Homily – January 1st, 2012
NEW YEAR’S DAY 2012
Billboards around the United States were predicting that the end of the world would occur on the twenty-first of May. Those billboard signs read in this fashion: “Judgment Day is May 21, 2011. Cry mightily unto God.” Behind the campaign was an evangelist who founded Family Radio in Oakland, California. “There’s going to be a big earthquake,” he said, “that will make the one in Japan seem like a Sunday school picnic.” He added that May 21 is only the beginning of the end; “the earth and universe will be completely destroyed five months later on October 21, 2011.” This evangelist cited Matthew 24:36.
Such predictions and billboards occur from time to time. Perhaps these predictions represent some yearning in us that suggests the wondrous event which St. Paul describes as has happened when the second person of the Trinity became man. “But when the time had fully come,” writes Paul in today’s passage from Galatians, “God sent forth his Son…so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).
Ages had passed since the events imagined in the Book of Genesis. The evolutionists and the paleontologists endeavor to unlock in a scientific manner the sequence of happenings since the Big Bang of eons ago. But when time elapsed and our ancestors reached a level of development, when the chosen people recognized and honored one God, when the Mosaic Law had effected a sense of true faith and religious belief, then the “time had fully come; God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” Ecclesiastes puts it poetically.
There is an appointed time for everything,
And a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die….(Ecclesiastes 3:1-2).
At this time, when God sends His Son to become human, what all happens? What essentially occurs, and how are humans changed?
In the first place, God sends. The creator of the universe commissions one like Himself to speak of divine reality. “In times past,” says the Letter to the Hebrews, “God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, [God] spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe, who is the refulgence of his glory, the very imprint of his being, and who sustains all things by his mighty word” (1:1-3).
Saint John makes explicit this event. “And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Saint Paul in his Letter to the Galatians testifies that the announcement of this mystery does not come from philosophical or from theological discussion. This announcement comes from the preaching of the apostles. They announce what they have heard and witnessed and experienced in Jesus Christ.
In the second place, we recognize a change in the human condition, for the Lord is among us. By taking flesh, the Son of God partakes fully in the human condition, subject to the same constraints as any human. Mary is His mother; He was born in Bethlehem in lowly circumstance. After eight days, Joseph and Mary took this infant to the temple in Jerusalem where he was circumcised according to the Mosaic practice. He grew to maturity in Nazareth. We affirm this when we speak the Creed: “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.”
In the next place, we perceive the consequences of this event. With Saint Paul, we realize that we “are no longer a slave” but a son! As sons and daughters, we are heirs of God’s kingdom.
We might turn to the fiction of Harriet Beecher Stowe in the novel that was one immediate cause of our Civil War. In Uncle Tom’s Cabin
we read of George Harris and his wife Eliza. Both are slaves in Kentucky, and both separately elect to run north, hoping to escape to Canada, the free country. Eliza especially fears that she will be sold down the Mississippi River and parted from her small child Harry. So that fateful night, under cover of darkness, she snatches up little Harry and flees north, away from slavery, away from the situation of being separated and sold as individual chattel. She risks her child’s life and her own life in the desperate gamble for freedom.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a sentimental novel of 1852, sparked the abolitionist cause and attained wide distribution in the United States. It graphically portrays the terrible situation of being a slave. By Christ becoming human, He has freed us from slavery to our passions.
A further consequence of Christ becoming human is that “God has sent forth into our hearts the spirit of his Son which cries out “Abba!” We Christians address God as “Abba,” as Father. This mode of address comes from Christ who taught us to pray the “Our Father.” This prayer differentiates Christians from those who know not Christ. This prayer flows in us from the Spirit, prompted by the Spirit.
Proclaimed on the first day of the New Year and in the light of Christmas, this text from Paul’s Letter to the Galatians reminds us of our greatness as free sons and daughters of God. We do not foresee if this New Year will bring us earthly fatality or fortune. Importantly, however, we seek to realize, each day, our kinship with our God, to ennoble ourselves as heirs of God.