17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 30th 2017.
1Kings 3:5,7-12; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52
How all things can work for our good
No one knew how a particular religious sister could connect so deeply with the abused young women in the women’s shelter being run by her religious congregation here in the Philippines. This sister could speak and act in ways that easily won the trust and openness of the wounded women in ways that not even the trained social workers could do. She was once abused physically and emotionally as a child and she had gone through a healing process that saw her experience God’s unconditional love for her so deeply. She got rid of her deep anger, forgave those who hurt her, and begged God to make her an instrument of healing to other abused women. This religious sister had allowed divine love to prevail in her heart and she had consciously chosen to live for the healing of others. Now she is an effective instrument for God’s healing to the abused and wounded women in the women’s shelter.
St. Paul’s words in today’s Second Reading may sound too good to be true, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.” St. Paul assures us that as long as our hearts are filled with the love of God and we are ready to live for the divine purpose alone, all things, no matter how painful or difficult they may be, will surely and eventually work for our own good.
Let us reflect on the life of Jesus. He was hounded by Herod even as an infant and forced to flee to Egypt, tempted by the devil, opposed by the religious and civil leaders, considered an enemy of the state, maligned by his enemies despite all His miracles and good deeds, denied by His close friends, betrayed by one of 12 apostles, and finally murdered in front of His Mother Mary, crucified between two thieves and buried in another person’s tomb. All these eventually worked for His good because “God raised Him up, having freed Him from death.” (Acts 2:24) All these worked for His good because Jesus’ heart was filled with the love of His Father and His only desire was to fulfill the divine purpose for which He was sent. “My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to complete His work.”(Jn 4:34)
Jesus uses parables in today’s Gospel to describe the Kingdom in today’s Gospel, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” What type of treasure can elicit this type of radically generous response if not God’s unconditional and personal love for each and every one of us just as we are? The kingdom that Jesus proclaims and makes present is one in which we experience that love of God that we cannot merit or earn, we experience the joy of being loved just as we are and we receive the grace to respond to this love no matter the cost. We can only sell all that we have joyfully only when we are certain that all things will work for our good.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as children of God’s kingdom now, how firm is our faith in God’s unconditional and personal love for each of us? How easily we doubt God’s personal love for us because of our sins or our sufferings in life. We may even universalize God’s love without making it personal and concrete. When we doubt His love for us for whatever reason, we hinder that grace to respond to His love for us in the concrete moment and situation and thus we forfeit that joy that comes when all things work for our own good.
No matter what we have gone through or are going through in life today, believing in God’s love for us in those concrete moments and responding to this love for His own pleasure prepares us for that joy of seeing how all things work for our good. Let our petition for divine grace be rooted in our faith in God’s unconditional love for us and we will see how things work for our good.
This is very important especially in dealing with sins against purity. The shame that comes after such sins makes us feel unlovable and dirty. The persistent temptations and painful memories that plague us can make us doubt the efficacy of divine grace. If only we faced such temptations and painful memories with a firm faith in God’s unconditional love for each one of us, a love that we cannot merit or earn, a divine love that is ready to forgive and strengthen us for further battle, and if only we strive to respond to this love without respite no matter the number or the gravity of our failures, we open our hearts to divine grace and God will surely make our sins and failures work for our own good.
The current movement to normalize homosexual unions and to trivialize sexual relationships outside marriage between a man and a woman is a clear sign that we have lost sense of the power and meaning of the love of God offered to us in Jesus Christ. It is not a love that we can receive without making a conscious response of a complete gift of ourselves to God through others for divine purpose. It is a love that cost Him all – His entire life. He died so that our hearts may be filled with that love. It is likewise a love that moves us to sell all for the sake of belonging to Him alone i.e. it moves us to place all things under His own purpose and not for our selfish needs. How can we today be stressing divine love and mercy and ignore the wholehearted gift of self in conscious response for His purpose that this divine love demands?
As we encounter the greatest treasure i.e. the love of God offered us in Jesus Christ in today’s Eucharist, let our hearts be like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary who received God’s unconditional love for her with all her being, believed in this love always and responded to this love with a complete gift of herself to God, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it be done to me according to your word.” She waited patiently as Jesus died on the Cross because she knew that all things will work for her good as long as His love reigned in her heart and His will was all that mattered to her, “Blessed is she who believed that what was promised to her would be fulfilled.”
If by the grace of this Eucharist we follow in Mary’s footsteps as she followed in Christ’s own footsteps, always believing in God’s personal and unconditional love for us and striving to respond to this love in actions that are rooted in divine purpose, all things will surely work for our good and the joy of the Lord will surely be in our hearts.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!