Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sing a New Song This New Year

Our responsorial Psalm for 17 January of this new year of our Lord, 2016, commands us to “sing a new song to the Lord,” which we shall come back to. First, the command to sing a new song to the Lord begets a question: Why should we sing a new song? Answer: “for He has done marvelous deeds.” Question: What marvelous deeds? Answer: “His right hand and holy arm have won the victory.”

St. Augustine tells us that God’s right hand and holy arm is one, Jesus Christ, our very salvation. We are in the Christmas season, still celebrating the birth of Jesus; why are we speaking of the Cross now? Our Blessed Mother and Saint Joseph saw their salvation in the babe while in the womb of the Virgin, and the shepherds saw their salvation in the baby. St. Simeon saw his salvation in the Baby, for he exclaims, “Lord, now let Thou Thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen Thy salvation.”

Now, “for us men and for our salvation, [Jesus] came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” This is done for the sake of the Father, not for the sake of mankind. If salvation was for the sake of mankind, the glory would end with man; however, because the salvation of mankind is for the sake of the Father, the glory returns to the Father. If man is redeemed for his sake, he returns to sin. Because the salvation of mankind is for the sake of the Father, man becomes and remains an image of the Son. Allow St. Augustine to clarify:

“What is the Lord's holy Arm? Our Lord Jesus Christ. Hear Isaiah: ‘Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?’ His holy arm then, and His own right hand, is Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore the arm of God, and the right hand of God; for this reason is it said, ‘hath He healed for Him.’ It is not said only, ‘His right hand hath healed the world,’ but ‘hath healed for Him.’ For many are healed for themselves, not for Him. Behold how many long for that bodily health, and receive it from Him: they are healed by Him, but not for Him. How are they healed by Him, and not for Him? When they have received health, they become wanton: they who when sick were chaste, when cured become adulterers: they who when in illness injured no man, on the recovery of their strength attack and crush the innocent: they are healed, but not unto Him. Who is he who is healed unto Him? He who is healed inwardly. Who is he that is healed inwardly? He who trusteth in Him, that when he shall have been healed inwardly, reformed into a new man, afterwards this mortal flesh too, which doth languish for a time, may in the end itself even recover its most perfect health. Let us therefore be healed for Him. But that we may be healed for Him, let us believe in His right hand.”

In our first reading from 1 John 2, we are told: “Who is the liar? Whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Whoever denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist.” What does it mean to deny that Jesus is the Christ? If we believe the Baby Jesus is the Son of God, is God, then we will obey Him. To infer that it is not necessary to be the image of the Son is to state that we are not born of God. That is to assert that God saved man for the sake of man, and not for His sake. This is denying the Son. To confess the Son is to be an image of the Son.

“The Lord has made His victory known, has revealed His triumph in the sight of the nations.” How do we know this in Baby Jesus? If we believe that He is the promised Messiah, the true King, then all the other prophecies have also come to pass in the Baby. For this reason, the shepherds, the kings, and St. Simeon rejoice. For this reason, we rejoice this Christmas season. We see this triumph also in the Catholic Church, because she comes from His side. Because she comes from His side, she is “flesh of [His] flesh and bone of [His] bone,” His image. Because we are Catholic, we must be His image.

St. Jerome, in his comparison of the Catholic Church and Noah’s ark, makes a sobering assertion: “It is not the sheep only who abide in the Church, nor do clean birds only fly to and fro there; but amid the grain other seed is sown, ‘amidst the neat corn-fields burrs and caltrops and barren oats lord it in the land.’ What is the husbandman to do? Root up the darnel? In that case the whole harvest is destroyed along with it. Every day the farmer diligently drives the birds away with strange noises, or frightens them with scarecrows: here he cracks a whip, there he spreads out some other object to terrify them. Nevertheless, he suffers from the raids of nimble roes or the wantonness of the wild asses; here the mice convey the corn to their garners underground, there the ants crowd thickly in and ravage the corn-field. Thus the case stands. No one who has land is free from care. While the householder slept the enemy sowed tares among the wheat, and when the servants proposed to go and root them up the master forbade them, reserving for himself the separation of the chaff and the grain. There are vessels of wrath and of mercy which the Apostle speaks of in the house of God. The day then will come when the storehouses of the Church shall be opened and the Lord will bring forth the vessels of wrath; and, as they depart, the saints will say, ‘They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us.’ No one can take to himself the prerogative of Christ, no one before the day of judgment can pass judgment upon men. If the Church is already cleansed, what shall we reserve for the Lord? ‘There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.’ When our judgment is so prone to error, upon whose opinion can we rely?”[1] When our judgment is so prone to error, it must be the Catholic Church upon which we rely. It is in the Catholic Church that “the Lord has made His victory known, has revealed His triumph in the sight of the nations.” It is through the Catholic Church that He shows us that “He has remembered His mercy and faithfulness toward the house of Israel.” It is in the Catholic Church that “all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.” The “earth” can also refer to the baptized that are seeing more and more their victory over sin, accomplished through the works of Jesus. “Shout with joy to the Lord, all the [Baptized, those of mankind born of God]; break into song; sing praise.”

In conclusion, returning to “sing a new song to the Lord:” We sing a new song to the Lord when we no longer live in the image of the old Adam, but when we live in the image of the new Adam. When we see how God is making a new creation out of us, one created unto good works, we rejoice. We can sing praise because we know that He will finish what He has begun. What He has done last year, He continue to surpass this year. Sing a new song this new year.
--Tommy Turner
[1] Jerome, St. Jerome: Letters and Select Works, 1893, 6, 331–332.