2 Jn 4-9; Ps 119:1,2,10,11,17,18; Lk 17:26-37
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini always wanted to follow in the footsteps of her patron, Saint Francis Xavier, and serve the LORD as a missionary in the Far East. However, the LORD had other plans. In obedience to Pope Leo XIII, Saint Frances Cabrini sailed across the Atlantic to serve the Italian immigrants in New York City. This courageous woman was undaunted by the disappointments that came to her early and repeatedly during her ministry. She discovered the strength of the LORD who secures justice for the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. To those who were captive by fear and easily manipulated in a country where they did not speak the language the Italian immigrants found in Mother Cabrini someone who set them free. This holy virgin revealed the LORD’s tenderness in raising up those who were bowed down; she protected the strangers in a strange land. Saint Frances Cabrini was deeply moved by the way in which her fellow Italian Americans were loosing their faith. It was perhaps much easier to be a Catholic in Italy were the culture supported the faith. In America such a public support was lacking; sometimes the well-established earlier immigrants were even suspicious and fearful of all these Italian Catholics. Generations of immigrants, Italian and otherwise, were sustained by the zeal of this frail but fearless prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In her 35 years of service Mother Cabrini founded some 67 houses ready to receive the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. As Saint Frances died in one of her own hospitals in Chicago in 1917, the sisters she had given to the service of the Lord Jesus refreshed her heart in Christ. Indeed, the service and love or this holy virgin revealed to countless immigrants that the Kingdom of God was among them.
During an encounter with a blind man, the Lord Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” Does this man stand in for all men and women? Are we all blind in one way or another? Or perhaps we are just sight impaired? Do we all ask with today’s responsorial psalm, “Open my eyes?” When we see with eyes of faith we will walk blamelessly. When we walk in the law of the LORD, then will our way be blameless, and we will be blessed. When we observe the decrees of the LORD, then we will seek him with all our hearts. When we seek him with our whole heart, then we will not stray from his commands. Within our hearts we treasure his promise, so we may never desire to sin against the LORD. Only when we realize that the LORD is good to his servants will we live and keep his words. Then and only then will our eyes be opened, and we will consider, ponder, and meditate upon the wonders of the word, the command, the law of the LORD. Both King David and Saint John share in great rejoicing today because there are some who remain in the teaching of the Christ, and those who remain in this teaching have the Father and the Son. This is the same rejoicing the Lord Jesus wants us to have when the Son of Man is revealed. Perhaps it won’t be the same as it was in the days of Noah or the days of Lot. Perhaps some will escape the destructive judgment of floodwaters and fiery brimstone.
It doesn’t take long before the church, the Chosen Lady, begins to experience the pain of heresy. One of the earliest false teachings to arise is that Jesus Christ did not come in the flesh. That somehow his appearance in history was just a vision, and he was never incarnate. That somehow the Lord Jesus did not really share in our human nature. It did not take too long for the true teachers in our church responded with this insight: that which the Son of God did not take on has not been redeemed. If the Son of God did not become the Son of Man, we are still separated from the Father, and we are alone, forever. Indeed, is this not hell, to exist for eternity because of the love of God, yet live forever with our rejection of that love? It is the totally unexpected and unmerited love of the Father who really sent his Son in the Holy Spirit that gives us hope for life eternal in the glory of the Kingdom. The ineffable love of God for us moves him not just to speak to us through the prophets, the law and the wisdom of the First Covenant; it is this boundless love that results in the Eternal Word taking on human nature. Indeed, the full meaning of God’s dialogue with Moses is made complete in the face-to-face encounter with the Living God in the human warmth of the Word Made Flesh, Emmanuel. This is no mere vision. This is the teaching of Christ and of his Beloved Spouse, the Church. Anyone who is so “progressive” as not to remain in this teaching does not remain in the Father and the Son. All who follow the antichrist deny the truth and live the lie. All who do not remain in the teaching of Christ have an alternative teaching that denies the authority of the Word Made Flesh and the Chosen Lady. For all who are so “progressive” we must pray, pray and not worry. It is in such prayer that the Spirit of God will teach us how to hate the lies and love the liars. Only this kind of unconditional love will reveal, even in our confused and lost world, the divine love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whom we live and move and have our being.
The Lord Jesus continues to teach his disciples about the mystery of the cross when he tells them in today’s gospel, “Whoever seeks to preserve his live will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it.” The only thing that will save us in the end is the grace and truth revealed in the Crucified. In the Lord Jesus Christ we are rescued from the natural and earth bound instinct to preserve our lives. For our own good we have this natural response to danger that provides us with the strength for the flight or for the fight. We tend to use all our strength in holding on to what gives us meaning, purpose, and comfort. Yet, the threat of flood and fire, the threat of overwhelming power and burning judgment must be faced. It takes great energy to escape for a whole lifetime the demands of love, divine and boundless. It takes too much energy to run and hide forever from the face of God who loves us unconditionally and without regret. Holding on to what we know and love seems to preserve our life, yet, unless we deny ourselves take up our cross and follow Christ, we lose everything we tried so hard to preserve. Only when we let go and loose our very self in the mystery of God’s love in Christ will we find out who we are and to whom we belong. We cannot give ourselves eternal meaning, boundless significance, or everlasting purpose. We cannot save ourselves. Sooner or later we must face the fact of death; sooner or later we must deal with the end of the world, as we know it. Such an insight will startle us; will come when we least expect it, right in the middle of everyday life, when we are grinding meal or while we are sleeping. It seems that the some of the disciples are still asleep; some need to have their eyes opened. Still some as the question “Where, Lord?” Some still do not know where the Kingdom of God is to be found. The Kingdom of God is wherever the law of the Cross is obeyed, wherever people loose themselves in loving service of God and neighbor. The Kingdom of God is not a place; it is in the human heart that has lost itself in love and died to itself to live, forever. Wherever the dead body lies, there the vultures gather; wherever the Cross of Christ is embraced there the Kingdom is found, alive and well in the Church.