Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
26 July 2020
Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus
Two Common questions:
- From those on the outside: “What do you still see in the Church?”
- From those on the inside: “Why are you so interested in studying?”
There is often a difference in what the Church teaches, and has always taught, and the things that her members say she teaches and/or we don’t always act like we believe in the kind of God we say we believe in (the embarrassing question of whether the “redeemed shouldn’t look more redeemed.” -Guardini). I look around at this or that in the Church and I think to myself, “this cannot be what God had in mind.”
So why do I read all the time, and want to study and teach: because I am panting for an answer to my question. If I look around and see all this evidence and think, “this cannot be what God had in mind,” I am led to ask, “What does God have in mind for us?” And (in true academic fashion) I am convinced I will get closer to answering that question by asking another question: What does the Church really propose? What kind of life is being offered to me because God has become a human in the person of Jesus Christ?
GLORIA DEI HOMO VIVENS
Homo erectus, homo sapiens, HOMO VIVENS – woman and man who are fully alive, living life abundantly. Men and women of every race and tongue, of every tribe and nation who recognize the pearl of great price – life in abundance, fully alive – being offered to them.
Christ has come to make us a new kind of people, not a new biological species (although some have argued that redemption in Christ and the creation of a new kind of people constitutes a new step in evolution), but a new kind of creature altogether; he makes us more ourselves by making us more like him. What?
Recall one of the central teachings of Vatican II, from the document on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes 22): The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light…Christ…by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.
The first reading today is such a good example of this. (See below)
From the First Reading:
The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream at night.
God said, “Ask something of me and I will give it to you.”
“O LORD, my God, you have made me, your servant, king
to succeed my father David;
but I am a mere youth, not knowing at all how to act.
I serve you in the midst of the people whom you have chosen,
a people so vast that it cannot be numbered or counted.
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding heart
to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong.
For who is able to govern this vast people of yours?”
The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.
So God said to him:
“Because you have asked for this—
not for a long life for yourself,
nor for riches,
nor for the life of your enemies,
but for understanding so that you may know what is right—
I do as you requested.
I give you a heart so wise and understanding
that there has never been anyone like you up to now,
and after you there will come no one to equal you.”
Gloria Dei Homo Vivens
From an article by Marc Barnes (https://newpolity.com/blog/burying-liberalism-for-good)
The Church is for everyone. Through baptism, the saving hand of Christ reaches into the blinking irrationality of infancy; it pursues heartless academics with preaching and exhortation. For the illiterate, it paints pictures and stains glass; for the bored and ungrateful, it feeds eucharist after eucharist; for the sinful, it offers reconciliation; for the belligerent and the evil, the great gifts of excommunication, censure, correction, and rebuke.
The Church is for everyone. The world cannot comprehend her, because it is comprehended by her, as the sky comprehends the globe. She maternally encircles and nourishes every possible state of being and life, from heresy to sainthood, saying, as Lenin said, “to each according to his need.” This is the great anxiety of the atheist — that he is known, that his rebellion is categorized, and that monks and nuns are already praying and providing for the very needs that he denies. This is the guilt and protest of the ex-Catholic, that what he has left continues to constitute him, and with greater insistence than whatever worldly cult of commerce he has joined in its stead. There is a claustrophobia that comes with the rejection of a love that will not reject you. The damned squirm to find themselves yet embraced.
The evil of totalitarianism is the attempt by states to reproduce the true totalitarianism of the Church, which, as an order of love, is the only power on earth that can relate to everyone, totally, without doing violence to their particularity. The Church does not hem us in, any more than a good mother hems in her children, but we can say of our nation-states what Job could only say of God: “Will you never look away from me, or let me alone to swallow my spittle?”
The Church is for everyone, but not like a sweatshop producing shirts to fit all shapes. “Come as you are,” as the youth-group adage has it, but Christ will not leave you as you are. Blessedness is the goal. A new shape is what’s needed. To imagine the Church providing “to each according to their need” without admiring the way in which she transforms us, needs and all, would sell the Bride short. She is a mother, giving ungracious, selfish, and irrational infants what they need, not so they can remain infants, but so they can ascend from milk to meat. And so there is a sting in every sacrament; a whip in every good homily; a new man rising in the Body and the Blood.
The Church invites everyone “to imagine a different world from the one they see all around them – a world with a different Lord, a world in which the One God rules and rescues, a world in which a new sort of wisdom has been unveiled, a world in which there is a different way to be human.” -N.T. Wright, Paul.
Then the Church says, “There is a different way to be human, a way to be alive, to become utterly yourself, even here and now.”
Be the mystery of the Eucharist we are about to receive, the living Spirit of Jesus wants to transform us into a new kind of people, a “spiritual species” – homo sapiens in our bones, but HOMO VIVENS in our hearts.
As you receive him today, ask Jesus to take away from you everything that keeps you from him, from Church, and from the fulness of life which is being freely promised to you, even now.
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