Immersed in Christ: July 26, 2020
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
Seek, See and Show the Face of God
If God offered to give you anything you desire, what would you choose? Take a minute. Choose.
Done? Now ask yourself if what you chose is what you are experiencing (or showing) the most desire for in your life now.
The Entrance Antiphon promises “a home, power and strength” to God’s people. It invites us to ask what kind of power we would be at home with; what we would like strength to do. In the Opening Prayer we respond by asking for wisdom: to “see and cherish the gifts that surround us” — creation, life, all that God touches — and to “use wisely the blessings” God has given to the world. The Responsorial Psalm celebrates the gift of God’s guiding law: “Lord, I love your commands” (Psalm 119).
The Gift of Wisdom
In 1 Kings 3: 5-12 Solomon chooses the one gift that will give him everything else of value. He chooses wisdom, which St. Thomas Aquinas defines as “the habit of seeing and appreciating everything in the light of our ultimate goal.” He also defines wisdom as “a taste for spiritual things” (from the Latin for “wisdom,” sapientia, which comes from the root sapor, “savor” or “taste”). These come down to the same thing: if we see everything in the light of knowing and loving God, our ultimate goal and destiny in life, then we will have an appreciation for all that leads us closer to God. Then we will say from the heart, “Lord, I love your commands.”
“Look to the End”:
Romans 8: 28-30 tells us that our goal, the end and destiny we should look to in order to guide our lives with wisdom, is to “be Christ” and to grow into perfect likeness to him in word and action — “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (and see Ephesians 4:11-16). The goal of the New Covenant is not that we should just keep the Law; it is that we should be and live as Christ. The seal of the New Covenant is not the symbolic blood of sacrificed animals, but the living Body and Blood of Christ which we eat and drink as a sign that we are taking his own divine life into our bodies to live as Christ’s real body on earth. For Christians, wisdom is to live as Christ: “Lord, I love your commands.” Jesus’ command is “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is, perfect” and “Love one another just as I have loved you” (Matthew 5:48; John 13:34).
In Matthew 13: 44-52 Jesus tells us that real wisdom is to appreciate the goal of union with Christ so much that we will live for nothing else! “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
The simple truth is that God gives All for all. The only way we really know how much something is worth to us is by the price we are willing to pay for it. If we are only willing to give a little bit to possess God completely, then we only appreciate God a little bit. As Karl Rahner said, “We do not know we really believe in the two birds in the bush until we let go of the one bird in the hand.” So when God promised Abram the posterity that he saw as fulfillment in life, he told him to leave everything that gave security and fulfillment to his life here and now: “"Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). When he left everything for the promise, Abram knew he believed. And when we seek only to “know, love and serve God” and to become more and more “conformed to the image of his Son” in everything we do 24-7-365, we will know we have wisdom. Then we can say with conviction, “Lord, I love your commands.”
Is this discouraging? Jesus tells it is a sixty-minute game. We have time to grow. At the “end of the world” the wise will be sorted from the foolish (see also Matthew 24:44 to 25:13). At the end of our lives we will be called to say “Yes” to God with our whole heart by saying yes to the apparent loss of everything else at death. This is literally to “sell all” for the pearl of great price. And it is the act that brings love to perfection.
Christian ministry is to prepare people for this. It is never to simply maintain the status quo of morality or religious observance. Ours is the ministry of life, and to live is to change. To live is to grow. The wise are always opening themselves to the new and to the “more.” “Every scribe who is instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a house who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” Only those can say truly, “Lord, I love your commands” who want to “comprehend… the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge… to be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3: 18-19). True wisdom is to seek always the “perfection of love.” True ministry is to lead people to this.
How can you strive consciously for the “perfection of love” in your life? How can you “use wisely the blessings” God has given to you in this world in order to grow into the goal of perfect likeness to Christ?
Put a “yeast of change” into your daily life: something that makes you think; prayer that leads you to respond in choices, a plan for spiritual growth.
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