13th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; June 27, 2021
Readings: Wis 1:13-15,2:23-24; Ps 30:2,4-6,11-13; 2 Cor 8:7,9,13-15; Mk 5:21-43
In today’s Gospel we heard about a woman who touched the man, Jesus, who is the Son of God was healed. The precondition for her healing was her faith. We also heard that Jesus said to the man who had just received word that his daughter had died, have faith. Faith sees the man Jesus and believes in the Son of God who touches us and heals us interiorly through his sacred humanity.
In the 2nd reading we heard St. Paul tell us: You know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.
St. Paul speaks as though this ‘gracious act’ of our Lord Jesus Christ is ‘known’; maybe it was known to the faithful of Corinth, but is it truly known among Catholics today? It would seem that many are truly ignorant of this ‘gracious act’, others know it with a sort of intellectual assent, like a mathematical equation, but how many really know it in their bones?
The gracious act of Jesus Christ is his birth of the Virgin Mary and his death on the Cross, but it is also the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Before we can know it in our bones we must, in some measure receive it in our minds.
That means we must know how it is that Jesus was ‘rich’ before becoming ‘poor’ so as to enrich us by his poverty.
He was ‘rich’ because he was the Son of God, consubstantial to the Father, one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. The riches he possessed were the riches of his godhead, which he possessed from all eternity. We cannot know this in our bones so long as we value earthly riches. Nor can we grasp the wealth of Jesus in our bones so long as we think of Jesus as anything less than God; we cannot grasp this in our bones if we think that Jesus was a holy man, who taught us about the Father, showed us the way to live, and was taken up into heaven after his death.
Jesus became ‘poor’ by becoming man, born of the Virgin Mary. Mary’s gift to Jesus was our poverty, the poverty of human nature. The poverty of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was but a revelation of the poverty of the human condition before God. We cannot know this in our bones so long as we think that we are or can be something of ourselves.
Jesus said to the Church in Laodicea: You say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing’; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. (Rev 3:17)
He could well say to the United States today, “You think you are rich and have prospered and need nothing because you have computers and cell phones, airplanes and automobiles, electric lights and central heating and air conditioning, surgeons, antibiotics, and vaccines, tanks, aircraft carriers, drones, and nuclear missiles, but you do not know that the richer and more self-sufficient that you think you are, you are all the more wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.”
How can you be anything else when you permit and approve the slaughter of unborn children and the destruction of marriage and family?
If Jesus’ riches, which he hid during his earthly sojourn, but did not lose, are his godhead, then the riches that he came to bestow on us through the poverty of his humanity are the riches of his godhead, the life of grace given to us in baptism, the life that prepares us for the glory of the beatific vision and eternal union with God himself in the bosom of the Holy Trinity. Until we grasp that in our bones, we will remain wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked, regardless of what others say about us.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’.” It then quotes St. Irenaeus: “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” And St. Athanasius: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” And St. Thomas Aquinas: “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make us gods.” (CCC 460)
We do not become ‘gods’ by ceasing to be human, just as Jesus, in taking on our human nature did not cease to be divine. Rather we become ‘gods’ by sharing through grace what Jesus, the Son of God, possesses by nature. He took from what is ours to give to us what is his.
We have often heard that Jesus died for our sins. That is true because so long as we are bound by our sins, we cannot become partakers of the divine nature, the gift of sanctifying grace. Sin is the obstacle the keeps us from receiving the gracious gift that God wants to bestow upon us. The gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ is even more marvelous because we had not only the poverty of our human nature, but the even worse poverty of our sins. So also, Jesus took upon himself not only the poverty of our human nature, but the burden of our sins. He took that burden of our sins so that it could be nailed with him to the Cross.
St. Paul writes: God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. (Rm 5:8) And: Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Eph 5:2)
Christ’s gracious act consists is giving himself completely, which calls for us to give ourselves completely. The totality of Christ’s gift is seen on the Cross. The totality of his gift is renewed in every offering of the sacrifice of the Mass.
The sacrifice of the Cross and the sacrifice of the Mass are one and the same sacrifice; the priest, Jesus Christ, is the same, who once offered himself on the Cross and now offers himself through ministry of his priests; the victim is the same, the same Body and Blood that was once offered in a bloody fashion on the Cross, but is now offered in an unbloody, sacramental manner in the Mass.
This is the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ that must nourish our souls, that we must come to know in our bones, so that we might give ourselves completely to him, and in him to our brothers and sisters, remembering his words, what you did for the least of my brothers you did for me. (Mt 25:40)
Without prayer, none of this is possible. We must really pray that we may come to know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ in our very bones. Lord, I believe; help my unbelief. (Mk 9:24)
Very well and good, but now let´s move on to something very practical.
St. Paul speaks about Jesus’ gracious act in order to motivate the faithful of Corinth to be generous in giving to a special collection for the faithful in Jerusalem. He is not concerned merely about the poverty of the faithful in Jerusalem, he is concerned about the generosity of the faithful in Corinth. For love of the faithful in Corinth he wants them to be generous, generous with their hard-earned money; for the good of their souls he wants them to be generous with their material goods.
Let me put the matter very simply: If Jesus’ gracious act consists in giving himself totally out of love for us and for the Father and if we receive from that gracious act in every Mass we attend and if we are called to reciprocate that generosity by the total gift of ourselves to Christ and in him to our brothers and sisters, then we can hardly do so if we are going to be tight-fisted with our money.
St. Paul does write: Not that others should have relief while you are burdened. So, yes, we must give according to our means. We must give according to our means, but our fundamental attitude must be that of generosity; generosity evaluates our own means not according to a desire for the impoverished wealth of the world, but according to our true needs; generosity puts its trust in God, knowing that he, the Lord of all, will not be outdone in generosity. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. (2 Cor 9:10)
We should exercise some reasonable care to avoid being defrauded, but it is better to be generous and defrauded, than to use ‘due diligence’ as an excuse to avoid generosity.
Moreover, giving is not ‘investing’. The attitude of ‘what is in it for me?’ is contrary to the attitude of generosity.
Generosity gives with no strings attached; generosity does not pout or grow bitter because someone neglected to say, “thank you”. Yes, the receiver should be grateful, but that is not the reason for giving. Generosity gives because it is good to give; generosity gives because according to the ancient dictum ‘the good pours itself out’. [bonum est diffusivum sui] God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:9) because the cheerfulness in the mark of true generosity and generosity is a mark of the true Christian spirit.
If the gracious act of Jesus Christ is written in our bones then we will esteem the true riches of God’s grace, we will understand the true poverty of this world, and we will give with generosity because we have become like to our good and generous God, sharing his very life and nature.