Wonder at God’s Inscrutable Judgments and Unsearchable Ways, 31st Monday (I), November 6, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass for the Faithful Departed
November 6, 2017
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. John Allen wrote a profile about him about how he was known when he was the Bishop of Imus 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. On this point, Cardinal Tagle is a disciple who takes Jesus’ words seriously. Jesus’ words today are not a command to do something stupid, for example, an elderly woman’s inviting 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.
  • Perhaps the greatest instance of God’s inscrutable judgments and unsearchable ways is the incarnation and crucifixion: that God would take on our own nature and take away our sin by allowing us to commit the worst sin against him on Good Friday, that he would bring the greatest good out of the worst evil. It’s extraordinary! That’s the backdrop to allow us to understand his judgments and ways in permitting any level. Yesterday, 26 people died and 20 were seriously injured when a madman atheist shot Southern Baptists at the Church on Sunday morning in Sutherland Springs, Texas. People are asking whether the man was “mentally ill,” and he probably was, but we never talk in these circumstances about what is obviously, that he was seriously “morally ill.” But why did God permit it? He doubtless wants to bring good out of it. We pray for those who have died, that they are now at the eternal banquet. We pray for the killer that God may be merciful to him. We pray for everyone else, that we may take important things more seriously, and specifically for Christians for us to grasp, if people are going to come for us in our Churches, that Jesus is worth living for and dying for, and that his resurrection — and our participation in it — should make us courageous even in the face of faith.
  • To make us courageous, Jesus mysteriously and wondrously invites us here, as he does each day, in all our poverty, handicaps, and blindspots, feeding us with himself. We will never be able to repay him for this love, but today, let us resolve to try to repay him, by treating others according to his inscrutably, unsearchably generous ways!


The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ROM 11:29-36

Brothers and sisters:
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.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 69:30-31, 33-34, 36

R. (14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
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.

LK 14:12-14

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
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.”