Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time
It would, perhaps, be easier if our God were more distant from us. It would be easier for us to pity ourselves in our self-absorption, to embrace our own victimhood… which seems to be a favorite pastime of our generation, in any case. Or, where we feel triumphant instead of feeling a victim, we could “thank our [distant] lucky stars” for having saved us from the misfortunes of our fellows. Perhaps, as Walker Percy notes, we quietly enjoy distant suffering (and the more distant, the better), since it gives us the secret pleasure of thinking, “at least it isn’t me.” Is the TV ratings spike that accompanies natural disasters and conflicts (armed, political, or even just subjective) entirely due to genuine concern and sympathy, or are we not also a bit “entertained?” We lament our alienation from one another, but do we not also help create it?
Precisely in the place where we flee from others—that is, in the place where we have been hurt by them—the Christian God makes himself most vulnerable in Jesus Christ. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who is tested in every way, yet without sin.” In the person of Jesus, God is man. And he is not just in the form of a man, but a real man, as human as any of us. There is no more human man than Jesus. It is not a trick. God cannot come closer to humanity than to be a man. And the life that Jesus lives, which is the divine life of the eternally begotten, uncreated Son of the Father, he lives fully as a human life from the moment of his incarnation. It is this very life that he shares with us through his life, death, and resurrection.
Life is not what we think it is. Perhaps our self-willed alienation from one another, whether through our embrace of victimhood or our embrace of triumph, is an attempt to live the life that we consider to be most like “god,” an attempt to claim rights that we think have been denied us, that we believe to be necessary to attain “god-like” freedom or to further the “god-like” self-fulfillment that we have attained (in triumph). But we seem to have gotten the divine life “all wrong.” All we have to do is read the beatitudes to realize that what God calls happiness is not what we would have intuitively called happy. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” “Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear.” The true human sharing in divine freedom and love is found in the life of Christ, and if we accept this grace and begin to love as God loves, our life will be filled with the joy that he offers us. This is a joy that the world cannot fathom or offer, but that Christ only offers us through the world. “The cup that I drink, you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized.” Is there anything more human, or more divine than this?