The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time [B]
Wisdom 1:13-15;2:23-24 + 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15 + Mark 5:21-43
June 27, 2021
For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature He made him.
Both the little girl who was healed in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading, as well as her loved ones, likely had a question on their minds after Jesus worked the miracle: “Who is this man?”
This is the question that our lives revolve around if Christ is at the center of our lives. “Who is this man?” Every Gospel passage during the Sundays of Ordinary Time looks at this Jesus from a different perspective. It’s like turning a diamond in your hand as you hold it up to the light and gaze upon one facet after another. Each is beautiful. Each is brilliant. Each shines. Each Gospel passage shows us one more reason to give thanks for being able to know and love this divine person named Jesus.
But St. Paul in today’s Second Reading insists that this Jesus is not to be known and loved as if He were on a pedestal that we small, tiny human beings cannot reach. Jesus is not to be worshipped from afar. If that were what God wanted, this Second Person of the Trinity—God the Son—would have remained always in Heaven, far above us poor sinners.
We do worship Jesus Christ because He is the only-begotten Son of God, Light from Light, True God from True God. But we worship Him also as our personal Redeemer, who for us men and our salvation came down from Heaven so that we could worship God up close. “Who is this man?” He is true man, but also True God. He reigns eternally as God in Heaven, but He also enters into human misery, suffering, and death through His human nature. That tension between Jesus’ divine nature and His human nature is what makes this such a mysterious question: “Who is Jesus?”
This is what St. Paul is trying to get across to us, proclaiming: “… you know the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ: that though He was rich, for your sake He became poor, so that by His poverty you might become rich.” Saint Paul is not talking about material wealth, of course. He’s talking about spiritual wealth: in other words, the grace that is a share in divine life.
But Jesus offers us the wealth of divine life only through the Cross: through His poverty, by abandoning His life completely to the Will of God the Father. However, although this selflessness reveals a beautiful picture of Jesus, at this point we as Catholics have an important step to take.
Jesus is not just someone for us to admire. We are asked to share directly in the sacred mysteries of His life. We are not just to imitate Jesus, as we imitate our childhood heroes. There’s no way that any of us can imitate Jesus’ selflessness through our own efforts alone. We can only be as selfless as Jesus if we truly and directly share His life: if we live our lives in His life, by means of His abiding within us.
How does Jesus abide within the faithful disciple? Today’s First Reading reminds us that “God formed man to be imperishable; the image of His own nature He made him.” God designed man—male and female He designed them—to live forever (“imperishably”) in His image.
Yet what exactly is this divine image in which man is created, and through which he abides in God and God in him? One answer given by Doctors of the Church is that the creation of man in the divine Image involves three aspects: two faculties and one end.
Man’s intellect and will reflect the divine image. By these two faculties, man can transcend his animal instincts and drives, and his environment. Man can transcend his very self, opening his life to both human others and the “Other” who is God. Yet men like Hitler and Nietzsche show that great intellect and great will power can end in murder, suicide and insanity. The faculties of intellect and will must be oriented towards love, and must be oriented by love. After all, the Beloved Disciple writes in his first New Testament letter, “God is love” [1 John 4:8 and 4:16]. This orientation takes shape through self-sacrifice: the poverty that God the Son embraced out of love for each of us atop Calvary on Good Friday.