Radiant Love Creates the Church

Pentecost 17

First reading: Prov. 31:10-31; Ps. 1 Alternate: Wis. 1:16-2:1 or Jer. 11:18-20; Ps. 54 • James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a; Mark 9:30-37

The abandonment of Wisdom may begin with indifference to the good, but it becomes in time a bitter attack against the “righteous one.” The fool cannot help but sense that “he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions.” “He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us.” Thus, the ungodly turn against “God’s child.” Indifferent to the good, the fool is now indifferent to torture and murder. “Let us test him with insult and torture.” “Let us condemn him to a shameful death” (Wisdom). Let his memory perish. “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered” (Jeremiah).

The photons of the warm sun, when concentrated to a fine point, emit blazing heat, as every survivalist knows. Jesus is a blazing sun of righteousness, all goodness, all truth, all beauty. He is “spiritual food and drink, rock and water, the foundation of faith, the cornerstone, the image of the invisible God, the great God, the head of the Church, the first born of a new creation … the only begotten Son crowned with glory and honor” (Gregory of Nyssa, Concerning the perfect form of a Christian). His blazing goodness, truth, and beauty are an affront to a fallen and depraved humanity. He is love. He comes to his own whom he created and holds in being by love. “And yet his own received him not.”

Jesus foreknew his mortal end. “The Son of Man is to be betrayed into the hands of evil men, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again” (Mark 9:31). They kill him not because he is good, but because he is utterly good, not because he is truth with compromise, but truth itself, not because he seems beautiful, but is beauty itself. Such perfection draws out the vicious venom of a contorted humanity. “For the arrogant have risen up against me, and the ruthless have sought my life, those who have no regard for God” (Ps. 54:3).

Packs of dogs bite and devour. Gangs surround him. They stare and gloat. Devils roar and strike. Yet the circumference of this central point shows an image of hope and love. “There were women looking on from afar” (Mark 15:40). These women anticipate the espoused Church, the bride of Christ. How women loved him and protected him! “He came of woman so, as that he came of nothing but woman; of woman, and not of man. Neither do we read of any woman in the Gospel that assisted the persecutors of Christ or furthered his afflictions; even Pilate’s wife dissuaded it” (John Donne, preached at St. Paul’s on Easter Day, 1630).

The Church is the bride in all her beauty. “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.” “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy.” She is a witness to her love. “Her husband is known in the city gates.” She is confident, hopeful, and of a light spirit. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” She is what she is by the love he has poured into her.

Look It Up
Read Proverbs 31. Speak well of the Church. “She looks well to the ways of her household.”

Think About It
Let love break your feminine heart. Hang upon him who hung upon the cross.


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