Immersed in Christ: July 5, 2020
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
The Focus of Ministry is God
If you had to use one adjective to describe God, what would it be? What tells you God is like this? How have you experienced God being like this to yourself?
The Entrance Antiphon celebrates God’s “loving kindness” — because of which God’s “praise reaches to the ends of the earth.”
In the Opening Prayer, God’s kindness is recognized in the “obedience of Jesus,” through whose death and resurrection God “raised a fallen world.” Based on this we look to God as the one who will “free us from sin and bring us the joy that lasts for ever.” It is not surprising that the Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 145) proclaims: “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God!”
Prince of Peace:
Zechariah 9: 9-10 holds up before us the vision of a world in which war and the instruments of war which give such a sense of power to weak human beings will be no more: God will “banish the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; the warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.” Only God will rule: “His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.” He will do this through his chosen one, the Messiah whom we now know to be Jesus. And he will do it without earthly power and violence: “Shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, meek and riding on an ass,” the mount of those who come in peace, not on a horse, the warrior’s pride.
The Church sees this prophecy fulfilled in Jesus and quotes it in the liturgy for Passion (Palm) Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph to die, and God “through the obedience of Jesus, your servant and your Son, raised a fallen world.” This is the God of “loving kindness,” who evokes from us the cry, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God!” For he is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works” (continuation of Psalm 145). This is the spirit of Jesus.
The Spirit of Christ:
St. Paul tells us in Romans 8: 9-13 that this is the spirit that must be in us, and it is the Spirit of God who dwells in our hearts: “Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” This is the Spirit of “the one who raised Jesus from the dead,” and this same Spirit will raise us above the attitudes and values of “the flesh” — the destructive assumptions and practices taken for granted in all human cultures and societies. Paul writes, “If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” In this he is echoing Jesus: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” This is the ultimate refutation of those who espouse the violence of war. But it also applies to all of our day-by-day aggressive and defensive behavior that is motivated by fear, obsession with security and addiction to power — anything that leads us to act in ways not in harmony with the “loving kindness” of God.
“Come to me…”
In Matthew 11: 25-30 Jesus gives his own echo of the Responsorial Psalm “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God!” He exclaims, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to little ones.” Small children are spontaneously shocked when anyone is slapped, hit or even yelled at. At least they are until, at a very early age, they become “wise and learned” in the ways of human society. The “street wise” in our culture — whether the street be Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Pennsylvania Avenue or a back alley in the Bronx — quickly adapt to the ways of this world. Then the way of the Spirit is “hidden” from them. They do not have the “loving kindness” of God because they do not know the Father or the Son: “Indeed, an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God. And they will do this because they have not known the Father or me” (John 16: 2-3).
The way to the Father is through union with the heart of Christ:
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him…. Learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
We “know God” by “letting the same mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus (Philippians2: 5-9); that is, by letting the Spirit conform our hearts to the gentle, nonviolent, peacemaking, unifying spirit of Christ’s heart. This is the key to holiness. This is the key to ministry. This is the key to Christianity (see John 13: 1-12; 14: 15-26; 15: 9-15).
The way of the priest is love. Jesus was Priest by being Victim. We can only be “priests in the Priest” by offering ourselves as victims in him. It is his sacrificial love, revealed in us, that leads the world to respond, “I will praise your name forever, my king and my God!”
Have you experienced God’s “loving kindness”? Is this what draws you to him?
Try to detect how your milieu — at school, at work, in politics, even in family and social life — inclines you to achieve power and control through violence — of thought, word and action. Respond by looking at the heart of Christ.
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