Called to be holy

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time.

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The second reading this Sunday, taken from the First letter to the Corinthians, reminds us of our most fundamental vocation, we are called to be holy. If that holds true for every single human being created for communion with God, this universal call to holiness is even more urgent for those of us who have received the incomparable gift of Baptism, those of us who have been sanctified in Christ.

On the occasion of the celebration of the sacrament of Baptism in the Sistine chapel in the year 2006, the pope emeritus, Benedict XVI, preached a beautiful and profound homily about this fact.

“Through Baptism each child is inserted into a gathering of friends who never abandon him in life or in death because these companions are God’s family, which in itself bears the promise of eternity.

This group of friends, this family of God, into which the child is now admitted, will always accompany him, even on days of suffering and in life’s dark nights; it will give him consolation, comfort and light.

This companionship, this family, will give him words of eternal life, words of light in response to the great challenges of life, and will point out to him the right path to take. This group will also offer the child consolation and comfort, and God’s love when death is at hand, in the dark valley of death. It will give him friendship, it will give him life. And these totally trustworthy companions will never disappear.

No one of us knows what will happen on our planet, on our European Continent, in the next 50, 60 or 70 years. But we can be sure of one thing:  God’s family will always be present and those who belong to this family will never be alone. They will always be able to fall back on the steadfast friendship of the One who is life.

And, thus, we have arrived at the second answer. This family of God, this gathering of friends is eternal, because it is communion with the One who conquered death and holds in his hand the keys of life. Belonging to this circle, to God’s family, means being in communion with Christ, who is life and gives eternal love beyond death…

Yes, Baptism inserts us into communion with Christ and therefore gives life, life itself. We have thus interpreted the first dialogue we had with him here at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel.

Now, after the blessing of the water, a second dialogue of great importance will follow. This is its content:  Baptism, as we have seen, is a gift; the gift of life. But a gift must be accepted, it must be lived.

A gift of friendship implies a “yes” to the friend and a “no” to all that is incompatible with this friendship, to all that is incompatible with the life of God’s family, with true life in Christ.

Consequently, in this second dialogue, three “noes” and three “yeses” are spoken. We say “no” and renounce temptation, sin and the devil. We know these things well but perhaps, precisely because we have heard them too often, the words may not mean much to us.

If this is the case, we must think a little more deeply about the content of these “noes”. What are we saying “no” to? This is the only way to understand what we want to say “yes” to.

In the ancient Church these “noes” were summed up in a phrase that was easy to understand for the people of that time:  they renounced, they said, the “pompa diaboli”, that is, the promise of life in abundance, of that apparent life that seemed to come from the pagan world, from its permissiveness, from its way of living as one pleased.

It was therefore “no” to a culture of what seemed to be an abundance of life, to what in fact was an “anticulture” of death. It was “no” to those spectacles in which death, cruelty and violence had become an entertainment.

Let us remember what was organized at the Colosseum or here, in Nero’s gardens, where people were set on fire like living torches. Cruelty and violence had become a form of amusement, a true perversion of joy, of the true meaning of life.

This “pompa diaboli”, this “anticulture” of death was a corruption of joy, it was love of deceit and fraud and the abuse of the body as a commodity and a trade.

And if we think about it now, we can say that also in our time we need to say “no” to the widely prevalent culture of death.

It is an “anticulture” manifested, for example, in drugs, in the flight from reality to what is illusory, to a false happiness expressed in deceit, fraud, injustice and contempt for others, for solidarity, and for responsibility for the poor and the suffering; it is expressed in a sexuality that becomes sheer irresponsible enjoyment, that makes the human person into a “thing”, so to speak, no longer considered a person who deserves personal love which requires fidelity, but who becomes a commodity, a mere object.

Let us say “no” to this promise of apparent happiness, to this “pompa” of what may seem to be life but is in fact merely an instrument of death, and to this “anticulture”, in order to cultivate instead the culture of life. For this reason, the Christian “yes”, from ancient times to our day, is a great “yes” to life. It is our “yes” to Christ, our “yes” to the Conqueror of death and the “yes” to life in time and in eternity.

Just as in this baptismal dialogue the “no” is expressed in three renunciations, so too the “yes” is expressed in three expressions of loyalty:  “yes” to the living God, that is, a God Creator and a creating reason who gives meaning to the cosmos and to our lives; “yes” to Christ, that is, to a God who did not stay hidden but has a name, words, a body and blood; to a concrete God who gives us life and shows us the path of life; “yes” to the communion of the Church, in which Christ is the living God who enters our time, enters our profession, enters daily life.”

 

Fr. Roberto M. Cid