8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - reflection

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:14-15  —  1 Corinthians 4:1-5  —  Matthew 6:24-34
February 27, 2011

This Sunday and next, I am offering at Sunday Mass the words of His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI.  Many Catholics do not know that each year, the Holy Father offers a message specifically about the Season of Lent.  Here is the first part of his message for Lent 2011:



MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS 
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR LENT 2011


“You were buried with him in baptism,
in which you were also raised with him.”
 (cf. Colossians 2: 12)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Lenten period, which leads us to the celebration of Holy Easter, is for the Church a most valuable and important liturgical time, in view of which I am pleased to offer a specific word in order that it may be lived with due diligence. As she awaits the definitive encounter with her Spouse in the eternal Easter, the Church community, assiduous in prayer and charitable works, intensifies her journey in purifying the spirit, so as to draw more abundantly from the Mystery of Redemption the new life in Christ the Lord (cf. Preface I of Lent).
1. This very life was already bestowed upon us on the day of our Baptism, when we “become sharers in Christ’s death and Resurrection”, and there began for us “the joyful and exulting adventure of his disciples” (Homily on the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, 10 January, 2010). In his Letters, St. Paul repeatedly insists on the singular communion with the Son of God that this washing brings about. The fact that, in most cases, Baptism is received in infancy highlights how it is a gift of God: no one earns eternal life through their own efforts. The mercy of God, which cancels sin and, at the same time, allows us to experience in our lives “the mind of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 5), is given to men and women freely. The Apostle to the Gentiles, in the Letter to the Philippians, expresses the meaning of the transformation that takes place through participation in the death and resurrection of Christ, pointing to its goal: that “I may come to know him and the power of his resurrection, and partake of his sufferings by being molded to the pattern of his death, striving towards the goal of resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3: 10-11). Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.
particular connection binds Baptism to Lent as the favorable time to experience this saving Grace. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council exhorted all of the Church’s Pastors to make greater use “of the baptismal features proper to the Lenten liturgy” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, n. 109). In fact, the Church has always associated the Easter Vigil with the celebration of Baptism: this Sacrament realizes the great mystery in which man dies to sin, is made a sharer in the new life of the Risen Christ and receives the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Romans 8: 11). This free gift must always be rekindled in each one of us, and Lent offers us a path like that of the catechumenate, which, for the Christians of the early Church, just as for catechumens today, is an irreplaceable school of faith and Christian life. Truly, they live their Baptism as an act that shapes their entire existence.
2. In order to undertake more seriously our journey towards Easter and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of the Lord – the most joyous and solemn feast of the entire liturgical year – what could be more appropriate than allowing ourselves to be guided by the Word of God? For this reason, the Church, in the Gospel texts of the Sundays of Lent, leads us to a particularly intense encounter with the Lord, calling us to retrace the steps of Christian initiation: for catechumens, in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of rebirth; for the baptized, in light of the new and decisive steps to be taken in the sequela Christi [“following of Christ”] and a fuller giving of oneself to him.
