As per usual I have recorded the homily and you can hear it here.
Unless you never look at the news or have been living in an enclosed monastery until today you will probably be sick to the back teeth of American politics at this stage. Most disturbing is all the talk of ‘fake news’ as if we had any real way of checking how true the news is. There are seven billion people living on the Earth today and with that many people lots of interesting things happen but the RTE main evening news only lasts half an hour including the weather forecast and the adverts. All our news is filtered and all of it is filtered by a tiny group of people. It is they who get to decide what we hear and see. There has always been fake news since the devil tempted Adam and Eve and lied to them in the garden. He has added to his lies over the millennia. How are we to know the truth then? Might I suggest that he is a credible witness who is prepared to die for the truth.
John the Forerunner, 25 x 20 cm, Maria Bonef, 2007
Is John the Baptist a credible witness? Is his news worth listening to? Would you listen to John if he were preaching today? A man who wears camel skins and eats insects? Why should we listen to him? I say we listen to John because he put his money where his mouth was, he paid for his ministry with his life. The extraordinary thing is that while the Church calls John a martyr he did not die for witnessing to Jesus, at least not explicitly, but for witnessing to the sacredness of marriage and the evil of fornication and adultery. In this he affirmed what our Lord was teaching just as he affirmed who Jesus is.
John, as a good disciple and a good Jew, testifies to Jesus but although he was his cousin he did not know Him as God before Jesus came to him to be baptised. It was at Christ’s baptism that Jesus’ true identity was revealed to John. John, because of his fidelity, was given a vision of the Holy Trinity and therefore an insight into who Jesus is. The baptism offered by John was not sacramental but merely symbolic of our need and desire for repentance and conversion of life. Christ had no need of baptism but by submitting to John’s baptism, in an act of humility, He identifies Himself with all of us who do need to repent and to be saved. The word ‘baptise’ means to immerse and so our Lord, by the act of submitting to baptism, immerses Himself in the waters of the world and thus sanctifies all water and lays the foundation for the Sacrament of Baptism by which we are immersed into Christ and into His death and resurrection.
Our Lord’s act of humility draws down the loving care of the Father who reveals to John that He sends the Holy Spirit upon our Lord as His Son or rather makes the eternal movement of the Spirit from the Father to the Son visible to John, and so affirm our Lord’s identity and mission. It is into this eternal movement of love that we are baptized for what Christ is by nature we are given by His gift and we become Son to the Father.
To be Catholic, therefore, is to be the beneficiaries of this extraordinary gift and privilege. We are given so much and so little is asked of us in return. God the Father has given us His Son, has made us equal to the Son through baptism. He created us for Him and even though we have fallen into sin He has not abandoned us but sent His Son to us, as one of us, fully human, to make in Himself a bridge that we might be united with Him forever.
We talk of the ‘love’ of God for us and what a pathetic expression that is for it cannot begin to do justice to what God has willed for us. God has held nothing back from us in giving us His Son. He has offered us what is most precious to Himself, He is really and truly made present in every Mass, is in every tabernacle in every Catholic church, and we can receive Him every day if we wish and are in a state of grace. All this for free. We can see God here under the veil of bread and wine, hidden to our sense but visible to our faith.
Crucifixion by Ekaterina and Anton Daineko
God has held nothing back so why are we so cold, so lacking in charity? I suggest it is because we hear and then we forget. We do not protect the candle of our faith from the winds of disbelief. We let the fake news of the world drown out the good news of what God has done for us. How many hours have we given to radio and TV listening to or watching rubbish and how many minutes to the Lord in prayer and reading? How often are we late for Mass or arrive rushed and distracted with no time to slow down and focus on what we are about to do? How often do we rush away from Mass, having received Christ in Holy Communion, with hardly a prayer of thanks? St John Vianney, patron of priests, said that the most important moments of the day are those fifteen minutes after Holy Communion when we are as close to Christ as we will ever get in this world. He said that if you want to become a saint give that time to Christ in thanksgiving and adoration! Cherish and meditate on what God has done for you and you will be drawn ever closer to His Heart and you will know His loving care for you.
As Catholics we are called to be martyrs. The word martyr means a ‘witness’. Unlike in Islam one cannot be a witness, a martyr, by killing anyone. The only way to be a Catholic martyr is to witness with one’s life to the truth of Christ, to stand up for the truth even if it costs one’s life. All the saints are martyrs, but though not all of them had to die for Christ, all of them lived for and witnessed to Him. They did so because they listened and believed, they paid attention to Him and discovered His Presence and His love.
If we give time to Christ we will find the power to really love and forgive others, to walk the extra mile, to turn the other cheek perhaps even the courage and strength to die for Him. In getting closer to Christ and what He has done for us we will discover the joy of the Lord and what it means to be truly alive. We will taste Heaven in this live and gain it in the next.