Second Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A 2017:
I once heard a quote from Michelangelo about his famous statue, David. Someone asked him how he made such an impressive statue, and he said, “easy, the statue was inside the marble before I worked on it, I just had to chip away the stone that wasn’t David.” Now, I was also reading today on the internet that he didn’t really say that, but let’s just say for argument that he did. The statue was already there inside the marble, he just had to chip off the extra.
I think that is a good way to look at our lives as Christians. We already have this identity, this calling, it’s just up to us to live it out. I think we all know that instinctively don’t we? I mean, I know that God is calling me to goodness, to kindness, to be loving and caring. I know that I’m expected to follow the commandments of Jesus, to live my life just as he lived his life. We all know this instinctively, but what about chipping off the extra?
I take some comfort in knowing that this is not a new problem. In fact, St. Paul was dealing with it about 2000 years ago with his community in Corinth. Today’s second reading is the very beginning of the letter to St. Paul. It’s one of my favorite parts of the letter, actually. I had a great professor for St. Paul’s letters when I was in seminary, he taught us to read the opening of each letter very carefully, because Paul has a tendency to explain his focus in the introduction. I think that this very short little introduction does a great job of introducing Paul’s whole letter. But, it also does a great job of introducing an important aspect of Christian living.
Paul starts by saying who he is: Paul, called to be an apostle. But, who called him to be an apostle: by the will of God. So, Paul did not decide to be an apostle. Rather, he is following God’s will. God decided that Paul should be an apostle; Paul, is just living out that calling. What about the people? Paul says, “to the Church of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be holy.” Now, this is a little bit sloppy in the translation. What Paul is doing there is actually quite simple. He says, I’m writing to the people of the Church. These people, Paul says, have already been made holy by Christ, and now they are called to be holy.
During the rest of the letter, Paul has a number of problems to address with the community. But, it all begins with God’s work. God has already made them holy. God has sanctified them through the power of the sacraments, especially baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Paul writes to them to correct their behavior because their behavior is not in keeping with who they are as Christians. The same might be true for us.
On the day of our baptism, God made us holy. He changed us forever. We have been marked with a seal that cannot be removed. He touched us, made us holy. Now, the rest of our lives is all about living out that holiness. Just like that beautiful statue in the marble. It was already in there, the artist just removed what didn’t belong. We are already holy because we have been touched by God. Now, it’s up to us to figure out what doesn’t belong. We have been made holy by Christ, now we are called to be holy, to live holy lives.
We will never be able to do that without God’s help. We need prayer. We need the guidance of the Bible. We need the forgiveness of our sins in confession. We need God’s presence in Holy Communion. Inside of each one of us, there is a beautiful saint just waiting to be carved out. God is the sculptor who wants to transform us into his beautiful creation. If only we are willing to let him work.
So, echoing the words of St. Paul. Dear people of St. Jude, you have been made holy by Christ Jesus, and you are called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.