The First Sunday of the Lenten journey reveals our condition as human beings here on earth. The victorious battle against temptation, the starting point of Jesus’ mission, is an invitation to become aware of our own fragility in order to accept the Grace that frees from sin and infuses new strength in Christ – the way, the truth and the life (cf. Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum, n. 25). It is a powerful reminder that Christian faith implies, following the example of Jesus and in union with him, a battle “against the ruling forces who are masters of the darkness in this world” (Ephesians 6: 12), in which the devil is at work and never tires – even today – of tempting whoever wishes to draw close to the Lord: Christ emerges victorious to open also our hearts to hope and guide us in overcoming the seductions of evil.
The Gospel of the Transfiguration of the Lord puts before our eyes the glory of Christ, which anticipates the resurrection and announces the divinization of man. The Christian community becomes aware that Jesus leads it, like the Apostles Peter, James and John “up a high mountain by themselves” (Matthew 17: 1), to receive once again in Christ, as sons and daughters in the Son, the gift of the Grace of God: “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favor. Listen to him” (Matthew 17: 5). It is the invitation to take a distance from the noisiness of everyday life in order to immerse oneself in God’s presence. He desires to hand down to us, each day, a Word that penetrates the depths of our spirit, where we discern good from evil (cf. Hebrews 4:12), reinforcing our will to follow the Lord.
The question that Jesus puts to the Samaritan woman: “Give me a drink” (John 4: 7), is presented to us in the liturgy of the third Sunday; it expresses the passion of God for every man and woman, and wishes to awaken in our hearts the desire for the gift of “a spring of water within, welling up for eternal life” (John 4: 14): this is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who transforms Christians into “true worshipers,” capable of praying to the Father “in spirit and truth” (John 4: 23). Only this water can extinguish our thirst for goodness, truth and beauty! Only this water, given to us by the Son, can irrigate the deserts of our restless and unsatisfied soul, until it “finds rest in God”, as per the famous words of St. Augustine.
The Sunday of the man born blind presents Christ as the light of the world. The Gospel confronts each one of us with the question: “Do you believe in the Son of man?” “Lord, I believe!” (John 9: 35. 38), the man born blind joyfully exclaims, giving voice to all believers. The miracle of this healing is a sign that Christ wants not only to give us sight, but also open our interior vision, so that our faith may become ever deeper and we may recognize him as our only Savior. He illuminates all that is dark in life and leads men and women to live as “children of the light”.
On the fifth Sunday, when the resurrection of Lazarus is proclaimed, we are faced with the ultimate mystery of our existence: “I am the resurrection and the life… Do you believe this?” (John 11: 25-26). For the Christian community, it is the moment to place with sincerity – together with Martha – all of our hopes in Jesus of Nazareth: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world” (John 11: 27). Communion with Christ in this life prepares us to overcome the barrier of death, so that we may live eternally with him. Faith in the resurrection of the dead and hope in eternal life open our eyes to the ultimate meaning of our existence: God created men and women for resurrection and life, and this truth gives an authentic and definitive meaning to human history, to the personal and social lives of men and women, to culture, politics and the economy. Without the light of faith, the entire universe finishes shut within a tomb devoid of any future, any hope.
The Lenten journey finds its fulfillment in the Paschal Triduum, especially in the Great Vigil of the Holy Night: renewing our baptismal promises, we reaffirm that Christ is the Lord of our life, that life which God bestowed upon us when we were reborn of “water and Holy Spirit”, and we profess again our firm commitment to respond to the action of the Grace in order to be his disciples.

