Occasionally you meet these wonderful older married couples who have been together for many years and still seem to be in love each other. They have a spark in their eyes, or a gentle touch between them, a concern for each other – and it makes you think – they are still as in love with other as they were those first days they met. Sure, their love has changed – it may be more like a deep slow flowing river than those earlier years when it had all the energy of a waterfall. But they still love each other – totally. And it is marvelous to behold – it gives us hope! Even if we are in difficult relationships – or have a history of broken relationships – even if we feel a bit battered and bruised because of our experience of love…. We may feel a pang of jealousy… but if we are honest we are filled with admiration and hope. This is in parallel with our faith – we are called to be in love with God our creator – we are called to return that love that he has for us – a love that never grows stale – a love that is eternally creative. And so at the beginning of this new year that is our challenge for us – how do we make sure that our Love for God isn’t growing stale – how do we make sure that we are always wishing to renew it – that we are not just here in this beautiful church out of habit or because it is a routine and we feel guilty if we miss Sunday mass.
Because our faith can be so much more than that. Even if it feels like we are clinging on by our fingernails – we are still being called deeper and deeper into love. Those couples that stay in love – do not take each other for granted. It is as though they have this capacity to see each other with fresh eyes each day – with fresh wonder. Can we do this when we look at Jesus? John the Baptist introduces Jesus to us today saying four remarkable things about him – so in case we have got too used to him – let’s listen again.
John Says this
- He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
- He is the Chosen one of God
- He is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit
- “ A man who is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me”
Let’s think about this last one. Jesus existed before John – well we know from Marys visit to Elizabeth when John leapt in the womb, that he’s not speaking biologically - So we remember that electric opening to John’s Gospel – ‘ In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’ This is called the pre-existence of Christ – the word, the logos – that we believe Jesus, the son of God, existed from the beginning of time. Jesus who we hear about in the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus who is with us in a unique way in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. This pre-existence of God, that John proclaims in the Gospel is important as it touches on the power of God’s love for us. Why ? because in order to become man, a historical man, Jesus son of Mary – son of God – step son of Joseph, – and also in order to be present to us in blessed sacrament every day as we celebrate the mystery of mass in this church and the chapel next door – God is emptying himself to be with us in a supreme act of Love.
This idea of Jesus’s pre-existence as the word is of crucial importance in an age were so many people wish to portray faith as irrational. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said that Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the “Logos.” ….. according to him is our philosophical strength, that our faith and the created world comes from the rational – not the irrational; this saves Christianity from becoming distorted by irrationality – prevents us from being sucked into violence. When we are accused of being bigots – remembering that in the beginning was the word – and through him all things were made – reminds us that to believe in Christ is Rational no matter how unpopular this has become – or how inconvenient the power of this self emptying love is to a world that is so often selfish and only interested in domination. What’s more, Benedict goes on to say – this ‘logos’ – is infinitely creative - especially when the crucified God is manifested as love, it is only this that can really show us the way. Its worth repeating that – The Word is infinitely creative especially when the crucified God is manifested as love.
So when we read the Gospel again – and when we come together like this to represent the Body of Christ, when we receive communion today – we can fall in love again. Because He never gets tired of us. Divine love never grows stale