Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!
In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we continue our journey from Great and Hoy Pentecost six Sundays ago, we must not forget that we do so always in the light of that great and glorious Day of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and not only in its light, but in its divine power. These Sundays after Great and Holy Pentecost are devoted, one way or another, to aiding us to see ourselves living the Gospel, not in our strength, but in the strength of God the Holy Spirit without Whom we are dead in our sins and dead in our souls, even as the holy Prophet Zechariah declares, “’Not with great power, nor with strength, but with My Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zc. 4:6). Sometimes we may lose sight of this truth since this liturgical season is so very long, lasting even unto the beginning of Great and Holy Lent. And still the Faith and teaching of the Church is cycled through, ingraining us and etching us with its image and likeness, all so that we may be continually re-born of God and fashioned into the image and likeness of the Son of God, crucified and risen (Jn. 1:12-13; Rm. 8:29; Ga. 4:19).
As so often is the case with St. Paul, he frequently lays a theological foundation upon which he then builds. He moves from what has been called “the indicative” to “the imperative.” In other words, he shows us what we are in Jesus Christ and then he shows us how we are to live Jesus Christ in the midst of this old world. Today is no exception. For, as this illustrious Apostle has said elsewhere, there is no other foundation that can be laid except Jesus Christ, and upon Him do we build with gold and silver and precious stones. It is in that same passage that he reminds us, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cr. 3:11-17). This is the reality of Pentecost received in the Mystery of Holy Baptism and Chrismation and renewed here at the Altar in the Mystery of the Holy Eucharist, and then lived each day of our earthly sojourn. And, because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit in our flesh and blood self, it matters very much how we then live: either to the glory of God or to dishonor and disgrace. Because the God Who has saved us, Who is saving us, and Who will save us is Himself holy, we, too, are to be holy (Lv. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Pe. 2:13-25). There’s that indicative/imperative couplet: God is holy in and of Himself, we who are His baptized elect are to be holy in Him. Notice, in Him; not apart from Him, not in our own strength or might or creative ingenuity, but in Him. His holiness by nature becomes ours solely by grace. “[Y]ou are not your own,” says St. Paul, “for you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cr. 6:19-20).
Before the Apostle lines out for us the Christ-life (I sometimes prefer to say “Christ-life” rather than the “Christian life” because, it seems to me, Christ Himself gets lost in the mental translation of the word Christian which is the life of the Messiah, the life of Christ the Anointed One of God). Before the Apostle delves into our spiritual giftedness, as he does today, he sets the tone earlier in the first 11 chapters. He roots everything in the waters of Holy Baptism, or better, he grounds everything in the Death and Resurrection of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ into which we have been baptized and consume in the Mystery of the Holy Altar! Having been baptized into the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, we are then to live or “walk,” as he says, “in the newness of this [Jesus’] life” each and every day (Rm. 6:1-14). We are dead to sin and alive to Christ God! And, because we are, St. Paul tells us in the opening verses of Rm. 12 not read here,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, ‘which is your rational offering of divine service.’ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your [spiritual] mind, that you may prove [manifest] what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rm. 12:1-2).
Baptism is tied to the worship of God, the “rational offering of divine service,” the Font is tied to the Altar. We cannot be Christ’s unless we are given as living physical sacrifices (just as real as the Old Testament bullocks and lambs offered up to God) to the rational offering of divine service. The root of the word rational is logos – the Word – and our worship is like unto that of the Logos Jesus Christ the Word made flesh Who offered Himself up, body and soul, to the divine service, a service He maintains today and unto ages of ages as our Great High Priest and Lamb (Hb. 9:1-10:23)! This physical offering up of ourselves, body and soul, unto God to be filled with the purging heavenly fire of His Holy Spirit and to be used by Him as He wills is a true and real sacrifice on our part in the worship – the divine service – of God. It is this “rational offering of divine service” that transforms our souls in the offering up of our bodies to God here, in this holy temple and at this Holy Altar. If we surrender ourselves to God to be offered up to Him we cannot be conformed to this world, that is, molded in its mindset and formed by its spirit, but rather we are being transformed by the renewing of our [spiritual] mind by the Power and the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Because here, in this place, is the worship of God in Spirit and in Truth (Jn. 4:21-24).
