Unleashing through the Holy Spirit God’s Power and Wisdom, 9th Wednesday (I), June 7, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Wednesday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Holy Spirit
June 7, 2017
Tob 3:1-11.16-17, Ps 25, Mk 12: 18-27

 

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

 

The following points were attempted:

  • Today we continue to read the last part of the Gospel of St. Mark before we get to the Passion. Yesterday we had the arch-inimically strict Pharisees and lax Herodians teeming up to try to trap Jesus in his speech about whether it’s lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Today we have the third major group of the time, the well-heeled Sadducees, trying to embarrass Jesus by a question intended both to mock him and non-Pentateuchal sources of Jewish revelation like the Book of Tobit. But once again Jesus transcended the trap. And once again he taught us crucially important principles about the spiritual life.
  • The question that came from the Sadducees probably had its grounding in the first reading where Sarah in the Book of Tobit had seven consecutive husbands. The Sadducees, the party from which many of the chief priests would come, didn’t believe in the resurrection and claimed that there was no witness to resurrection in the only books of the Bible they accepted, the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy and Numbers). They gave the example of a woman married consecutive to seven brothers according to the levirate law that stated that if a brother died before his wife had conceived, his brother ought to marry her and if they had any children, the children would be legally those of the deceased brother and his heir. Because the woman had been “one-flesh” with all seven brothers, the Sadducees asked with whom she would be united in one flesh in the next life.
  • Jesus in his reply said to them that they were “greatly misled” because they knew neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. They didn’t know the Scriptures even they accepted. Using God’s words to Moses in the Book of Exodus, “I am” not was “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob,” long after the three patriarchs had died, indicated that they were indeed alive, in the present tense, with God. With regard to the power of God, Jesus was implying that the Sadducees didn’t believe God had the power to raise the dead or to do anything different in the next world than he did in this world. Jesus says that in heaven, there is no marriage or giving in marriage. There will still be love in heaven, but no more marriages would be entered into since marriage has the purpose of sanctification and the procreation and education of offspring, and neither purpose makes sense in eternity when people are already sanctified and where there will be no more pregnancies and children. The one marriage in the afterlife is the fulfillment of Christ’s marriage to his Bride the Church.
  • They were greatly “misled.” We need to be greatly “led” to grasp the Scriptures and the power of God. Both are the work of the Holy Spirit, whom we ponder in depth during this devotional octave after the Solemnity of Pentecost that once was and hopefully will become again one day a liturgical octave. The same Holy Spirit who inspired the sacred secondary authors of Sacred Scripture inspires us to read it. He reminds us of everything Jesus said, helps us to know and understand it. And the Holy Spirit is the “dynamis,” the power, of God, or as we say in the Creed, “the Lord and giver of life.” But in a particular way the Holy Spirit helps us by bringing us to find the synthesis of the Scriptures and God’s power in Christ crucified. St. Paul described Christ crucified as the “power and the wisdom of God.” To get to know God’s power, and to get to know the enfleshment of the wisdom contained in Sacred Scripture, we must do so in the person of the Crucified Word of God.
  • To some degree, this is what Tobit and Sarah were doing by anticipation in the first reading. They were suffering immensely, Tobit for having heard calumnies especially from his wife with regard to his bad example of not really trusting her in the subject of the gift of a goat, as we heard yesterday, Sarah for having married seven men all of whom died as they were attempting to consummate their marriage by the work of Asmodeus, a description of a pagan god of lust, whose work can be basically attributed to that of the devil. Both cried out in their desperation for God to end their lives with a sadness similar to Christ’s in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he said that his soul was sorrowful even unto death. But it was through grasping that God doesn’t take away our sufferings but seeks to use them to unite ourselves to him more deeply through suffering that they opened themselves up to the healing they would receive through the ministrations of Raphael, literally the “medicine of God.” They would come to know the power of God and wisdom of God only through being healed, which required their suffering first. It’s an important lesson for us. We also see in this scene that God had the medicine in mind well before either of them ever complained or recognized they needed it. Everything happened by God’s having allowed Tobit to work when he was young, and save and bury the property in the way he did. That led Tobias to make a pilgrimage to get it, with the help of Raphael, to be bit by a fish who contained within the remedies for what ailed both of them. Similarly, when we’re in a situation of desperation, when we, for example like them, can’t handle the insults any more, we can be sure that God has already planted the seeds for our healing. The greatest way he did that was through the grain of wheat who fell to the ground and died on Calvary. That’s our healing, as the Holy Spirit makes plain for us.
  • As we approach the altar today, we pray that through the help of the Holy Spirit, we might recognize even in our hardships that God is a God of the living not the dead, that he is our God just as much as of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and that he will come to our rescue as much as he did Tobit and Sarah. As we prepare to come into Communion with Christ crucified and risen, we ask him to help us always know the Word of God and the Power of God so that we may conform our whole existence to it and help others to do so with the same fidelity.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 Tb 3:1-11a, 16-17a

