Chosen to be holy and spotless in Christ

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Think of all the problems we have in the world. Why? Because we do not pay heed to the Word of God. Or, to put it another way, there are so many problems because none of us has yet become the fullness of whom we are called to be by God if we have not yet allowed God’s graces to come to full flower in our lives. Our Christian calling is to allow ourselves be transformed by the Word of God to become more and more an image of God (Gen 1:26), to live God’s message so fully in our lives that we could be said to be examples of what Jesus means by the kingdom of God.

When we hear the Word of God we have a choice, to allow it to transform us or to reject the Word and go our own way. In our first reading today (Amos 7:12-15) Amaziah rejected the Word of God preached through the prophet Amos. In the Gospel today (Mark 6:7-13) when Jesus sent out the Twelve he prepared them for the fact that not everyone would accept them or their message when he said they were to shake off the dust from their feet when leaving any town that did not make them welcome (Mark 6:11). Why would anyone reject the Word of God? The Word of God is Good News; it is make our lives better, so why would anyone reject it? When the Word of God challenges us, when the Word of God invites us to leave sin behind and change our lives, no one likes that. In Heb 4:12-13 we read,

“The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts like any double-edged sword but more finely: it can slip through the place where the soul is divided from the spirit, or joints from the marrow; it can judge the secret emotions and thoughts. No created thing can hide from him; everything is uncovered and open to the eyes of the one to whom we must give account of ourselves.”

When the Word of God acts as a mirror and shows us that not everything in our lives is as it should, that is when we may be tempted to turn our backs on the Word of God. We all know why John the Baptist was beheaded, because Herodias rejected the word John the Baptist preached about marriage. God help us if we reject God’s word because if we reject God or his word we will in fact be worse off and eventually have to do a C turn back again. Sin is great fun at the time but sin will have to be repented of eventually, if not in this life, then in the next.

Our calling is to allow ourselves be transformed by the Word of God and when we do what a blessing life becomes for us. In our Gospel we see some people blessed by submitting to and accepting the word of God when the apostles “cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.” (Mark 6:13) We see especially in one person in the New Testament who allowed himself to be transformed by the word of God that it brought him the greatest of blessings. I am thinking of St. Paul. He went from rejecting and persecuting the word to preaching the word. We could probably describe him in his early days, when he was still Saul, as a terrorist. After he watched the stoning of Stephen, Acts 8:3 tells us,

“Saul then worked for the total destruction of the Church; he went from house to house arresting both men and women and sending them to prison.”

But what a total change Saul underwent as he became Paul and he wrote in Gal 2:19-20,

“I have been crucified with Christ, and I live now not my own life but the life of Christ who lives in me.”

In Phil 1:21 Paul wrote, “Life to me, of course, is Christ.” Later in Phil 3:8-9 he wrote,

“I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ and be given a place in him.”

What a transformation Paul underwent from Saul to Paul. Before undergoing this transformation Paul received a special revelation from heaven on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). For the first time in his life he saw who Christ was and that Jesus was the promised Messiah. Before that time he had been kicking against the word of God. In Acts 26:14 these are the words of Jesus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goad.” Paul went from kicking against the word of God to preaching the word of God. When Paul was kicking against the word of God he didn’t even know he was kicking against the word of God. He was convinced he was right. That begs the question, “Could we too in any way be kicking against the word of God without even knowing it?” No wonder it is said that to get to know God better we also need to get to know ourselves better. If we are insensitive we may well have closed part of our lives to God.

I see our first reading and part of our Gospel today calling us to repentance. I think we could say that since the time of the flood there has never been a time when we have kicked against the word of God as much as we are doing now, there has never been a time with as much sin as now. If we are proud we will say we have no sins and we’re okay but if we have humility we will see into the depths of our soul and recognize our poverty before God and our need of his redemption and salvation and healing. Jesus is always waiting to respond to us, to make us new and whole. Remember the words of our second reading, the Father has

“blessed us with all the spiritual blessings of heaven in Christ.
Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ,
To be holy and spotless and to live through love in his presence.” (Eph 1:3-5)

We pray for the grace to respond to God’s word in humility and lay aside any pride so that whatever of Saul still remains in us may be transformed into Paul. We pray that if in any way we are kicking against the word we may be transformed to be able to say, “I live now not my own life but the life of Christ who lives in me.” (Gal 2:20) We pray in the words of the second reading today that we may be holy and spotless and live through love in God’s presence (Eph 1:4-5).

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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