Homily 25th week of Ordinary time
The essence of Divine Providence is the gift of life. The Lord is the giver of life. The Black Death was the deadliest pandemic in recorded history. It killed an estimated 75-200 million people from the years 1346-1353. Amid all the death in Europe, Africa, and Asia, a literary-spiritual work was written: the Ars moriendi and the Ars viviendi. Ars moriendi means the art or skill of dying, and Ars viviendi is the art or skill of living. Both despair and presumption can destroy the soul. Faith, hope, and love nurture the life of the soul. Our bodies live and die, but our souls are destined to live with God in eternity. Eventually, even our bodies could be made incorruptible. The skill is to die like you are going to live and to live like you are going to die. We should not presume that we will be saved. We should not ignore or avoid death. We need to face death with our faith and hope. We should not despair in life or in death, that we are beyond the mercy of God. Repent and believe in the Gospel. Why sit around watching and agonizing over all the bad news when we have the Good News? We are all given life so that we can cooperate in God’s plan of Salvation. Our food is to do the will of the Father. Christ did the will of the Father. (cf. Jn 4:34) Receiving Christ enables us to do our work for God’s glory, and not our own.
St Catherine of Sienna, in an ecstatic dialog with God, said that He gives different abilities and gifts to people so that they will learn how to share their gifts, helping each other, and loving one another. We are created for living in relationship, not to defeat each other. That’s the lesson of the Shema, the first lesson taught to Jewish children. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole being, and with your whole strength.” (Dt 6:4-5) God comes first because God has always existed. We came to existence through God. When Jesus was tested by the experts of the law he replied as a child would, and He added something to the Shema that was truly always part of it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (cf. Lv 19:18; Mk 12:31, Mt 22:39, Lk 10:27) Jesus tells us that there is no greater love than laying your life down for a friend. (cf. Jn 15:12). Jesus was the suffering servant of all. He died for love of us whether we are His friends or His enemies. Some will receive His gift, and others may reject it. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader to their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Heb 2:10) “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church,” (Col 1:24) If we live in the Body of Christ then our sufferings and afflictions are united to His redemptive suffering. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) Through Christ’s death, we are offered eternal life. We were baptized into His death so that we might rise to eternal life with Him. “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we might also be glorified with him.” (Rom 8:15-17) You can’t kill your way to peace, but you must live and die your way there.