13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; June 28, 2020
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:8-11,14-16; Ps 89:2-3,16-19; Rm 6:3-4,8-11; Mt 10:37-42
Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, says: Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Yes, God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, but in that very love he makes an absolute, unyielding, uncompromising demand for our love. He tells us that just as he has given himself completely to us, so we are required to give ourselves completely to him, required not by force, but the by inner logic of love. The love of Christ compels us. (2 Cor 5:14)
The inner logic of love calls for a response that is proportioned both to the greatness of the love and the greatness of the one who loves. There is none greater than God, from whom we have received all good things, upon whom we are completely dependent for our very existence; likewise there is no greater love than the love of the Son of God, giving his life for us on the Cross and in the Holy Eucharist. Note well, this love is not a matter of feeling or sentiment, but of will, of commitment, and of gift.
Last Sunday I spoke about the essential conflict between sin and grace, but I highlighted the powers of the world, the powers of force and deception at work in our world today, that would turn us away from the rule of grace and lead us into the slavery of sin. The essential conflict, though, is interior, it takes place in our own heart and mind. It comes down to the essential question: Will we respond to Christ’s love, or will we reject it?
That is highlighted in today’s 2nd reading. Through baptism, the rule of sin over us has been broken, unless we submit ourselves to it anew. Nevertheless, the root of sin remains in us so long as we are in this life. Consequently, the baptismal life, the life of grace is not something to be taken for granted; we must think of ourselves as dead to sin – meaning that we must continually reject the temptation to sin – so as to live for God in Jesus Christ; that is what it means to walk in the newness of life.
To walk in the newness of life means to walk in the love of Jesus Christ, the absolute, unconditional love that he asks of us today. In the world today either we will give that complete commitment to Christ, or we will be left with nothing. Propaganda, pandemic, protests, Supreme Court decisions, all of this is putting us to the test: which will it be? Christ? Or nothing? Those who will listen to Christ and so are willing to give up even their own lives for his sake, will be saved. Those who hold back from giving everything to Christ because they are afraid of losing something they regard as precious, even a family member, a friendship, a job, a career opportunity, will lose everything. It is all or nothing.
As I said, we are assailed from without, but the essential struggle is within. What are those inner enemies, the roots of sin that are found within us, that keep us from giving ourselves completely to Christ? They are well known as the seven capital sins: pride, envy, anger, sloth or acedia, avarice, lust, and gluttony.
We know the names, but we need to recognize the reality in ourselves.
Pride says, “I’m number one.” Her cousin, vainglory says, “What will people think of me? How will this make me appear to others.”
Envy says, with sinking heart, “That is unfair. Everyone admires John, but nobody notices me.”
Anger says, “How dare he! He is going pay for this!”
Sloth or acedia says, “What pray? I don’t feel like it. Mass is boring. What’s on TV? Hey, this is a really neat show – ice fishing in Alaska, home remodeling, cooking, celebrity gossip, bachelorette.”
Avarice says, “I want more.”
Lust says, “Hot!”
Gluttony says, “I just have to have that piece of chocolate.”
We start with an inclination to follow and be ruled by these impulses, rather than by Christ. We give in, at least partially; we compromise ourselves. Then fear keeps us back, fear of breaking from our comfortable but deadly and destructive habits; fear of giving everything to get everything.
Jesus, however, does throw us a lifeline: Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to, he will surely not lose his reward.
It is a lifeline: those who are too timid to give their all, hold on by recognizing, honoring, and aiding those who do give their all to Christ. It is merely holding on, but if you want Christ to pull you in, you must at least say in your heart, “If only I could be like that. I would like to be like that. I am open to thinking about doing what is needed. I am open to being open.”
But time is passing by quickly and you could easily lose your grip on the lifeline, especially in the present trial.
Actually, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, through whom all things were made, himself made man, born of the Virgin Mary, nailed to the Cross, risen from the dead, and seated at the right hand of the Father, given to us in the Holy Eucharist, is himself the key. If just once we come to know him, to taste his goodness, and to glimpse his greatness, then we will want to belong to him, without ever being separated from him. We will want to give everything, because we will know that he is a much greater and truer ‘everything.’
In the words of St. Paul: I consider everything as loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (Ph 3:8)