Ordinary Time 13, Year B-2009

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
Christ Jesus ... destroyed death and brought life and immortality (2 Tim. 1:10)

Man gets sick, he experiences destruction, and he dies. But sickness, destruction and death, according to the book of Wisdom, are man’s own making and not God’s.

In the first place, sickness, destruction and death result from man’s erring way of life and the destructive works of his hands (Wis. 1:12). Man’s greed, his unfettered craving to consume, to possess, to make a profit at all cost, to be sufficient unto himself—all this has led to world hunger hitting one billion, to the increasing inequity in the distribution of the goods that the Creator meant to be for the benefit of all, and consequently, to disease, destruction and death [1]. Moreover, weapons made by man to control and murder—whether conventional or unconventional, whether they are as material as guns and bombs or as immaterial, for example, as are both the ranting “Raqa” with which one rails against a brother or sister and the lustful look a man casts on a woman—have turned even more destructive.

In the second place, sickness, destruction and death are ultimately traced back to man’s original disobedience (cf. Gen. 3). “God formed man to be imperishable ... but by the envy of the devil, death entered the world and they who are in his possession experience it.”

Given such sorry state in which man finds himself, he may come to hold that disease, destruction and death are all there is finally and that he is left without any option but simply to eat and drink before he dies sooner or later (cf. 1 Cor. 15:32).

The poor, however, who have nothing or little to eat and drink—those who, like Jairus, do not find anyone else they can turn to except one itinerant preacher who could very well be a cause of embarrassment for them, given their relatively respectable social or religious standing, or those who, like the woman afflicted with hemorrhages, have spent all they had—cry out instead with the apostle Paul, the model of faith: “Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 7:24-25; cf. [2]). As St. Vincent de Paul observed, the poor, the innocent victims of human greed and destructiveness, have the true religion in spite of—or better, because of—their experience of disease, destruction and death (P. Coste, XI, 125 at [3]). Because of their true and living faith, they encounter Jesus Christ, who “died and came to life, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Rom. 15:9). They know by faith that nothing, death included, can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:38-39).

The poor understand better than those who have money to spend, or friends in high places to turn to, or experts with whom to consult, the paradox that is Jesus Christ—life comes from death, richness from poverty, self-fulfillment from self-emptying, light from darkness (cf. Ps.139:12). The poor, like the martyrs of old, find the darkness of prison and deprivation brighter than the sun itself, and are very sure, as was St. Thomas More, that “nothing can come but what God wills” and “that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be for the best” (Cf. The Liturgy of the Hours, both the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings for the Common of Several Martyrs and the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings for the memorial of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More).

And unlike those who appear to meet as church to celebrate the Lord’s supper but permit some to go hungry while others get drunk, the same ones who become ill and infirm and are dying because they eat and drink without recognizing the body of the Lord (1 Cor. 11:21, 29-30), the poor, as Sister Regina Bechtle, S.C., points out, “have everything to share and nothing to lose.” Thus, the poor give more readily and more generously, contributing effectively to Christian equality, an antidote, I believe, to disease, destruction and death.