The Bishops Homily – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

13th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 2 July 2017
2 Kgs. 4: 8-16
Rom. 6: 3-11
Mt. 10: 37-42

INTRODUCTION: Our 2nd reading for this Sunday is taken from Rom. 6: 3-11, the most theologically sophisticated of Paul’s letters, the first listed in the New Testament, written in the late 50s’ for a small group of Jewish Christians and Gentile Converts.

(1) “Are you not aware that we who were baptized in Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Rom. 6: 3) Christianity places death right at the beginning of Christian life. The ritual with which we enter the Church (Baptism) is a ritual of death. So is the Eucharist: “For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.” (1 Cor. 11:26) In our churches, we display Christ’s body on the Cross, the symbol of Christ’s death. On entering churches, we dip our hands into the waters of baptism and sign ourselves with the Cross of Christ. The ancient ritual of baptism is by immersion of the head under water until the one being baptized feels suffocation by drowning unlike the symbol of sprinkling water though it still means cleansing. From the beginning, the Church marks people with death.

(2) Everything in Christianity conjures to life, why this preoccupation on death? We live in a culture that engages in a thousand ways on denial of death. As Blaise Pascal said, “We spend most of our time on diversions.” We divert our attention from the real facts of life the prime of which is death. Christianity rubs our face on death and refuses to divert us. Why? Its purpose is to liberate us from the fear of death by way of inoculation, injecting a little bit of the disease into one’s system in order to strengthen our immune system and be able to fight off the disease. What is the greatest disease of the human condition? It’s the fear of death that turns us in ourselves (curvatus in se), that makes us divert ourselves and fill up our fearful egos with things of this world (wealth, sex, honor, fame, privilege, etc.) We cannot avoid death to which we all are heading for like someone on a raft going down the dangerous rapids. Christianity inoculates us by immersing us into the fact of death from the beginning. We are marked by death. Why? So that we might be free from the fear of death.

(3) Jesus on the Cross stripped of everything (love, friendship, dignity, etc..), of all that we typically use to keep death at bay but rather entering into (accepting) death, trusting solely in the power of God and on the third day that trust is rewarded. “By this baptism in his death, we were buried with Christ so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life.” (Rom. 6: 4) What makes life unbearable? It is this fear of death which turns us into ourselves and makes us cling to the things of this world defensively. What makes life worth living, beautiful and spiritually vibrant? When the fear of death has been conquered. Now I don’t have to live clinging to the things of this world, but rather I can walk in newness of life. This is how the saints live. Saints are those who have conquered their fear of death so they can live in forgiveness, in love, in compassion, in simple enjoyment of the things of this world. “Christ as we know, once risen from the dead, will not die again and death will have no power over him.” (Rom. 6: 9) Consequently, “You too must consider yourself dead to sin but living in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6: 10)

CONCLUSION: When you are baptized into his death, it is as though you are inoculated with the power of his death so that you can participate in his victory. Then you can be alive in Jesus. Sin comes with the fear of death; when the fear of death is conquered, sin is conquered. When sin is conquered, you can live for God in joy, peace, compassion, in newness of life.

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches