Father Donald Senior, CP

July 2: 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

2 Kgs 4:8-11, 14-16; Ps 89:2-3, 16-17, 18-19; Rom 6:3-4, 8-11; Mt 10:37-42

Oh, to have a grateful guest such as the great prophet Elisha! To thank a wealthy but childless widow who provided him with meals and a room during his travels, Elisha announces: "This time next year you will be fondling a baby son."

In a culture that considered childlessness a shame and where a widow without family could be very vulnerable, the prophet provided this woman an entirely new life. This miraculous event found in the first reading for this Sunday sets a tone found throughout the readings.

The selection from Paul’s Letter to the Romans takes us into the heart of the apostle’s theology. Paul thinks of "sin" not simply as individual actions that are morally wrong but as a prevailing negative and toxic force accumulated over time and working its way into every aspect of human life.

The power of "sin" can overcome our best intentions and hold us in its terrible grip. We think of such chronic evils as wanton violence, the lure of deadly drugs, the greed that can turn leaders in government and industry to betray their responsibilities for personal gain, the accumulated wounds that can dry up love and make marriages fail. For Paul, this type of collective sin is so powerful and has such a grip on human history that only the force of God’s grace can break its choke hold on humanity.

It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus, Paul believed, that the radical power of sin and death can be overcome and new life discovered. This is how Paul understands baptism. Through baptism we experience freedom from death and sin.

Just as through the power of his Father’s love, Jesus breaks the fierce power of death and lives fully in complete freedom, so we, too, will be "dead to sin and living for God in Christ Jesus." We were "buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of

the Father, we too might live in newness of life."

Here is the paradox that stands at the heart of Christian faith. The movement from death to resurrection and newness of life experienced by Jesus becomes the deep pattern of our Christian lives. This is affirmed in the paradoxical sayings of Jesus found in the passage for today from Matthew’s Gospel.

Jesus urges his disciples to "take up one’s cross and follow him," and "whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." What can these words of Jesus mean?

In his beautiful encyclical on evangelization, "The Joy of the Gospel," Pope Francis notes that the heart of Christian life is a relationship with Jesus Christ. When we encounter Christ, we discover one who is himself the embodiment of God’s love. Through healings, acts of mercy, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, prophetic stands for justice, and, ultimately, by risking his life for others, Jesus reveals God’s love for us.

He truly gave his life that we might live. In discovering Jesus who embodies love, we also discover what it means to be an authentic human being, the pope writes. To be fully human is to have the capacity to reach beyond ourselves and love other human beings. As Pope Francis notes, "Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others."

That is the powerful and paradoxical, message of the Scriptures for this Sunday: in losing or giving our lives for the sake of others, we find new life. It is this message of abundant life discovered that prompts the refrain of the responsorial psalm for today: "Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord!"


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