Christian, Know Your Dignity!
July 20, 2011 A.D.
Homily at Medjugorje of July 15, 2011 from Fr. Philip Kemmy from Donegal, Ireland
The line in the first reading in which St. Paul draws our attention to – this is St. Paul’s prayer. It says, “This is what I pray. Kneeling before the Father from whom every family, whether spiritual or natural, takes its name.” His focus is on the Father. And why the focus on the Father? Because St. Paul was absolutely and utterly convinced that he is a son of God, in and through Christ Jesus. How? By Baptism. We sometimes think of God the Father, and we say, “Oh, God is like a Father to us.” Or maybe we make it a bit higher – “God is like the best of fathers to us.” Wrong! God is not like the best of fathers. The best of fathers are a little bit like God. For you men who are fathers, know your dignity, know your immense task, to reflect to your children – and this needs to go for mothers as well, parents, to reflect to your children something of the love and the care of God the Father, that by your mission, your vocation, your children will come to glimpse our Heavenly Father. We are children of God, not like children of God. We are really children of God. I think it is St. Leo the Great who said, “Christian, know your dignity.”
We are here in Medjugorje, but when we go back home next week or whenever, I know that my group from Ireland, we are going back to a supposedly Christian country, yet we will see many Christians, maybe many of them close to us, who do not know their dignity and, therefore, do not live out their lives in a dignified way. By Baptism, we are made sons and daughter of God the Father in Christ Jesus. We are made brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ the Lord. We are made living temples of the Holy Spirit. The angels don’t have that, yet look at our world. At our Baptism, what happened to Jesus at His Baptism happens to us, but in a slightly different way. If you know the story in the Gospel, Jesus enters the water and as he rises out of the water at the River Jordan, the Heavens open, the Spirit descends upon Him in the form of a dove, and a voice is heard from Heaven, the Father’s voice, saying, “This is my Son, the Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” Or some translations: “My delight is in Him.” It is a declaration of a fact that has always been for Jesus. It is not that at that moment of His Baptism He became the Son of God, but it is a revelation at His Baptism of who He is. At our Baptism, the same thing happens. It is not a revelation, it is a word that makes it a reality. It has never happened to me at a Baptism that the Heavens have opened and I have seen the Holy Spirit descend in the form of a dove or heard those words from the Father. You better believe that it is happening because God the Father speaks over this newly baptized soul and He says, regardless of whether it is a boy or a girl, He says, “This is my son, the beloved, of whom I am well pleased.” Because at our Baptism, the Holy Spirit so transforms our soul, that when the Father looks into our soul all He sees is Christ. Then we spend a lifetime making sure that image is as hidden as possible because we are weak and sinful people. We should be spending our lifetime allowing that image of Christ to grow, to mature, and when need be, and there is always a regular need of it, to be reshaped, reformed through the sacrament of Confession, through the reforming of our lives.
Do you realize, not just here, but in your day to day life, when you wake up every morning, do you realize that you are a beloved son or daughter of God? If we start our day, getting out of our bed, saying “Thank you Father for the gift of my Baptism which has made me your child,” we might live the rest of the day differently. I said to my group a few nights ago, we often say, but I was baptized – I am baptized. Each and every day my Baptism is having an effect on me. It is not once when I was an infant or for those of you who were baptized as an adult, once and that is it set aside. It is an ongoing reality, affecting the entire path of my life, if I want it to – only if I want it to.
We are what’s called a royal people. In the rite of Baptism, there is an anointing with the oil of chrism. The child is anointed and the prayer that accompanies that prayer of the anointing of the oil of chrism on the top of the head is a prayer that speaks of Christ: priest, prophet and king, asking that this newly baptized person may live out that in their lives as a member of Christ’s body. A priest, we all are a nation of priests, a kingdom of priests because of our Baptism. I am ministerial a priest. I have the ministerial priesthood. But I couldn’t have the ministerial priesthood, if I didn’t have, by virtue of my Baptism, what is called the common priesthood. And common doesn’t mean that common is muck. It means common to all the baptized. And what does a priest do? A priest for the ministerial or common offers to God, offers sacrifice to God. Some of the saints have said, more importantly, have lived the fact that says, never do anything that you cannot offer to God. If we take a minute and think about yesterday. Could I offer the entire day yesterday – everything I said, everything I thought, everything I did – could I offer that to God as an acceptable sacrifice? If I did and it is tainted, there is where the Holy Spirit is asking me to change my ways.
