Sunday Sermon for September 24, 2017, the Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Readings: Is 55:6-9; Phil 1:20c-24, 27a; Mt 20:1-16a
In the first reading today God says that His thoughts are not our thoughts nor are His ways our ways. He adds that as the heavens are high above the earth, so high are His ways above our ways. Certainly this is true, but we cannot just sit back and think that since our thoughts and our ways are infinitely beneath the Lord’s thoughts and ways that we should not even try to form ourselves to be like Him. God is infinite, so no matter how high we are able to reach, we will still be infinitely below Him. However, there are things we can do in order to think and act more like the Lord.
The context of the first reading demonstrates it is God’s mercy and forgiveness that makes His ways so different from our ways of doing things. In the Gospel we see the generosity of the Lord, which appears to be an injustice on the natural level. Once again the Lord’s way is shown to be far superior to our way. But this also means that if we are striving to be more generous, more merciful, and more forgiving, we will be more like God.
Created in His image and likeness, it should be evident to everyone that we are created to think and act like God. After all, God is truth, and our minds are made for the truth. God is love, and our wills are made for love. So, to be Godlike is not something beyond us or contrary to our nature. Indeed, it is our very nature to be Godlike. God will always be infinitely above us, but we can begin becoming more of the persons we were created to be.
We have to remember that no matter how Godlike we become, God is always infinitely above us. Our Blessed Lady is the highest of all the creatures the Lord made, and she is infinitely beneath Him. I say this to remind ourselves that striving for holiness is neither a game nor is it senseless. There is no competition with God, nor should there be competition with anyone else. Our goal is simply to love God and neighbor as much as we are able. At the same time, we should desire that every other person would also love God as much as possible. When we have this kind of disposition, we actually hope others will love even more than we do, provided we are loving as much as we can.
In the second reading St. Paul makes a statement that gives us great hope. He says that God will be magnified in his body whether by life or by death. St. Paul wants to die in order to be with the Lord, but he is completely willing to keep living and working in the body for the sake of the people to whom he preached the Gospel. Everything for St. Paul was about loving God and neighbor and, because of this, no matter what he did, he knew God would be magnified.
It is interesting that St. Paul does not say that God will be glorified or honored, but magnified. In her Magnificat, our Lady proclaims that her soul magnifies the Lord. We might be tempted to think this makes sense because She was without sin and able to love as perfectly as one can. However, St. Paul professes himself to be the worst sinner of all, but here he is magnifying the Lord. This means you and I can magnify the Lord as well!
It is fascinating to think about this because if we become more Godlike it would make sense that we would reflect God more perfectly. But neither our Lady nor St. Paul is talking about reflecting God; they are both magnifying Him. There is only one way this can happen: with God dwelling within us, we allow Him to shine through us, thereby becoming an instrument of magnification. If we think of a magnifying glass, we can all understand that to actually magnify something the magnifying glass must not be covered, be reasonably clean, and be held at the proper distance and angle from the object we desire to magnify.
God dwells within us when we are in the State of Grace, however, most of us are so far from who we should be that it is hard to tell He is there. As we grow in holiness, we remove the covering and begin to clean the dirt and dust off so God’s presence within us is more clearly seen. Eventually we can get to the point where Divine Presence, hidden deep within us, is not only seen, but magnified. How? Be generous and merciful and love God and neighbor with your whole heart and soul and strength!
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.