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Bishop's Homily for the 10th Sunday of Ordinary Time

June 10, 2018

[Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Downey, California] 

Do you remember who you are? 

Unfortunately, there are those who, because of an illness, do not remember much about who they are and their connections to other people.  I recall a priest whose father lived with him when he had Alzheimer’s, and one day at breakfast the father said to the son, “You know, I have a son who is a priest, but I never see him.”  There is a real sadness when a person loses his memory in this way. 

But we do not have to have a disease to lose touch of who we are.  It happened to Adam and Eve.  They had been tricked by the serpent, who told them that if only they at the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden them to eat, they would be like gods, knowing good from evil.  But what they had forgotten was that they already were like God, because he had made them in his own image and likeness and shared the breath of his own life with them.  They also knew very well the limits of good and evil, because God had made it very clear to them.  But for one fatal moment they thought they lacked something, that they needed to eat a particular fruit or do a particular thing to be like the One in whose image they had been made. 

The people in the gospel also seemed not to understand the real identity of Jesus and the Savior and Messiah.  His family thought he was crazy for giving himself so zealously to preaching and healing.  The scribes thought he was the devil incarnate, since he obviously was saying and doing things that challenged their authority.  If they had remembered who they were and had truly understood the Scriptures, they would have known that he was God incarnate.  Even Jesus’ mother, sinless though she was, was limited in her human sight and forgot that her Son’s identity was to bring salvation to the people.  She forgot what he had told her when he was twelve years old and she and Joseph were frantically searching for him in Jerusalem, that he must be in his Father’s house, doing his Father’s will.  Jesus knew who he was and wanted each one of his hearers to remember who they were. 

Do we think very much about the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God?  Or do we think we need some other thing, like sex, wealth, or power to really make us somebodies?  Do we recall that at our Baptism we were not just given a name to put on our ID cards, but that we were soaked in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit?  Or do we think that we are far away from God, or that we have to perform great tasks to be close to him?  Do we who have received the sacrament of Confirmation remember that we were sealed, marked, branded, spiritually tattooed, if you will, not with some design of our own choosing, but with the Holy Spirit himself?  Or do we forget who we are and allow the unholy spirit to influence our relationships, our speech and our actions?  Do we remember that when we come here to celebrate the Eucharist, the Word, who is Christ himself, takes flesh in us; and that his Body and Blood, on which we are nourished, makes us one body with him, so that we can be his living presence in our families, in our schools, in our places of work, and in our body politic?  Or do we cover ourselves as Adam and Eve did, not letting him come too close to us or become too intimate with us, because we are ashamed of who we are, while he wants us to be so completely open to him that we can be his presence to others? 

We live in a world that is disintegrating in so many ways, with domestic violence and racial violence, with bullying of individuals and saber-rattling among nations; a world that is never satisfied and always thinks having more sex, more wealth, or more power will make people happy, while in fact it makes depression an epidemic.  It is into that world that Jesus sends us to bring it back to its senses, to help it remember who it is and in whose image it is made.  It is our simple thanksgiving here every Sunday that enables us to get in touch one again with who we really are, so that when we leave here, we can show the world that, though we may seem a little crazy for what we believe, our belief in Jesus and doing the will of God are the only things that can restore us to our true identity as children of God, beloved beyond our imaginations. 

Do you remember who you are?