Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Charles Borromeo
November 4, 2013
Rom 11:29-36, Ps 69, Lk 14:12-14
To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click here:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!,” St. Paul exclaims today. “How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” There should always be fascination with God’s ways, because there will always remain some mystery. “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are my ways your ways,” God tells us through the Prophet Isaiah (55:8). All the same, Jesus told us during the Last Supper that he called us friends, “because I have revealed to you everything I have heard from my Father.” Jesus came down from heaven to earth to disclose to us, as much as our finite minds could handle, what God’s ways are, so that we could become as compassionate as God is, so that we could become “perfected” like our Father. The whole point of a Christian life is to become rich in the wisdom and knowledge of God and to imitate his still-partially-inscrutable judgments and follow his ever-partially-unsearchable ways.
- Today we see God’s ways in today’s Gospel and how they are far from our ways. Jesus tells us, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.” This is precisely, of course, what we always do. We invite our friends and family members over to dinner quite a lot. Jesus is not telling us never to do so, but he’s stressing something else. “Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” This is what God does. He invites us here despite the fact that most days we have nothing or little with which to repay him for the gifts he’s given us, despite the fact that in following him we are crippled and lame, falling down all the time, and despite the fact that we’re blind in seeing him in so many others, including the physically poor, crippled, lame and blind around us. But he invites us all the same. Those are his ways. And he wants us to imitate them.
- Do we ever invite people over for dinner who really are needy? Do we extend ourselves and open our homes to those who really need help? I was very moved as I was preparing to do television commentary for the conclave in reading about Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle of Manila in the Philippines, who was a strong candidate despite the fact he was only 55. He is also known for inviting poor beggars outside the cathedral to come in and eat with him; one woman was quoted describing a time she went looking for her blind, out-of-work, alcoholic husband, suspecting she might track him down in a local bar, only to find that he was lunching with the bishop. Cardinal Tagle is a disciple and a successor of the apostles who takes Jesus’ words seriously. Jesus’ words today are not a command to do something stupid, for an elderly woman to invite in a whole bunch of drunks for dinner all by herself. His words, rather, are meant to get us outside of our comfort zones and imitate God in recognizing the dignity of others regardless of their physical circumstances and handicaps and seek to be as charitable to them as God is to us.
- Another instance of God’s wisdom is in the first reading today. St. Paul describes the way God plans to save the Jews. Obviously there was a deep theological and pastoral concern in the early Church that so many Jews had rejected Jesus the Messiah when at last he came. St. Paul says that this was so that the Jews would need to ask for God’s mercy, just like the Gentiles needed to ask for God’s mercy. The Jews would see how merciful God was to the Gentiles and be able to beg for it themselves. “God delivered all to disobedience,” St. Paul writes, “so that he might have mercy on all.” For us in our own lives, if we’re going to learn God’s wisdom and follow his ways, then we need to grasp that sometimes God permits others to sin against us so that we, like him, can be merciful to all, so that we can be as merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.
- Today we celebrate a saint who sought with all his being to get to know God’s wisdom, knowledge and judgments so that not only he could follow God’s ways but help the entire Church get back on the path that leads to God. He was thrust into positions of responsibility at a very young age because his uncle was Pope Pius IV, it was he who was perhaps the principal figure in reforming the Church after the Protestant Reformation through helping to bring to a conclusion the Council of Trent. So many were not seeking to live by God’s wisdom or to follow God’s ways, but St. Charles himself did and exerted himself to help others. As Archbishop of Milan, he sought to reform his clergy. He built seminaries to train priests well. He knew that many of the problems that afflicted lay people had to do with priests who were not aligning their lives with God’s wisdom and were setting a scandalous example for the people. Such reform led to his receiving a great deal of opposition. One religious community that didn’t want to be reformed actually sent some monks to try to murder him while he was praying in his chapel. Miraculously, however, the bullet that hit him in the back simply fell to the ground. Because of his hard work at reform, however, led by his own yearning for God’s wisdom and his hunger to follow God’s ways, the Catholics of Milan and — because of his work in Rome — across much of the Catholic world experienced the fruits of reform.
- There’s a powerful story from his work in Milan that relates very much as well to this Gospel. In 1576, there was not only a family but a plague in Milan. The governor, most of his officials, and most of the nobles, all fled. But St. Charles remained. He organized some of the religious of the city to help him minister to those who were sick and dying. He exhausted his personal fortune, even going into depth. He sold many of the Church’s vessels. And every day he not only had a meal with the poor, lame, blind and crippled, but he was feeding 60,000 to 70,000 poor, handicapped and often contagious people daily. He ended up dying basically of exhaustion at 46, but in his few years, he accomplished so much more than most people who have lived far longer, because he approached God’s wisdom as wisdom to be learned and God’s ways as a way to be followed. By doing us, he grew in the likeness of Christ, the icon of God. Today we turn to God and ask him, in the words of today’s opening prayer, to help us to become more like St. Charles in this imitation: “Preserve in the midst of your people, we ask, O Lord, the spirit with which you filled the Bishop Saint Charles Borromeo, that your Church may be constantly renewed and, by conforming herself to the likeness of Christ, may show his face to the world.” Amen!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy
because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy.
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
For who has known the mind of the Lord
or who has been his counselor?
Or who has given him anything
that he may be repaid?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To God be glory forever. Amen.
PS 69:30-31, 33-34, 36
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your saving help, O God, protect me.
I will praise the name of God in song,
and I will glorify him with thanksgiving.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
“See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.”
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
For God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
They shall dwell in the land and own it,
and the descendants of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall inhabit it.
R. Lord, in your great love, answer me.
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
“When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”