Ordinary Time 14, Year A
- Learn to savor how good the Lord is (Ps. 34:9)
Remembering his friend, Francis de Sales, Vincent de Paul said of him (P. Coste, XII, 78, as cited in Jacques Delarue’s The Holiness of Vincent de Paul [London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1960]):
- So sweet was his goodness that people who were favoured with his conversation
- experienced an intense joy. I remember how, when I was kept to my bed by sickness,
- about six years ago, I used to say over and over again to myself: how great is
- divine goodness! My God, how good you are! My God, how good you are, since
- Francis de Sales, your creature, is himself filled with so much goodness.
Indeed, as today’s responsorial psalm proclaims, the Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all his works. And it is true as well that in the lives of St. Francis de Sales, St. Vincent and the other saints, this good, gentle and compassionate God “vividly manifests His presence and his face” to us human beings, speaking to us in the saints and giving us “a sign of His Kingdom, to which we are strongly drawn, having so great a cloud of witnesses over us and such a witness to the truth of the Gospel” (Lumen Gentium, 50).
But needless to say, the meek and humble Jesus alone, the God-with-Us, the Messiah who rides meekly, and as a king of peace, into his capital on a donkey and without the trappings of a champion in war, is the definitive and perfect presence of the good, gentle and compassionate God, who, though comparable to no one in being “enthroned on high, yet stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth, and lifts up the lowly from the dust and raises the poor from the ash heap” (Ps. 113:5-7). Jesus is the revelation of the God who ascended far above all the heavens and who also descended to the lower regions of the earth, making thus possible the distribution of divine gifts to us human beings for the building up of the body of Christ and our sharing in his fullness (Eph. 4:8-13).
The testimony, then, of the saints is definitely and solely founded on the testimony given by the faithful and true witness, the same one who challenges the lukewarm, those rich and affluent people who do not realize that that they are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:14-17). God’s holy ones, in other words, who live by the Spirit and put to death the deeds of the body, and are no longer debtors to the flesh, are the little folks who have already taken Jesus’ easy yoke and light burden, and now show themselves to be after his own meek and humble heart. These poor ones, acknowledging their hunger for God’s word, are blessed with the revelation that is hidden from the wise and the learned, from those who believe they know it all and who would sacrifice the salvation of souls to their erudition.
And because Jesus has deigned to reveal the Father to these meek and humble folks, they are able to tell apart, by a spontaneous sense of faith, those, on the one hand, who truly preach Jesus Christ for the good of souls in order to win and bring these souls to repentance, saying what they have to say “simply, plainly, humbly, but forcefully and with charity” from those, on the other hand, who preach to satisfy themselves rather than God, being thus caught up in nothing more than “pride and vanity” (cf. P. Coste, XII, 24, as cited by Jacques Delarue). Those who have learned from the one who is meek and humble of heart would also, by the same sense of faith, readily agree, I think, with St. Vincent who had advised a superior of a seminary:
- Above all never be fond of playing the superior or the master. I do not agree
- with one who said to me, a few days ago, that in order to rule well and to
- maintain authority it is necessary to let everyone see that you are the master.
- Our Lord Jesus Christ never spoke in this way; he taught us quite the contrary,
- by word and example, telling us that he who would be master must be the servant of all.
And St. Vincent hit the nail on the head regarding the unconventionality of Jesus’ message and approach, for sure—if what we celebrate in the Eucharist is any indication and there is something in it to learn to savor.