The Opening Prayer for this Sunday’s Holy Mass for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time is “pregnant” with themes from St. John Paul II’s catechesis called “Men and Women He Created Them-A Theology of the Body.” We just prayed for God to “fill our hearts” with the warmth of His love to attain the promises He has made to us “which surpass every human desire.” But, what is this “human desire” or human ache? The ache we all have in the center of our hearts is the ache or longing for God Himself, which can only be filled when we are in His Awesome Presence in Heaven. From the very beginning in the Garden of Eden we were created beautiful, holy, innocent, without sin in original innocence, unity, solitude and nakedness. The human desire or ache has always been for union with God, our Creator. We long to be with the Father. We long to be comforted by Him, protected, loved and adored. What child doesn’t want the attention, love, and adoration from their papa?
Planted in EVERY human heart are original beauty, love and joy. However, since the Fall of Adam and Eve, our first parents, our “longings” or “aches” often get misdirected from God to creatures (humans and animals) and earthly created things (material goods). We have been “wounded” by original sin and our desires often get “distorted” and we end up desiring things that do not reflect our true dignity and beauty. We need a reflection on the peace of the “original solitude” we had before the Fall, to reflect on our true beauty and dignity as children of God. Martin Buber said, “solitude is a place of purification.”
In the First Reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern, left to die. This is an example of the king abusing his earthly power and dominating someone else. The king was not a good steward of the earthly authority and power God gave Him. We know, as Jeremiah did, that we are not created to be manipulated, used, demeaned, or belittled in any way by anyone. In the Opening Prayer, we prayed to love God “in all things” and “love God above all things.” What does this phrase mean? Created things are meant to be “icons” or windows that point us to the Divine Creator. Due to our brokenness, we tend to stop at the thing, making it an “idol.” We don’t see it as a path to the Creator. We are called to love people and use things; instead, we tend to use people and love things. This is a corruption of creation and a distortion of the hierarchy of creation.
Jesus is “aching” in the Gospel to set the earth “on fire,” but He cannot do this unless each and every one of us allows Him (open and willing) to do this to our own hearts! Jesus knows because of our “disordered” hearts, which tend toward selfishness, that His ways and teachings will confront some in the hearts who do not want to follow Him and this will divide some families. This happens even today. Just like the official who did not like Jeremiah’s teaching, many, even more so today, dislike Christ, the Church and His ways, since they are not their ways. The Father yearns for us to be gathered into His Son’s Body– the Church– and for us to drink from the One Chalice of Christ. He wants the Holy Spirit to increase our “capax dei” (capacity for God) in the “place of purification:” the solitude of confession and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, which lead us to Christ in the Holy Mass, the perfect prayer to the Father.
We are all meant for profound joy, which is union with God, but we must all go through the purification of the Crucifixion in order to get to the Resurrection. The Crucifixion will set our hearts on fire for Christ and original solitude, which is a place of silence, quite reflection and peace. Jesus says “great is my anguish until it is accomplished.” It is this glorious exchange in the prayer over the offerings where Christ’s ache for us and our ache for the world are exchanged. He purifies our ache and transforms it into a holy ache for Him and the Father, IF we allow Him to and stop grasping at things of the earth. We need to stop replacing our desire and ache for Him with material things, thinking they will fulfill us and make us happy. They become idols and not icons to God. It is all right to enjoy the things of this world, like our material things, if we use them wisely as gifts from the Creator, pointing us back to Him with gratitude. We are to love and be loved by friends, family, spouses, and congregations, because we should see God in His Creatures, especially His beloved children, without expecting them to give us the joy and happiness only God can give us! Ultimately, the Closing Prayer directs us to the truth of who we are and what we are destined to be: we are meant to be more confirmed to His Image (Jesus) on earth and be made co-heirs to our inheritance forever in Heaven! This is the exchange Christ gave us when He died on the Cross in place of us. May we allow Him to set our hearts on fire for the One whose heart is on fire for love of us! Amen.
To Download a PDF Version of this Homily, Click Here: 20th Sunday OT Year C
Father Tom DeSimone was ordained a priest on May 13, 2006, the Feast day of Our Lady of Fatima. He most recently served as Parochial Vicar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in White Plains, NY. He joined the staff of the Theology of the Body Institute on a three-year leave from the Archdiocese of New York, to become the Institute’s first full time spiritual advisor and Director of Clergy Development.