8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - First Reading

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:14-15  —  1 Corinthians 4:1-5  —  Matthew 6:24-34
February 27, 2011

REFLECTION ON THE FIRST READING


Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me; my LORD has forgotten me.” 

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? 

Even should she forget, I will never forget you.


This reading of two verses consists of three sentences.

The first is a declaration by Zion, which symbolizes the people of Israel within the Old Testament, which in turn symbolizes the Church when heard through the perspective of the New Testament.  It speaks of a despair that is common to fallen man, yet deeper when cried out by one chosen by the Lord to live in covenant with Him.  While we know that such a cry is borne is weakness of mind and heart, it resonates with our own sinful experience.

The second and third sentences are the Lord’s response to Zion’s/man’s doubt and fear.  To counter his sense of desolation, the Lord evokes the most tender human relationship:  a mother and her child.  The Lord asks a rhetorical question which provokes by turning this tender relationship on its head, and suggesting what would seem impossible.  Yet this impossibility simply reinforces the infinite strength of the Lord’s relationship to His children.  The Lord’s love transcends any human relationship, and also transcends the fear and doubt that are the heritage of our sins.


8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - Catena Aurea

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
February 27, 2011

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Catena Aurea (“Golden Chain”)
Commentary on Matthew 6:34

34. “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Gloss., ap. Anselm: Having forbid anxiety for the things of the day, He now forbids anxiety for future things, such a fruitless care as proceeds from the fault of men, in these words, “Be not ye anxious about the morrow.”
Jerome: Tomorrow in Scripture signifies time future, as Jacob in Genesis says, “Tomorrow shall my righteousness hear me.” [Gen 35:33] And in the phantasm of Samuel the Pythoness says to Saul, “Tomorrow shalt thou be with me.” [1 Sam 28:19]
He yields therefore unto them that they should care for things present, though He forbids them to take thought for things to come. For sufficient for us is the thought of time present; let us leave to God the future which is uncertain. And this is that He says, “The morrow shall be anxious for itself;” that is, it shall bring its own anxiety with it. “For sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” By evil He means here not that which is contrary to virtue, but toil, and affliction, and the hardships of life.
Chrysostom: Nothing brings so much pain to the spirit as anxiety and [worry]. That He says, “The morrow shall be anxious for itself,” comes of desire to make more plain what He speaks; to that end employing a prosopopeia of time, after the practice of many in speaking to the rude populace; to impress them the more, He brings in the day itself complaining of its too heavy cares. Has not every day a burden enough of its own, in its own cares? Why then do you add to them by laying on those that belong to another day?
Pseudo-Chrysostom: Otherwise; By “today” are signified such things as are needful for us in this present life; “Tomorrow” denotes those things that are superfluous. “Be not ye therefore anxious for the morrow,” thus means, Seek not to have aught beyond that which is necessary for your daily life, for that which is over and above, i.e. Tomorrow, shall care for itself.
“Tomorrow shall be anxious for itself,” is as much as to say, when you have heaped up superfluities, they shall care for themselves, you shall not enjoy them, but they shall find many lords who shall care for them. Why then should you be anxious about those things, the property of which you must part with?
“Sufficient for the day is its own evil,” as much as to say, The toil you undergo for necessaries is enough, do not toil for things superfluous.
Augustine: Or otherwise; Tomorrow is said only of time where future succeeds to past. When then we work any good work, we think not of earthly but of heavenly things. “The morrow shall be anxious for itself,” that is, Take food and the like, when you ought to take it, that is when necessity begins to call for it.
“For sufficient for the day is its own evil,” that is, it is enough that necessity shall compel to take these things; He calls it “evil” , because it is penal, inasmuch as it pertains to our mortality, which we earned by sinning. To this necessity then of worldly punishment, add not further weight, that you may not only fulfill it, but may even so fulfill it as to show yourself God’s soldier.
But herein we must be careful, that, when we see any servant of God endeavoring to provide necessaries either for himself, or those committed to his care, we do not straight judge him to sin against this command of the Lord in being anxious for the morrow. For the Lord Himself, to whom Angels ministered, thought good to carry a bag for example sake. And in the Acts of the Apostles it is written, that food necessary for life was provided for future time, at a time when famine threatened. What the Lord condemns therefore, is not the provision of these things after the manner of men, but if a man because of these things does not fight as God’s soldier.
Hilary: This is further comprehended under the full meaning of the Divine words. We are commanded not to be careful about the future, because sufficient for our life is the evil of the days wherein we live, that is to say, the sins, that all our thought and pains be occupied in cleansing this away. And if our care be slack, yet will the future be careful for itself, in that there is held out to us a harvest of eternal love to be provided by God.


8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - CCC

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
February 27, 2011

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

2419 ”Christian revelation . . . promotes deeper understanding of the laws of social living.”199 The Church receives from the Gospel the full revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfills her mission of proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons. She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with divine wisdom.

2420 The Church makes a moral judgment about economic and social matters, “when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls requires it.”200 In the moral order she bears a mission distinct from that of political authorities: the Church is concerned with the temporal aspects of the common good because they are ordered to the sovereign Good, our ultimate end. She strives to inspire right attitudes with respect to earthly goods and in socio-economic relationships.

2421 The social doctrine of the Church developed in the nineteenth century when the Gospel encountered modern industrial society with its new structures for the production of consumer goods, its new concept of society, the state and authority, and its new forms of labor and ownership. The development of the doctrine of the Church on economic and social matters attests the permanent value of the Church’s teaching at the same time as it attests the true meaning of her Tradition, always living and active.201

2422 The Church’s social teaching comprises a body of doctrine, which is articulated as the Church interprets events in the course of history, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, in the light of the whole of what has been revealed by Jesus Christ.202 This teaching can be more easily accepted by men of good will, the more the faithful let themselves be guided by it.

