Homily for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, July 26, 2020. Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52. Theme: Predestined and Called
Today’s Gospel speaks about the Kingdom of God and, though I want to focus on the second reading, I cannot totally ignore the Gospel because it is about the “kingdom of God” which is the primary theme of Jesus’ mission. “Kingdom of God” is found 99 times in the four gospels and 90 of those times it is found on the lips of Jesus himself. It was the #1 theme of his preaching, teaching and miracles. So, we better learn what he means!
What is the kingdom of God? First of all, it is not a place. People often make this mistake because Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven” in place of “kingdom of God”. But he did this because he was composing his gospel for observant Jews who would not utter the word “God” for they thought it to be a sin against the 2nd commandment. The kingdom of God is a state of being, a way of living, a way of looking at life and reality.
What it means is this: “God rules and reigns as supreme Lord and Master of my life. My heart and my choices are to be governed by his law of love and mercy.” This is why, when Jesus finds a person who is compassionate to others and sincere in his or her quest for God, he declares that this person is “not far from the kingdom of God.”
This actualy dovetails nicely into the second reading, because in it St. Paul tells us how God acts towards those who enter into his kingdom. He begins by writing that, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
He’s assuring us that for those who love God everything - no matter what it is, no matter how terrible it might seem - can and will be used for our ultimate good. Note that he is not saying that only good things happen to those who love God. No, he is stressing the truth that nothing whatsoever can outsmart God and his plans for each one of us, not even COVID or the violence and anarchy in our cities or the dirty politics that use citizens like pawns on a chessboard.
He reminds us that God makes everything work out because he has a purpose in mind for each one of us and nothing is going to get in the way of that purpose becoming a reality. And his purpose is this: that we come to know, love and serve God in this life so as to live forever with him in the next.
But as we make our way through this life with our eyes on the next, we have to remember that right now we only see a little tiny part of that plan. So, when things get difficult or we wonder why we are undergoing a particular difficulty, we have to trust in God and that he is good and that it’s all part of that plan. It can be as if we are putting a jigsaw puzzle together without the advantage of the cover picture to guide us. But God sees the bigger picture. He’s got the cover of the puzzle box in front of him, so to speak, and knows precisely where each piece goes. And so we trust him.
Next, St. Paul says to us, “For those he foreknew he also predestined…And those he predestined he also called…“
I find this to be utterly amazing! These few words reveal to us that the God has had plans for us from way before we were born. From all eternity, eons before any of us existed, God foresaw each one of us clearly and perfectly in his mind. He foresaw both the good and the bad. the beautiful and the ugly within us. And he fell in love with what he foresaw! Right then and there, God predestined us to live and called each one of us into existence at the time in history that would be best for us. Isn’t that awesome?!
None of us are a mistake or an accident no matter what the circumstances of our conception or birth might be. None of us are just a face lost in a sea of a billion faces to God because he knows and loves each one of us, individually and personally and passionately. Now with this kind of love in mind, how can we doubt that God will not make all things work out for our ultimate good, so that we can live a real life with him forever?
But as if that’s not enough St. Paul continues… “and those he called he also justified and those he justified he also glorified.”
It was not enough to God that we exist as humans on planet Earth, he wanted to do more good for us. And so, he justifies us, which means that we are put into an intimate relationship with him. And he glorifies us, which means that we participate in his awesome goodness and powerful greatness. It’s part of his plan, part of his purpose in calling us, that we begin this journey to eternal life with Baptism, which washes sin away and makes us his actual adopted children, brothers and sisters of Jesus, and living temples of the Holy Spirit predestined to live forever. And this double-blessing of justification and glorification is increased within us each time we mindfully receive the Eucharist, the Bread of Eternal Life, though which God lives in us and we in him.
All this was made possible for us by God taking the most horrible example of bad things happening to good people, the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and turning it completely around by means of the Resurrection! What looked like the ultimate evil that humans could do to their Lord and God became instead the ultimate blessing for those who love God and live according to his plan. The power of death is destroyed and transformed instead into a doorway to eternal life; God making all things work out for our good.
Now if God has gone to the trouble, so to speak, of doing all these things for us, why should we ever doubt the depths of his fatherly love? He calls us into existence, justifies us by Baptism, glorifies us with the gift of his Holy Spirit, and sustains us with the Gift of his very Self in the Eucharist so that he can live life with us. Why in the world then should we doubt and worry about anything whatsoever? The coronavirus cannot take away our call from God. Dirty politics and violence cannot rob us of our glory. Even life itself turned totally upside down cannot shake us free of God’s firm grasp.Deacon David Previtali · Predestined and Called