02nd July 2017

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time


It might seem strange to say that the Scripture readings today offer us a profound insight into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, the Mystery of God, but of course they do because the Word of God, Jesus, is God and an encounter with the Word of God is an encounter with God, Father Son and Holy Spirit.

Look at the themes running like a pattern through the readings. In the Gospel, two: -Dare to lose everything you call your own and so gain everything in Christ
-Dare to accept everything God offers, even the smallest thing in order to receive God in it.

These themes are reflected by St Paul: to die in order to live for God, to recognise the sacrifice and exchange brought about in Christ, and in the first reading - the husband and wife whose generous giving leads to receiving what they could hardly hope for, a child.

And because they are about the Mystery of God, the Trinity, these readings are also about Marriage.

Let me explain. Mystery doesn't mean something we can't know. Mystery means, amongst other things, one who reveals himself to us in such a way that in coming to know him we are involved in his love. The closest thing you find in nature which is like mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is the union of two persons in one flesh which results in the birth of new life. This has always been recognised by humanity, even if in a vague or distorted way, from the sacred marriage of heaven and earth in pagan fertility rites, through the relationship between God and his chosen people Israel in the Old Testament to the relationship between Christ and his bride the Church.

This is in part why the church can never cease to proclaim that marriage involves the inseparable intertwining of difference, man and woman, self giving faithful love and procreation (openness to new life). At the heart of marriage is someone who is other than me, profoundly different, yet utterly complimentary who by giving themselves to me in sacrifice, by placing themselves at my service, enable me to give myself to them, and, because that is what I am made for, enable me to be truly me, but only in union with the other, and this love overflows, the fruit of this love is another, not me, not my spouse but another, a child who whilst unique and separate can only be understood as the fruit of our love.

This natural mystery is at the heart of what it is to be human and thus at the heart of society. And it reveals all those themes spoken of in the readings, giving up everything to gain everything, receiving in gratitude, a welcome and a hospitality and generosity which lead to life. We might add, utter faithfulness, sacrifice, forgiveness, and unity which proclaim, reflect and are fulfilled in Christ's faithfulness to us, sacrifice for us, forgiveness of us and unity with us. And in doing this we are led with care and an understanding of the weakness of human words used about God to think of the marriage relationship as finding its fulfillment in the very mystery of God, in which the perfect, eternal relationship of love between the Father and Son eternally sends forth the Holy Spirit who is neither the Father nor the Son but who is that divine love, the fruit of that love and the means of sharing that love.

To put it simply in terms of experience. When we see a married couple, the faithful, sacrificial self giving love by which they give themselves to each other, the welcoming, self giving generosity which overflows in new life and in care for friends, for strangers and for the poor. When we hear someone say 'without my Spouse I am not complete', or 'I love you so much there is nothing you can do that I cannot forgive', or 'everything I have and am is yours', when children, the fruit of love are welcomed joyfully by parents as a chance to give themselves further in love and service, when the children growing and maturing cannot conceive of themselves other than as being enveloped in the loving fatherhood and motherhood (profoundly different – yet complimentary) of their parents – then we can say, the mystery of this marriage points to the mystery of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, as it is communicated to us in Jesus Christ.