January 2, 2017
(Monday before the Epiphany)
Don’t Deny What You Have
The Responsorial Psalm is proclamation of the Incarnation of God in Jesus: “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God” (Psalm 98).
1John 2: 22-28 exhorts us not to deny the grace we have received or the truth revealed to us.
That truth is that Jesus Christ is God himself made flesh. “Whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9,12:45). And vice-versa, “Anyone who denies the Son has no claim on the Father.” We can only claim God as our Father if we are “in Christ”; that is, incorporated into the body of Jesus, the “only-begotten Son of the Father.” Jesus alone is the Son, and we are filii in Filio, “sons and daughters in the Son.” We are children of God only by identification with Jesus, the only Son of the Father. Otherwise God is just our Creator.
And this is the grace we have received, the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the “grace,” the “favor,” of sharing in the divine life of God. We share in Christ’s divine life because we have been incorporated into his body. We are not just Christians. By Baptism we have “become Christ” (St. Augustine, quoted by John Paul II). If we deny that we have “become Christ,” denying that we have become divine by the gift of sharing in God’s own divine life, this is a denial similar to, or parallel to, denying that the human man, Jesus, was truly the divine Son of God. It is hard to accept that God truly became human in Jesus Christ. It is hard to accept that we truly become divine in Jesus Christ. But both are fundamentals of our faith. In Jesus and in the Church, his body on earth, “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
In John 1: 19-28 John the Baptizer declares unequivocally the difference between himself and Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah; John is not. The baptism John offers is nothing but a human gesture of repentance. But Jesus will baptize “with the Holy Spirit” (1:33). The baptism Jesus offers makes us divine.
John knew who he was: not the Messiah, but “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” If we know who we are, we will know that what we become by grace is greater than anything people were able to see in John. Jesus said it: “Among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptizer; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11). By Baptism we were born, “not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:13). This is the mystery of our salvation: “All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.”
Initiative: If you want to know Jesus, be aware of his real presence in yourself and others. Recognize him as Emmanuel: “God-with-us.”