The 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time
“[The command of the Lord] is something very near to you, already in your mouths and in your hearts; you have only to carry it out (Deut. 30:14).” God has spoken and we need only heed his voice. Through the commandments, God has revealed his heart to us. Recall the words spoken by St. Paul in Athens, “In him, we live and move and have our being. As some of your poets have said, ‘we are his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). Through baptism, we have been made members of the Body of Christ, who are near to the heart of the Son, who is near to the heart of the Father. Faith is an interpersonal relationship with the Living God who desires to speak heart to heart with us. The commandments of the Lord are not high and out there, no, they are deep within us, written on the tablets of our hearts. We have only to be still and listen to that small voice echoing in our hearts and then do what he tells us. Because the Word is in our heart, we have only to believe with the heart, that the promises of old are fulfilled in Christ and then conform our lives to what we have heard. I am reminded of the conferring of the Gospel Book during the rite of Ordination of deacons: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you have become. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
“The word of God is alive and active. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword. It can pierce the division between soul and spirit, joint and marrow. It can expose the innermost thoughts and desires of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). One who heeds the voice of God must be willing to be attentive to God and live in a relationship with Him because He desires to guide us. The Word of God is not an old musty document preserved on some dusty shelf of an abandoned, ancient archive. Granted, we can choose to ignore it, however, it will not ignore us. We can turn a deaf ear to the Word, but the voice that speaks it continues to echo in our hearts. “Even if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful because he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). God who reveals himself to us is unchanged and unchanging. “God is love. Everyone who abides in love lives in union with God and God abides in him” (1 Jn. 4:16). The Living Word has been implanted in our hearts by the Spirit of Love. Because we have been immersed in the waters of Divine Love, we are capable of producing the fruits of love. “When we speak the truth in love, we will grow in all things to be more like Christ who is the head” (Eph. 4:15). God is already in our hearts, molding our words to be as loving as they are in his heart.
God has made his dwelling among us. Through baptism and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, we have been made repositories of the implanted Word. Having been grafted to God who is ever faithful and ever true, we are challenged to live lives worthy of our calling. Speaking to the 2019 graduating class of the U of Utah, Rev. France A. Davis repeated a lesson he learned from his parents. “Be what you is and not what you ain’t. Because if you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t” (Rev. France A. Davis, U of Utah 2019 Commencement). If we wish to be the image and likeness of God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we must hold firm to the anchor of our soul, otherwise, we will be set adrift and be tossed about by every wind that blows our way.
“Be what you is.” What are we? “The people God loves and has chosen to be his very own who must clothe themselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). “Don’t be what you ain’t” We are challenged to be authentic, not artificial or phony. Jesus made the point when he said, “Each tree is recognized by its fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes or grapes from briers” (Lk. 6:44). If we cooperate with the movement of the Spirit, we can have the attitude and mindset of Christ who stripped himself of all his divine privileges and clothed himself in the abject lowliness of a slave. More than that, he stripped himself of every pretext of human dignity and freely embraced the degradation of the cross. Faithful to his mission, he loved those who were his own to the end (CF. Phil 2:5-7). We are to be faithful because He is always faithful. While its grammar may hurt sensitive ears, Dr. Davis’s closing remark is most appropriate. “If you ain’t what you is, then you is what you ain’t”
Through baptism, Christ who clothed himself with our humanity has clothed us with his divinity. As members of Christ, we are to proclaim the truth to all we meet. Having been grafted to the Incarnate Word, we have been made instruments whereby the Seed of the Word is scattered and planted in every human heart. The Spirit of God at work in us can produce a harvest of love. We share what our hands have touched, and our eyes have seen with the people Christ loves and has purchased as his own. What we believe influences how we live and relate to others. Truth and love lead us to communion with God and strengthen the bond of love between us and other people. When we listen to another person’s story and accompany the individual on this/her journey, we make God’s love and compassion real and tangible. For this to happen, we need to lead lives worthy of our Christian calling (CF. Eph. 4:1). Think of it this way: love shapes truth into words and actions that are humble and kind; and truth shapes how we show love.
The Psalmist wrote, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us and not we ourselves. We belong to him. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps. 100:3). All things were created by him according to his good pleasure, for his praise and glory. His involvement did not stop with creation. Not only were all things created by him, but by his all-powerful word, they are continually kept in existence. As the Word Incarnate, Christ is the image of the invisible God. Out of his boundless love for us, he manifested the fullness of the Godhead and the infinite loving-kindness of the Father. Through the mystery of the Incarnation, he reconciled us to the Father by uniting our human nature to himself with unbreakable bonds of love. As images of Christ, we are challenged to make the Father’s love visible and tangible for all who are in distress and need.
In imitation of Pope Francis who closed his Apostolic Letter, Desiderio Desideravi with a prayer from St. Francis, I will close this reflection with a few lines from that same prayer.
O sublime humility!
The Lord of the universe,
God and the Son of God,
so humbles Himself
that He hides Himself
for our salvation
under an ordinary piece of bread!
See the humility of God, brothers,
and pour out your hearts before Him.
That you may be exalted by Him.
Hold back nothing of yourselves for yourselves,
that He Who gives Himself totally to you
may receive you totally!