2423 The Church’s social teaching proposes principles for reflection; it provides criteria for judgment; it gives guidelines for action:

Any system in which social relationships are determined entirely by economic factors is contrary to the nature of the human person and his acts.203

2424 A theory that makes profit the exclusive norm and ultimate end of economic activity is morally unacceptable. The disordered desire for money cannot but produce perverse effects. It is one of the causes of the many conflicts which disturb the social order.204

A system that “subordinates the basic rights of individuals and of groups to the collective organization of production” is contrary to human dignity.205 Every practice that reduces persons to nothing more than a means of profit enslaves man, leads to idolizing money, and contributes to the spread of atheism. “You cannot serve God and mammon.”206

2425 The Church has rejected the totalitarian and atheistic ideologies associated in modem times with “communism” or “socialism.” She has likewise refused to accept, in the practice of “capitalism,” individualism and the absolute primacy of the law of the marketplace over human labor.207 Regulating the economy solely by centralized planning perverts the basis of social bonds; regulating it solely by the law of the marketplace fails social justice, for “there are many human needs which cannot be satisfied by the market.”208 Reasonable regulation of the marketplace and economic initiatives, in keeping with a just hierarchy of values and a view to the common good, is to be commended.


8th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - Office of Readings

The Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Isaiah 49:14-15  —  1 Corinthians 4:1-5  —  Matthew 6:24-34
February 27, 2011

OFFICE OF READINGS
The Moral Reflections on Job by Pope St Gregory the Great
An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil

Some people are so simple that they do not know what uprightness is. Theirs is not the true simplicity of the innocent: they are as far from that as they are far from rising to the virtue of uprightness. As long as they do not know how to guard their steps by walking in uprightness, they can never remain innocent merely by walking in simplicity. This is why St Paul warns his disciples I hope that you are also wise in what is good, and innocent of what is bad but also Brothers, you are not to be childish in your outlook, though you can be babies as far as wickedness is concerned. Thus Christ our Truth enjoins his disciples with the words Be cunning as serpents and yet as harmless as doves. In giving them this admonition, he had to join the two together, so that both the simplicity of the dove might be instructed by the craftiness of the serpent, and the craftiness of the serpent might be tempered by the simplicity of the dove.

That is why the Holy Spirit has manifested his presence to mankind, not only in the form of a dove but also in the form of fire. For by the dove simplicity is indicated, and by fire, zeal. So he is manifested in a dove and in fire, because those who are full of the Spirit have the mildness of simplicity, but catch fire with zeal of uprightness against the offences of sinners.

An upright and honest man who feared God and shunned evil. Undoubtedly whoever longs for the eternal country lives sincerely and uprightly: perfect in practice, and right in faith, sincere in the good that he does in this lower state, right in the high truths which he minds in his inner self. For there are some who are not sincere in the good actions that they do, looking not to be rewarded within themselves but to win favor from others. Hence it is well said by a certain wise man, Woe to the sinner who follows two ways. A sinner goes two ways when an action he performs belongs to God but what he aims at in his thought belongs to the world.

It is well said, who feared God and shunned evil, for the holy Church of the elect starts on the path of simplicity and of uprightness from fear but completes that path in charity. When, from the love of God, she feels an unwillingness to sin, then she may shun evil. But when she is still doing good deeds from fear then she is not entirely shunning evil: the fact is that she would have sinned if she could have sinned without being punished.

So then: when Job is said to have feared God, it is rightly related that he also shunned evil. Fear comes first and charity follows later; and when that has happened, the offence which is left behind in the mind is trodden underfoot by the desires of the heart.


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - homily

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
February 20, 2011


Today’s Gospel passage has three parts.  The first two are examples that Jesus gives us.  He started giving these examples last Sunday.  Keep in mind, though:  Jesus prefaced all these examples by saying, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  So all these examples are illustrations of how to move from acting like the scribes and Pharisees, towards acting in a way that will lead you to Heaven.

