14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 5th 2015.
Ez 2:2-5; 2Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
The only love that gives meaning
“I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and constraints for the sake of Christ.”
My encounter with a widow a few years ago moved me to examine closely the authenticity of my love for Jesus. She had a mint clean Mercedes Benz car in good condition locked up in her garage. She confessed that she never liked the car herself and seldom used it because of its high gas consumption and insurance costs. When I asked her why she still kept it despite her dislike for it and her having other cars at her disposal, she replied, “My husband cared for this car so much and I am just trying to care for it as he did.” I had to respect the fact that she was in this particular stage of the grieving process.
She left me wondering to myself, “If she could love her late husband, an imperfect person like any of us, to the point of caring for all that he cared about even long after his death, does my love for Jesus Christ, the Crucified and Risen One, the only Perfect One, reach the point of my caring for all that Christ Jesus cared about?” As a religious priest, I have to ask myself that question, “Is my love for Jesus so real that I am deeply passionate about all that He is passionate about?” Our honest response to such a question will help us too know how authentic our love for Jesus is.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus’ words and deeds make a great impression on his fellow Nazarenes such that they respond in awe to His words in the synagogue, “What kind of wisdom has been given Him? What mighty deeds are wrought by His hands?” But they did not accept or care for His family of origin or his humble, unimpressive and obscure background as they retorted, “Is He not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?” They tried in vain to find a human explanation for the connection between Jesus’ obscure and irrelevant origin and His powerful words and deeds. Failing to do so they eventually “took offense at Him.”
Jesus responds by explaining to them the reason behind His chosen family of origin, His powerful words and deeds, and their taking an offense at Him. He is the prophet per excellence: “A prophet is not without honor except in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house.” Consequently, Jesus “was not able to perform any mighty work there,” being “amazed at their lack of faith.” Jesus Christ gives meaning to all things, persons, and human actions but for us to grasp that meaning, we must be willing to love Him to the point that we care for all that He cares about.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, before we give a hasty “yes” to the question, “Do I love Jesus Christ enough to be passionate about all that He is passionate about?” let us ask ourselves what our attitude is today towards what is called “same-sex” marriage. Are we among the indifferent ones who say such things as, “What is my business? It does not harm me or anybody else. It is a civil right issue. “Love” wins!” Are we among the many Christians who changed the background of our Facebook pages to show our support for “gay pride”? Or are we the serious minded Christians who honestly ask the most relevant question that a Christian should ask, “What is Christ’s attitude towards marriage? What are His teachings towards this institution? Was He passionate about it or completely indifferent to it?”
The truth is that Jesus Christ, by His words and actions, and by the teaching of the Apostles on which He built His Church, both was and is today intensely passionate about marriage as a union of a man and a woman in a faithful, exclusive and life-giving union. Though He could have done otherwise as true God, Jesus Christ did not come into this world a fully grown man. Conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus rather chose to come to us as an infant through the graced married union of a Virgin Mother and a just man specially chosen and prepared for this vocation: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”(Mt 1:20) In addition, Jesus so cared for His family of origin that He was obedient to His parents. (Cf. Lk 2:50) He worked His first miracle in a wedding at Cana and thus “manifested His glory.”(Jn 2:11) Jesus Christ used the example of a child, the natural fruit of married love between a man and a woman, as a model of an indispensable attitude needed to enter the kingdom of God, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”(Mt 18:3) When asked about the possibility of divorce as Moses had earlier permitted it, He explained to us the deep meaning behind marriage and God creating us male and female: “For this reason, a man shall live His father and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh…So what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”(Mt 19:5,6) Such a life-giving one-flesh union cannot be obtained between people of the same sex no matter how deeply one may feel or hope that it is possible.
Inspired by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, St. Paul will remind us that the marriage of man and woman is a prime image of the sacrificial life-giving union between Christ and His Church: “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” (Eph 5:25) Lastly, our Catholic faith teaches us that Jesus Christ Himself has raised this marital union between a man and a woman to the status of a sacrament, a sign and a cause of grace to the world through baptized spouses as they faithfully live out their married life. Nothing in “same-sex” marriage comes close to any of these qualities reflected in Jesus’ passionate love for marriage. Jesus Christ “is the same yesterday, today and forever,” (Heb 13:8) so we cannot honestly doubt the passion that He has exclusively and forever for marriage between a man and woman.
Since Jesus Christ is passionate about marriage between a man and a woman, how can we witness the bastardization of this institution today in the form of “same-sex” marriage and still be indifferent and unmoved while professing to have any iota of love for Jesus? If our love for the Lord Jesus were authentic, it would surely involve a deep love and concrete concern for our brothers and sisters who suffer the weight of same-sex attraction as well as an uncompromising boldness that refuses and resists any attempt to redefine what marriage is.
What happens when our love for Jesus leads us to be passionate about all that Jesus is passionate about? We begin to find meaning and purpose in all the events and circumstances of our lives. In today’s Second Reading St. Paul finds meaning in the affliction that he described as “a thorn in the flesh, and angel of Satan to beat him.” After futilely begging for this affliction to be taken away, he eventually finds meaning in this affliction only when he becomes passionate about weakness as Jesus Christ was: “For indeed He (Christ) was crucified out of weakness, but He lives by the power of God.”(2 Cor 13:4) Upon this openness to care about and embrace weakness as Jesus did, Jesus reveals to him the divine purpose and meaning behind his affliction: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” The Apostle to the Gentiles thus finds meaning in all the sufferings that he endures because he is willing to embrace them all for the sake of Christ: “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” Unless we truly become passionate about all that Jesus is passionate about, we cannot find meaning in our lives.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the recent legalization of “same-sex” marriage in countries like the United States and Ireland show that we live in a world that is as rebellious against God as the Israelites were in the time of the Prophet Ezekiel as we read in today’s First Reading. Even the painful experience of the Babylonian captivity is not enough to bring them to rethink their actions. The Prophet is to bear in his heart God’s desire for their change of heart. He is to care for them as God does even if they are “hard of face and obstinate of heart” and “whether they heed or resist.” Consecrated by the Holy Spirit and united to Christ Jesus from the moment of baptism, we share in Christ’s office of prophet in our world today. In this age of rebellion, are we going to “take offense at him” like his fellow Nazarenes did or are we going to let Him bring meaning into our lives? We profess to love Him but do we love Him enough to be passionate about what He so passionately sought like the salvation of our immortal souls, the will of the Father to save all people without exception, the unity of all humanity in Him, the triumph of saving truth over deadly sentimentalism, the call of all humanity to holiness, self-sacrificing love for the sake of the other, the need for repentance and reception of divine mercy, etc? Or are we more passionate about our acceptance and esteem by others, our comfort and ease?
We do well to recall the words of the Second Vatican Council, “In reality it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear… Christ in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself.” (Gaudium et spes #22) Without Jesus Christ, nothing that we have, do or experience has meaning in this life. With Him, we find meaning and divine purpose in all things, favorable or unfavorable. He alone can shed light on institutions like marriage as well as the individual’s struggle with same-sex attractions and all other forms of struggle or challenges in life. For us to share this same vision and meaning that Jesus Christ alone brings, we must be willing to share in all the desires of His heart for us and for the world, including His desires for marriage.
As we encounter Him in this Holy Eucharist, the truly Perfect One, and He pours His grace into our hearts, may our love for Him be so deep and authentic like that of Mother Mary whose love for Him made her also passionate about His self-sacrifice on the cross as He was that she was willing and able to stand at the foot of the Cross in union with Him. With such an authentic love burning in our hearts, let us care for all that He cares about without reserve and we will always find meaning in this life no matter what we experience.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!