Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
You are a prophet. Baptism opens us up to the whole mission of the Church: to live in Christ and to go and make disciples of all nations. At baptism we are privileged to share the prophetic role of Jesus, to proclaim the presence of God in people’s lives and to make alive the hope that saves people from all pride, indifference and selfishness. In book 3 of “The Imitation of Christ,” Thomas A. Kempis writes the words of the Lord:
(87) I taught the prophets from the beginning, and even to this day I continue to speak to all men. But many are hardened. Many are deaf to My voice. Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good pleasure of God. The world, which promises small and passing things, is served with great eagerness: I promise great and eternal things and the hearts of men grow dull. They seek a petty reward, and sometimes fight shamefully in law courts for a single piece of money. They are not afraid to work day and night for a trifle or an empty promise. But, for an unchanging good, for a reward beyond estimate, for the greatest honor and for glory everlasting, it must be said to their shame that men begrudge even the least fatigue. Be ashamed, then, lazy and complaining servant, that they should be found more eager for perdition than you are for life, that they rejoice more in vanity than you in truth.
(88) My promise never deceives, nor does it send away empty-handed him who trusts in Me…. I am the rewarder of all the good, the strong approver of all who are devoted to Me.
St. Paul tells us to avoid debts. The business world encourages debts. The more loans you have, as long as you have the capacity to pay and you are a good payer, the more access you have to more loans. St. Paul was aware of the many kinds of payments people had to fulfill, like, taxes to the Roman Empire, taxes for their agricultural produce, property taxes, import and export taxes, tithes to the temple, and others. He encouraged people to fulfill them in order to avoid indebtedness to the government.
The only indebtedness that St. Paul is encouraging us to have that is laudable is the debt of love (see Rom 13:8-10). We have to consider that we do not deserve the love we get from God. We are all sinners, and God has redeemed us by the Blood of His Son. God only asks that we repay this love through our love for our neighbor and for one another, for he who does not love his neighbor does not possess God. He who abuses this love of God robs his family, his relationships, and other people of the life-giving presence of God in this world. This is why Jesus encourages us to correct our brothers patiently and lovingly. This is also why Jesus encourages us to pray with others and with the Church, so that our prayers, done in love, will be worthy of Him as our God and King.
It’s unlikely that we can go to God (to heaven) alone (by ourselves). We go to God with Jesus and we go to Him as a Church, as a people. God called the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt as a people. The Second Vatican Council has clearly proclaimed this:
God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness…. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. “… I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” . . . This was to be the new People of God…. who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God (Lumen Gentium, Ch 2, #9).
Let this Eucharist be the sign and memorial that we believe as a people seeking salvation not only for ourselves but for all those redeemed by the blood of Jesus. Let us proclaim God’s presence among our neighbors at all times, pray constantly with our families and celebrate life and love with the Church generously. The God of peace will always be with us.