HOMILY: Opening the Door of the Year of Faith. Knock and the Door Shall Be Opened
"The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church." With these words Pope Benedict XVI welcomed us to begin this Year of Faith.The Year of Faith, like all gifts, must be received and opened.
Published in Year of Faith
P>CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - "The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church." With these words Pope Benedict XVI welcomed us to begin this Year of Faith. The words are taken from the letter with which he announced this season of conversion entitled "The Door of Faith".
He references the missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas to the Gentiles at the beginning of the First millennium of Christianity. Upon their return ,"They called the church together and reported what God had done with them and how he had opened the door of faith..."(Acts 14:27). That same door of faith is opening for you and me, the disciples Jesus has called on mission to the world of the Third millennium of Christianity. However, we need to knock, enter in and learn to live in the House.
The Gospel of today's Mass is an excerpt from the account of the physician/apostle St. Luke. The account follows immediately after the disciples found Jesus in prayerful communion with His Father. It is a continuation of that encounter. They ask him to "teach us to pray". (Luke 11:1) Jesus told them a story to communicate the mind of God as it relates to our invitation to prayerful communion as a way of life. It speaks to us about knocking on doors:
"And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, `Friend, lend me three loaves; for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; and he will answer from within, `Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything'?" I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. "
"And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks, receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:5-13)
The Year of Faith, like all gifts, must be received and opened. The image of the door invites us to reflect on the invitation we each were given when we entered into the Church, through the waters of the second womb of Baptism. Faith is a Verb, a call to a dynamic participation in the life of God; a call to be a part of His ongoing loving plan for the whole world as it continues through the Risen Christ who walks with us now in His Body, the Church, of which we are members. (1 Cor. 12:27)
This call engages our freedom. We must choose to knock, to enter into the House and then learn to live there. Jesus gives us the example of knocking on the door of the house of a friend in which the owner acts because of persistence. He then explains the relational context behind our own persistence in prayer. We are sons and daughters of "His Father and Our Father". (John 20:17).
In Jesus we can have the same relationship He has with the Father. The intimate communion the disciples witnessed when they came upon Him prayer. The same relationship they witnessed as they walked with Him daily. We now walk with Him daily. The same Christ, now raised from the dead, is in our midst. We simply need the eyes of faith to see Him and the renewed heart to accompony Him on the way. He is the Way, the Door (John 10:9) into the House of living faith.
Inside the House, we are capacitated by grace, made capable of living an entirely new way of life, and sent into the world to bring people in. In the words of the Apostle Peter, we become "partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1). In the Church we receive the grace mediated through the Sacraments, we are instructed in the Divine Life by the Word of God and we learn the new way of life. Prayer is the fuel which keeps that communion alive, precisely because it keeps faith alive.
God fashioned men and women as the crown of His creation, creating us in "His Image", precisely for this loving, relational conversation of life with Him. Living faith fuels that way of life. At the heart of understanding what it means to be created "in His Image" is understanding human freedom and what happened to our capacity to choose - and why we need to be saved from sin and saved for a new way of living, loving and serving.
Our relationship with God was broken, separated and wounded through the first sin, the sin of origins or "original sin". That sin, like all sin since, is at its root a misuse of freedom infected by pride and self sufficiency. Our ability to exercise our freedom rightly, to live His Image by directing our capacity for free choice always toward the good, was impeded through the fall. Freedom was fractured.
The "Good News" (which is what the word "gospel" means) is that through Jesus Christ, the way has been opened for an even fuller communion with God. In Him we are being re-created, re-fashioned and redeemed. He comes to live in all who make a place for Him within the center of their lives. he stands at the door of our hearts and knocks. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelations 3:20) This "making a place" is the essence of Christian prayer. It is not about doing, but about being.
Isaac of Ninevah, an early eighth century monk, Bishop and theologian, wrote:"When the Spirit dwells in a person, from the moment in which that person has become prayer, he never leaves him. For the Spirit himself never ceases to pray in him. Whether the person is asleep or awake, prayer never from then on departs from his soul. Whether he is eating or drinking or sleeping or whatever else he is doing, even in deepest sleep, the fragrance of prayer rises without effort in his heart."
"Prayer never again deserts him. At every moment of his life, even when it appears to stop, it is secretly at work in him continuously, one of the Fathers, the bearers of Christ, says that prayer is the silence of the pure. For their thoughts are divine motions. The movements of the heart and the intellect that have been purified are the voices full of sweetness with which such people never cease to sing in secret to the hidden God."