All of the examples follow the same pattern.  Jesus starts each example by saying, You have heard that it was said….  And then he quotes the Old Testament to show how the scribes and Pharisees act.  But in the second part, Jesus explains how His disciples will act if they want to get to Heaven.  And so Jesus continues each example by saying, But I say to you….  Then Jesus gives us a new understanding of the Law of God.  In doing so, Jesus perfects the Law of God.

As Jesus gives these six examples of righteousness—one after another—they increase in their demands.  They grow more and more difficult to follow, and finally culminate in the example that must have shocked half of the people listening to Jesus, and completely confused the other half.  Jesus said to the crowd, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you….”
X   X   X
Why would this example have shocked and confused Jesus’ crowd?  There are several reasons, the most obvious of which is that for ancient Israel, hating their enemies was thought to be a survival instinct.  Israel had taught themselves this instinct.  From Egypt, to the Red Sea, to the Sinai desert, to the Holy Land, they had taught themselves that it was “either kill or be killed”.  That’s how they dispossessed the enemies who lived in the Holy Land when they arrived there at the end of the Exodus, and that’s how they maintained possession of the Holy Land for centuries after the Exodus.

But after awhile, this self-taught lesson sank so deeply into their hearts and minds, that a strange and terrible thing happened.  They not only applied this lesson as they looked out from Israel to other nations.  They turned in on themselves.  They applied this lesson against each other.  Kings of Israel spent as much time and energy uniting its twelve tribes as they did fighting outsiders.

By Jesus’ day, Israel was divided into three regions:  Galilee in the north, Samaria in the middle, and Judah in the south.  The Gospel paints a portrait of animosity between the Samaritans and the Jews in Judah.  This animosity is illustrated by the shock of the Samaritan woman at the well when Jesus approaches her in kindness.  It’s also illustrated in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan, the point of which is that a Samaritan would treat someone in Judah as a neighbor.

But the divisions of sin marched further… all the way to Calvary.  Even among the Jews in Jerusalem, the various parties of power often pitted themselves against each other.  The Acts of the Apostles tells how St. Paul once pitted the Sadducees and Pharisees against each other by means of their differences.  By doing so, Paul escaped from the legal trial he unjustly faced.

A far more unjust trial, however, took place on Good Friday, when the innocent Son of God was declared guilty of blasphemy and nailed to a cross to die… while “Barabbas”, the “Son of man” who had committed insurrection, was freed by the crowd.  The irony of Good Friday is the logical outcome of looking for an enemy where God has given you a friend.  On Good Friday, man puts God on trial, and declares God to be man’s enemy, while the whole point of the Incarnation was that man could call God his neighbor, his brother, and his Savior.
X   X   X
When I was a teenager, our family attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.  My First Mass was held in the original church built on the parish’s current site.  Almost every weekend as our family went into that church, I’d notice a framed work of calligraphy, which declared, “There are no strangers here:  only friends we have not met.”

In this world below, where we are part of the “pilgrim Church”—part of the “Church militant”—we often confuse our neighbors and our enemies.  My favorite writer, the English convert and humorist G. K. Chesterton, once quipped, “The Bible tells us to love our neighbours, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people.”  This is true because we are fallen children of Adam and Eve.  We do not think we should be our brother’s keeper.  The whole history of man—from Adam versus Eve, to Cain versus Abel, to our own time and place—testifies to our sin of turning neighbors into enemies.

In this world here below, our only real enemies are the devil and his divisions of fallen angels.  Maybe we should paraphrase that calligraphy at St. Elizabeth’s, and inscribe this paraphrase in our prayer books and our hearts… that among our human family, there are no enemies, but only neighbors we have not loved as Jesus has.


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - Second Reading

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
February 20, 2011

COMMENTARY ON THE SECOND READING


Brothers and sisters: Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy.

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this age, let him become a fool, so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you, Paul or Apollos or Cephas, or the world or life or death, or the present or the future: all belong to you, and you to Christ, and Christ to God.