I am a son of God. What a dignity to share the priestly character of being a Christian. I am a prophet because I am in Christ. Does my life speak of Christ? Do my words echo the words of Christ? I might not say direct quotes from the Gospel, but is what I say compatible with what Jesus would say? Is what I do compatible with what Jesus would do, because I am Christian, another one, anointed by the Holy Spirit? The same Holy Spirit that He has. It is His Spirit that is supposed to be empowering me in my life. Priest, prophet, king – the royal family. Somebody said, I think he might be here today. A few weeks ago it struck me, he was making a distinction between how we sometimes think of a hierarchy as first the bishops, the priests and then the people of God. When we should be thinking on the bottom the bishops, then the priests and on top the people of God. The triangle should be turned upside down. He likened it to the royal family in England or wherever a royal family might be. The royal family is in that big palace and they are so important that a whole host of servants see to their every need. Maybe she does, but I can’t imagine that Queen Elizabeth is down in the laundry room doing Prince Philip’s laundry. They have all of these servants surrounding them because they are royalty. You, as the royal people of God, have servants chosen by God, poor servants that we are. Sometimes we are lazy servants. Sometimes we are downright bad servants, but servants we are, because you are so important because you are royalty. But like any royalty, if you do something wrong, it will be in the front page of the Sunday papers. Any of the royal families in Europe, they do ordinary sins that everyone else is doing, but their sin gets front page, because of their dignity, because of the place that they have. So we, as the royal people of God, need to live up to our dignity, because otherwise we drag the name of Christ into the mud.
A sin by a Christian and the same sin by a non-Christian is much more serious with a Christian because he has a very clear guide who is Jesus Christ – that standard to live up to. He has the Holy Spirit dwelling within him, welling up within him. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. And the only thing that can evict the Holy Spirit is mortal sin. Venial sin obstructs the Spirits activity and influence in our lives. It goes against it. Mortal sin is a complete rejection – I will not be lorded over by Christ. Because we have this mentality that God is this over in the sky, who is just waiting with a bolt of lightning for the day when we have just one sin too many. God is our loving Father. God is our loving Father and His Lordship over us is service, the service of the Cross. The service that we priest are here to provide to the royal family of God is the service that Christ is giving you. Sometimes we don’t reflect it very well, but it is suppose to be that God, like any good father, takes care of His family. There is no family without God, if God is evicted from the family home. In the family home, I am talking about the actual family home – many Catholic homes where God maybe gets a look in at Christmas. And then the home which is the heart – God is evicted from hearts who are foolish enough to think that they can be their own God. You cannot father yourself.
This pilgrimage, we ask, that each of us may go home more aware of who we are. Don’t sell yourself short. There is a spirit in the world that makes Christians, particularly in the West say, “Oh yes, I believe in Jesus.” Whispering, “I believe in Jesus, do you as well? Don’t tell anybody. We mustn’t influence the culture. Oh no, no! The culture doesn’t like us to speak. We mustn’t change what is wrong because we have to pay a price for it.” Yes, and that price may be death. And there are countries in the world where the price is death for Christians who say, “Sorry, I am a Christian and I will not, I will not under any circumstances agree with that. And I will do everything legitimately in my power to change it.” In our own country of Ireland, so many things have changed, not because the majority of the people necessarily want it to change, but because the majority of our people said nothing because we are afraid, afraid to say, “I’m sorry, but as a son, as a daughter of God the Father, this is not the way the family of God is suppose to live in this nation, in this household.” The quiet majority drowned out by a very vocal minority. And the very least that the quiet majority should be doing is to pray very much for that very vocal minority. I am convinced that if we discover again what it means to be baptized then our world will be vastly transformed. Know who you are. Christian, know your dignity. Don’t let the world dictate to you what it means to be a Christian. In your heart of hearts, you will know this is not the way a son of God acts, speaks, reacts, and dresses. This is not compatible with my interior dignity, with my dignity of soul. God has made you for Himself. You are His son and daughter, and you will always be that. He wants you to enjoy that Divine gift of being His son or daughter for all eternity. But it is a gift that each of us, at any moment can refuse. Who would be foolish enough to refuse it, yet many do. - Fr. Philip Kemmy
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