Through prayer daily life becomes a classroom of communion. In that classroom we learn the truth about who we are - and who we are becoming - in Jesus. Through prayer we receive new glasses through which we see the true landscape of life. Through prayer darkness is dispelled and the path of progress is illuminated.
Through prayer we begin to understand why this communion seems so elusive at times; as we struggle with our own disordered appetites, and live in a manner at odds with the beauty and order of the creation within which we dwell only to find a new beginning whenever we confess our sin and return to our first love. Prayer opens us up to Revelation, expands our capacity to comprehend truth and equips us to change.
Through prayer we are drawn by Love into a deepening relationship with Jesus whose loving embrace on the hill of Golgotha bridged heaven with earth; His relationship with His Father is opened now to us; the same Spirit that raised Him from the dead begins to give us new life as we are converted, transfigured and made new.
Through prayer heavenly wisdom is planted in the field of our hearts and we experience a deepening communion with the Trinitarian God. We become "partakers of the divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) Though that participation will only be fully complete when we are with Him in the fullness of His embrace, in Resurrected Bodies in a New Heaven and a New Earth, but it begins now, in the grace of this present moment.
God holds nothing back from those whom He loves. He gives us the Holy Spirit, His life and energy. The Year of faith invites us to find living faith by encountering Jesus Christ in a new and powerful way through that very Holy Spirit. Living faith mediates the mystery of God's loving plan and opens our spiritual eyes to behold the Divine Design in our own lives. We see that we walk with Him and He guides our path along a Divine design, a plan, a pattern.
For the Christian, the center from which the Divine design proceeds- and through which we discern the beauty of God's perfect plan - is the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is the central patch of cloth from which the pattern proceeds. It is also where the pattern returns. However, seeing this pattern requires ongoing conversion.
We need the renewed vision that comes through such living faith to stay on the path. We find the strength to pull ourselves up, after the inevitable falls which accompany daily life, by grasping the wood of the Cross, the door to the new world to come. The Early Christians of the First Millennium reflected upon the Cross as a "second tree" at which the new creation began again in Jesus Christ.
On that Cross, the Living Word, through whom the Universe was created, re-created it all anew. Theodore the Studite, an eighth century Abbot of the undivided Church of the First Christian Millennium, once proclaimed: "How precious the gift of the cross, how splendid to contemplate! In the cross there is no mingling of good and evil, as in the tree of paradise: it is wholly beautiful to behold and good to taste. The fruit of this tree is not death but life, not darkness but light. This tree does not cast us out of paradise, but opens the way for our return."
"This was the tree on which Christ, like a King on a chariot, destroyed the devil, the Lord of death, and freed the human race from his tyranny. This was the tree upon which the Lord, like a brave warrior wounded in hands, feet and side, healed the wounds of sin that the evil serpent had inflicted on our nature. A tree once caused our death but now a tree brings life. Once deceived by a tree, we have now repelled the cunning serpent by a tree. What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality- that shame should become glory!"
A fourth century Deacon named Ephrem was in love this wounded warrior of Love, Jesus Christ. He wrote extraordinary hymns which gained him a title, still mentioned in the Syriac Liturgy to this day -- "the Harp of the Holy Spirit". In a sermon he proclaimed: "He who was also the carpenters glorious son set up his cross above deaths' all consuming jaws, and led the human race into the dwelling place of life. Since a tree had brought about the downfall of mankind, it was upon a tree that mankind crossed over to the realm of life."
"Bitter was the branch that had once been grafted upon that ancient tree, but sweet the young shoot that has now been grafted in, the shoot in which we are meant to recognize the Lord whom no creature can resist. We give glory to you, Lord, who raised up your cross to span the jaws of death, like a bridge by which souls might pass from the region of the dead to the land of the living."
"We give glory to you who put on the body of a single mortal man and made it the source of life for every other mortal man. You are incontestably alive. Your murderers sowed your living body in the earth as farmers sow grain, but it sprang up and yielded an abundant harvest of men raised from the dead. Come then, my brothers and sisters, let us offer our Lord the great and all embracing sacrifice of our love and our lives"
On this first day of the Year of Faith, let us open the door through Prayer and learn to live in the Heart of the Church for the sake of the world.
Copyright 2018 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK
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