If we listen carefully to the scriptures today, I think we will discover what it really means to like a holy life, what it really means to follow God's law, and through that law, to become holy. I remember back in the seminary, for 12 years, I was taught to follow the rule. They had a rule that guided our day in all its details. Just follow the rule, and you will become holy. We were taught the rule expresses the rule of God, so all you have to do is follow that and you will become holy.
The Peace Pulpit
As I mentioned at the beginning of the reading of the Gospel, this concludes a series of five Gospels that we've had now where Jesus started by first performing what John calls a sign, a sign that John at the conclusion of this Gospel says, "There were many of these signs given that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God." So this extraordinary event that took place in the desert was a sign of who Jesus really is.
In one of his letters, St. Paul, in reflecting about his own mortality and the possibility that he would soon die, proclaimed his belief that he would never really die. He said, "I live now, no longer I, but Christ who lives in me." These are words that I hope we will take to heart and make our own, especially as we reflect on these scripture lessons of today, and that we will leave this church understanding that each of us lives now, no longer I but Jesus living in me, now and forever.
As we listen to the first lesson this morning, we could easily have been impressed -- and I think should have been impressed -- by how God was careful to watch over the prophet Elijah. We can consider this lesson perhaps as a prefiguring of what Jesus does in the Gospel. God nurtures and feeds God's people, but this is even more of a revelation of that. It's not just a prefiguring of the Gospel. This incident is a way of showing who God is that is very clear, reassuring and consoling for us.
What shall we do? What are the works that God wants us to do? This question is supremely important, as you might imagine, trying to know what God wants us to do, and as we listen to our scriptures today, I think we will find clearly what God wants us to do, and then we must pray that we respond and do the works God wants.
Now when we take a few moments to reflect on the scripture lessons today, to try to listen together to this word of God and let it enter into our minds, our hearts, our spirit, and transform us, we must first of all remind ourselves of something about the Gospels -- they are not biographies. They are not historians sitting down to write the facts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Rather, they are theological reflections.
Every Sunday, if we listen carefully to the readings and sacred scripture, we will find a way that they impinge on our lives to give us guidance in the circumstances in which we live. I think it's quite extraordinary how the lessons today speak to us in a very particular way about the terrible experience that just happened to us and that terrible incident in Colorado that took place on Friday of this week.
Most of us probably do not remember our Baptism because, of course, we were almost all of us infants when we were baptized, but there is a very important part of that ceremony of Baptism that we should reflect on regularly. After the priest has poured the water on the person to be baptized, and through that beautiful symbol has taken that person through being buried in the death of Jesus, and rising to new life in Jesus, after that the priest, deacon or minister anoints the person with holy chrism, and says, “As Jesus was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so may you live always as a member of His body.”
In order to give a little bit more context to a reflection on our scripture passages of today, I will share with you one other very short passage from the first letter of St. John, a passage with which we're all familiar. John tells us, "My dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God because God is love. The one who lives in love, lives in God and God lives in them."
Two people were confirmed during the Mass from which this homily is taken.
Of course, as always, we need to reflect on the scriptures every Sunday, because it's a way of our growing and our understanding of our faith and our relationship with God. When we do that, we want to make sure that we do it within the framework of what we are celebrating. Today, we listen to the scripture in a special way to see how these scriptures teach us something about our lives as baptized and confirmed disciples of Jesus.