Sunday Sermon for October 27, 2019, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Sir 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18; Lk 18:9-14
In the first reading Sirach states that the Lord is a God of justice Who knows no favorites. When we look at people like our Blessed Lady and the Saints, it is hard to say that God did not somehow favor them above others. Well, He did. Then how can we say He knows no favorites? The fact is, God loves everyone infinitely. The love He pours upon His Mother is the same as the love He pours upon you and me. Because we are finite and the love God gives us is infinite, His love overflows the capacity of every creature.
This said, each of us has a different capacity and we can only receive love to the limit of our capacity. Even though God gave an infinite amount of love to our Lady, she could not receive the infinite love given to her. However, because her love for God was so great, her capacity to receive God’s love was, and is, far more than anyone else. As each of us grows in love for God, our capacity to receive God’s love will also increase. Hopefully each of us loves God more today than when we were younger, which means we can be filled today with more of God’s love than we could in the past and be filled tomorrow with even more of God’s love than we are today.
This capacity is not just about how much capacity we have at any given moment. Rather, when we are able to receive more of God’s love, then God can love us more. To teach this truth, I use the example of a child’s pail and 55-gallon drum which are both submerged into a river. The water, like God’s love, overflows both of them. If we ask which is more full, the answer is that both are completely full to overflowing. If we ask which one holds more water, obviously the larger container holds more, even though both are filled beyond their capacity.
It is important to understand that there is no limit to our capacity. As long as we are alive, our capacity to receive God’s love can continue to grow. Recall the Gospel reading when our Lord speaks of the different workers getting paid the same amount, even though some worked twelve hours while others worked only one hour. It seems unjust. However, in Heaven, every person will be filled with love to their absolute capacity. The love given to each will be infinite; the love received by each will depend on how much they grew in love while in this life. Since, like the example of the pail and the drum, both are filled to capacity, no one will feel deprived and no one will feel superior.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus tells the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector. The Pharisee, who performs many religious deeds, had closed his heart to true charity. He looked down on the tax collector and thought he was superior. His self-righteousness earned him God’s rejection. The humility of the tax collector, on the other hand, merited him the grace to be justified. The point is that we can close our own hearts to receive God’s love, although we give lip service to God and go through the motions. At the same time, a sinner can repent and convert, opening their heart to receive God’s love and mercy. Because we are all sinners, we all must repent and open our hearts to receive God’s love.
Whether we have been serving the Lord and others in charity since our youngest days or whether we have recently turned our life over to God, what is important is that we open our hearts and keep them open to grow in love and, therefore, in holiness. In the second reading, St. Paul rejoices that he would soon receive the crown of righteousness from the Lord, and then reminds us that not only he will receive this crown because of his extraordinary love and service to God, but that such a crown will be given to every person who awaits the coming of our Lord.
Once again, we see that God know no favorites. God loves everyone infinitely and desires that every person spend eternity with Him in Heaven. Because God has given us a free will, we must choose to love and serve God and others in this life so we can spend eternity with Him. We need to pray to get rid of any and all self-righteousness and beg for humility and charity so our capacity to love God and receive His love will continue to grow. Then we can enter into Heaven and rejoice with every person who has chosen God and is filled to capacity with the love of God!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.