18th Sunday: A Life Hidden with God

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Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3: 2-3). ⧾

How have we died? What do these words mean? In his epistle to the Romans St Paul explains: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death. So that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life (Rom.6:3-4). St. Paul and the early Church Fathers after him taught that through baptism, we undergo a configuration to the death and resurrection of Christ. Immersion in water symbolizes not only death and purification, but also regeneration and renewal. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1262). The early Church saw the liturgy of baptism as a real participation in Our Lord’s death and resurrection. An ancient prayer (Apostolic Constitutions – 4th c.) for the blessing of baptismal water is specific about this: Sanctify this water so that those who are baptized may be crucified with Christ, die with him, be buried with him, and rise again for adoption.

In another of his epistles, St. Paul clearly declares: Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). Baptism effects or brings about what we call an ontological change, a change that affects our very nature. The nature of our soul changes at baptism and we are indelibly sealed with the grace of adoption. The whole organism of [our] supernatural life has its roots in Baptism (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1266); and this is why each year we undertake the discipline of Lent and prepare for the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter. We have been redeemed by God Himself for supernatural life in this world and the Beatific Vision in the world to come.

Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). With these words St. Paul exhorts us to be mindful of our supernatural origin and destiny. As beautiful as it is, the world and its goods do not ultimately satisfy the deepest human yearnings for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Lk. 12:15). The Apostle further exhorts us: Put to death, therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and covetousness, which is idolatry (Col. 3:5). In life, we often come to acknowledge and affirm the truth of these words after error and personal struggle but our faith enlightens us and its wisdom guides our thoughts and actions and gradually we learn to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Mt. 6:33).

Both our first reading and the Gospel parable speak to the vanity, that is, the emptiness and foolishness of those who trust in their own devices. Each and every day we should give thanks to God for the gift of the true faith which enables us to live with meaning and purpose. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith (1 Jn. 5:4). This is why we must do all that we can to foster and preserve our Traditional Faith; for when the faith dies, the culture dies, the civilization dies and the people begin to die (Pat Buchanan). Our future is always in tradition.

Our religion is from God Himself and the great truths that have been revealed to us; the truth of life’s meaning and purpose, the world itself, the inestimable value and dignity of the human person, these have been the foundation of a civilization that has brought learning, discipline and goodness everywhere. The respect for law and reason fostered by Catholic culture has everywhere rescued peoples victimized by barbarism and idolatry and has given birth to nations including our own, that have greatly contributed to the commonwealth of humanity.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3: 2-3). The greatest and most effective arm against the vanity of the world is the sacred liturgy because it is here that we are given to know and to understand the purpose of our lives. Secularization and the denial of our inherent religious sense by the greater culture are not without consequences. In England, a recent nationwide poll has revealed that eighty-nine per cent of sixteen to twenty-nine year olds believe that their lives have no meaning or purpose.

This statistic however is not surprising if one factors in that only one percent of eighteen to twenty-four year olds identify as belonging to the Church of England. The victims of a militantly secular culture are legion; and we, by the witness of our lives must provide both an antidote to secularism and a haven of sanity and meaning and purpose in our parishes. We can do this by being fully, distinctively and unapologetically Catholic!

The affirmation of the truth our Catholic Faith and its celebration in the sacred rites left to us by Our Saviour is the source and summit of our lives. For a Catholic, the worthy reception of Holy Communion on Sunday is the single most important thing we do each week. This may sound like an exaggerated claim but if we truly believe the Eucharist to be what in fact it is, then it is not exaggerated at all to make such a statement. Just as Jesus, Way, Truth and Life is our way to the Father; so the Church in which Our Lord is present performing His saving work, is the way that leads us to God. Since God cannot be seen or heard directly, He conveys His summoning Word and inviting sign in a form that is audible, concrete and visible. This is what the Church is; and specifically, this is what the Mass is: an ancient form that is audible, concrete and visible. The form of the Mass is not arbitrary or inconsequential and as Catholics we must jealously guard the treasure of our sacred Tradition and appreciate that the Mass invites us to a lifetime of education. In the presence of this Mystery, one has never learned everything there is to learn.

At the Saviour’s command and formed by divine teaching: these are familiar words, and they express the purpose of our weekly assembly. We hear them as we prepare to pray together the prayer taught to us by Our Lord and dispose our hearts and minds for the reception of Holy Communion – the fruit of His Sacrifice. If we do this as we should, then there will be no confusion in us and less of it around us. With full understanding we will set [our] minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, and we will appreciate that a simple, moderate lifestyle and a life marked by faith, charity, humility, modesty and hard work will teach us to use wisely the things of this earth and to love the things of heaven.

I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom. 12: 1-2). ⧾