In the first section of the Second Reading, Saint Paul employs a powerful image to describe a Christian.  In the face of the Corinthians’ infidelities, he calls them to order by asking a rhetorical question:  Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  Of course this is really two related questions.

To focus on the first:  St. Paul proclaims that the Corinthians are the temple of God.  But a clarification is needed.  Is St. Paul asserting that the Corinthians togetherqua ecclesia are the temple of God?  Or is he asserting that each of them—qua baptized Christian—is the temple of God?

In the light of the problems within the Church in Corinth that Paul had addressed earlier in the letter, the former seems the more contextual answer.  Yet many saints, and the Magisterium herself, have developed the latter teaching.  Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.  But in meditating on this passage as part of the Sacred Liturgy, the former remains a better focus for us this Sunday.

Considering the temple of God as an image for the Church, we see in St. Paul’s warning against anyone destroy[ing] God’s temple an admonition against dissension within the Church.  So attacking a fellow Christian is a blow against God’s temple, and an attack on the attacker’s own life in Christ.  Perhaps in composing this passage, Paul was reflecting on his own conversion, and the question Jesus addressed to him about his persecution of Christians:  “Why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - First Reading

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
February 20, 2011

COMMENTARY ON THE FIRST READING


The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the whole Israelite community and tell them: Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy.

“You shall not bear hatred for your brother or sister in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow citizen, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against any of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.”


The Lord commands Israel (literally, the whole Israelite community):  “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God, am holy.”  But what does it mean for a human being to be holy?

The second section of the passage answers this question, by illustrating a more specific principle.  “Be holy” is focused through the more specific command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” which in turn is illustrated several times:  “You shall not bear hatred / for your brother or sister”; “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge / against any of your people.”

Note that the Lord here illustrates the principle of loving one’s neighbor only with examples from within the whole Israelite community.  The Lord as a patient and loving Father does not ask more of His children than they can bear.  It will be His Son who illustrates this principle more clearly by His words (the parable of the Good Samaritan) and most clearly by His saving act of Self-sacrifice on the Cross.


7th Sunday in Ordinary Time [A] - St. Thomas Aquinas

The Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time [A]
Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18  —  1 Corinthians 3:16:23  —  Matthew 5:38-48
February 20, 2011

ST. THOMAS AQUINAS
Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3:16-23
[excerpted and edited]

