26th Sunday In Ordinary Time
Cycle A | 1 October 2017
Ezk. 18: 25-28
Phil. 2: 1-11
Mt. 21: 28-32
INTRODUCTION: Let us devote the entire homily for this Sunday reflecting on Paul’s magnificent text from his Letter to the Philippians 2: 6-9, our Second Reading for today.
(1) THE TEXT: “Though he was in the form of God, he did not regard/deem his equality with God as something to be grasped, but rather emptied himself and took the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and found in his appearance as a man, becoming obedient to death — death on the Cross. Because of this, God exalted him and gave him the name above every other Name.” (v. 6-9)
TAGALOG: “Kahit siya’y likas at tunay na Diyos, hindi niya pinagpilitang maging kapantay ng Diyos. As halip, kusa niyang hinubad ang pagiging kapantay ng Diyos at naging katulad ng isang alipin. Ipinanganak siyang tulad ng mga karaniwang tao. At nang si Cristo’y maging tao, nagpakumbaba siya at naging masunurin hanggang kamatayan, maging Ito man ay kamatayan sa Krus. At dahil dito siya’y lubusang itinaas ng Diyos at ibinigay sa kanya ang pangalang higit sa lahat ng pangalan.”
(2) THE BACKGROUND: Paul wrote this Letter in early 50’s, thus 20 years after the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Note that the Letters of Paul were written before any of the Gospels was ever written. This text of Paul we have today, according to scholars, was his adaptation of a Christian Hymn he inherited from early Christian Liturgy of the 40’s or even of the 30’s of the first çentury. This text thus constitutes one of the earliest summaries of the Christian Gospel and of Christianity itself.
(3) THE INTERPRETATION: “Though he was in the form of God (morphe tou theou)” is the most illuminating expression of Jesus’ Divinity contrary to the claim of skeptics and scholars that his Divinity is just a myth or a later invention of the Church because Jesus for them was just an ordinary man or a great teacher. Nowhere in the Jewish tradition are people like Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Abraham, or Moses called “in the form of God” but friends or representatives of God.
Moreover, this 1st century Jesus “did not deem his equality with God as something to be grasped,” was not after arrogating to himself the prerogatives of being God, though he had the right to do so because he is God — something that we humans in our sinful state tend to fill up ourselves to be like God on equal footing with Him which was the original sin of Adam and Eve.
“Rather, he emptied himself” (in Greek, kenosis). He let his claim to Divinity go and “took the form of a slave” (morphe tou doulou). God is not about filling up but emptying out. This is the same as St. John Paul II’s “Law of the Gift”: your being increases in the measure that you give it away. The basis for this Law is in the act of Xenosis. All of Christian Spirituality/morality is in this little Hymn.
“Coming in human likeness and found in his appearance as a man:” From Paul onwards the Church has always resisted the opposite teaching of Docetism that Jesus was not really human but only appeared as human according to the Christological Principle “what has not been assumed has not been saved.” Jesus took all of our humanity, including our body and sexuality, and thereby saved all of what is human and divinized and raised up our humanity to what is divine.
“Becoming obedient to the point of death–death on the Cross.” What did Jesus assume of our humanity? Everything except sin. This means he took upon himself even the fear of death. No one is outside his reach, even death on the Cross which for the Romans then was the greatest torture and public humiliation. Jesus became sin on the Cross. He took upon himself all the different grades of human depravity: injustice, cruelty, violence, hatred like the scapegoat on the altar on the Day of Atonement. He swallowed everything laying it up the Divine Mercy.
“Because of this, God exalted him and gave him a Name above every other Name” He went all the way down so that he grasped everything and everyone and in the Holy Spirit brought all of creation so that in the process he exalted all of us!
CONCLUSION: Taste and enjoy this magnificent description of the Christianity we all belong!
Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches