Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  But death is not simply eliminated.  There is a constant temptation in the Christian life to believe that since we love God and pray for things to go well, that we will somehow be spared from suffering.  We tend to grow accustomed to this life, the many blessings we’ve received, all the projects and work we have to do, the planning needed etc.  We can forget that Baptism is a sacrament that also represents death.  Jeremiah the prophet was plunged into a cistern where he was sure to die, then lifted back out again.  That’s what happens with baptism: being plunged into the waters in which we were certain to drown and perish, only to be brought back out again.  Jesus talks about the baptism with which he longs to be baptised – He is referring to His Passion and Death.  He does not long for suffering because He somehow enjoys it though – it is the joy of eternal life that draws Him through death.

Becoming more fully alive as Christians means, necessarily, becoming more fully dead to this passing world.  We can’t place all our energy and hopes into something that is not eternal.  We can’t put it into our work, we can’t put it into our children and our future.  Our only true future is eternal life – and that life is perfect bliss for those who faithfully cling to Jesus through all of life’s troubles.  If we hold onto the idea that Jesus has come to give us peace in this world, we will end up hating and distrusting Him.  If we hold onto Jesus in the midst of the suffering and daily dying we have to undergo, He will teach our souls about the peace and joy of the world to come.  We cannot experience the true joy of being Christian if we don’t spend time every day embracing our Savior with our hearts.  Not only does He teach us the hidden wisdom of the cross and the hidden joy of being Christian, He also gives us courage to face the difficulties that will most certainly lie ahead.  “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your struggle against sin.”  There are no words from any teacher or preacher that can replace the direct and real contact with the heart of Christ that baptism gives to our soul.  Let us renounce the idea that this world can make us happy and receive the baptism of fire in our hearts, the flame of God’s love, the gift of the Spirit.

AMBROSE:

Love is good, having wings of burning fire that flies through the saints’ breasts and hearts and consumes whatever is material and earthly but tests whatever is pure. With its fire, love makes whatever it has touched better. The Lord Jesus sent this fire on earth. Faith shined brightly. Devotion was enkindled. Love was illuminated. Justice was resplendent. With this fire, he inflamed the heart of his apostles, as Cleophas bears witness, saying, “Was not our heart burning within is, while he was explaining the Scriptures?” The wings of fire are the flames of the divine Scripture.1

CYRIL OF JERUSALEM:

Why is it “fire”? It is because the descent of the Holy Spirit was in fiery tongues. Concerning this the Lord says with joy, “I came to cast fire upon the earth, and would that it were already kindled!”2

AMBROSE:

You are not forbidden to love your parents, but you are forbidden to prefer them to God. Natural children are true blessings from the Lord, and no one must love the blessing that he has received more than God by whom the blessing, once received, is preserved.3

SEVERIAN OF GABALA:

Let us lay aside every weight. “Weight” is a sin of the enjoyment of the flesh, a form in which the “sin which clings so closely” is born. It clings closely to us as it surrounds us with pleasure and subdues us to its own will.4

THEODORET OF CYR:

The models of godliness are set before us on all sides, he is saying, in such vast numbers as to resemble a cloud in density and testify to the power of faith. Accordingly, let us keep our eyes on them, be light on our feet and rid ourselves of the burden of unnecessary worries, in this way being able also to avoid sin that is easy to contract. Before everything else we need perseverance to succeed in the course ahead of us. He said sin “clings” because it is easily contracted and committed: the eye is fascinated, the ear charmed, touch titillated, tongue easily loosened and thought quickly directed to the worst.5

THEODORET OF CYR:

He could have avoided suffering, he is saying, had he so chosen; but he put up with the suffering for the benefit of all. The Savior’s joy is the salvation of human beings; for it he endured the suffering, and after the suffering he is seated with the Father who begot him.6

JEROME:

God has entered us as contestants in a racecourse where it is our lot to be always striving. This place, then, a valley of tears, is not a condition of peace, not a state of security, but an arena of struggle and of endurance.7

EVAGRIUS PONTICUS:

Do not think you have attained to virtue until first you have fought to the shedding of blood. One must resist sin even to death—manfully and irreproachably, as the divine apostle tells us.8

Footnotes

  1. ISAAC, OR THE SOUL 8.77.  Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 217). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  2. CATECHETICAL LECTURES 17.8.  Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 217). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  3. EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 7.134–36.  Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 219). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  4. FRAGMENTS ON THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS 12.1.  Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  5. INTERPRETATION OF HEBREWS 12.  Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 209). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  6. INTERPRETATION OF HEBREWS 12.  Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (pp. 209–210). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  7. HOMILIES ON THE PSALMS 16 (PSALM 83).  Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 210). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
  8. CHAPTERS ON PRAYER 136.  Heen, E. M., & Krey, P. D. W. (Eds.). (2005). Hebrews (p. 213). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

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