Honest worship of Christ also comes from the Spirit at work within us.
When our daily lives reflect faith in Christ, and when our daily lives give honor to Christ, it is because we have cooperated with the work of the Spirit that God has poured out upon us.
We heard today what St. Paul wrote about our passing from the blindness of sin into a life of light, faith and worship as the children of God.
Brothers and sisters:
You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.
Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.
The power of God’s Spirit takes us out of the darkness of sin, and gives us birth in the light that shines on us from the Father’s eyes.
The Spirit of God rushed upon David though holy oil that a prophet poured on David.
The Spirit brought a blind man to sight, faith and worship through spit and mud that Jesus made and washing that Jesus ordered.
In the sacraments of baptismal washing, confirming oil of anointing and the Eucharistic Food and Drink, Jesus the Son of God comes to us and touches us.
In these sacraments, the Spirit rushes and works on us.
In these sacraments, God the Father gives us new birth as his children
The signs that all this has taken place are very simple:
our faith in the Father and the Son and the Spirit;
our worship of the Father and the Son and the Spirit.
We must work so that our daily lives show that we believe in God and honor him.
However, when we fail to live out our faith, and when our actions dishonor God, we have another sacrament that renews our faith and turns us around to face the light of God who forgives his children.
Remember: when Jesus first began to preach, he said, “REPENT … and believe in the Gospel!”
He did not just say, “Believe in the Gospel!”
He said, “REPENT … and believe in the Gospel!”
Repentance is the door of faith.
Repentance is the doorway for the Spirit who brings and strengthens faith.
When we confess our sins in the sacrament of Penance, we are letting Jesus smear mud on our sins and send us the Spirit in which God bathes his children.
If Jesus can use even spit and mud to bring sight, faith, and the Spirit to a blind man, then he can use spit and mud— OR EVEN A PRIEST— to bring the Spirit and to forgive sins.
We see such a commission on the day Jesus rose from the dead, when he breathed the Spirit onto the apostles and said to them:
Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.
Brothers and sisters, we must always repent of sin.
We must do penance.
We must receive the sacraments.
In this way, renewal and strength increase our faith that the Son of God is with us, that the Spirit of God is upon us, and that God the Father has already made us his children.
Believe in the Gospel!
Give glory to God!
We are about to receive not just a prophet, not just holy oil, not spit or mud or cleansing water.
We are about to receive God the Son in his own Flesh and Blood that cause the Spirit of God our Father to rush upon us.
Let us repent.
Let us believe.
Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.