Sunday, July 3, 2016

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Boast in Christ

Today's readings have many metaphors that convey a wealth of meanings.

In the first reading, we read a description of Jerusalem and how important 'she' is. Jerusalem is described in a feminine sense. She is a mother to all with breasts that feed all.  This imagery is a foreshadowing of the Catholic Church. The Church will be a mother to all. God will gather all into this Church and comfort them "as a mother comforts her child" (2 Corinthians 1:3). This does not mean that God is a 'mother' or a 'woman.' Isaiah wanted to use language readers could understand in order to convey the message of how much God cares for His people which can be compared to the care between a mother and her child (Psalms 17:8, 57:1, 91:4, Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34). I think it is safe to say that there is no bond greater than that of a mother and child. This is why we "cry out to God with joy" like a child cries out when he or she sees his or her mother as the responsorial Psalm states.  As children of God, we must shout joyfully to God and praise His name. We all believe in God because we have seen His promises at work. In our lives, we have encountered God in many ways. We see "how tremendous" are God's deeds because we have experienced them daily. This is why we worship and sing praises to God and call others to see the works of God (Psalm 66:5).  While we may not see miracles like the crossing of the Red Sea even as described in the Psalm with "He has changed the sea into dry land; through the river they passed on foot," we experience other kinds of miracles that increase our faith and love (Exodus 14).  These experiences we must share with others, but in a humble and loving way. We must not boast, as the second reading tells us, except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the second reading, St. Paul tells us that we must not boast but only in Christ. This boast is not an "in-your-face" kind of boast as in a sporting event when a rival fan over celebrates a victory while mocking fans of another team.  Rather, this boasting is humble. It is a boast like that of a father who leaves the hospital telling everyone he had a little boy or girl. This kind of boasting is not meant to be arrogant or offend, but to convey joy. Similarly, we must convey this kind of boasting with our faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:31, Romans 5:11). It must not offend others or make others feel less. This is why Pope Francis has spoken out many times against triumphalism. We must not go around with an attitude like we are better than other religious people just because we are Catholic. Unfortunately, some who call themselves 'traditionalists' tend to do this. They go about calling Protestants or Muslims heretics as if the word did not convey negative connotations which defeat the purpose of evangelization. A true evangelist invites others to the faith, not bash others with it (Luke 14:13, Matthew 22:9). Moreover, St. Paul reminds us that circumcision has no meaning. In the old covenant, it was used to mark Jewish males as belonging to God (Genesis 17:10-14). It is no longer needed. We are marked by Christ via the Sacraments with an indelible seal. This is the "new creation." He then says that he bears the marks of Jesus. Some interpret this as the stigmata, or the literal marks of Jesus' after being crucified. However, scholars state that St. Paul is referring to the marks he received while being imprisoned and harassed for preaching Christ (2 Corinthians 4:8-10). These marks show that He is a "slave" to Christ (Romans 1:1).  St. Thomas Aquinas had this commentary to make:

For stigmata are, strictly speaking, certain marks branded on one with a hot iron; as when a slave is marked on the face by his master, so that no one else will claim him, but quietly let him remain with the master whose marks he bears. And this is the way the Apostle says he bears the marks of the Lord, branded, as it were, as a slave of Christ; and this, because he bore the marks of Christ’s passion, suffering many tribulations in his body for Him, according to the saying of 1 Peter (2:21): “Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow his steps”; “Always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4: 10). Source -

We too must suffer for our faith. However, these marks on our bodies and minds will serve to bear much fruit.

In the Gospel, we read of Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples in pairs.  He reminds them that He is sending them as "lambs among wolves." This means that evangelization is not easy. We will be met with opposition, mockery and even worse. Jesus tells them to carry no money back, no sack, no sandals and greet no one along the way. This shows detachment from the world. Life is not about material goods (Matthew 6:19-21). When Jesus says not to greet anyone, He is not encouraging rudeness or anti-social behavior. Instead, He is saying that we must be focused on spreading the Gospel. Many times we may run into neighbors or friends when we go out to run an errand and get side-tracked with small talk. When we are going out to spread the Gospel, we must avoid this. We must be focused on the task at hand. St. Francis of Assisi used this Gospel to send his friars out to preach.

Moreover, Jesus instructs these pairs on how to deal with the people.  If they welcome them, then these pairs should enjoy what the families offer (1 Corinthians 10:27).  If not, then they must shake the dust off their feet as a sign that they do not want part of what these people offer (Matthew 7:6). In today's world, there is so much going on that is oppressing Christianity. We must "shake it off," not as singer Taylor Swift sings but as Christ says. We must have no part of the dust that this world offers and must shake it off of our feet (Ephesians 5:11). Whenever we encounter stubborn people who are closed minded such as atheists, we must not get into shouting matches with them. If they do not want to hear us, then we must move on. We did our part. It is not God's part to soften their hearts and open their minds to the truth (Ezekiel 36:26, Romans 9:18).  God is on our side. Jesus saw Satan get kicked out of heaven. The demons fear Him and will fear us because we go in His name (Mark 16:17-18). Nothing will harm us as Christ said. We must go out there and spread the truth especially in this day where so many errors are taking hold of society. Let us fight the good fight. Remember, we have already won in Christ Jesus.  May Jesus Christ be praised!  


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