Christian Sorrow and Anguish, 30th Friday (I), November 3, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Martin de Porres
November 3, 2017
Rom 9:1-5, Ps 147, Lk 14:1-6

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s Mass please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we have a shift in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans which we have been praying for almost three weeks. We turn to the second part of this epistle. In the first 8 chapters, we’ve  we’ve pondered what it means to be justified before God and how the Holy Spirit seeks to bring that about. Chapters 9-11 are about God’s plan for the justification of the Jews, particularly those who — unlike Mary, Mary Magdalene, the disciples and apostles — have rejected Jesus as Messiah, but unfortunately the Church gives us only two days to ponder these three important chapters! St. Paul describes his suffering for the Jews: “I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie; my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh.” Just like Christ died for us, St. Paul was willing even to be cut off from Christ that the Jews come to salvation, so much did he love them. His heart was filled with anguish and sorrow because of their state, even though some of them were seeking to kill him as others had plotted — with all sinners of all time — to kill Christ. He loved them with the heart of Christ. He pondered all that God had given them: descendancy from Jacob, adoption as God’s children, his holy shekinah or glory, the covenants (with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David), the law, the worship at the Temple written out by him in Leviticus, the promises, the patriarchs and the genealogy of the Messiah. But his heart was filled with anguish because despite all that preparation, they had not embraced the fulfillment in Christ, in whom their is filiation, glory, the new and eternal covenant, the Legislator, true worship and the down payment on all God’s promises and all the hopes God had given the Jews. This anguish is what led him to become all things to all people, including to his fellow Jews, so that each might come to Christ. Later in these three chapters he will describe God’s plans for the salvation of the Jews, and it’s fundamentally, through seeing God’s goodness working among the Gentiles, they might come to embrace it and all will be saved. But Paul, and God, wishes all of us have a similar anguish of heart for the salvation of others, the anguish that beat in Paul’s heart and in Christ’s Sacred Heart.
  • We see a similar anguish in Jesus in the Gospel and it led Jesus to urgent action. Jesus wouldn’t wait until the following day to heal the man with dropsy, because the Sabbath day in particular was a day of the love of God and the love of neighbor. He also expressed his sorrow at the way so many of the Scribes and Pharisees had distorted the notion of the Sabbath. Various of them began to conspire to get Jesus murdered precisely because of the “work” he did on the Sabbath, healing people, freeing them of infirmities, as if concrete acts of love toward others would displease God on the Lord’s Day. Jesus sought to help his listeners see that if something dear to them — a child, an animal — had fallen into a cistern, was injured, was in danger of drowning, they would immediately act. That’s the urgency with which he acts for us and our salvation, because he cares for us more than a parent cares for a child or a farmer cares for his animals. His heart is filled with anguish and sorrow when we suffer and he acts with urgency out of the love that is most fit for the Sabbath. There’s a great lesson we learn from this. Many times we can procrastinate on charity toward our neighbor because they really don’t concern us, because we really don’t love them. Today’s reading calls us to allow Jesus to love us and to love others with the same urgency, making every day, to some extent, a day of the Lord.
  • This type of anguish is essential to the life of the Church. The Church’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, entitled Gaudium et Spes, begins: “Gaudium et spes, luctus et angor hominum huius temporis, pauperum praesertim et quorumvis afflictorum, gaudium sunt et spes, luctus et angor etiam Christi discipulorum, nihilque vere humanum invenitur, quod in corde eorum non resonate,” which can be translated, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ; indeed, nothing genuinely human fails to raise an echo in their hearts.” I’d just like to pull out those words “luctus et angor,” because those are precisely taken from St. Paul today, the sorrow and anguish, because that — with the joy and hope that comes from the Gospel — are how we as Christians are supposed to respond pastorally to the world. That’s what leads us to urgent action.
  • Someone who got and lived these lessons is the holy one we celebrate today. St. Martin de Porres (1579-1639) was a Dominican lay brother in Peru, who because he was the mulatto son of a Spanish knight and a black freed-woman, experienced various sufferings out of racism growing up. But filled with love for Christ and his neighbor, he eventually entered the Order of Preachers and served as their barber, surgeon, wardrobe-keeper and infirmarian. He wanted to bring God’s love outside the monastery, too, and extend the care he was giving to his Dominican brothers to everyone else, as if all of Lima were his monastery. He cared for the sick. He helped establish an orphanage and foundling-hospital. He distributed the convent’s alms each day of food to the poor and sometimes, with God’s help, multiplied it. He cared for all the slaves brought to Peru from Africa. He went out after the lost sheep and trained people in the same care of the poor so that together with them they could dramatically help the poor in their circumstances. He’s the patron saint of social justice because he was giving not just out of charity, but out of a sense that the poor are owed better than what they normally receive. Because Christ valued them so much, he wanted to value them at that same level and help them recognize their own dignity. He saw Christ in each of them and sought to give Christ what he deserved. He was filled with sorrow and anguish at their suffering and, with the Lord’s help, sought to do what he can.
  • Today at this Mass, Jesus wants to inspire us with urgency, with holy sorrow and anguish, so that we might go out to fulfill his plan of salvation for everyone so that they might come to experience the fullness of his love and be healed of whatever keeps them from rejoicing forever in the eternal Lord’s day. Let us pray that we may cooperate as fully as the saint we celebrate today!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ROM 9:1-5

Brothers and sisters:
I speak the truth in Christ, I do not lie;
my conscience joins with the Holy Spirit in bearing me witness
that I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart.
For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ
for the sake of my own people,
my kindred according to the flesh.
They are children of Israel;
theirs the adoption, the glory, the covenants,
the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises;
theirs the patriarchs, and from them,
according to the flesh, is the Christ,
who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm PS 147:12-13, 14-15, 19-20

R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
Glorify the LORD, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion.
For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;
he has blessed your children within you.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has granted peace in your borders;
with the best of wheat he fills you.
He sends forth his command to the earth;
swiftly runs his word!
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.
He has proclaimed his word to Jacob,
his statutes and his ordinances to Israel.
He has not done thus for any other nation;
his ordinances he has not made known to them. Alleluia.
R. Praise the Lord, Jerusalem.

Alleluia JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 14:1-6

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees,
and the people there were observing him carefully.
In front of him there was a man suffering from dropsy.
Jesus spoke to the scholars of the law and Pharisees in reply, asking,
“Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath or not?”
But they kept silent; so he took the man and,
after he had healed him, dismissed him.
Then he said to them
“Who among you, if your son or ox falls into a cistern,
would not immediately pull him out on the sabbath day?”
But they were unable to answer his question.