Sunday, August 28, 2011

Fr. Eric's Commentary on the 11th Sunday after Pentecost


As we focus on living the Christian life in the here and now, during this in-between time with Advent/Christmas (Incarnation) on the one hand and Lent/Easter (Resurrection) on the other, we are reminded in today's liturgy that our job as the Church in the here and now is to be witnesses of the glory that is to come, a glory partially revealed in the healing of the deaf-mute.  How we act in this life is either a witness to the rest of humanity that a blessed life is possible in the future for those who want it, or it is not such a witness.  To some extent, Catholics must already live in the here and now the glorious life that is promised in the next life.  People ought to look at our behavior, as individuals and as a community, and say : peace, forgiveness, justice and holiness are possible.  Look at them!  Just as the people saw the deaf-mute hearing and speaking, and came to believe in Christ, people must look at us and see spiritual deaf-mutes whom Christ has healed.  We, too, at one time, could not hear and now hear; could not speak, and now speak, the Word of God.

Saint Ambrose of Milan said something which has remained famous for centuries : Where there is Peter, there is the Church; where there is the Church, there is eternal life (Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia; et ibi ecclesia, vita eterna.)

Why the connection between the Church and eternal life?  Because the Church has to be the one to proclaim the Good News that leads to eternal life.  If people aren't brought to repentance through the preaching of the Good News, they will not be lead to salvation.  Secondly, because it is the Church alone who can provide the sacraments that lead to eternal life.  This is our job.  To witness those things that can lead others to eternal life, future glory.

INTROIT : "Let God rise..."  He certainly did on Easter Sunday morning.  And His enemies : death, sickness, sin - they all fled powerless before His risen body.  The healing of the deaf-mute is a foretaste of that perfect resurrection in store for us in the future life.  To some extent, we have already experienced this resurrection, for we were once dead in sin and Christ has graced us with His mercy and forgiveness.  For others, Christ has healed them also physically from illness; still, others, it was a grace in the family or marriage.  He "gave strength and power to His people."  It is this bond we have with Christ our Savior that enables us to be one community in the Church.  All of this is a witness to the world.  May they look on us and see people graced by Christ, and through that may they also want the same salvation.

COLLECT : God is so kind to us, that He wants to give us what we most truly need, the forgiveness of our sins so that heaven can be ours.  On top of that, He is most willing to give us the graces which we dare not ask for, because we know we don't deserve them.  God does not give the minimum but the maximum good.  But He knows best what is good for us.  The Collect also reminds us that God gives us more than we even know how to desire.  Heaven is beyond all our capacity to imagine and desire.  We will be happy beyond all imagination.

EPISTLE : Saint Paul says that we have been given something that saves us, faith in the Risen Christ.  We have been given what it takes to save our souls; it is up to us not to reject that salvation but instead "to hold fast."  Saint Paul speaks of many witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus; people who saw Jesus in the flesh, alive and well, although He had died on the cross.  The Church witnesses this truth.  Jesus died, saved us, rose from the dead and is preparing a place for us in heaven.  Do we witness this in the way we act on earth today, in the here and now?

GRADUAL/ALLELUIA : "And I have been helped."  To some extent, we live the resurrection in the here and now, to be perfectly completed in the life to come.  We were once dead in our sins; we rose again in Sanctifying Grace through confession and absolution.  We were once weak and empty; we rose in strength through the Eucharist, our spiritual food.  We were once full of anger or pride or bitterness; through grace we were freed from those and were filled with peace, humility and mercy.  If we allow grace to make us rise to new life, we witness the future glory of heaven through living that new life of grace.  People will notice the change in us and see what could also be theirs.

GOSPEL : The healing of the deaf-mute is symbolic of the future resurrection.  All of Christ's miracles, in one way or another, point to the fullness of risen life.  The resurrection of Jesus from death foretells our own resurrection, beating death and all that leads to death - sickness, hunger, violence.  Christ overpowered deafness and muteness in the man; He overpowered death itself on Easter morning.  The people who saw this mini-resurrection in the cured man became loud witnesses of the power of Christ over fallen human nature.  That is our job, too.  We are to tell the world that Christ has given you and me our own mini-resurrections, in the way that He has overpowered our fallen human natures, in the way that happened to us personally.  For some, Christ has helped them overcome marital problems; for others, personal addictions; for others, doubt and anxiety.  Whatever was the battle Christ won for you, that is a way we can witness the future resurrection that is in store for those who, as Saint Paul says, "hold fast."

OFFERTORY : Again, we hear in the Offertory the victory cry of someone helped by Christ, just as the deaf-mute was.  We cried to the Lord for help, and He answered.  That is our witness to the world; to help them believe that they can do the same, to turn to the Lord and receive His help.

SECRET : The gifts we offer, we pray, will become a source of support for us in our weakness.  In the gifts of bread and wine, we offer God our struggles and work in life, wherein we experience much weakness and sometimes failure.  But turning these over to God makes us strong, because He accepts them in Christ and gives us the Body and Blood of Christ as our food and source of strength.  As St. John Chrysostom says, Christ removes from His Bride (we, the Church) all the blemishes that need to be removed, takes what is human and gives us what is divine.  Therefore, it is crucial that we give to Christ our imperfections and weakness so that He cleanses us from them; that we give to Christ our good works, because it is really He who is working in and through us; and it is He who will perfect our good works and make us more like Him.  It is a mutual exchange; Christ gives Himself to those who give themselves to Him.  The more we give to Him, the more He gives to us.

COMMUNION : We give God the first and the best, not the excess we don't need.  Why?  Because we know that all life and its blessings come from Him.  We owe Him everything.  We give God our best, but doesn't He also give us His best?  God gives us abundant graces now, and the best is yet to come - future glory in heaven.  How then could we be so stingy with God?

POST-COMMUNION : Heaven is a remedy, and even more than that, a perfect and eternal remedy.  Our future life in heaven is one of glory, because, as St Paul says, "we shall see Him as He is."  Seeing God face-to-face, we shall be filled with divine glory, just as exposure to the sun fills us with the benefits of its light and heat.  Our souls will become perfectly beautiful, to the maximum extent it can as created souls, and our bodies will be glorified, sharing in that spiritual perfection.  The Eucharist is a sacrament (in ancient Roman language, a sacrament meant a seal or pledge) - it is a seal and pledge of future glory, because it is through our union with Christ through the sacraments that we obtain future glory.  If we die with Him (through His death which is commemorated in Mass), we shall also rise with Him (through our participation in Mass and receiving Him in the Eucharist).  "He who eats my Body shall never die."  The Eucharist is the sacrament of eternal life.  What makes Catholics different from all others?  One, short answer - the sacraments.
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