HOMILY for Thu in Week 5 of Lent
Genesis 17:3-9; Psalm 104; John 8:51-59 – preached at a Mass with Baptism in St Albert’s Chaplaincy
NB: Names have been changed for the sake of the privacy of the family
Three things happen to Abraham in today’s First Reading. Firstly, God chooses him, and makes a covenant with him. The tendency is to think of a covenant as a contract, but contracts usually exchange property, goods, and services, not people. But what we have here is something personal and relational. For a covenant is an exchange of love between people. Marriage is a covenant, and so too is baptism, which is an exchange of love between God and his child. God says to us, the spiritual children of Abraham, that he will be our God; he gives himself to us. In exchange, we give ourselves to him in love, and so, we create a family bond with God. Relationship, love, and faith or trust, are all hallmarks of any family. Just as you, Laura and Mike, will help Rose to grow in your family, to form relationships with her grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and to increase in love and trust, so, too, you will need to help Rose to grow in love for God, introduce her to him through your own example, so that she too may have faith and trust in him; so that she will have a living relationship with him.
Secondly, Abraham is given a new name by God. The gift of a name is a sign of a new state of life or vocation. Abram had been called by God to be the father of his people, and because he entered into a covenant with God, he was given a new name, a family name, you might say, to indicate this. So, too, Rose Elizabeth has been given names – family names, of course, but also names drawn from the wider family of the Church, from the saints. For, in baptism, she will share the universal Christian calling, which is to become a saint through openness to God’s grace. In particular, I am delighted that she is called Rose, which is the name of the first saint of the Americas, the Dominican St Rose of Lima.
Finally, Abraham is given a royal dignity and the promise of land, a kingdom. So, too, Rose will be anointed just as the kings of Israel were anointed, just as Christ, the Anointed One was. And so, she will become another Christ, an anointed one, who shares in Christ’s royal, prophetic, and priestly dignity. But, moreover, through baptism, Rose will be adopted into God’s own family. So, she will have the dignity of a child of God, a divine dignity, as God enters into a covenant with her, and gives himself to her entirely so that, through grace, the Holy Trinity dwells within her soul, making her a temple of God’s holy presence, filled with his love. And this is the promise that he makes to her today. That she will inherit, not just any kingdom, but the kingdom of God. She will inherit eternal life with God.
This is the greatest gift anyone can receive because union with God is the only thing that will satisfy the longings of the human heart. By bringing Rose here today, you, Laura and Mike, who have already co-operated with God in giving her the precious gift of life, are also rightly thinking of her deepest happiness, and so, labouring with God to plant the seed of eternal life. May what God has begun this day be brought to perfection through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the working of all his saints – by which I mean not just those in heaven, but also us in the Church who all share in God’s covenant of love.