“As I Have Loved You”
Friday: Nineteenth Week of the Year: August 12, 2016
Year II: Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60-63; Canticle: Isaiah 12:2-6; Matthew 19:3-12
The Responsorial is from Isaiah, chapter 12: “You have turned from your anger to comfort me.”
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60-63 describes God’s People as a woman saved from death and misery by God’s intervention when she was born. God made her his bride and raised to the heights of beauty, riches and honor. But Israel was unfaithful, giving herself to prostitution and degradations so low they are skipped over in the reading at Mass!
God describes the terrible consequences that Israel’s choice of infidelity will bring upon her. But then he reveals his infinite, incomprehensible love:
I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will conclude a covenant with you that shall last forever. So remember and be covered with shame, and in your confusion be reduced to silence, when I have pardoned you for all that you have done. It is the LORD who speaks.
God’s “revenge” is to shame his bride into repentance with unbelievable mercy and forgiveness. His response to sin — the same that Jesus revealed and Peter, in the name of us all, protested against — is to “endure evil with love” (see Matthew 16:13-28 and the reflections for Thursday and Friday of the Eighteenth Week of Year II). In Jesus, God overcomes the worst injustices to himself by suffering them and “loving back.” “You have turned from your anger to comfort me.” When this spirit guides and inspires all of our dealings with one another, we will have learned the secret of Christian ministry.
In Matthew 19:3-12 Jesus makes the logical application of this principle to the Christian vocation of marriage. As “Son of David,” the fulfillment of all things, he changes the nature of marriage by changing its goal. Now the goal is not just mutual life enhancement, but the “perfection of love,” to which marriage is a means.
As “Son of God,” Jesus makes Christian marriage a divine covenant like that of God with his spouse, the Chosen People, or of Jesus with his Bride, the Church. It requires of those called into it the same unconditional commitment to love, forgiveness and fidelity that Yahweh showed to Israel and Jesus shows to the Church. Jesus (“God saves”) “saves” marriages by empowering the same gift of self in love that he showed on the cross. Christian spouses say to each other, “This is my body, given up for you.” And “body” is all-inclusive — the total donation of our earthly being to another. All that we are in this world, we are “for” another in mutual ministry — sustained by self-giving to one another and extended as the ministry of self-gift to every person in the world. Jesus as “Universal Lord” makes marriage universal love.
Those called to the Sacrament of Matrimony are aware that when Jesus said these words it was at the Last Supper, in the context of offering himself on the cross. Those who are married have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desire” — not in the sense of renouncing pleasure or desiring pain, but as Paul meant the words in their context: as total gift of self in love. What characterizes the love of “those who belong to Christ Jesus” is the “fruit of the Spirit.” They are committed, no matter what, to “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-25). Any marriage that bears this fruit through mutual ministry is “successful,” even if at times it is crucifying.
Initiative: Give God’s life: Be a “priest in the Priest.” Offer yourself as “victim in the ‘Victim.”