Sunday Sermon for March 6, 2016, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Year C
Readings: Jos 5:9a, 10-12; 2Cor 5:17-21; Lk 15:1-3, 11-32
In the second reading today St. Paul states that anyone who is in Christ has become a new creation. There is a “re-creation” of sorts that takes place on several occasions in our lives. The biggest is certainly at the moment of our baptism, which is the one St. Paul is addressing. However, every time you go to confession there is a newness that takes place in your soul. When a couple gets married there is a new creation in that there is a union of two where before they were separate. When a man is ordained there is a change in his very being so that he can stand in the Person of Jesus.
So, the fact that St. Paul is saying that we have become a new creation might not seem all that astounding because we can see how God continues to create, or creates anew, at various junctures of our lives. This said, however, we cannot lose sight of just how astounding is this point to which St. Paul is referring. There is a change that occurs that literally makes you different from what you were before. While we can talk about this in each of the Sacraments, all of them build on what takes place on the day we are baptized.
How astounding is this new creation? It is so astounding that we are elevated in order to allow us to live and act in a divine manner. This means that we can now live in a way that is beyond our natural capacity. It is not just being able to do something we were not able to do before, it is to be able to be someone we were not able to be previously. We become sons and daughters of God Himself and we are brought into a participation in the divine nature of God.
In order to make this more understandable, it is perhaps easier to look at things from the opposite perspective. We all marvel at the grace and mercy of our Lord in becoming one of us. By nature He is God, but He took our nature to Himself so that He could live and act in a human manner. This is what we celebrate at every day at Mass, but even more poignantly at Christmas or during Holy Week.
The union of the two natures in Christ is a substantial union whereas the union in us is accidental, but I think the way that we can be astounded at what occurred in the Incarnation of Jesus can be applied to help us understand just how astounding is the new creation that takes place in us. Not convinced yet? Look at what St. Paul says about this exchange of God taking our nature and giving us a share in His nature: For our sake He made Him to be sin Who knew not sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Now that is astounding! That people like you and me could become the righteousness of God. Obviously this is not by our own doing. To become the righteousness of God is something purely supernatural. This does not happen just by being baptized, but it can only happen because we are baptized and cooperate with grace to be transformed into the righteousness of God.
We can see two examples of this kind of change in the readings today. In the first reading we are told of the people of Israel crossing into the Promised Land. After spending forty years in the desert and being fed by God with the Manna, the people have now come into the land of promise and eat of its produce. The Manna ceased at that point because it was not longer necessary.
These were the people of God all throughout the forty years of sojourn, but now there was a change. This change is similar to the one spoken of in the Gospel when the Prodigal Son returns and is restored to the family. He was always the son of the father, but he was not living that way. He wanted to food of the pigs, but now he could share the food of the family.
Just like those who are baptized but going through the motions, or worse, living in the state of sin, God takes care of these people because they are still His children. But when they recognize their dignity, confess their sins, and resolve to live their Faith, there is a change that happens. They had become lukewarm (or worse) but now they are restored to the family. Grace is at work in them and they begin to live according to their dignity. Like us, they were dead and are now alive, they have become a new creation in Christ.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.