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The baptism of the Lord by John Nava in Los Angeles

The baptism of the Lord by John Nava in the cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, L.A.

This homily was given to the sisters and novices of the Servants of the Lord of the Virgin of Matará, at their convent in southeast Washington, D.C.

God is always faithful. Today’s gospel has a profound and yet simple message, demonstrating exactly this fidelity (Mk 7:24-30). In the old covenant, the unique relationship and bond between God and the Jewish people means that, as the Venerable Bede comments, it is right and just that they are the first to receive the messiah when he comes. We recalled, just over a week ago, the faithful old priest Simeon in the temple as Our Lady went to dutifully fulfill the rites of purification. Simeon waited his entire life to see the gloriam plebis tuæ Israel, whom he rightly recognized in the infant Christ. With the messianic prophecy fulfilled and God’s faithfulness guaranteed, he joyfully resigned himself to death in the words of the Nunc dimittis.

God is always faithful. So when, in the gospel today, the Greek woman comes to the Lord to petition for the healing of her child, Christ’s response reflects this. The children should be fed first – that is, the Jews should be the first to receive the promised salvation of God – even though this salvation, through Christ, is opened up to all. As the woman – a gentile – acknowledged, ‘even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps’. Christ is both the gloriam plebis tuæ Israel and the lumen ad revelationem gentium. God honours his covenantal promise; he is always faithful. The Father of the children of Israel fulfilled the covenant he makes with them, and he now fulfills too the covenant he has made with us in Christ.

God is always faithful. Our incorporation into the life of the Church through baptism is the means by which our covenant with God is established. By it our self is put to death, in order that we might live solely for God. Only we can break the covenant, because God’s fidelity is unwavering and so, when we walk away from him – when we put to death our relationship by means of serious sin – we break our side of the bargain. Though we are unfaithful, even when we reject him, God stands by awaiting our return and extending his hand in forgiveness and mercy (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13).

God is always faithful. Through this encouragement in the words of the holy gospel, and in the promise of heaven presented to us in this admirable Eucharistic sacrifice, may we recall his fidelity to us, and may we be stirred-up to respond in kind, that we might come to enjoy the fruits of his promise in his heavenly kingdom for all eternity.