Ordinary Time 27, Year B-2009

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I have loved you, says the Lord; but you say, “How have you loved us?” (Mal. 1:2)

God seeks to be in communion with human beings. He loves Israel (cf. Hos. 11:1, 4). He has loved his people with age-old love and so has kept his mercy toward them (Jer. 31:3). In Is. 49:15-16, the Lord assures Zion, feeling forsaken and forgotten: “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name ....” The Lord’s love for us is strong and he is faithful forever (Ps. 117).

But divine love, which “surpasses all our hopes and desires” (cf. today’s collect prayer), is not merely affective; it is eminently effective. Sensitive and attentive to the cries of his suffering people, God comes to their rescue. He delivers them from their oppressors, protects them from nations greater and mightier than them, and establishes them in the promised land (Ex. 3:7-10; Dt. 4:37-38). God repeatedly rebukes and judges his people, as the utterances of the prophets sufficiently make clear. Yet time and again, too, he shows himself to be understanding, merciful and forgiving (Ps. 103:8; Jer. 31:20). And finally, never despairing of his people, God reveals the depth of his love by giving us the only one left for him to send, his beloved Son (Mk. 12:6; Jn. 3:16). The Son dies for his friends, notwithstanding their sinfulness, and thus he proves God’s love through a love greater than which there is no other (Rom 5:8; Jn. 15:13). Because he becomes one of us and is not ashamed to call us brothers, as today’s second reading teaches, Jesus is able to help us and bring us to glory as our leader, made perfect through suffering.

Yet in these last days, no less than in times past, God’s chosen people have “made a sorry return for divine love” and have shown that they are not fully ready to enter into divine communion (cf. the introduction to the Book of Malachi in the Personal Study Edition of The Catholic Bible [New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995]). No doubt, it is basically due to the hardness of our hearts. Such hardness of heart, not childlike and more characteristic of grown-ups, prevents us from fully partaking of the covenant by which we accept the Lord as our God and he accepts us as his own people.

Not grasping fully—or better, not fully grasped by—the mystery that refers to Christ and the Church, I fail to understand the original saying: “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (cf. also Eph. 5:29-33; Mal. 2:10-16).

Not fully appreciating my membership in the one body of Christ, I readily find impractical and no longer feasible nowadays—too socialistic also, if not communistic—what is at once indicative and imperative in Acts 4:32-35: “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common. With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all. There was no needy person among them, for those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.”

Not ready to be in full communion with the Evangelizer of the Poor, I fall short of what St. Vincent de Paul holds up for his followers, namely, that they be understanding of the poor and needy, sympathizing with them so fully that they can say with St. Paul, “I have become all things to all men” (P. Coste, XI, 340-341).

In so many words, lacking in love that is both affective and effective, I am as well lacking in knowledge of God, who is love (cf. 1 Jn. 4:8), and doubt that God loves human beings and seeks to be in communion with them.