Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
October 31, 2013
Rom 8:31-39, Ps 105, Lk 13:31-35
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Yesterday, St. Paul told the Romans and us that everything works out for the good for those who love God, for those who recognize the love of God and trust him to draw good evil out of evil we suffer, just as he drew the greatest good from the greatest evil on Good Friday. Today he builds on that truth as he tells us that nothing can separate us from God’s love. He gives us a list of great human sufferings — anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword — and emphatically declares that those can’t separate us from the love of God. He opens them up to even the work of the spiritual realm and the fallen members of the angelic choirs — angels, principalities, powers and any other creature — and stresses they can’t separate us from God’s love. He even mentions death and tells us that we can’t be separated from God and his love even in death. He asks, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?” When God the Father had the choice between allowing his Son Jesus to be brutally murdered or to allow us to die forever in our sins, he chose us. He didn’t spare his Son in order to spare us. At a very practical level, in that choice, we can say that he loved us even more than he loved his only begotten Son. If that God is on our side, St. Paul says, why should we fear those who are not on our side?
- So nothing can separate us from God’s love. He’ll never stop loving us. He’ll never stop seeking to give “everything else besides.” But while nothing can ever get in the way of God’s loving us, there is something that can get in the way of our receiving that love. Our misused freedom. Our choice. Our will. Today in the Gospel, Jesus weeps over Jerusalem and says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,but you were unwilling!” They were unwilling. They didn’t let God love them. They didn’t respond to the appeals of love through the prophets but instead killed them, much like many of them were preparing to call for the Crucifixion of God’s own Son and image. God won’t force his love on us. He made us free, and that freedom comes with a cost, that we will say no to the gift of his love.
- We might say to ourselves, “But I would never be unwilling to receive God’s love!” But what if God wants to love us by sending us the Cross of physical suffering? What if out of love for us and others he wants to allow our faith to grow and shine shine through “anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and the sword?” What if out of love for one of our family members, he wants to take them from us? Would we allow him to love us in this way?
- There are two other types of unwillingness to be loved by the Lord that appear commonly. The first comes from those who, because of self-pity or self-loathing, don’t believe that they’re lovable, even by God. They don’t think they’re worthy of love and so they close themselves to the love of God. They prefer to be pitied by God rather than loved by him with his merciful, redeeming love. The second type of unwillingness happens with those who prefer to love God rather than be loved by him, who believe they need to “earn” his love rather than dwell in his unmerited loving affection. We see an image of this in the scene of Martha and Mary in Bethany. Jesus had come to their house not principally to be fed but to feed, to love rather than to be loved, to serve rather than to be served, and that’s what Mary grasped sitting at Jesus’ feet and Martha didn’t grasp working feverishly in the kitchen. Similarly, there are many who even though they “know” God loves them, don’t allow him to love them in deeds, because they are so caught up in all that they’re doing for God. This can plague many really good Catholics. It plagued me until after several months after I was ordained a priest. Even though I had preached many homilies on the love of God, I really until that point hadn’t let God love me, because I was so caught up in trying to do God’s work that I forgot what is his principal work in us. Likewise I encounter in many religious, seminarians, consecrated women and others that, for example, in their prayer, they really don’t allow God to love them in prayer, to give himself to them, because they’re so caught up in their meditations, vocal prayers, and others. The foundation of our whole Christian life is that God madly loves us. We need to start our prayer pondering how happy we make him giving him the ability to love us. We need to look at the Mass as the greatest means here on earth in which Jesus loves us to the extreme. We need to look at the Sacrament of Penance as a Sacrament whereby God out of love heals all our wounds. Our entire perspective as Christians ought to begin with God’s love for us. That’s how we learn to love him back and love others.
- Today, conscious of the fact that on occasion or habitually we have been unwilling to let God love us in the way he wants and the way he knows we and others most need, we say, “Thy will be done!” We give him permission to love us to that extent. And in this Year of Faith, we say, with St. John the Apostle ,”We believe in the love God has for us!” (1 John 4:16). Amen!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
If God is for us, who can be against us?
He did not spare his own Son
but handed him over for us all,
how will he not also give us everything else along with him?
Who will bring a charge against God’s chosen ones?
It is God who acquits us.
Who will condemn?
It is Christ Jesus who died, rather, was raised,
who also is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
What will separate us from the love of Christ?
Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine,
or nakedness, or peril, or the sword?
As it is written:For your sake we are being slain all the day;
we are looked upon as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly
through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life,
nor angels, nor principalities,
nor present things, nor future things,
nor powers, nor height, nor depth,
nor any other creature will be able to separate us
from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
PS 109:21-22, 26-27, 30-31
Do you, O GOD, my Lord, deal kindly with me for your name’s sake;
in your generous mercy rescue me;
For I am wretched and poor,
and my heart is pierced within me.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your mercy.
Help me, O LORD, my God;
save me, in your mercy,
And let them know that this is your hand;
that you, O LORD, have done this.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your mercy.
I will speak my thanks earnestly to the LORD,
and in the midst of the throng I will praise him,
For he stood at the right hand of the poor man,
to save him from those who would condemn his soul.
R. Save me, O Lord, in your kindness.
“Go away, leave this area because Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go and tell that fox,
‘Behold, I cast out demons and I perform healings today and tomorrow,
and on the third day I accomplish my purpose.
Yet I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day,
for it is impossible that a prophet should die
outside of Jerusalem.’“Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you,
how many times I yearned to gather your children together
as a hen gathers her brood under her wings,
but you were unwilling!
Behold, your house will be abandoned.
But I tell you, you will not see me until the time comes when you say,
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”