Ordinary Time 30, Year A
- Live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma (Eph. 5:2)
Today’s first reading ends with the Lord God declaring, “For I am compassionate.” The reading makes clear that the Lord’s compassion is directed in this instance toward the alien, the widow, the orphan, and the poor.
Such divine compassion stands out, considering that many a human being would rather ignore and even take advantage of the defenselessness and the misfortune of other human beings. When the going gets tough especially, it is not unusual for the axiom, “Everyone for himself,” to become the prevailing cry. Hopefully, we would not be in such straits that the curse in Dt. 28:53-55 should come true for us: “Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the Lord your God has given you. Even the most gentle and sensitive man among you will have no compassion on his own brother or the wife he loves or his surviving children, and he will not give to one of them any of the flesh of his children that he is eating” (New International Version).
Hopefully, in times of trials and tribulations, we would rather share in the blessing pronounced by Jesus over the afflicted and become children of our heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt. 5:45). Amazingly and selflessly compassionate, our heavenly Father “did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all” (Rom.8:32). And the Son, as selfless as the Father, gives to others, so that they may have eternal life, his own flesh as food and his own blood as drink (Jn. 6:48-58). Hopefully, as were the Thessalonians, we will become imitators of the apostle Paul and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, turning from our self-serving idols to serve the living and true God and become a model for others.
Those then who live as true children of the Father, through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of others (Phil. 2:4). They are like St. Timothy also in their being unlike those who seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:21). Recognizing themselves to have been created—whether male or female—in God’s image and after his likeness (Gen. 1:26-27; 9:6), God’s true children see themselves as God’s property and accordingly give themselves to God (cf. Mt. 22:15-21).
God’s true children know, for one thing, they are not their own but rather the temple of the Holy Spirit within them; they avoid, therefore, the selfishness that is entailed by sexual immorality (1 Cor. 6:12-20). For another thing, they know they are not their own but God’s, and so, like St. Vincent de Paul, they are ready and willing to do the good that present itself to be done, convinced that if God increases their work, he will also increase their strength (cf. “Conferences of Vincent de Paul,” in Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac: Rules, Conferences, and Writings, ed. Frances Ryan, D.C., and John E. Rybolt, C.M. [New York: Paulist Press, 1995], p. 150). In other words, because they know that they and their fellow human beings bear divine image and inscription, God’s true children live according to God’s absolute claim on their love and also according to their neighbor’s claim on the same kind of love that they have for themselves.
Accordingly, those who truly live as God’s children show not only respect for God himself but also respect for every human being as someone reflecting God himself. To them, for instance, none of those created in the image of God should be characterized as “illegal” even if he may be an undocumented immigrant. Writes Father Richard Benson, C.M., in this regard :
- Some letters to editors refer to undocumented immigrants as “illegals.”
- I find this appalling language. Apart from the fact that it is bad grammar,
- it is a type of objectification of others reminiscent of the worst kind of
- racial profiling. No human being is ever to be reduced to being totally or
- even primarily identified by the color of their skin, their country of origin,
- their legal status or any other external characteristic. Every human being
- is first and foremost a person. In the book of Genesis, Scripture reveals
- that every human being is created as “imago Dei,” i.e. the image of God.
- Every human person is the child of God and therefore every human is a part
- of the family of God. We are sisters and brothers.
- This is a foundational understanding of Catholic anthropology.
- This basic understanding of who we are has profound implications
- for our moral obligations to ourselves and one another.
- While it is clear that the greatest commandment is to love God,
- 1 John 4:20 reminds us that “if we say we love God but do not love
- our sister or brother, we are liars.”
Later on in the same article, Father Benson also makes the case, in so many words, that, while what is Caesar’s should be rendered to Caesar, every Christian, belonging absolutely, as he or she does, to God, ought, first and above all, to obey God’s law which sometimes clashes with established civil law.
And we Christians are not only obliged to answer to a higher authority, love God with our whole selves and our neighbor as ourselves, and not “dodge faith’s call” . Happily, we are also empowered to do so, because God loved us first and showed to us that love, fundamentally, is about him loving us and sending his Son as expiation for our sins (1 Jn. 4:10, 19). Love is about the self-sacrificing compassion that is celebrated in the Eucharist.