God’s Superabundant Generosity, 29th Tuesday (I), October 24, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24, 2017
Rom 5:12.15.17-21, Ps 40, Lk 12:35-38

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Eight days into this 24 day feast on St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans we have every second year, we get to an important clarification by St. Paul with regard to justification. Normally we can look at sin and forgiveness as more or less “loss and restoration,” that we squander our relationship with God and then get it back, and sometimes we think we get it back in somewhat a lesser stage, wounded. If we were to put it in monetary terms, we have a $100, we go bankrupt, and then God graciously restores us, but because of our wounds we really now only have $90. But St. Paul stresses something different day. He describes that God’s response to our sin will far surpass the depth of that sin, and not only our sin but the sins of the whole world. St. Paul stresses this superabundance: “If by that one person’s transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.” “For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.” “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We can’t focus on that “how much more” enough if we’re really going to understand how God responds to us. Jesus alludes to this very clearly in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The younger son who never really got the Father’s love (just like the older son didn’t either) when he realizes he hit rock bottom and remembers that even the slaves in his father’s household were treated well wants to come back and be treated like a slave (it’s the “lesser,” the “90” I mention above). But then the Father not only treats him as a beloved son by investing him with sandals that slaves never had but gives him things that far surpass what he had before: he puts a signet ring on his finger signifying he had power of attorney and trust, he kills the fatted calf for him (making the other brother jealous) and covered his pig-dung-infested clothes with the finest robe he had. This is a sign of his superabundance!
  • At the Easter Vigil we sing of this “how much more” with words that at first glance might seem to border even on blasphemy. The deacon or priest-deacon, in the Easter Proclamation that could be called in a sense “The Gospel of Easter” or simply the Easter Kerygma, chants, “O happy Fault, that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” The theology behind calling any sin — Adam’s or ours — blessed is described in the prayer said at the Easter Vigil, on Christmas Day, and during the Offertory of the Mass when a drop of water is added to wine when we pray, “O God, who wonderfully created human nature and still more wonderfully redeemed it.” Human nature, created wonderfully by God, is left in an even more marvelous state after sin because of Christ’s work of redemption. The phrase, “O Felix Culpa,” “O Happy Fault,” is normally attributed to St. Augustine, but it’s a really a paraphrase of what St. Augustine said. The converted saintly bishop of Hippo had actually said, “For God judged it better to bring good out of evil than not to permit any evil to exist.” And it’s likely that he was influenced not only by his experience of the multitude of happy sins of his youth that eventually brought him such a great Redeemer and led him to write about it in his famous “Confession,” but by the preaching of the saintly bishop who had helped bring him to conversion in Milan. St. Ambrose would often from different angles stress this theme, something that may have helped St. Augustine realize that God wanted to transform the manure of his past into fertilizer for new growth. “The Lord knew that Adam would fall and then be redeemed by Christ,” St. Ambrose declared. “Happy ruin, which has such a beautiful reparation!” (Commentary on Psalm 39, 20). Elsewhere he said, “We who have sinned more have gained more, because your grace [of mercy, Lord] makes us more blessed than our absence of fault does” (Commentary on Ps 37, 47). And in one of the Prefaces of the Ambrosian Liturgical rite, the priest sings to God, “You bent down over our wounds and healed us, giving us a medicine stronger than our afflictions, a mercy greater than our fault. In this way even sin, by virtue of your invincible love, served to elevate us to the divine life” (Sunday XVI per annum). So strong is this line of thought penetrating the Exultet, that later we sing, “Our birth would have been no gain had we not been redeemed.” Were it not for Christ’s redemption, for us, as for Judas who betrayed Christ, it would have been better for us never to have been born. This is what St. Paul is talking about in today’s first reading, and this should give us hope. We’re living in a day in which sin abounds and therefore the death to which sin leads is all around us. But St. Paul tells us that it’s precisely at this time where God’s grace and life overflows all the more.
