Last Sunday some of us found ourselves snowed-in. Couldn’t come to Mass. Which meant missing St. Paul’s parody of Donald Trump’s old show, “The Apprentice.”
In I Corinthians 12, St. Paul imagines the various members of the human body yelling at each other about their work, like on the show. Paul points out how absurd it would be. The foot cannot say, because I am not a hand, I have decided to seek employment elsewhere. The ear cannot say, because I am not an eye, I quit. The head cannot say to the feet, You’re fired!
St. Paul went on: Now, you are Christ’s Body. You are individually parts of it. So: No I quits. No you’re fireds.
A son can’t fire his father. A wife can’t fire her husband—even if sometimes the performance reviews include a lot of “room for improvement.” Likewise, we baptized Christians form a family, an inseparable Body. No I quits. No you’re fireds. Instead: We strive to believe in each other, to wish the best for each other, to love each other–with true, selfless love.
At Holy Mass this Sunday, we hear the sequel to last week’s “The Apprentice” reading from I Corinthians. This Sunday’s second reading gets read at practically every Catholic wedding. And on the fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year C.
What is love? Patient, kind, humble, unassuming, gentle, generous, calm, forgiving, faithful, hopeful, and true.
This is not St. Paul’s prescription for a romance novel or a chick flick. It is how he describes the divine love that binds the Body of Christ together, the force that binds the Christian Church.
Romance and soul mates and lovey-dovey is fine, as far as it goes. But the Christian love of the People of God makes Romeo and Juliet look like the j.v. squad, by comparison. The love of Christ that binds the Church together as one Body: that is real love.
Now, with all this in mind, with the idea of holy mutual love binding us together, let’s take a quick look at what happened in church that day when the Lord Jesus read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.
Bound in love, the People of God gathered in the synagogue in Nazareth, affirming each other in the faith. They smiled when they saw Christ. Here’s a local boy done very well. Full of wisdom and gravitas.
Says he’s the Messiah… Huh. The Messiah. Really? We’re more familiar with him as someone who helped his father make our tables and chairs. We know him as a rather-sweaty, adze-wielding labor man. The Messiah? Huh.
How did Jesus react to this? He went for the jugular, so to speak. His reaction makes the hard-nosed businessmen of The Apprentice look like milquetoasts. The Lord met pride, cynicism, and smallness with tough love.
To summarize His speech in a nutshell: Christ said to the Nazarenes, You seem to think a lot of yourselves, o fellow Jews of Galilee, gathered here in church. You seem satisfied with your little selves. But God loves humble, faithful foreigners more than He loves you. Your own Scriptures says so!
…We cannot underestimate how much the entire spiritual edifice of the Christian life rests on one thing. Humility.
What did the widow of Zarephath and Naaman the Syrian have in common? Practically nothing, except: They both encountered a holy man, a true prophet, a messenger of God, filled with divine power—they both encountered such a man.
The widow met Elijah; Naaman met Elisha. Both the widow and Naaman questioned what they heard the prophet say. Feed you with this little amount of oil I have in my jar? I don’t think so. Wash in the Jordan waters? Why bother?
But both the widow and Naaman obeyed anyway. The widow and Naaman both believed, believed in God more than they believed in their own personal mental powers. They acknowledged their own limitations. And they acknowledged the loving power of Almighty God, the omnipotent, the mysterious, the awesome.
…There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in being a Roanoker. I take pride in it myself. There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in belonging to Hokie Nation. But if we think that what makes a church a place of love comes from this earth, we deceive ourselves. If we think that the power that turns a parish into a loving family comes from us, we’re wrong.
Almighty God, the omnipotent, the mysterious, the awesome—He possesses the love described in I Corinthians 13. I Corinthians 13 elaborates in words what we see whenever we look at a crucifix. God alone possesses I-Corinthians-13 love in His own Heart. He alone provides such love.
And He offers it to the humble. Only the humble have hearts open wide enough to receive love as grand as the divine love.
The church people in Nazareth grew furious with the Word made flesh because… pride. Worldliness. Spiritual sloth. They insisted that God fit into their sphere. They thought they could measure God and insist that He please them.
Jesus told them: Fellow Nazarenes, your world is way too small. Your measuring stick is too short. The only way to take in the divine grandeur is to humble yourselves.