Sunday, January 3, 2016

may we share in the life of his divinity

May I speak in the name of the Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Amen

Our collect today for this first Sunday of the year begins with the words: Almighty God, in the birth of your Son you have poured on us the new light of your incarnate Word and shown us the fullness of your love. It is essentially a reflection on our Gospel reading for this day, the famous prologue to St John's Gospel which includes the verses: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' and 'The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world' and 'And the Word became flesh and lived among us.'

This is the story of Christmas as we have it from St John, the beloved disciple: that the eternal God who was from the beginning and created all things, including time itself, had chosen to take on mortal flesh and be born as a man and live among us as if he were one of us and experience all the things of life that we do – cold, heat, hunger, thirst, tiredness, sadness, grief, and all the rest – for the sake our our salvation.

God had made us in his own image, but through sin we had fallen. And for the sake of restoring us, of bringing us back from that fall, he sent his only Son, the second person of the Blessed Trinity, to become man and die for those sins that damage that image of God we were created in. That is why, in last week's collect, the collect for the First Sunday of Christmas, we pray: 'Grant that as he came to share in our humanity so may we share in the life of his divinity who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.'

What does it mean to pray that we may share in the divinity of Christ? It means that we are to do all we can to keep alive and growing within us what was begun at the moment of our baptism. The grace we were given then must be fed with grace upon grace though out our lives so that when this life ends and we stand before the judgement throne Christ himself will look into our faces and see enough of his own image there that he may welcome us as his brothers and sisters into our heavenly home.

But how are we to receive this grace? I will mention three ways this morning. They should be nothing new to you, unless you are very young, either in age or in terms of the faith. But they bear repeating; for all of us, no matter how far we have come on our Christian journey, need to be reminded of things now and again … or simply encouraged to do the things that we know that we ought to do if we are to grow in holiness as Gods wants us to.

The first is the Holy Eucharist. This is the primary sacrament of God's Church, the one in which we meet, miraculously and mysteriously, our Saviour face to face. And as we feed upon this holy food, it fills us with grace and strengthens us spiritually so that we may grow in holiness. It is not to be neglected; for as Christ himself told us, the one who does not eat his flesh or drink his blood has no life in them. 

But remember that it is not to be taken unworthily, for that is to eat and drink judgement upon yourself, as St Paul tells us. By unworthily he means to do so lightly, irreverently, or most particularly in a state of serious sin. So you must remember to examine your consciences thoroughly and honestly before you partake of the Blessed Sacrament, confessing your sins and seeking God's absolution so that you may be worthy to receive the body and blood of our Lord. And do not fall into the error of thinking that it does not matter if you do not partake of this sacrament as often as you may; which of you undertaking an important journey would think it wise to starve yourself along the way? Why then would you think it wise as you undertake this most important journey of all, the journey you hope will end in heaven, to deliberately starve yourself of the God-given spiritual food you need to strengthen you along the way?

The next thing I would remind you of is to pray regularly. We see our Saviour at prayer regularly in the Gospels. We have his very own example of how necessary a life of prayer is. We are called to be like him, as like him as it is humanly possible to be. We can not even begin to do so if we do not pray. More, he was the Son of God and he thought it necessary to pray. If we in our humanity wish to share in the life of his divinity how can we hope to do so if we, in how we live our human lives, do not follow the example of Christ as he lived his human life? 

We must pray and pray regularly. Not just when we want something or some crisis in our life or the world emerges; and not just when we have sinned in some particularly egregious way, so seriously and wilfully that the normal self-justifications and excuses will not suffice and we know we must pray to God for forgiveness there and then, because we know if we were to die there and then we would perish in our sins and our hope of heaven might have been thrown away in that moment of wilful disobedience. We must pray daily, morning and evening at least and more often if we can; placing ourselves under God's protection at the beginning of the day and asking us for his grace to strengthen us in all we will face throughout the day and for his forgiveness at night for the many ways we will have failed him over the course of that day and that he will watch over us as we sleep and welcome our soul to heaven if we do not wake.

And the third thing I will remind you all of is the importance of reading the Sacred Scriptures. St Jerome tells us that the person who is ignorant of Scripture is ignorant of Christ. How can we hope to share in the Divinity of the Word made flesh if we will not read that word as revealed to us in the Holy Bible? Every book of it speaks to us of Christ, the Old Testament prophesying or pre-figuring when he would come; the New telling us of the fulfilment of God's promises that he would send a Saviour; and all of it speaking to us of our Father's purpose in creating us and his divine plan as to how we should live our lives.

This Sunday is the first of 2016. It is a time when in the secular world many make what are called new year's resolutions. They usually entail some way of living their life more fruitfully or productively: eat more healthily, take more exercise, spend less time watching television and more reading good books. Perhaps the reminders I have given you today could form the basis for new resolutions for your spiritual life: that from now on you will read a short passage of scripture each day; that you will begin and end each day in prayer; and that you will let nothing but the gravest of reasons prevent you from being in Church each Sunday to receive the life-giving Grace God offers you in the Holy Eucharist. They are resolutions that would help you on your journey to eternal life. And it would be a response of love to the love that, as our morning collect reminds us, God has shown us in pouring out upon us the light of his incarnate Word. Amen

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