Grief-stricken in spirit, I, Tobit, groaned and wept aloud.
Then with sobs I began to pray:“You are righteous, O Lord,
and all your deeds are just;
All your ways are mercy and truth;
you are the judge of the world.
And now, O Lord, may you be mindful of me,
and look with favor upon me.
Punish me not for my sins,
nor for my inadvertent offenses,
nor for those of my ancestors.“We sinned against you,
and disobeyed your commandments.
So you handed us over to plundering, exile, and death,
till you made us the talk and reproach of all the nations
among whom you had dispersed us.“Yes, your judgments are many and true
in dealing with me as my sins
and those of my ancestors deserve.
For we have not kept your commandments,
nor have we trodden the paths of truth before you.“So now, deal with me as you please,
and command my life breath to be taken from me,
that I may go from the face of the earth into dust.
It is better for me to die than to live,
because I have heard insulting calumnies,
and I am overwhelmed with grief.

“Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish;
let me go to the everlasting abode;
Lord, refuse me not.
For it is better for me to die
than to endure so much misery in life,
and to hear these insults!”

On the same day, at Ecbatana in Media,
it so happened that Raguel’s daughter Sarah
also had to listen to abuse,
from one of her father’s maids.
For she had been married to seven husbands,
but the wicked demon Asmodeus killed them off
before they could have intercourse with her,
as it is prescribed for wives.
So the maid said to her:
“You are the one who strangles your husbands!
Look at you!
You have already been married seven times,
but you have had no joy with any one of your husbands.
Why do you beat us? Is it on account of your seven husbands,
Because they are dead?
May we never see a son or daughter of yours!”

The girl was deeply saddened that day,
and she went into an upper chamber of her house,
where she planned to hang herself.

But she reconsidered, saying to herself:
“No! People would level this insult against my father:
‘You had only one beloved daughter,
but she hanged herself because of ill fortune!’
And thus would I cause my father in his old age
to go down to the nether world laden with sorrow.
It is far better for me not to hang myself,
but to beg the Lord to have me die,
so that I need no longer live to hear such insults.”

At that time, then, she spread out her hands,
and facing the window, poured out her prayer:

“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God,
and blessed is your holy and honorable name.
Blessed are you in all your works for ever!”

At that very time,
the prayer of these two suppliants
was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.
So Raphael was sent to heal them both:
to remove the cataracts from Tobit’s eyes,
so that he might again see God’s sunlight;
and to marry Raguel’s daughter Sarah to Tobit’s son Tobiah,
and then drive the wicked demon Asmodeus from her.

Responsorial Psalm PS 25:2-3, 4-5ab, 6 and 7bc, 8-9

R. (1) To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
In you I trust; let me not be put to shame,
let not my enemies exult over me.
No one who waits for you shall be put to shame;
those shall be put to shame who heedlessly break faith.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your kindness are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
he teaches the humble his way.
R. To you, O Lord, I lift my soul.

Alleluia Jn 11:25a, 26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
I am the resurrection and the life, says the Lord;
whoever believes in me will never die.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 12:18-27

Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection,
came to Jesus and put this question to him, saying,
“Teacher, Moses wrote for us,
‘If someone’s brother dies, leaving a wife but no child,
his brother must take the wife
and raise up descendants for his brother.’
Now there were seven brothers.
The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants.
So the second brother married her and died, leaving no descendants,
and the third likewise.
And the seven left no descendants.
Last of all the woman also died.
At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be?
For all seven had been married to her.”
Jesus said to them, “Are you not misled
because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
When they rise from the dead,
they neither marry nor are given in marriage,
but they are like the angels in heaven.
As for the dead being raised,
have you not read in the Book of Moses,
in the passage about the bush, how God told him,
I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob
?
He is not God of the dead but of the living.
You are greatly misled.”