Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – June 28, 2009 – Blessed Sacrament
In our second reading today, from St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians, we have one of those lapidary statements that sum up the essence of the Christian Gospel. Paul defines “the gracious act of our Lord Jesus Christ” in this way: “Though he was rich, he became poor for your sake so that through his poverty you might become rich.” It describes an exchange which is found elsewhere in Paul’s writings and would be echoed and enriched in later Christian writings.
In his Epistle to the Galatians, St. Paul says: “God sent his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as [God’s] children.”The Fathers of the Church rang variations on the theme: “God became man so that man might become God.” “God became what we are so that we might become what he is.” “God took on our humanity so that we might take on his divinity.” “He lowered himself so that he might raise us.” “He died our death so that we might live his life.” He became a slave so that we might become free.” Early Christians called this the admirabile commercium, the wondrous exchange–the metaphor is commercial–the wondrous swap!
The statement, in all its variations, is very simple to say, but we ought not pass quickly over it, as if it were a mere slogan, and not the statement of the most important truth of all. This is the central Christian faith, the one around which everything else about Christianity circles, the inner core from which radiate whatever light and power we are able to bring to the world. It is a statement, first of all, about God. All the initiative lies with him. He alone can cross the immense gap between Creator and Creature, between holy God and sinful human being. He was not content to allow the alienation of humanity from himself to continue, but he did not choose to end it by some great act of power, as if from afar, but instead to do so by entering into the very life of alienated humanity and there to live a human life that was not estranged from God, but responded to his Father’s love by a love and fidelity that would even bring him to the Cross.
And the great event does not end there because when he is raised up by his Father, it is our humanity that is raised up with him, it is we who are raised up with him. The great prayer that Christ prayed just before he went out to his passion prays “that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” God the Father’s love for his eternal Son is the Holy Spirit, and this is the love, this same love, with which God loves us. We are so loved that we are raised with Christ, raised into Christ so fully and so intimately that we can be called his very Body. We have become what he is, who became what we are.
That is the tremendous dignity to which, the Gospel says, we have been lifted up. It is the reality for which we ought always to be grateful, which we ought to reflect on and try as best we can to make real to ourselves. It ought to be the awareness with which we begin our prayer–we are such creatures as have been loved by God as Christ himself was loved. It ought to be the awareness that brings comfort when we find ourselves facing challenges and difficulties that seem to surpass our abilities–in Christ God’s love has already conquered even death, so there is ground for our Christian hope. It ought to be the awareness that can bring us back to God in confidence should we ever wander away from him–nothing can utterly separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Though he was rich, he became poor for our sake, so that through his poverty we might be enriched.