170. – Having indicated the reward in store for those who labor well, the Apostle now deals with the punishment in store for those who do evil or destructive works. In regard to this he does two things:
first, he indicates the punishment (##171-175);
secondly, he dismisses a contrary error (##176-180).
He indicates the punishment in store for those who work unto destruction by continuing with the metaphor of the spiritual building. In regard to this he does three things:
first, he shows the dignity of the spiritual edifice (##171-173);
secondly, he mentions the punishment in store for those who destroy it (#174);
thirdly, he assigns the reason for the punishment (#175).
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?
171. – He says, therefore: I have said that everyone who builds on the foundation will receive the reward of salvation without a loss or with a loss. But if you are to understand the punishment in store for those who labor evilly among you, you must recognize your dignity, which he indicates when he says: Do you not know that you, Christ’s faithful, are the temple of God? “In whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:21).
172. – Secondly, he proves that the faithful are God’s temple. For it is the mark of a temple to be God’s dwelling place: “The Lord is in is holy temple” (Psalm 11:4); hence everything in which God dwells can be called a temple. Now God dwells chiefly in Himself, because He alone comprehends Himself; hence God Himself is called a temple: “Its temple is the Lord God” (Revelation 21:22). God also dwells in a building consecrated by the special worship offered Him in it; therefore, a holy building is called a temple: “I will worship at the holy temple in your fear” (Psalm 5:8). Furthermore, he dwells in men by faith, which works through love: “That Christ may dwell by faith in your hearts” (Ephesians 3:17).
Hence to prove that the faithful are God’s temple, he adds that they are dwelt in by God when he says: and the Spirit of God dwells in you, as in Romans 8:11 when he said: “The Spirit who raised Jesus Christ dwells in you”; “I will put my spirit within you” (Ezekiel 36:27). This shows that the Spirit is God, by Whose indwelling the faithful are called God’s temple, for only God’s indwelling makes a thing God’s dwelling, as has been said.
173. – But it should be noted that God exists in all creatures. He exists in them by His essence, power and presence, filling all things with His goodness: “Do I not fill heaven and earth?” (Jeremiah 23:24). But God is said to dwell spiritually as in a family in the saints, whose mind is capable of God by knowledge and love, even though they may not be actually thinking of Him or loving Him, provided that by grace they possess the habit of faith and charity, as is the case with baptized infants. However, knowledge without love does not suffice for God’s indwelling, for 1 John 4:16 says: “He that abides in love abides in God and God in him.” That is why many persons know God either by natural knowledge or by unformed faith, yet God’s Spirit does not dwell in them.
17 If any one destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are.
174. – Then when he says, But if any man, he mentions the punishment in store for those who do evil works, saying: But if any man destroy the temple of God, him will God destroy.
Now the temple of God is violated in two ways: in one way by false teaching, which does not build on the foundation but rather uproots it and destroys the edifice; hence, Ezekiel 13:19 says of false prophets: “You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread.” In another way a person violates the temple of God by mortal sin, through which he destroys himself or someone else by his works or example; hence it says in Malachi 2:11: “Judah has profaned the sanctuary of the Lord, which he loves.” Therefore, any person who violates a spiritual temple of God or profanes it in any way deserves to be destroyed by God through eternal damnation; hence Malachi 2:12 continues: “May the Lord cut off from the tents of Jacob and the man who does this, both the master and the disciple,” and in Psalm 12:3: “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts.”
175. – Then when he says, For the temple, he gives the reason for what he had said about the holiness of the temple. For a person who profanes a sacred thing commits a sacrilege; hence he deserves to be destroyed. For the temple of God is holy, and that temple you are, as he stated earlier and as stated in Psalm 65:4, “Holy is your temple, wonderful in justice,” and again in Psalm 93:5: “Holiness befits thy house, O Lord.” In a material temple, however, is a certain sacramental holiness, inasmuch as the temple is dedicated to divine worship; but in Christ’s faithful is the holiness of grace, which they acquired by baptism: “You have been washed, you have been sanctified” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

18  Let no one deceive himself.  If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
176. – Then when he says, Let no man, he excludes an opposite error.
First, he warns the faithful to be careful not to be deceived by error (#177);
secondly, he teaches how to be careful (#178);
thirdly, he assigns the reason (#179).
177. – In regard to the first it should be noted that some people say that God neither rewards nor punishes men’s deeds: “They say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill’” (Zephaniah 1:12); “Who has commanded and it came to pass, unless the Lord has ordained it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and evil come?” (Lamentations 3:37). To exclude this error he says, let no man deceive himself with the assertion that a person who violates the temple of God will not be destroyed: “Let no man deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 5:6).
178. – Then when he says, if any man, he shows how to avoid being deceived in this way. Here it should be noted that some, appealing to the reasons of human wisdom, have declared that God does not punish men’s sins on the ground that God does not know the particular things that happen here: “And you say, ‘Thick clouds enwrap him, so that he does not see’” (Job 22:14). Therefore, to avoid this he says: If any man among you thinks he is wise in this world, i.e., has worldly wisdom, which in those points that are contrary to the faith is not wisdom, even though it appears to be, let him become a fool by eschewing that seeming wisdom, that he may become wise, namely, according to divine wisdom, which is the true wisdom. And this must be observed not only in those matters in which worldly wisdom is contrary to the truth of faith, but also in all matters in which it is contrary to genuine morality; hence: “He is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Proverbs 30:5).
19 For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,”

179. – Then when he says, For the wisdom, he assigns the reason for what he had said. For it seems to be inept to advise a person to become foolish, as, indeed, it would be if the foolishness were the denial of true wisdom. But that is not the case, for the wisdom of this world is folly with God, because it rests mainly on this world, whereas the wisdom which attains to God through the things of this world is not the wisdom of the world but the wisdom of God, as Romans 1:19 says: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. His invisible nature has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” Therefore, the wisdom of this world, which considers the things of this world in such a way that it does not reach divine truth is folly with God, i.e., in God’s judgment it is folly: “The princes of Zoan are utterly foolish; the wise counselors of Pharaoh give stupid counsel” (Isaiah 19:11).

