Responding to, and Becoming, God’s Sign, 28th Monday (II), October 10, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Votive Mass of the Mercy of God
October 10, 2016
Gal 4:22-24.26-27.31.5:1, Ps 113, Lk 11:29-32

 

To listen to the audio homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • In yesterday (Sunday’s) Gospel, we focused on thanksgiving. Only one of the ten healed lepers came to say thank you for the incredible miracle Jesus had given. Jesus pointed out that the man was a Samaritan, implying that his fellow Jews who had been healed were ingrates, who perhaps thought they deserved the miracle or that God didn’t need to be thanked through the One who had given them that gift or were so focused on themselves that they didn’t appreciate others. As Catholics, closer to God through revelation and the Sacraments than the Jews were, have so much more for which to be thankful, but we need constantly to thank God.
  • Today in the readings we see three things for which we need to thank God with all our heart.
  • The first is our freedom. Today in his Letter to the Galatians, St. Paul continues to write about the sharp contrast between Judaized Christians who think we’re saved by our own efforts to keep all the precepts of the Mosaic Law, and the Christians he worked to form who grasp that we’re saved by God, by our response to the manifold graces he gives us. Using an allegorical style of interpretation he learned in rabbinical school, he described the two spiritualities flowing from Hagar through Ishmael and Sarah through Isaac as a “yoke of slavery” versus a “freedom” for which Christ has set us free. The Christians in Galatia were being persuaded by the Judaizers that they couldn’t be good Christians unless they yoked themselves entirely to the Mosaic law like the Scribes and Pharisees did. The law was lived by them not as an experience of freedom to love God and others maximally, but as a straightjacket in which many focused far more on the law — and all of the binding interpretations of the law made by the Scribes — than on God. St. Paul stressed that Christ, in fulfilling the Mosaic law, freed us from that slavery, and in the new and eternal Covenant, sought to help us live by faith as beloved sons and daughters of God. He reminds us that our freedom by living in the truth who is Christ is something in which we must persevere, and that we shouldn’t submit again to the yoke of slavery, either through sin, or through living as if partial truths were the whole picture.
  • These two different spiritualities — the spirituality of freedom versus the yoke of slavery — provide a context for us better to grasp what was happening in today’s Gospel. Many of the Jews who had been influenced by the Scribes and the Pharisees were seeking signs from Jesus, despite the fact that Jesus had been working many signs. Immediately before this scene, as we saw in Friday’s Gospel, Jesus had exorcised a demon from a possessed man, but Jesus’ critics refused to accept that sign as pointing to what it obviously did, that he was working for God and trying to free people from the domain of the evil one. Instead, they pretended as if the miracle were a sign of another agency, that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. Likewise these same critics weren’t accepting any of Jesus’ other signs, his many miracles of healing and feeding. They were essentially only looking for signs that corresponded to their preconceived notions, that if Jesus were the Messiah, then he would work signs that pointed to his liberating them from the Romans and establishing a political renewal of the Davidic Kingdom. If he were the Messiah, then everything he did, they thought, would be signs corresponding to and indeed confirming what they were laying the foundations to establish. The Messiah couldn’t possibly work signs that would contradict what they were expecting and doing, they thought. So on the one hand, they sought miracles, but only those miracles that confirmed what they wanted confirmed. None of Jesus’ miracles seemed to be doing this, which is why they continued to seek signs. They were yoked to the slavery of their own preconceptions.
  • Jesus called this generation out. He said, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign.” We see just how evil the generation was when they conspired to frame Jesus before the Roman authorities they detested to have him murdered for working signs they didn’t want to believe. Jesus replied by saying that no sign would be given to this evil generation except the sign of Jonah. That was a sign given to set them free. And it had three parts to it:
    • First, it is a sign pointing to Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, that he would spend three days in the belly of the earth just like Jonah spent three days in the belly of the earth. Jesus’ crucifixion would be a sign of how corrupt their hearts had become but also the greatest sign of the love of the Lord who would die because they didn’t really know what they were doing. Jesus’ resurrection itself would be the sign of the triumph of good over evil, light over darkness, life over death, and sanctity over sin. Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest sign in the history of the world. It was a sign ultimately of liberation, if we embrace it and live it.
    • Second, it is a sign that implies Jesus’ wisdom.  Jesus says, “At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here.” The Ninevites accepted Jonah’s wisdom as coming from God. The Queen of Sheba journeyed over 1,660 miles over at least three months to hear Solomon’s wisdom, accounting it worth the sacrifice not just of many months round trip but also so much material wealth. Jesus’ wisdom, the wisdom that would have crowds amass to listen to him for hours, was a sign that he was speaking of a way to live, to die and to live forever that was far greater than anything Solomon ever taught. Jesus’ wisdom was a sign that he was not only continuing in the path of Solomon’s wisdom, but was the one to whom Solomon’s wisdom pointed. St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians, would call Christ on the Cross “the power and the wisdom of God,” even though it was a scandal to Jews like those in the Gospel and foolishness to Gentles. It pointed to the wisdom of love — understood as the willingness to die for another’s good and salvation — is the meaning of life, and that’s what made it so powerful.
