20 Pentecost, Year B: Lowest to Highest

SUNDAY’S READINGS | October 10, 2021

Job 23:1-9, 16-17 or Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Ps. 22:1-15 or Ps. 90:12-17
Heb. 4:12-16
Mark 10:17-31

The proverbial patience of Job and his far more exhaustive impatience over the injustice of his suffering anticipate the sufferings of Christ. For Christ goes to his cross willingly and yet feels the anguish and God-forsakenness of his torturous death. Job cries out, “If I go forward, he is not there; or backward, I cannot perceive him; on the left he hides, and I cannot behold him: I turn to the right, but I cannot see him” (Job 23:8-9). From the cross, Jesus quoted the first line of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

Every moment of human suffering is a moment known to Jesus. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Jesus is with us as one who sympathizes but not merely so. Being without sin, he is not trapped by the human condition he assumes. Instead, Jesus transforms every human experience by the addition of his divine life and power. Classically stated, he became what we are so that we might become what he is. As a morning hymn puts it, “he reconciled the lowest things to the highest thing.”

Every human experience is assumed and elevated by Jesus. A medieval text of great renown, The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, illustrates this beautifully in the story of St. Silvester. While engaging in a debate with a group of learned Jewish scholars, one of whom asks St. Silvester why Jesus underwent “mockery and suffering and death,” the saint insists that Jesus wrought, at every step, liberation and transformation.

“Christ suffered hunger that he might feed us, he thirsted in order to quench our dryness with a life-giving draft; he was tempted to liberate us from temptation; he was taken captive to deliver us from capture by the demons; he was mocked to free us from the demons’ mockery; he was bound in order to untie for us the knot of bondage and malediction; he was humiliated in order to exalt us; he was stripped of his garments to clothe with his pardon the nakedness of our primal privation; he accepted the crown of thorns in order to give back to us the flowers of paradise; he was hung upon the tree to condemn the evil desires that a tree had stirred; he was given gall and vinegar to drink in order to bring man into the land flowing with milk and honey and to open for us fountains running with honey; he took mortality upon himself to confer immortality upon us; he was buried to bless the tombs of saints; he rose to restore life to the dead; he ascended into heaven to open heaven’s gates; he is seated at God’s right hand to hear and grant the prayers of the faithful” (trans. William Granger Ryan).

Because Jesus has touched and transformed the lowest places, the sting of death is removed, and the promise of everlasting life shines forth.

Still, we must go with Jesus to the recesses of suffering and death, carrying our cross, and, in this way, take hold of his divine power moment by moment. Jesus is always loving us and saying to us, “You lack one thing.” He calls us to deeper and deeper self-renunciation until his life bears fruit in us a hundredfold (Mark 10:17-31).

Jesus has assumed our life into his divine person. From the lowest places, Christ lifts redeemed humanity to the heights of heaven.

Look It Up: Read Psalm 22:1

Think About It: We will all know bitter sorrow, and yet we will set our minds, in hope, on things above.


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