180. – [Then], he proves what he had said by citing two authorities: the first of these is from Job 5:13; hence he says: He catches the wise in their own craftiness. Now the Lord catches the wise in their own craftiness, because when they lay crafty plans contrary to God, He frustrates them and fulfills His own plan. Thus, by the malice of Joseph’s brothers attempting to prevent his ascendancy, it came to pass by divine providence that Joseph, after being sold, became a ruler in Egypt. Hence just before the words quoted, Job says: “He frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success”; because, as it says in Proverbs 21:30: “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel, can avail against the Lord.”
20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”        
The second authority is taken from Psalm 94:11; hence he says: and again it is written: The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise, i.e., according to the wisdom of the world, are futile, namely, because they do not reach unto the goal of human knowledge, which is the knowledge of divine truth. Hence Wisdom 13:1 says: “All men who are ignorant of God are foolish.”

21 So let no one boast of men. For all things are yours,
181. – Then when he says, let no man, he draws his main conclusion, namely, that they should not glory in God’s ministers.
First, he draws the conclusion, saying: Therefore, since ministers are nothing but persons laboring for a reward, let no man boast of men, as it says in Psalm 146:3: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no help”; and Jeremiah 17:5: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his arm.”
182. – Secondly, he assigns a reason based on the dignity of Christ’s faithful. First, he mentions the relationship between things and Christ’s faithful, saying: For all things are yours. As if to say: just as a man does not glory in things subject to himself, so neither should you glory in the things of the world, all of which have been given to you by God: “Thou has put all things under his feet” (Psalm 8:8).
22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future, all are yours;
Then he specifies what he means by all things;
and first he mentions Christ’s ministers, who are appointed by God in minister to the faithful: “With ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5), which is what he says: whether Paul, who planted, or Apollos, who watered, or Cephas, i.e., Peter, who is the universal shepherd of Christ’s sheep, as stated in John 21. After these he mentions external things when he says: or the world, which contains all creatures and belongs to Christ’s faithful, inasmuch as a person is helped by the things of this world to fulfill his bodily needs and to attain to a knowledge of God: “From the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator” (Wisdom 13:5).
183. – Then he lists things which pertain to the very disposition of man, saying: or life or death, because life is useful to Christ’s faithful as the time for meriting; and so is death, by which they reach their reward: “Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8); and “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Indeed, all good and evil in this world are reduced to these two, because by good things life is preserved and by evil things death is reached.
Finally, he lists the things which pertain to man’s present or future state, saying: or the present, i.e., things of this life by which we are aided in meriting, or the future, i.e., things reserved for us as a reward: “We have not here a lasting city, but we seek one that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). All are yours, i.e., serve your advantage: “In everything God works for good with those who love him” (Romans 8:28).
23 and you are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s.
184. – Thus, the first relationship is that of Christ to the faithful, but the second is that of Christ’s faithful to Christ. He mentions this when he says: and you are Christ’s, because He redeemed us by His death: “Whether we live it whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:8). The third relationship is that of Christ as man to God; hence he adds: and Christ as man is God’s. Hence He is called God and Lord in Psalm 7:1: “O Lord my God, in thee do I take refuge,” where the whole Trinity is understood by the name, God. Therefore, because no one should glory in anything below him but in what is above him, the faithful of Christ should not glory in His ministers, but rather the ministers in them: “I have great confidence in you; I have great pride in you” (2 Corinthians 7:4). But Christ’s faithful should glory in Christ: “Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14), as Christ glories in the Father: “He boasts that God is his father” (Wisdom 2:16).


The parish I serve

<b>The parish I serve</b>
St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Colwich, Kansas (Diocese of Wichita)