Remaining in the Father and the Son by the Anointing of the Holy Spirit, January 2, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Mass of January 2, Saturday before the Epiphany
Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzen
January 2, 2016
1 Jn 2:22-28, Ps 98, Jn 1:19-28

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Throughout the Christmas season, we’ve been pondering how Jesus by taking on our humanity wants us to assume his divinity. He is God-with-us in order to save us. And this is reality, not a fairy tale.
  • In these days between the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Epiphany — this year, just one day! — the Church gives us readings to get ready for Christ’s manifestation to the nations in the persons of the Magi. Today John the Baptist, who prepared us to welcome Christ during Advent, gives us an Advent-to-the-Epiphany by announcing not the coming of someone else but rather “there is one among you whom you do not recognize,” whose sandal strap he was unworthy to untie. He wanted to get us ready to recognize the manifestation (epiphany) of one who had already come.
  • In the first reading today, St. John is doing the same work. He mentions the figure of the anti-Christ, who is not the devil, but rather anyone who denies that the Son of God has come in the flesh, who denies that Jesus is the Christ, who denies the Father and the Son. The Christian, on the other hand, is the one who confesses the Father and the Son, who “remains in the Son and in the Father” by letting what “we’ve heard from the beginning” remain in us. Jesus promised that if his Word remained in us, if we allowed his word to take our flesh, the Father and the Son would come to abide in us. This is part of the Christmas transformation, as Christ takes on our humanity so that we might take on his divinity.
  • This whole process happens through what St. John says is the “anointing that you received from him,” the anointing that “remains” in us as we remain in us word, the anointing that “teaches [us] about everything and is true.” This anointing that constitutes us as Christians is not just some oil on the head once and for all. It is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the “spiritalis unctio.” He is the one who helps us to cry out “Abba, Father!” He is the one who reminds us of everything Jesus has taught us. He is the one who leads us into all truth, who “teaches [us] about everything and is true and not false.” This is the anointing we receive initially in baptism and then is strengthened in Confirmation and that comes to us continuously as we live out the Christian life.
  • In today’s Gospel, St. John the Baptist is asked whether he is the “Christ,” meaning the “Messiah” or anointed one. He answered forthrightly that he is not, but he mentioned that the anointed one was coming. “I baptize with water,” he said, “but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” He would say elsewhere that that one would baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” Christ Jesus would baptize in such a way that we would receive the sacred anointing of the Holy Spirit. This would mean that if someone asked us if we were the Christ, we would be able to say, shockingly, “I am not, but Christ lives within me, and not just Christ, but the Father who sent him and the Holy Spirit who seeks to make me a little Christ, a true Christian!” This is one of the reasons why the Psalm calls us today to “sing a new song to the Lord for he has done wondrous deeds.” And one of the most important works of the Holy Spirit, in helping us to live by God’s word and in helping us to allow Father, Son and Holy Spirit to abide in us, is to bring us together. He forms a loving communion of persons. Christ wants this unity to battle against the spirit of the anti-Christ. As he said during the Last Supper, he prayed that we might be as one by the power of the Holy Spirit as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world may know that the Father sent him and that the Father loves us like he loves the Son. The way the world would grasp that the Son of God has come in the flesh, in other words, is by our communion with each other.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of two great saints who lives illustrated these mysteries and whose teaching battled against the spirit of the anti-Christ. St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory of Nazianzen are two of the Cappadocian Fathers — the other is St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil’s younger brother — great doctors of the Church and bishops from that part of modern day Turkey that was called Asia Minor, who in the fourth century wrote extensively in defense of Christ’s divinity and the Holy Spirit’s divine presence and work. Anointed by the Holy Spirit, and having remained immersed in God’s word, they taught about what was “true and not false.” They battled against Arianism and Apollinarism, the first that denied that Jesus was divine at all and the second that denied he was fully human. Their work led to the first Council of Constantinople, which gave us the part of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that referred to the Holy Spirit and reaffirmed Christ’s full divinity, “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True Got, Begotten not Made consubstantial with the Father.” But they also incarnated the type of communion God wants of all disciples and spurred each other toward holiness. They met as young students, became roommates, then monks together, and constantly were in a holy competition to help the other grow in holiness, to remain in God’s word, to live according to the anointing they had received. They helped each other to become saints. Their example is an inspiring one for us to imitate their friendship with the Lord and with each other, so that, God-willing, this whole community of Sisters of Life can have a feast day celebrated together 1600 years from now!
  • In every Mass, we have a chance to confess Jesus Christ, as we publicly and individually attest that the Eucharist is indeed Jesus, the Son of God come in the flesh. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes this reality and this identification possible. It’s the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for us to grow in our identity as little Christs or Christians. It’s the Holy Spirit who inspired Sacred Scripture who helps us to understand it and order our life to it. The Holy Spirit was the driving force of the sanctity of SS. Basil and Gregory and the basis of their friendship. Today we ask their intercession as we rejoice in the gift of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and strengthened by Christ in the Eucharist and the anointing of the Holy Spririt, seek to bring the whole world into a loving communion of persons in God’s holy and communal image.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 JN 2:22-28

Beloved:
Who is the liar?
Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ.
Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.
Anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father,
but whoever confesses the Son has the Father as well.Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you.
If what you heard from the beginning remains in you,
then you will remain in the Son and in the Father.
And this is the promise that he made us: eternal life.
I write you these things about those who would deceive you.
As for you,
the anointing that you received from him remains in you,
so that you do not need anyone to teach you.
But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false;
just as it taught you, remain in him.And now, children, remain in him,
so that when he appears we may have confidence
and not be put to shame by him at his coming.

Responsorial Psalm PS 98:1, 2-3AB, 3CD-4

R. (3cd) All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
Sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done wondrous deeds;
His right hand has won victory for him,
his holy arm.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
The LORD has made his salvation known:
in the sight of the nations he has revealed his justice.
He has remembered his kindness and his faithfulness
toward the house of Israel.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.
All the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation by our God.
Sing joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;
break into song; sing praise.
R. All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.

Alleluia HEB 1:1-2

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
In times past, God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets:
in these last days, he has spoken to us through his Son.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 1:19-28

This is the testimony of John.
When the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to him
to ask him, “Who are you?”
He admitted and did not deny it, but admitted,
“I am not the Christ.”
So they asked him,
“What are you then? Are you Elijah?”
And he said, “I am not.”
“Are you the Prophet?”
He answered, “No.”
So they said to him,
“Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us?
What do you have to say for yourself?”
He said:
“I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’

as Isaiah the prophet said.”
Some Pharisees were also sent.
They asked him,
“Why then do you baptize
if you are not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet?”
John answered them,
“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”
This happened in Bethany across the Jordan,
where John was baptizing.
1_2_greg_basil