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5 Lent, Year C: Surpassing

SUNDAY’S READINGS | April 3, 2022

Isa. 43:16-21
Ps. 126
Phil. 3:4b-14
John 12:1-8

An exercise in gratitude early in the morning can transform the day. “Come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the hills are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and the dry land, which his hands have formed” (Venite, Ps. 95:1-5). See it all with your mind’s eye: the depths of the earth, the heights of the hills, the sea, and the dry land — and give thanks from the heart to almighty God.

The day could profitably end with similar thoughts. “Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life” (General Thanksgiving). Again, pause in the awareness that you have been created, are preserved in being from moment to moment, and enveloped in the manifold blessings of this life.

Do we not have family, friends, and neighbors? We have helpers and healers in our lives. We are blessed with memory, reason, and skill. We have so much for which to be thankful, and it is good to express our gratitude. Looking over his life, St. Paul counted his blessings. Among other things, he was especially grateful for his membership among the Jewish people and the religious zeal that marked his character. In his time and place, these were goods to be cherished. “Circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6). He was both proud and genuinely thankful for his pedigree and his accomplishments.

To this point, nothing has been said about the “surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus,” an experience that relativizes all other blessings. Christ is that “immeasurable love” that redeems the world. Far above all other gifts, there is the singular blessing of being “found in him,” and because in this life that experience is never fully realized, we constantly press on in the life of Christ. “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ has made me his own” (Phil. 3:10-12). The greatest blessing of all is “the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus,” because, in union with Christ, we become, incredibly and miraculously, the sons and daughters of God.

In a sense, if considered comparatively, all other blessings are as if nothing. “I regard everything as loss,” says St. Paul, “because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). And yet Christ is the key to a renewed appreciation of all creation because Christ is the Christus totius orbis terrarum. Compared to Christ our God, transient beings are as if nothing, and yet every finite being exists and continues to exist by the will and love of God. Creation, then, seen in Christ, is a blazing sacrament of love. So, pour from your heart an anointing love upon Jesus, then notice the fragrance that fills the world.

Look It Up: Isaiah 43:19

Think About It: A new world.


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