Twelfth Sunday of the Year – June 23, 1974 – C.N.R.
The two New Testament readings today draw our attention to central features of our life as the Church. The reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians assigns our proper meaning as the Church, while the Gospel-reading opens onto our proper role as the Church in the world.
Whatever our origin, whatever our status, all of us, men and women, have become one new reality in Christ. The ground of our unity is twofold: faith and baptism. By faith we have been given to know the presence of God in Christ, to believe his word of God’s forgiveness, to open our eyes to the new universe created and illumined by God’s love. In our baptism we have been caught up into Christ’s life itself, to form something new, a community so centered upon him, so identified with his memory and alive with his hope that we are his Body, the prolonged presence of the truth and grace he himself embodied. That is, at any rate, what we are to be; but the description becomes itself judgment and challenge upon us, who so often permit ourselves to be uncentered from Christ and recentered in ourselves or in our fears and desires.
Not only do we thereby obscure the presence and power of God’s love among ourselves, we fail to be for the world what we are supposed to be. If we live by Christ, it is because we remember his death and resurrection and look forward to his presence, and out of this faith and hope, seek to embody his love now. That is what the Lord Jesus enjoins upon us in the last words of the Gospel-reading: “Whoever wishes to be my follower must deny his very self, take up his cross each day, and follow in my steps.” The chief law of God’s dealing with man is the law of incarnation, and there is no discipleship of Christ by mere word or rite, or symbolic gesture. It is only realized in flesh and blood. Taking up the cross behind Christ is not some tired resignation to an inevitable fate; it should be a commitment born out of the same center by which we identify ourselves. That is at once what the Church is and what it has to offer the world: a faith grounded in God’s love of us, a hope grounded in his promised presence, and a love that would die before becoming part of the cycle of evil.
There is not an awful lot about our culture and society that encourages such faith, hope and love; but there will be no meeting of their problems and no reversal of their evil unless something is brought to them which surpasses them. We are not gathering here, I hope, in flight from the world, but to realize again who we are and why we are that, and from our renewed communion in Christ to see the world again, and to love it, and to bring forth from God’s gift to us a new word and a new deed, not our own word and deed, but God’s, our part in his continuing work of creation and reconciliation. May this be the genuine reality of our prayer and celebration today.