3 Pentecost, Year A: Inmost and Highest

Abraham offers a calf; detail from a sixth-century mosaic in San Vitale, Ravenna | Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr

3 Pentecost, June 18

Gen. 18:1-15 (21:1-7) or Ex. 19:2-8a

Ps. 116:1, 10-17 or Ps. 100

Rom. 5:1-8Matt. 9:35-10:8 (9-23)

“‘The word is near you, on your lips, and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)” (Rom. 10:8).

Jesus Christ is the Word made flesh, the One who, in becoming a human being and assuming our human nature into his divine person, ever remains nearer to us than we are to ourselves. His life is inseparably linked to ours in a shared communion so deep and profound that we may seem wholly to lose ourselves in Christ, feeling, as St. Paul did, “[I]t is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ is, as St. Augustine says, “more interior than my inmost self” (Confessions, III, vi).

Turning inward, however, where Christ is, we discover that Christ cannot be contained by “flesh, or blood, or will, or emotion.” Indeed, following St. Peter’s famous confession that Jesus is the Christ, Jesus adds this all-important remark: “[F]lesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Likewise, the renowned prologue to St. John’s gospel states explicitly, “[T]o all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Salvation comes to us but is not from us. We are reborn not from ourselves but from above. So, St. Augustine adds to his remark about the inwardness of God a brief statement of God’s mysterious and inscrutable transcendence. “You were more interior than my inmost self, and higher than my highest self.”

Seeing Christ within us, we are led straightway to a gift that transcends all the limitations and vicissitudes of will and emotion, the weakness of mortal flesh, and the brevity of life. The eternal enters the temporal, making us temples of the Holy Spirit. By the gift of Christ in us, “we are justified by faith,” by which we understand the faithfulness of Christ toward us, from which follows “peace with God through our Lord Jesus, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we boast in our sufferings,” which we endure solely because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5:1-5). Filled with the presence of Christ, our cup overflows even amid adversities.

The world has changed, becoming a landscape of strange visitations and intimate communion, becoming also a vast field of the wounded. Christ is everywhere. “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from his tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground” (Gen. 18:1-2). According to tradition, Abraham meets in these strangers the triune God. In some sense, personal experience bears this out over and over again. Jesus meets us in the cities and villages where we live; he meets us in our homes and churches (Matt. 9:35). As we stand on the threshold, the boundary between our homes and the world outside, Jesus invites us outward to heal and feed, to help and comfort.

We do not lose heart. A supernatural love beyond all knowing has been poured into our hearts, and thus we are more than ourselves, having been born from above and readied to do divine work on earth as it is in heaven.

Look It Up: Psalm 115:1

Think About It: The divine name is love.


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