Immersed in Christ
Immersed in Christ: October 25, 2020
THE THIRTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR A
Preserve the Gift of Love in Hope
What do you ask God for most often? What do you experience him doing for you most often? How often do you ask him for strength? The strength to do what?
The liturgy today focuses our attention on the love to which God calls us. But it does not presume that we can love as we should by our own strength.
The Entrance Antiphon urges us to “Seek the Lord and his strength.” We will find that strength by “seeking always the face of the Lord.” We draw our strength from knowing God (Psalm 104). The Responsorial Psalm declares that we love God because he is our strength: “I love you, Lord, my strength” (Psalm 18).
In the Opening Prayer we ask God to “strengthen our faith, hope and love” so that we may “do with loving hearts what you ask of us. In the Alternative Opening Prayer we ask God to “strengthen our faith to accept your covenant and give us the love to carry out your command.” The theme of today’s celebration is asking God for the strength — for the faith, the hope, the love — to do what he asks of us, making God’s will, his desires, his priorities, our own. This theme pervades the Our Father and the whole Rite of Communion.
Don’t abuse strength
Exodus 22: 20-26 warns us not to take advantage of the weak and not to oppress them. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien… any widow or orphan.” If we do, and “they cry out to God,” God will use his strength to correct us.
Likewise, “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors... you shall not act like an extortioner… by demanding interest.” Well into the sixteenth century “usury” meant lending money at any rate of interest at all, and the “ordinary magisterium” (which is Church teaching that is official but not necessarily infallible, and is subject to revision), condemned it as being always a sin. When the theologians finally realized that money is not just a medium of exchange but “capital” — something that works for you as much as a mule does — then they saw it is not unchristian to charge rent for money. Now “usury” means the sin of charging too much interest.
In the spirit of this teaching, however, we might ask what business practices make us guilty of taking more from the weak or the poor than is compatible with Christian love. What makes a price, or a rent, or the charge for our services, too high? Should the price be adjusted, when economically feasible, to the customer’s ability to pay? Should the poor be asked to contribute as much as the rich to civic needs (such as roads and schools) by paying the same sales tax that the rich pay on things they have to buy (like food and gas)? How much does income tax really balance this off?
The answers to questions like these need to come above all from the laity, not the clergy, because, according to Vatican Council II, the “reform of the temporal order,” the renewal of social structures and civic policies, is the proper field of action, the explicit apostolate, of the laity. To take this responsibility is the most evident exercise of stewardship in the Church. As “stewards of the kingship of Christ” we are responsible for establishing the reign of God’s principles — above all, the reign of love as God teaches love — over every area and activity of human life on earth.
To bring this about, leadership must come from every person, in every walk of life. We need input from the halls of learning and the households of the bargain-hunters; from those in the “ivory tower” and those in the coal mines. Stewardship is everybody’s job. We look to God for the strength to do it in love: “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
One law: love
In Matthew 22: 34-40 Jesus boils everything down to love: love for God and love for every other human being on earth: “This is the greatest and first commandment.”
Love is not just a feeling, or even just showing affection. Parents’ love would include exercising prudent stewardship over their children’s inheritance: not just property, but above all their religious heritage, their cultural heritage, the environment and world they will live in. If we have love for all of God’s children — and love God with all our heart, we will invest all we are in what everyone else on earth, with our help, can become. This is the love most like God’s. God is that One who chooses to invest everything he is in what we can become. Jesus invested his life in this, not just on the cross, but every minute he lived. That is the love we are called to. It is the total abandonment of self in unrestricted stewardship. Only God can give us the strength to love like this: “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
Stewardship in receiving
1Thessalonians 1: 5-10: Stewardship is exercised, not only in dispensing, but in receiving. When God offers us a gift, it is responsible stewardship to accept it, appreciate it at its proper value, and make use of it. St. Paul praises the Thessalonians for the way they responded to his teaching:
In spite of persecution you received the word with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia….
God has invested in us truth and love, the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,” through the ministries of countless people. Now we, “like good stewards of the manifold grace of God,” need to “serve one another with whatever gift each has received” (1Peter 4:10).
How, in my life, can I make my stewardship love and my love stewardship?
Make an inventory: What has God invested in you? How you have re-invested it?
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