    • Third, it is a sign pointing to conversion. Jesus said, “At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here.” Jonah’s message of conversion, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed,” got the pagans of that enormously large city to convert, from king to pets, immediately. They were all in sackcloth and ashes. But Jesus was saying that his message of conversion is a sign to an even deeper conversion that God wants, a revolution of our mind (metanoia) that leads us to think like Christ. Seeing Christ as the sign of Jonah leads us to be grateful for his mission calling us to conversion, healing and the severing of our enslavement to sin so that we can live in true freedom.
  • Today it’s important for us to use our freedom to become a “good and holy generation” in contrast to the receptivity of those whom Jesus was calling out in today’s Gospel. We’re called not only to accept the signs of Jesus’ death and resurrection, his wisdom, and his call to conversion, but to become so united to him that we become signs of Jesus’ death and resurrection, signs of his wisdom, signs of his summons to conversion in the midst of the world. Jesus does that through the great signs he’s left us, signs that not only point to him doing certain spiritual work, but actually bringing that work about. We call those signs the sacraments, signs that effect what they signify. By Baptism, Jesus seeks to unite us to him so that we may become an efficacious sign of God’s presence in the world as his temple. By Confirmation, he fills us with the fire of the Holy Spirit so that we may continue his mission of proclaiming the Gospel of salvation to the whole world. By Reconciliation, he heals us of our sins and sends us out as walking advertisements that Jesus is the Lamb who wishes to take away the sins of others, too. By the Eucharist, Jesus unites us as members of his body, so that we can become one body, one spirit in Him, so that we can become his hands, his feet, his heart bringing his love to the world. By Matrimony, husbands and wives become signs of Jesus’ union with his Bride the Church, so that by their love for each other, Christian couples will remind everyone by the particularity of their mutual love of what Christ loves the Church and the Church loves Christ. By Holy Orders, priests are meant to remind everyone of Christ’s teaching, sanctifying and shepherding his people and are changed so that they might act in Christ’s very person communicating his life, especially through the Sacraments. And by the Anointing, we ponder the sign of Jesus’ healing that actually communicates a healing of the soul and often of the body, helping people to unite themselves to Christ’s own suffering, which is a sign not so much of pain but of the love that bears that pain. To our age and every age, Jesus continues to give us these signs through which he himself brings the reality to which these signs point.
  • Out of all those signs, the greatest is the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is our participation in Jesus’ fulfillment of the Sign of Jonah. We come here to become freer, to become one with his call to conversion, one with his wisdom, one with suffering and death, and one with his risen life. We ask his for the grace that we may recognize that here on the altar in her beloved Son we have something far greater than Jonah and Solomon, that we are so blessed to be called to this supper of the Lamb, and that Jesus wants through this efficacious sign to transform us more and more into him, so that we may become through, with and in him, signs in the world calling others, as we prayed in the psalm, to bless the name of the Lord forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
gal 4:22-24, 26-27, 31-5:1

Brothers and sisters:
It is written that Abraham had two sons,
one by the slave woman and the other by the freeborn woman.
The son of the slave woman was born naturally,
the son of the freeborn through a promise.
Now this is an allegory.
These women represent two covenants.
One was from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery;
this is Hagar.
But the Jerusalem above is freeborn, and she is our mother.
For it is written:
Rejoice, you barren one who bore no children;
break forth and shout, you who were not in labor;
for more numerous are the children of the deserted one
than of her who has a husband
.
Therefore, brothers and sisters,
we are children not of the slave woman
but of the freeborn woman.For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm
and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 113:1b-2, 3-4, 5a and 6-7

R. (see 2) Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
From the rising to the setting of the sun
is the name of the LORD to be praised.
High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Who is like the LORD, our God,
who looks upon the heavens and the earth below?
He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor.
R. Blessed be the name of the Lord forever.
or:
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel
lk 11:29-32

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them,
“This generation is an evil generation;
it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it,
except the sign of Jonah.
Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites,
so will the Son of Man be to this generation.
At the judgment
the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation
and she will condemn them,
because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
and there is something greater than Solomon here.
At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it,
because at the preaching of Jonah they repented,
and there is something greater than Jonah here.”
jonah-and-the-whale