  • In the Gospel today, we see not just this superabundant response of God but also how to receive it. In the Gospel, Jesus, speaking about his second coming but also about the way we’re supposed to await and receive him each day, says that if he finds us with loins girt and lamps lit, he will proceed to seat us at table and wait on us. The Master waits on the servant, the Creator humbles himself in love before his creature. This is what he did during the Last Supper and something he promises to do at the Eternal Wedding banquet. His response is so much greater than our receptivity! But he calls us to two things. First, to have our lamps lit like prudent virgins for his coming (Mt 25:1-13). We’re called to pray, to await him, to long for him, even in the second or third watch of the night. Second, he wants our loins girt, our tunics — or cassocks, albs or habits in other words — tucked into our belts as we would to work or to run. This is an indication that he wants to find us working in his vineyard and journeying to spread the faith and help others to await him and collaborate with him with lamps lit and loins girt.
  • Someone who did just this was the spiritual hero we celebrate today. St. Anthony Mary Claret was born in Catalunia in 1808. I once happened upon his birthplace walking in the Pyrenees back in 1993. I prayed at the place he was baptized. I pondered the meaning of his life and my life. And since I’ve always had a devotion to him. He was so passionate about spreading the faith, helping others to pray and receive the Lord’s superabundant mercy that he was named a missionary Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, where he worked so hard for such a long time to help the Cubans grow in faith. He founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate to help him in this work. He was recalled to Spain by the Queen to be her chaplain and he used his office, through the power of the queen, to do a tremendous amount of good. In response to his vigilance and work, Christ responded superabundantly, calling so many to be “Missionary Sons of the Immaculate” and spiritual sons of St. Anthony. And they were filled with heroism. Just on Sunday in Barcelona, Cardinal Angelo Amato for Pope Francis beatified 109 Claretians, martyrs of the Spanish civil war, headed by Mateu Casals (Priest), Teofilo Casajus (Student) and Ferran Saperus (Brother). They were killed in Barcelona, Castro Urdiales, Cervera, Lleida, Sabadell and Valencia. But that wasn’t the first beatification. In 1992, there was the beatification of 51 martyrs from Barbastro; in 2005 the beatification of Fr. Andres Sola who was killed in Mexico; in 2013, there was the beatification of 23 Claretian brothers from Tarragona. On the Claretian website, they call themselves a “Martyrial Congregation,” drawing from the assassination attempt suffered by St. Anthony Mary in 1856 in Cuba. And there stories are tremendous testimonies to their faith and courage under extraordinary duress. What a reward God has given to St. Anthony Mary to have so many saintly sons. And God who can never be outdone in generosity has taken these his martyrs to the eternal banquet where he now, according to his promise, serves the with love.
  • Today we have come here with lamps lit and loins girt and the Lord is going to have us here around his table where not only will he serve us but feed us with himself. The whole rest of the day is an opportunity to allow the superabundant gift of God we receive here to overflow, heading out to do his work and announce his Gospel of superabundant mercy with the zeal with which St. Anthony Mary Claret and his sons have been doing for more than a century and a half.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ROM 5:12, 15B, 17-19, 20B-21

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.
If by that one person’s transgression the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.
For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one
the many will be made righteous.
Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more,
so that, as sin reigned in death,
grace also might reign through justification
for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Responsorial Psalm PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 17

R. (8a and 9a) Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Sacrifice or oblation you wished not,
but ears open to obedience you gave me.
Burnt offerings or sin offerings you sought not;
then said I, “Behold I come.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
“In the written scroll it is prescribed for me,
To do your will, O my God, is my delight,
and your law is within my heart!”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
I announced your justice in the vast assembly;
I did not restrain my lips, as you, O LORD, know.
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
May all who seek you
exult and be glad in you,
And may those who love your salvation
say ever, “The LORD be glorified.”
R. Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.

Alleluia LK 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all times and pray
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:35-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself,
have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.”