Ordinary Time 17, Year A
- Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God (Mt. 5:8)
The scribes and Pharisees, it appears, thought themselves to be more discerning since they claimed that had they lived in the days of their ancestors, they would not have joined them in shedding the prophets’ blood (cf. Mt. 23:29-32). But Jesus saw such a claim to be self-incriminating. In fact, in rejecting him and his message, the scribes and the Pharisees were merely filling up the sinful measure of their ancestors. So then, far from showing they had better discernment, the scribes and the Pharisees only proved they were basically as lacking in discernment as their murderous ancestors.
Most of the claims I make may not be self-incriminating. But not infrequently my claims are, I am afraid, hollow, mouthed off merely by rote, and rather self-serving, self-righteous and boastful. I cite, for instance, Jesus’ censure of his generation, namely, that at the judgment the queen of Sheba would rise with that generation and condemn it, because while she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, they for their part failed to grasp that there was someone greater than Solomon in their midst. But have I really embraced Jesus as the wisdom and the power of God (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-20) and valued the kingdom he came to preach and bring to fulfillment as the discovered treasure or pearl that is worth all that I am and have? Have I genuinely considered everything as a loss, the way the apostle Paul did (cf. Phil. 3:7-8), because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus and accepted the loss of all things and considered them so much rubbish that I may gain Christ?
I may not be among those professed Christians who must reevaluate the true state of their souls, given that they are far more consumed with seeking worldly wealth and status than with furthering God’s kingdom (cf. ). But surely my worries and anxieties about earthly life, bodily well-being and material welfare, among other things, often not only prevent me from both finding God in all things, as St. Ignatius Loyola would want us to (cf. “William A. Barry, S.J., “A Friend in God,” in the July 21-28, 2008 issue of America) and discerning that all things work for good for those who love God; they also make me insensitive to others’ needs. I too, therefore, am surely deserving of censure and bring adversity upon myself when, not recognizing Jesus when he comes to visit, I refuse to go to the door even (cf. Lk. 19:41-44).
And Jesus does come and knock at the door. He does so most often, according to St. Ambrose, when his head is covered with the dew of night (cf. the non-scriptural reading in the Office of Reading of the Liturgy of the Hours for Thursday, 14th Week in Ordinary Time). “He visits in love those in trouble and temptation, to save them from being overwhelmed by their trials. His head is covered with dew or moisture when those who are his body are in distress.”
Jesus is poor Lazarus at the gate, whose help is God and who is taken for granted by those who take Moses and the prophet for granted—notwithstanding their claims that they are theirs—and end up not recognizing even one risen from the dead and, hence, fill up the measure of their indifference.
Jesus is the least of his brothers and sisters, hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, ill, in prison—attending or not attending to whom will determine whether one inherits the kingdom or not, whether one in the end is judged good and is collected in a bucket, or judged bad and is thrown away.
It is critical, therefore, that I now be granted “eyes and a heart directed toward the poor” and be helped to recognize Jesus “in them—in their thirst, their hunger, their loneliness, and their misfortune.” And, in this regard, I can certainly look to St. Vincent de Paul.
Having obtained such eyes and heart and come to such recognition of Jesus, St. Vincent was henceforth never the same again. Jesus became his all, remembering that he lived in Jesus Christ by the death of Jesus Christ, and that he ought to die in Jesus Christ by the life of Jesus Christ, and that his life ought to be hidden in Jesus Christ and full of Jesus Christ, and that in order to die like Jesus Christ it would be necessary to live like Jesus Christ.
The hard saying clearly did not make St. Vincent recoil. He ate Jesus’ flesh and drank his blood, and he too gave of himself to others, accompanying Jesus as he went about doing good, making the rounds of towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and curing every disease and illness (cf. Jn. 6:60, 66-69; Acts 10:38; Mt. 9:35). Hence, he even today remains in Jesus and Jesus remains in him. He testifies that such communion with Jesus makes for a household management that knows to bring from the storehouse both the new and the old. It also guarantees, no doubt, pure and genuine discernment.