Saturday, June 20, 2015

Third Sunday after Trinity

I Pet. 5:5-11 * Luke 15:1-10

To speak of God as suffering loss would be, in a literal sense, quite wrong inasmuch as God “hath need of nothing.” Yet, in the three parables from the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the climactic parable being the Prodigal Son (reserved for another Sunday), the Lord speaks of the loss that is suffered because of charity. God, who hath need of nothing, so loved the world that He sought and found His lost creation through His Son. How can this be? Charity feels loss based on something other than need, because in the most correct theological understanding, everything we have and are in creation is by grace. Our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, His inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, are all by His grace, the love that gives and keeps giving. In no way whatsoever is the love of God selfish, as ours often is. He hath need of nothing, and yet He has stooped to save His lost creation.

This ought to have a powerful effect on us in two ways. First, by becoming saints through grace. As I have reminded you often, every Christian is called to sainthood, total sanctification, holiness of life. This is impossible for everyone of us without the grace of God, and yet it is the vocation of everyone of us. It is your vocation. Whether or not you are called into ordained ministry, or whether or not you have at this point any sense of the specific gifts and calling God has placed within you, you can be sure of this vocation and calling, and of every gift required to help you along: you are called to be holy, for the Lord your God is holy. Among the gifts provided are the Word of God, the Sacraments that come through the Church, and, as Saint Paul wrote, “good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) And, what we should all bear in mind is the warning contained, if not hidden, in all of the beauty of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, that without charity all our works are, as the Collect for Quinquagesima puts it, “nothing worth.”

We ought to pause and reflect on that chapter, I Corinthians 13, just a bit longer. What Saint Paul described is a verbal icon of our Lord Jesus, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38),” to quote saint Peter. Here we see what I have said about the unselfish nature of charity. The Lord Jesus was rewarded for His good works by unjust condemnation and crucifixion, proving that we cannot measure our love by its reception; this love, charity, is the love of God that accepts the rejection and hatred that may be its only reward in a fallen and sinful world, as it was for Christ. With its affection set on things above, not on things of this earth, charity endures all things, hopes all things and believes all things. For you to begin the process of growing in this virtue of charity by grace, you must come to the foot of the cross, look up on the bleeding sacrifice of the Son of Man in all His agonies, and take it personally. You must see Him there for you; and so the love of God begins to grow in your own heart by the Holy Ghost.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” as Saint Paul says. He added those words, “of whom I am chief (I Timothy 1:15).” This one time self-righteous Pharisee became aware of his true need at the same moment in which he became aware of his salvation and his calling. Therefore, he spoke of ‘the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).” Like Saint Paul, you must learn to take it personally, very personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you. Look up at His suffering, behold His scars, see the stripes of your healing, behold the nails through the wrists and feet, the crown of thorns, the offering up of His life, the pouring out of his soul unto death, and take it personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you.

And, so the virtue of charity can begin to grow in you.

This is what it means that He sought after that which was lost, leaving the ninety and nine to search for you and find you and bring you home. And, this leads us to the second point.

We must see today’s Gospel in terms of our mission in the world. One other calling and vocation of which each one of us can be sure is that we are to do the work of an evangelist. This does not mean that you all are called to preach like Billy Graham or Bishop Sheen; but it does mean that you are called to be a witness that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. The result of charity taking root and growing within you is that you begin to see the people around you in terms of their need, their greatest need being to know Jesus Christ. As the Body of Christ in this world, and as members with specific gifts (I Corinthians 12:27) - even with gifts often unknown to those who have them- it is through us that the Son of Man continues to seek and to save that which was lost. His Incarnation is extended through His Church, and I do mean you.

When we become workers together with God, as Saint Paul put it, we can trust the Holy Spirit to make up for all that we lack. When you were confirmed it was not a rite of passage, or simply a ticket to Holy Communion. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were placed within you. When charity makes you aware of the needs of those around you, do not be surprised when you sense that you must do a particular thing, or say specific words to a specific person. Learn to know the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit until it becomes quite a normal part of your life.

Divine love, charity, moved the Lord to speak of God, “who hath need of nothing” as if He had suffered loss. The message today is simple: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

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