The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Homily: Saturday, 14th Week of Ordinary Time (Cycle II)

Readings: Is 6:1-8 • Psalm 93 • Mt 10:24-33

In the gospels, and it’s especially noticeable in Matthew’s Gospel, we encounter two major threads that weave their way through the proclamation of the Good News, two timelines if you will.

The most obvious focuses on Jesus Himself: His ministry as He proclaims the Good News, a ministry that ultimately leads to His sacrificial act of redemption, His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But the other major thread focuses on His disciples: how Jesus formed them over time, how they gradually, often in fits and starts, came to understand their vocation, exactly what Jesus expected of them. Their formation continued all the way to the first Pentecost and beyond, but it began right here with Jesus.

In today’s Gospel passage Jesus shared with the newly chosen Apostles some of the elements of good discipleship. He began with the basics:

“No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master” [Mt 10:24].
He cuts right to the heart of it, doesn’t He?  Far better than any psychologist, Jesus understood what lies in the depths of the human heart. He recognized that these disciples of His, especially the Twelve -- those few He personally singled out -- He knew of their human desire to exceed, to outdo others, to become something special. He also knew that they were as yet unformed, that they hadn’t accepted, or even recognized, the core truth of real discipleship.

Your see, brothers and sisters, Jesus revealed something very un-human, so un-human it’s Divine, a Divine paradox. He revealed to the Apostles that they could grow as disciples only by remaining as they were!

Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? And yet, that’s exactly what Jesus told them: that as disciples, if they are to grow in discipleship, they must remain exactly what they are: servants. If we strive to become something greater, we cease to be disciples.

This is the great paradox of true Christian discipleship: that in order to advance upwards into the very presence of God, we descend to the lowest human level; we must be servants. The world tells us to advance in the eyes of others, to become someone great, but Jesus says, “No!” He takes all our human desires, all our human hopes, and upends them, turns them completely around. 

He emptied Himself...
And He reveals this through His own person. How did St. Paul put it in his great hymn to the Philippians?
“…He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave…” [Phil 2:7]
Is it even possible to wrap our minds around that truth? …that God Himself, the Creator of all that is, not only became one of us, but in the deepest humility accepted even death, at our hands. But out of that – this act of humility beyond comprehension – out of that, God raised Him up so that 
“…every knee should bend…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” [Phil 2:10-11]
It’s a glorification in which we, too, will share, because it has been promised.

It’s also important to realize that He’s not telling the Apostles, or us, to debase ourselves, to become something lower than human. He doesn’t want His disciples to be weak and oppressed, existing in some kind of blind subservience. Not at all; for He tells us:

“It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, for the slave that he become like his master” [Mt 10:25].

To become and remain His disciples, then, we must become like Him. We must allow God to cure us of our pride; to replace it with the humility of Jesus Christ, with the same kind of sacrificial love that brought us our redemption.

Earlier, in our first reading, we encountered Isaiah who, in his humility, was purged of his sinfulness and, like an apostle, sent out as God’s messenger, as God’s disciple [Is 6:7-8].

In the same way, we must empty ourselves and meet Jesus in His humility, sharing our sufferings with Him and each other as we go about the disciple’s task of building up the Kingdom.

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