27 September 2020 Homily for 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr. Bill Edebohls
The Today’s 2nd Reading contains what is probably the 1st Christological hymn:
Though he was in the form of God,
he did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross.
"His state was divine" - he'd been with the Father when the world was created - "yet he did not cling to equality with God, but emptied himself".
What on earth does that all mean?
Perhaps we can think in terms of a king taking off his royal robes, and dressing in beggar's rags. But that isn't quite right, for it makes it sound too easy. It makes it sound as though Jesus knew he was really God, and took a vacation from heaven for a few brief years in order to work out our salvation, and then went zooming back off to the safety of heaven.
This is the problem I have when people speak of Jesus knowing everything. I would happily die for the sins of the world if I knew that my heavenly Father would raise me up again before the weekend was over. But Jesus did not die like that. I believe that his agony was real, and that as he hung on the Cross, he was deserted by his friends, defeated by the powers of this world, even torn apart from his heavenly Father.
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me" Jesus cries from the Cross. The most chilling words uttered in the Gospels. Why is it so important to believe all that? Because, says our reading, "he emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as humans are; and being as all humans are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross."
If Jesus really was the same as all people are, then death must have been for him a fearful experience. He must have dreaded the unknown, just as we do. And when you consider that at the moment of his death, Jesus believed that he was somehow carrying our sins in his own body, the event becomes more terrible still: the sins of the whole world, pumped through the channels of a single heart.
Millions of people have died for others. Millions have died worthy, noble, virtuous deaths. But what is significant about Calvary is that it was God in Christ who died - the God who emptied himself of his divinity in order to stand in our shoes. St. Augustine says: “He became what we are - inescapably human - so that we might become what he is - undeniably God.”
That is to say, Jesus stood in our shoes, so that now we might see his footprints and in them plant our own. And we can walk in his footprints because he made prints which are exactly our size. He became as we are - so that we might become what he is.
It means that if you have a really lousy day tomorrow, and by dinner time you're ready to strangle the cat, then you can tell Jesus all about it, and he'll understand because he's been there, done that, read the book, seen the movie and got the T-shirt.
Perhaps you have a friendship that's gone sour, or there's something on your conscience, or you're terribly afraid of something, or you can't bring yourself to like that person ... whatever it is, you can talk to Jesus about it, and he'll understand because he became as you are. He has stood in your shoes. But the wonder is even greater still. He became what we are - inescapably human - so that we might become as he is - undeniably God.
That's where you and I are headed: "To the throne of Godhead, to the Father's heart, filled with light and glory in that perfect rest." Because Jesus has lived here with us, we shall live there with him. But, why wait for heaven or whatever it is that's beyond the grave? Why not start the journey today? Why not stand in those divine footsteps of Jesus, and try to live as he lived, so that heaven is built right here and right now?
That is the purpose of living the Christian life: not because we can score brownie points if we're good enough, but because as we try to walk in Jesus' footsteps, we'll be making the dream come true. Don't dream it - do it!
And surely that is what St. Paul means when he says "In your minds you must be the same as Christ Jesus." He's not talking about your IQ. He's asking us to try our best to walk in those footsteps, to think like Jesus, to empty ourselves and be humble like Jesus, to pray and care and serve and forgive and love like Jesus. To struggle for justice, to be people of mercy and compassion - in fact to live like Jesus, changing little by little, day by day becoming more Christ like, making the most of the fact that he became what we are - inescapably human - so that we might become what he is - undeniably God.