HOMILY – JUNE 25
Toy land, toy land,
Little girl and boy land, REMEMBER, YOU ARE PROCLAIMING IT.
While you dwell within it THEY HAVE TO HEAR IT
You are ever happy there. AND THINK ABOUT IT.
Childhood’s joy land, PROCLAIM SLOWLY AND CLEARLY
Mystic, merry toy land, AND GIVE IT A CHANCE TO SINK IN.
Once you pass its borders
You can never return again.
The nostalgia that we sometimes entertain for what we remember of childhood is akin to mankind’s ingrained memory of the Garden of Eden, the Garden of Paradise. Was it really all that we remember, or all that we imagine?
Perhaps you don’t realize it, but you are not guilty of original sin. Never were, never will be. You can’t be personally guilty of something you did not commit, regardless of how guilty you might have learned to feel in Catholic school years ago. I can remember Sister asking in fourth grade, “All right, class, who shot Abraham Lincoln?” One of the kids cried out, “I didn’t do it, Sister!!” The fact is, the only people who were guilty of original sin were our first parents. BUT, when sin entered the world by their choice, it made it impossible for those first parents of ours to pass on the gift of eternal life that they had received from God. It died with them and within them. Sin polluted the world in such a definitive way that the descendants of Adam and Eve — you and I included — could only receive NATURAL life and HUMAN nature from our human parents. The share in the divine life and nature which was characteristic of life in the Garden of Eden was an inheritance lost. It’s like if your grandparents owned a gold mine, but squandered their ownership in crooked business deals and loose living. It’s not your fault that YOU don’t own the gold mine, but it’s still not yours, and never will be.
The difference is that God loves us so much, has invested so much in us, that he intervenes on behalf of those whom he made in his divine image. God will not let sin be the last word. Satan hates this, mind you, and that’s why we are attacked so relentlessly even after baptism. But because of the divine action of Christ, the Son of God, our squandered inheritance is regained. When we take the plunge in baptism, we have God alone to thank for restoring what was lost. And Christ teaches us by his OWN death and resurrection that we have nothing to fear from death. This life that we experience now? It’s not even the tiniest FRACTION of the life that has already begun in us at our baptism. But once again, as with Adam and Eve, the only thing that can deal REAL death to us, the only thing that can destroy our inheritance, is sin. The sins WE commit. God has given us a free will, and he will respect it. It’s not that he doesn’t love us. He just won’t force our hand. We have to “buy into it,” as it were, by our cooperation with his grace, which is ours in abundance. If this sounds vaguely familiar, go back and read the second reading again. If you find all this a little too amazing to swallow, realize that this is what God himself reveals to us through St. Paul’s letter to the Romans.
This is why and how Jesus can say to us in the Gospel, “FEAR NO ONE!!” Don’t be afraid of those who can kill the body but can’t kill the soul. As early as the prophet Jeremiah’s time, as we heard in the first reading, people were already whispering, “Terror on every side! Let us denounce him! Look, there are the Christians, the infidels!” We only have to look across the border to Canada to see what might be in store in our future if we’re not vigilant. Christians there are being threatened constantly with jail, loss of jobs, and expulsion from school for defying the secular state and standing up for Gospel truth and values. And Jesus says, “Never mind! Fear no one! You are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.” Look at the crucifix. The message is, death isn’t going to kill you!! SIN will, death won’t, because you already died with Christ in baptism. In those saving waters, you regained the lost inheritance and began to live forever. Now, if you’ve gone and lost it again, there’s something you can do about it. Maybe we should put a sign up over the entrance to the confessional: “NO FEAR!” But we’d have to put it up on both sides of the doorway: in AND out “NO FEAR!!” Like Jeremiah, most of us are pretty afraid of the world around us. What about terrorism, what about this or that virus, what about global warming, or stray voltage, or an electromagnetic pulse? It’s always what if this, what if that? Some people are so timid, they won’t even say the words “life insurance” out of fear that they might die. Well, GUESS WHAT? Not buying life insurance doesn’t guarantee you’ll live forever! It just means that when you croak, your family might have to beg for help to bury you, since you didn’t have the common sense to plan for yourself.
Listen to Jesus: “FEAR NO ONE.” And he means it. You’re already living eternal life. He means THAT, too. You’re already dining at the Wedding Banquet of the Lamb of God. And oh, he means THAT, too. Don’t doubt the Son of God. “I came that they might have LIFE,” he says, “and have it to the full!”
Childhood here on earth is like Toy Land. As the song goes, “Once you pass its borders, you can never return again.” But heaven, living the life of God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, is not like Toy Land. Once you pass into ITS borders, you will never WANT to return again. And when you are nourished with the Body and Blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, in Holy Communion, AMEN, you are there. Not with one foot in the grave, but with both feet in the KINGDOM. You don’t have to wait. It’s in your midst. It’s all around you. Proclaim it, live it, and DO NOT FEAR!