“How so?,” you might ask. Here in this temple and at this Altar of the bloodless Sacrifice, the bread and the wine which are tokens of our existence – our daily bread – are transformed by the sending down of the Holy Spirit (Epiclesis) into the Body and the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. In the offering of these tokens of bread and wine, we offer up ourselves to God to be likewise transformed by the coming down of the Holy Spirit, as the priest prays. With the Holy Spirit and through these sanctified gifts, we are united to Jesus Christ and with Him we are offered up to God “on behalf of all and for all.”
This sacrificial offering of ourselves for the sake of the world – the divine worship or divine service – takes on the forms of what St. Paul today has said. Just as many individual grains of wheat are brought together to become bread, so we, who are many, are brought together to be God’s bread for the world, giving ourselves over for the life of the world, just like our Lord Who gave Himself up for the life of the world and for its salvation (Prothesis). The Church has received the great grace of the Holy Spirit Who is “the Treasury of blessings and Giver of Life” (O Heavenly King) and through the Church, as her baptized sons and daughters, we have each then received the Spirit and His gifts, not all alike and not all to the same extent, but according to the measure bestowed by God according to His perfect will and our ability of faith to receive what He offers. We are to be humble and lowly-minded, not fancying ourselves better than our brothers and sisters in Christ God (Rm. 12:3-5; 1 Cr. 12:1-30; 14:1-25; 1 Pe. 4:7-11). We are to be humble and humbly use the gift or gifts divinely given to us by the Holy Spirit, not for our own indulgence or pleasure, but for the sake of God, His Church, and the world He longs to draw into the net of His Kingdom. If you have a spiritual gift, Paul says – and you do – use it, exercise it to its fullest extent, lest you become like the servant blessed with one talent but failed to invest it or employ it for the master who returned one day seeking an accounting (Mt. 25:14-30). Let it not even enter your mind, beloved, whether or not your gift, be it ever so meager in your eyes, is meager in the eyes of God. It is not meager for He according to His perfect will has entrusted you with it for the sake of His Church and His world. If you preach, then do so. If you teach, then do so. If you minister liturgically, then do so. If you are a leader in the Church, then do so zealously. If you are an encourager and exhorter, then encourage and exhort your brethren and others whom God brings across your path. If you are a giver, do so with liberality and generosity like unto God’s! If you are one who gives alms and has the power of mercy, do so with all cheerfulness.
This is what St. Paul says to us today. This little mission is not without the spiritual gifts necessary for her life. God has provided all that we need and still does, if we but humbly surrender ourselves to Him in worship. Scripture even teaches us as we grow in faith and in the use of the spiritual gift entrusted to us, that other gifts can be given us by God Who deems us worthy by our humility.
Let us attend to the voice of the Apostle and our Father in the Faith as he goes now beyond the gifts of the Holy Spirit but to the grace given to live the Christ-life:
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil [the evil one]. Cling to what is good [the Good One]. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit [boiling in the Spirit], serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient [persevering] in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
In all of this we see the “living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.” Here is made known the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse,” as though we needed a double-reminder. Rather, “’Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in Heaven’” (Beatitudes).
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.
Do you see how humility is called for, again and again, and how we are to put each other ahead of ourselves?
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to [God’s] wrath; . . . ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rm. 12:15-21).
This, brethren, is the Christ-life, a life only that can be lived by the grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit Who tabernacles in the Church and, thereby, in each of us signed with the Cross and sealed with the Holy Chrism. Jesus is the icon Whose Image we are called upon to be conformed to and Whose Light of Glory is to dwell in us and shine through us as we are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cr. 3:18).
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!