The Fire of the Love that Surpasses Knowledge, 29th Thursday (II), October 20, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross
October 20, 2016
Eph 3:14-21, Ps 33, Lk 12:49-53


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


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the first reading, St. Paul prostrates himself before God the Father in prayer begging him to grant the Christians in Ephesus and us to send the Holy Spirit to strengthen us in our inner self — strengthen us in mind, will and conscience — to help us allow Christ his Son to dwell in our hearts, and, rooted in love, to have the courage to understand “the breadth and length and height and depth [of] the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” and “be filled with all the fullness of God.” Several early saints interpreted the breath, length, height and depth as the dimensions of the Cross, which is fundamentally not a sign of pain but of the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge that bore that pain for love of us. St. Paul was praying to the Father to raise us as his children by the Holy Spirit to be strengthened by the Cross, to allow Christ his Son to abide in us and to help us to understand that cruciform dimensions of the Christian life so as to open ourselves to the fullness of the God of love. It’s an extraordinary prayer, beginning for a fullness St. Paul himself had already tasted when he himself admitted he had been crucified with Christ and the life he was living in the flesh he was living by faith in the Son of God who loved him and died for him, a fullness he called “God’s power and wisdom.”
  • In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the fire he had come to earth to ignite, and links it to “the baptism with which [he] must be baptized,” which is the baptism of blood on the Cross. He said he was in “anguish” until that baptism be accomplished and the fire begin blazing. His love on the Cross is meant to be a fire of love that is meant to light the world ablaze, the type of love that will transform and strengthen us within. It’s a living flame that will eventually unite all people in the love of the Father who sent his Son to form a loving family, but that union will happen only when people allow themselves to be “burned” and “transformed” by Christ’s love. Many are afraid of the fire, afraid of zeal. That’s why Jesus says that he has come not to “bring peace but division,” because he and the fire of his love would be a sign of contradiction dividing even family members; this is not because Christ is a divider, but when someone in a family opts for Christ, others who want to be first get jealous and angry, and that’s what divides. This was true in the early Church. Often when Jews converted to Christianity, they were disowned by their family. Still today when a Muslim converts to Christianity in Pakistan and various other fundamentalist Muslim countries, or a Hindu converts in certain fundamentalist areas in India, a contract is put out on them, and most often by the members of his or her own family. There are those who find the all-consuming fire of Christ’s love a threat and the sinful reaction to other’s coming alive in love does divide. But the love of Christ burning in the family is able to forgive and to heal, so that all members of the family, God-willing, will grow stronger in faith, allow Christ to remain in their home, and come to the celestial home of the Father from whom every family on earth takes its name.
  • This mystery of the Cross was proclaimed very powerfully by the saint the Church celebrates today, St. Paul of the Cross. As a young boy, when he was complaining about things, his mother would bring him the Crucifix to kiss so that he could unite his desires and even his disappointments to Christ’s love on the Cross, and that led to many early mystical experiences. Eventually, led by three visions, he founded the Passionists in order to ponder and help the entire Church ponder far more the infinite riches of the breadth, length, height and depth of God’s mercy and love as shown for us on the Cross. He would preach missions and retreats holding a Crucifix and speaking about God’s love in such a way that people would weep out of gratitude for that mercy and out of sorrow for their sins. He would bring fathers, mothers and children to weep for the sins they’ve committed in their homes and bring about the peace through pardon that could heal the division flowing from sin. He preached with eyes burning with the love Christ came to ignite and tonight he prays for us that we be ignited with the same passion.
  • We receive Christ’s holy fire each Mass, as Christ seeks to make our hearts burn and, as St. Ephrem used to proclaim in the early Church, when we consume the host we’re consuming “Fire.” In the Eucharist, we enter into Christ’s passion, and Christ seeks to strengthen us, and comes to remain in us, so that we may experience in this world a little of the fullness with which he wishes to fill us forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 EPH 3:14-21

Brothers and sisters:
I kneel before the Father,
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named,
that he may grant you in accord with the riches of his glory
to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self,
and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith;
that you, rooted and grounded in love,
may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones
what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,
so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus
to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm PS 33:1-2, 4-5, 11-12, 18-19

R. (5b) The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the LORD;
praise from the upright is fitting.
Give thanks to the LORD on the harp;
with the ten stringed lyre chant his praises.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
For upright is the word of the LORD,
and all his works are trustworthy.
He loves justice and right;
of the kindness of the LORD the earth is full.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But the plan of the LORD stands forever;
the design of his heart, through all generations.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
But see, the eyes of the LORD are upon those who fear him,
upon those who hope for his kindness,
To deliver them from death
and preserve them in spite of famine.
R. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Gospel PHIL 3:8-9

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I consider all things so much rubbish
that I may gain Christ and be found in him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”