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quod pro nobis traditum est

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Called in holiness

Week of Reminiscere - Homily for Daily Office
1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; Hebrews 2:1-4,10-11,14-18

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

We know the Apostle Paul for his many epistles that spell out so clearly the Lord's salvation as God's gift to us. He also wrote to encourage the churches, like the one at Thessalonica, so that they might know also that they are called by the Lord in, or into, holiness. Salvation is for sinners. Holiness, or sanctification, is the call to sinners who have salvation in Christ. In his first Epistle to the Thessalonian believers the Apostle urges and exhorts them to lives of holiness, saying, "For this is the will of God, your sanctification" and "For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness." The Latin word for "uncleanness" means, in effect, that God does not call us to be like the world, or worldly. We are in the world but not of it. Rather, God's call is in the opposite direction - God calls us "in holiness." We are called to walk in a way that is pleasing to God. God's will is that all be saved. God's will is also that we who are being saved, are sanctified.

The salvation that we have received in Christ is "so great", as the author of Hebrews states, that he warns that this salvation not be neglected. "Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away." Is there a danger of drifting away? Touch yourself and see if you have flesh. If you have flesh, do you live without sin? The salvation is "so great." Yet we need to be reminded of that salvation. We need to "heed to the things we have heard." Faith comes from hearing and hearing from the word of God. The believers of the early church were zealous to hear the word of God so that they gathered daily. Daily they received the Eucharist. The life of the church is summarized by Holy Scripture in this way, "They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." (Acts 2:42) By their love of God and their example of hearing and heeding the things they heard, the believers brought people to the holy faith. Their lives reflected their faith. Prayer, fasting, and deeds of charity were not considered burdens but simply flowed from the words of the Lord into their daily lives. We may feel threatened by adding one extra service each week during Advent and Lent. They may have wondered, if they were here today, why the church neglects all of the other days of the week. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?"

The Scriptures do not know the certainty of salvation in Christ as an excuse to live in sin. Rather, we are called to newness of life. We are called to discipline of both body and soul for the purpose of growing in the word of life and following the author and perfecter of our faith. The captain of our salvation was made perfect through sufferings. As we are flesh and blood so He shared in the same so that through His death He might destroy Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil. We know of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and the first martyr of the time of the Apostles, St. Polycarp, who the Church commemorates on Saturday. Jesus was made in everything like His brethren. He is one with them and with us because He who sanctifies is one with those who are being sanctified. This is God's will, our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4). He made us holy by making propitiation for the sins of the people. He is the merciful and faithful High Priest who Himself suffered and was tempted. So He helps us in our temptation through His holy Word. The Apostle writes that all things are sanctified by the Word of God and prayer. Here we hear of the great deeds of God for our salvation. When we fall into sin we are reminded through this same word that we are made holy by the High Priest Himself.

Thou hast suffered great affliction
And hast borne it patiently,
Even death by crucifixion,
Fully to atone for me;
Thou didst choose to be tormented
That my doom should be prevented.
Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,
Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.

Having been rescued from eternal punishment and having received "so great a salvation", during Lent and every day "we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard."

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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