Dominica in Quinquagesima [Quinquagesima Sunday]: February 7, 2016
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade, O.F.A.
Beloved Disciple Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2016 Roger LaRade
1 Corinthians 13: 1 -13, Luke 18: 31 - 43
St. John Chrysostom: “The Desire of our Heart”
We come today to the third and last Sunday of the pre-Lent season. We experience the following sequence in these three Sundays: God’s invitation to make Divinity present in our world; God’s gift of Love through grace as sustenance for us to carry out this invitation; and, God’s own sacrifice of Love as the model for realizing the great illumination of Divinity.
With today’s Mass, we find ourselves on the threshold of Lent. On Wednesday will begin the Lenten season by the imposition of blessed ashes on our foreheads, and next Sunday will be the First Sunday in Lent. On this threshold of the forty days leading to the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can see ourselves in the blind man of the Gospel, asking Jesus for renewed sight.
When I read the gospel just now, instead of reading “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me”, I read “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us. On us. Indeed, in the blind man, we are to see ourselves. This Quinquagesima Sunday, we are called to focus on our areas of weakness through the motif of blindness. Our areas of weakness are those areas to which we are blind; they are those areas which are in need of illumination. The blind man of the Gospel shows us the way.
It is to Saint John Chrysostom, Eastern Doctor of the Church, Archbishop of Constantinople, who lived from 354 to 407, and who was our guide on Epiphany Sunday, that we go once again. In his comments on this Gospel passage, he says that “the blind man could not see the Light of Truth, but in his soul he could feel His Presence, and with the desire of his heart he laid hold of what his eye could not see.”[i] I am struck by this phrase: “with the desire of his heart”. We can see in this that God requires nothing more than the desire of our hearts – that is, our love – to come to us. This thought leads me to a consideration of today’s first reading.
This passage of the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians “is one of the most sublime passages of the entire Bible.”[ii] In it we come to realize that “God’s love is the light within us, teaching us to see new values…”[iii] It is God’s love which is the most precious gift of all; and, it is God’s love which renews our sight and brings light to the dark spots, the areas of weakness, in our lives. And so, in today’s Mass we pray “that darkness may be scattered, and sins taken away; above all that there may be place in us for love, for love is light.” We could say that love is “the light to see as God sees…”
How does Saint Paul conceive of God’s love? This passage on love “is sandwiched in between the two chapters in which St. Paul criticizes and tries to regulate the prophesyings and speaking in tongues at Corinth.”[iv] This is the context for Saint Paul making his case for the superiority of love. He does so by putting love up against much more sensational manifestations of God’s presence; gifts of the Spirit that might well be the desire of the heart of believers. These could be gifts that would bring a person attention, prestige even. Saint Paul claims the place of prominence among the gifts of the Spirit for God’s love. Love is not sensational. More often than not, an act of love will not be noticed by many; it might even not be noticed by anyone. In describing the attributes of love, Saint Paul uses words that hardly inspire greatness. Love is patient and kind; it isn’t envious; it isn’t proud. Yet, this love is what brings light; it is what makes us see those areas in ourselves to which we are blind, or maybe those areas we would rather not see.
Is this love the desire of our heart? Is seeking the illumination brought about by Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection the desire of our heart? Is seeing as God sees the desire of our heart? Is loving as God loves the desire of our heart?
During the coming season of Lent, let us pray for the grace of the humility shown by the blind man. It is this humility – this cry of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” which will enable see to see Jesus for who He is. It is this cry of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” which will dispose our hearts to receive God’s love. It is this cry of “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” which will place us on the way of Jesus – the way of the Cross - so that we will feel His presence and make His sacrifice the desire of our hearts. During this Eucharist, let us pray that God will guide us by His light during our Lenten journey, that we may be led to proclaim with the blind man: Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.
[i] The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers, Volume One: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima, translated and edited by M. F. Toal, D.D. (1964: Henry Regency Co., Chicago), p. 415.
[ii] Richard Kugelman, C.P., The First Letter to the Corinthians in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., and Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., eds. (1968: Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ), p. 271.
[iii] For development of these thoughts, see Aemiliana Löhr, The Mass Through the Year, Volume One – Advent to Palm Sunday (1958: Longmans, Green & Co Ltd, London), p. 117.
[iv] R. A. Knox, M.A., The Epistles and Gospels for Sundays & Holidays (1946: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, London), p. 83.
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