Wednesday of the 10th Week in Ordinary Time [II]

Wednesday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time [II]
I Kings 18:20-39  +  Matthew 5:17-19
June 8, 2016

“They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.” [Psalm 16:4]

Transcendence lies at the heart of the authentic spiritual life.  The Church’s teachings about “divinization”—teachings readily found in the Eastern Fathers, and becoming more appreciated in the West today—help us understand that God calls human persons to transcendence.  That’s not to say that the Christian ceases to be human in coming to share in the divinity of Christ.  We are not meant to transcend our human nature itself, any more than the Glorified and Ascended Christ sheds His human nature.  Nonetheless, the saint transcends his fallen human nature as he comes to share in a divinized humanity.

By contrast, every sin is a diminishment of the person who commits it.  The saint transcends, while the sinner descends.  The descent of the sinner is what the Psalmist describes in Psalm 16 when he sings:  “They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.”

For commentaries on these words of the Psalmist, you might read through St. Thomas’ five questions about happiness in his Summa Theologiae, or St. Augustine’s eleventh chapter of his work Of the Morals of the Catholic Church.  In the latter, the Doctor of Grace bases his explanation of God as the true happiness of man on two Scripture passages.  The first is Jesus’ re-presentation of the Jewish Shema prayer:  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”[1]  The second is Saint Paul’s assertion to the Romans:  “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[2]

Both of these Scripture passages speak to love:  the first, of the human love for God; the second, the love of God for man.  These two converge—through good works and through grace—in the relationship between the disciple and God, patterned after and sharing in the relationship between God the Son and God the Father.

However, this convergence is perverted by those described by the Psalmist:  “They multiply their sorrows who court other gods.”  The verb “court” is telling.  Courting a possible love is more refined than mere flirting, but it’s also more dangerous, because courting lacks the casualness and impermanence of flirting.  Courting holds out the suggestion of a long-term relationship, which a human person cannot maintain with a finite creature, created as man was for an immortal relationship with God alone.

Few modern persons court gods with the “blood libations” mentioned by the Psalmist.  Instead of the “blood libations” that come from ritual sacrifice, you and I, with the Psalmist, are called to profess the Lord alone as our “allotted portion and cup”.  The Body and Blood of Christ are this “allotted portion and cup”.  These sacred mysteries strengthen us to cast aside the courtship of alien gods, and to trust that God’s love transcends all the adversities of this life, that each of us may love God alone.

[1] Matthew 22:37.
[2] Romans 8:38-39.