Friday, October 9, 2015

Year I Twenty-seventh Friday in Ordinary Time

Readings Joel 1:13-15. 2:1-2; Ps 9:2-3.8(16).8-9; Luke 11:15-26

Today’s first reading, from the Book of the Prophet Joel, sounds a little scary. In this passage Joel, who was a prophet in Israel before the time of Jesus, is calling the priests of Israel to repentance, to return to God, to be faithful to their covenant with God.

A covenant is simply a solemn, binding, and formal agreement entered into by two parties. The covenant between God and Israel is simple: “I will be your God and you will be my people” (Ex 6:7). God said to Israel through another prophet, Jeremiah, “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.” (Jer 7:23). Through Joel, God is only asking Israel to keep their end of the covenant.

You entered into God’s covenant when you were baptized. You entered into this covenant with God through Jesus Christ. This covenant was ratified, or made official, by the Holy Spirit. This is true even if you were baptized when you were a baby. If you were baptized as a baby your parents and godparents made very solemn promises to do everything in their power to raise you to practice our Christian faith and to “keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us, by loving God and our neighbor.” This covenant is renewed when you are confirmed and, not just at your First Holy Communion, but every time you receive communion, including this morning.

In Holy Communion the Lord gives Himself to us whole and entire. In return, He invites us to offer ourselves to Him completely. When we say “Amen” before we receive Christ's Body and Blood we are telling the Lord that we are for Him, not against Him, that we are committed to do His will in loving response to His great love for us, which He poured out on the Cross.

If we’re honest with ourselves, we recognize that we sometimes, perhaps even often, fail to keep our part of the covenant. Confession is where you go to repent in just the way Joel is calling on the priests of Israel to repent in our first reading. You may be saying, “I am not a priest. Why does that apply to me?” It applies to everyone who is baptized because, by our baptism, we are made members of God’s prophetic, royal, and priestly people.

In today’s Gospel Jesus explains that it is impossible to cast out evil spirits in the name of the devil. He reasons that if the devil casts out demons by his own power he would undermine his on-going efforts to separate people and the world from God. Jesus tells those who question His power, “But if it is by the finger of God that I drive out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you (Luke 11:20). We know that Jesus did what He did by the power of God because Jesus is God and so the Kingdom of God is now at hand. Christ’s continues His presence in the world by means of the Church, which includes us.

In the creed, which we recite every Sunday and on solemnities, we say of Jesus that “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” This is an article of our faith. In St John’s Gospel Jesus says something very much like what God said through Jeremiah: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus gave us two great commandments- to love God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength; to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt 22:37-40; Luke 10:27). This is how we are for Jesus and not against Him.

When we’re sent forth at the end of this Mass we are sent forth to keep these commandments, but we do so, not because we are scared of God, but because we know God loves us and we want to love Him in return. Jesus is the proof of God’s love. There is no way Jesus loves us more than by giving Himself to us in Holy Communion. This morning let us come forward and renew our covenant with God through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.

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