Dominica Vigesima Secunda Post Pentecosten [Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost]: October 16, 2016 [St. Hedwig,W]
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
Philippians 1, 6 – 11; Matthew 22, 15 – 21.
“Love, not bad faith.”
The Epistle reading and the passage from the Gospel for this Mass of the Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost present us with two very different ways of being in the world.
St. Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians while he was in prison, not knowing what was going to happen to him and most probably expecting his being put to death as a real possibility. It is from this situation that he writes his most intimate and loving letter. His major concern in this letter “is to bring [the Christians of Philippi] together and thus to overcome the threat of internal disharmony.” This threat was occasioned by “struggling against hostile neighbors” and also because of the community being “troubled by visiting missionaries who, in one case, say things differently than Paul does, but still preach the gospel and yet, in another case, directly contradict Paul’s presentation of the Christian message.” It would seem that these church dynamics have existed since the very beginnings of the Church.
St. Paul centers his exhortation in Christ.
He writes, “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1: 6). This confidence shows itself – is experienced – in the love which we have for one another, a love which is the gift of God’s grace: “…you hold me in your heart” and “all of you share in God’s grace with me…” (Phil. 1: 7). St. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is “that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1: 9 – 11). The basis for unity is love for one another, and that love is itself “the compassion of Jesus Christ”, that is, it is Christ himself. Our unity is our love, and our love is Christ.
This way of being in the world – that of a loving unity in Christ – is rooted in God’s grace; it is a way of being which is founded and nurtured in a lived experience of the love of Christ for us. It is because of this experience of Christ’s love that St. Paul can profess his faith in the coming fulfillment of “the day of Jesus Christ”, despite his present sufferings and impending death. It is because of this experience of Christ’s love that St. Paul can pray for an ongoing outpouring of the Spirit on the Philippian community that their faith in Christ may mature in knowledge and full insight through a faithful witness of Christ’s righteousness. Our unity and our love shows itself in a faithful witness of Christ’s righteousness.
This is a way of being which is marked by humility; it is marked by a felt experience of our relative importance in the scheme of things, a faith which is not self-centered, but focused on the other; a faith which makes space in the heart for God’s Word to be heard. Afterall, it is God’s Word – Christ – heard in the depths of our heart that must be the centre of our lives as Christians; it is God’s Word heard, reflected upon, and lived which must be our guide as we desire to mature in faith.
The Gospel passage today presents a very different picture.
Here, instead of hearts ready and willing to welcome God’s Word, we find hearts filled with bad faith. Other translations of the text use the words ‘wickedness’ and ‘malice’ for this. Malice is ‘the intention to do evil or to injure another person’; wickedness has to do with being spiteful, ill-tempered, intending to give pain; and ‘bad faith’ is defined as the ‘intent to deceive’. We are a long way from the openness of heart necessary to hear God’s Word.
There are many aspects to ‘bad faith’, but it seems to me that, conscious or not, acting out of ‘bad faith’ is done to guard one’s self or one’s allegiances from being challenged by new knowledge or insight, that is, by a new level of consciousness which makes it painfully obvious that one’s held positions, or even one’s conception of one’s self, is no longer tenable.
Like the situation in the Gospel passage, such ‘bad faith’ always divides the world between ‘us and them’, ‘right and wrong’, ‘worthy and unworthy’; such ‘bad faith’ always entraps and denigrates. It is always malicious and wicked. In a word, it is evil and it breeds evil.
By contrast, a humble openness of heart gives space for God’s Word to penetrate the depths of our being, and there to gift us with a love for ourselves and for others which shows itself in a genuine interest and care for the working of God’s grace in each life. It shows itself in a welcoming of “knowledge and full insight” gained from prayerful reflection on how God is working in individual and communal lives. And, it issues in a “harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ…” (Phil. 1: 9, 11). It is in our striving to live this way that we truly give “to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).
Let us pray for humility and openness of heart, that we may welcome and ponder deeply God’s Word within us.
In the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
 The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Third Edition; (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), p. 328 New Testament.
 The Collegeville Bible Commentary; Dianne Bergant, C.S.A. and Robert J. Karris, O.F.M., editors, (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1989), p. 1160.
 All definitions are taken from The Canadian Oxford Dictionary; Katerine Barber, editor, (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998).
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