'Our Humanity Is What We Share with God'

'Our Humanity Is What We Share with God'

Rev. Michael Himes, a professor of theology whose commentaries on the Lenten season are featured in a four-tape video series released by St. Anthony Messenger Press, was the celebrant March 9 in the first of the annual series of Sung Lenten Masses at St. Mary's Chapel.

His homily intertwined the theme of the baptismal promises renewed by Christians each year at Easter, at the close of six weeks of Lenten prayer and fasting, and the day's readings on the Temptation of Christ. An excerpt follows:

Those baptismal promises are...directly connected to this Gospel passage (Luke 4:1-13). The point of the promises is not simply to recite the Creed. The point of the promises is: Do you believe in God the Father, the Maker of heaven and Earth? That's what you say: Do you believe there is an ultimate foundation of all that exists? Do you believe there is an ultimate source and reason for everything that exists, including human beings? And do you believe you're not it - that in fact you do not make yourself, but are made; that you are a creature, but not your creature; that you are the creature of a creator who is other than you. Do you believe that?

Rev. Michael Himes
...Do you believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, who becomes incarnate of the Virgin Mary, who is brought into the Flesh by the Spirit, lives and suffers and dies with us and now lives in glory at the right hand of the Father? Do you believe that? And if so, what an extraordinary thing it must be to be the kind of creature you and I are - and with what immense care, and with what extraordinary dignity, we must treat ourselves and one another, precisely because our humanity is what we share with God.

...Notice what happens in those temptations. Out of the desert the tempter comes to Jesus and says, "You know human beings when they fast in the desert are going to get hungry. You don't have to be hungry. Snap your fingers and turn the stones into bread. Human beings have to be hungry - you don't have to do that. Drop the charade... Go back to being God." And Jesus refuses to do it.

...Up on the top of the temple: "You know you're going to have a terrible time trying to convince all these people, who are not all that bright. You're going to have a terrible time trying to convince them of the message. You're going to have to march up and down dusty roads in Judea and Samaria and Galilee. You're going to have to teach them stories and parables...Some people will get it, some people won't; some people will listen, some will turn away; some people may end up denying you, and some will end up betraying you. For heaven's sake - human beings have to deal with inconvenience like that. You don't have to. You're at the top of the temple: throw yourself off, the angels will bear you up...you'll have to beat them off with a stick, Jesus. They be flocking to you...What you need is a good press agent." And like most press agents, the Devil is willing to step into the breach. "I know what you need to do to make your message heard: Jump off and have the angels rescue you...Wow us as God!" And Jesus refuses to do it.

Up on the highest mountain in the world, from which could be seen all the kingdoms of the Earth..."There it is, Jesus. You want to rescue the world? Who are you going to rescue them from? Me? Great! Here's a present: I give it to you. Just deal with me as God to angel. Don't go through this long, hard process of being a human being. Wow us as God." And Jesus refuses to do it.

...Luke's Gospel ends with the stirringly ominous line: "And the Devil left Him until there would be a better opportunity."...At Gethsemane, the night before the Lord's Passion and death, [is] the last temptation. The "better opportunity" is, in effect: "Look, Jesus, I didn't think you'd get through this whole miserable process of being a human being. My hat's off to you. You surprised me, you carried it off. Congratulations. But look, Jesus - human beings die. They sometimes die alone, in great pain, tortured to death. For heaven's sake, Jesus - don't do that! Get out of this humanity business at this point..."

...The temptations are always the same...The Devil's only got one good lie...Whether it's in Eden, or...somewhere out in the wilderness with Jesus, or at Gethsemane, the lie is always, "You don't have to be a human chap. You want to be God. Being God is good. Being what you are is less. Drop what you are, and declare yourself God."

And the first of the baptismal promises are, "I am not God, and it's wonderful that I'm not God..."

...[Baptism] is a lifelong process of slowly being weaned away from our fear of "creatureliness," our desire to claim ultimate overlordship of our whole life, and our fear of being driven by the Holy Spirit. Only when we discover the compulsion of the Spirit is love, that God is the only true God, and that I have the extraordinary privilege and immense joy of being a creature of that God, filled with that Spirit - only when that happens am I truly finally baptized...


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