Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Grace of God

(Baptism of the Lord, C)

In the second reading from the letter of Paul to Titus we hear a simple proclamation of Christmas: “The grace of God has appeared.” This is also the second reading from the Mass of Christmas night, and so this announcement of grace brackets the whole Christmas season. Today’s feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a great revelation of this grace and the good news of how we can come to live in it.

First, let us remind ourselves what we mean by ‘grace.’ In our Christian life we talk about the grace of God all the time, so it’s good to review what we mean by the term. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives this definition: “Grace is a participation in the life of God.” (§1997) Grace is our sharing in the divine life of God; grace is the name we give to the work and presence of God when it comes to dwell in us. Most simply, grace is God when God is with us and in us.

Jesus Christ is ‘God with us.’ As we sang all through Advent: O Come, O Come, Emmanuel—‘Emmanuel,’ ‘God with us.’ In the coming of Jesus this plaintive prayer has been answered. God is with us and the “grace of God has appeared.” Jesus is grace; he is God’s sharing of the divine life with us through the humanity of Christ; he is the participation of our human nature with the delight, joy, and creativity of the divine life of God himself. During the Christmas season we celebrate Christ as the wondrous means by which God has accomplished for us this participation in himself.

From the overshadowing of Mary by the Holy Spirit to the human birth of the Son of God to the revelation of the Father’s voice we hear at the Lord’s baptism today, the Christmas season is a feast of the Blessed Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that God is not some static and unmoving reality sitting quietly on some throne in heaven, but a set of dynamic and creative relationships. Christmas celebrates our wonder at the great gift that the Holy Spirit has bent the mutual and creative love of God the Father and God the Son into our world through the motherhood of Mary. The perfect Love at the heart of the Blessed Trinity has been stretched into this world and into our human condition by the conception of Jesus. This opens up the life of the Blessed Trinity just enough so that you and I can step into Him. Jesus is God giving us the opportunity to be ourselves spiritually included in the eternal goodness, delight, and creativity which is the life of God.

In a particular way we celebrate today how it is that this grace, this “participation in the life of God” is accomplished and begun in each of us. It is through the sacrament of Baptism. By going down into the water we are joined to the death of Christ, the death which destroys the power of sin within us. By our rising from the water we are joined to the new life of Christ’s Resurrection. It is, in the words of the second reading, “the bath of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus’ baptism gives this cleansing bath of rebirth to the humanity he shares with us. It’s not that the water cleanses him, but that he sanctifies the waters of baptism for all of us. Let us pray today that all of our catechumens might desire their coming baptism all the more, and for renewal of the grace of baptism for each of us who are baptized, that our lives may become ever more graced participations in the Life of the Blessed Trinity.

1 comment:

4narnia said...

great and inspiring homily, Fr. C! i agree with how yo explain "grace" to us: "grace is God when God is with us and in us." doesn't God also say that "My grace is sufficient enough?" we can serve the Lord with simplicity and freedom if we reslized just how "sufficient" the grace of xGod really IS. PEACE! ~tara t~