Here there cannot be Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scyth’ian, slave, free man, but Christ is all, and in all. 

Colossians 3:11 

Welcome on this Solemnity of the Circumcision and the start of our one-hundredth year of service here in Schenectady, New York.

The Solemnity of the Circumcision, noted for the shortest gospel reading, one verse, Luke 2:21 and particularly noted for its importance in understanding who Jesus is – the fulness of His reality.

Unfortunately, many Churches have gotten away from this Solemnity. They’ve locked it far away, in some attic or basement. Not really sure why. In the early Church this was considered a great feast. Artists interpreted it in various ways through the centuries in painting and murals. But suddenly, it is mostly gone.

I suppose that in the last fifty to sixty years people have stored this feast way due to the yuck factor. Who wants to talk about Jesus that way, circumcision, penises, foreskins, blood. Yet by locking away this celebration people, and Churches, miss out on connecting to the reality of Jesus.

Consider the words of St. Paul, Christ is all. Let those words linger. Think on them, and see what they convey. Christ is all. Jesus, true God deigned to come down among us and to fully take on our humanity without surrendering His Divinity. Christ is all. Today we might say things like Jesus is awesome, Jesus is wonderful, Jesus is super, He is the most, and it is great to praise Him in those ways, yet the words Christ is all bear greater weight. They convey the fullness of His reality, His being.

In the fullness of His eternal reality and union with the Father and Holy Spirit, Christ is all. In His humanity Christ is all. Jesus did not come among us with conditions. He did not tell the Father, I’ll go, but… I’ll go, but no pain – He did not say that. I’ll go, but no circumcision – He did not say that. I’ll go, but no hunger and give me a comfy bed – He did not say that. Look at the manger – that is His truth.

Jesus came fully God, fully human. On this day He showed forth His humanity in this suffering and by doing so acknowledged His human nature as a true son of Abraham and David. We cannot set that aside or gloss it over. Similarly we cannot set aside or reject His Divinity. To do either is to denigrate who Jesus is and to rob ourselves of understanding.

By His coming, by all He encountered and endured in His humanity, Jesus lifted humanity to heaven. In His Divinity He broke down artificial barriers and as St. Paul so keenly observed, He removed distinction.

There is no more Jew or Greek (AKA gentile). No more circumcision or uncircumcision – it DOES NOT MATTER. What we are now is Christ in the world. Jesus is in us no matter our state or status in life. You are a barbarian – no problem – Jesus is for you. You poor, rich, married, unmarried, man, woman, menial worker or executive – those differences are of no account. Do not allow yourself to be labeled for Christ has removed those things.

In our one hundredth year here in Schenectady we celebrate this message – that this place is for all. Christ is for you without condition. The One Who is all came for you. Accepting Him He is in you without distinction. Christ is all – and has come specifically for each and every one of us. Come, be lifted to heaven bearing His Holy Name.

I am
resolved.

Eight days later Jesus’ parents did for him what the Law of Moses commands.

Today we listen to the shortest Gospel reading of the year; one sentence in length. Yet this reading contains so much of what Jesus is all about.

After eight days every male child who was descended from Abraham was to be circumcised as a sign of the covenant with God and in order to be full participants in God’s community.

The milah – circumcision – was performed anytime between sunrise and sunset on the eighth day from when the child was born. Mary brought her Son to the place where the circumcision was to be performed and Joseph likely performed the ceremony. Circumcision in Jesus’ time was much the same as it had been in Abraham’s day. It was ritualistic and less formal than it is today.

Now Jesus, being God, did not need circumcision, yet He went through it. We can say that His circumcision is more than something He accepted, it is something He resolved to do. It was His purpose, God’s resolution, that the requirements the old law be observed so that the new law, the new covenant would be ushered in.

For practical purposes alone Jesus had to be circumcised. Otherwise, the community of Israel would have excluded Him from the Synagogue and Temple. He would not have been able to bring God’s new covenant to God’s chosen people if He was seen as against the Law.

Beyond the practical, Jesus took up in this act the fullness of humanity. God came, born of a woman and took up all of what we are. God would live and experience the fullness of human loss, sufferings, pain, and temptation. He would also enjoy the fullness of human joy. He, like us, would not live immune or somehow above the reality of human nature. He came to show us what we can be, what our opportunities and possibilities are.

We stand at the beginning of a new year. It is that moment when we take up opportunities and possibilities. They may be practical – lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more. They should be something more.

In reflecting on the opportunities and possibilities of the New Year let us unite ourselves with the Lord. Let us recognize the important lesson He taught – the fullness of our humanity has every chance at perfection because of Jesus and only in Jesus. Like Jesus we will spend time in joyful celebration and happiness in the days, weeks, and months ahead. Like Him we will be challenged by human loss, sufferings, pain, and temptation. God resolved to save us. Let us be resolved to do the Father’s will, and become more and more like His Son. He has freed us in the new covenant to do exactly that.