The philosopher Jacques Derrida reflected on what he called the aporia or dilemma of the gift. The upshot seems to be that it is virtually impossible truly to give a gift, for gift-giving always locks us into an economy of exchange and obligation. But there is one great exception to the Derridean dilemma, and that is the Lord God. Jesus’ recommendations in the magnificent Gospel for today are not for the natural person, but the supernatural person, who loves with the very love of God.
I would like to focus on the brief but extremely powerful passage from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, which is our first reading for this weekend. It is taken from the seventeenth chapter of the prophet’s book, and the context is a fierce upbraiding that Jeremiah is giving for the idolatry of the people. What we have here is the pithy formula, the simple program, that ought to govern our spiritual lives at the most fundamental level.
There is a wonderful parallel between our first reading and the Gospel this week. The first reading is taken from the sixth chapter of the book of the prophet Isaiah, and it has to do with the call of Isaiah; and the Gospel is from the fifth chapter of Luke, and it deals with the call of the first disciples of Jesus. Both stories, in remarkably similar ways, lay out the essential dynamics of the spiritual life.
This week we hear from St. Paul’s brilliant meditation on love. Everything in religion and theology revolves around love. It is at the heart of everything. Nothing matters without love, because God is love. Putting love at the center is the best way to organize and prioritize our entire lives.
The dramatic scene presented in the Book of Nehemiah presents a people who had forgotten their identity and learned, as if for the first time, who they really are. It is the mission of all those who remain invested in the faith of the Church to give testimony to their brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding all that in Christ, we have received a unique and wonderful identity—and it is only when we know who we are that will be able to find our purpose and accomplish the mission that Christ has given to us.
The communion of humanity and divinity in Christ’s divine person can be likened to a marriage. Sin effects a kind of divorce between God and humanity, a break up of the marriage of God and his people. How wonderful, therefore, when the Messiah offers the first sign of his identity and mission at a wedding. This is an indication that the relationship of God and humanity will be transformed, reconciled, and renewed in Jesus Christ.
The first sacrament one can receive in the Church, Baptism, defines our relationship with Christ. In it, we are reborn as part of his Mystical Body and gifted with the grace of God’s love. Baptism lays the foundation for every other sacrament we are to receive and inextricably links us with the Trinity.
Our modern culture suggests a tension between spirituality and religion. But the Magi in today’s Gospel demonstrate that when spirituality is lifted up by revelation—when the Magi are told by the religious leaders where the Messiah is to be born—we find the object of our spiritual longing.
Lots of people today will tell you what makes a family well-adjusted, functional, and peaceful. But in this week’s readings for the Feast of the Holy Family, which center on two exemplary women, Hannah and Mary, the Church wants to tell us what makes a family holy.
The New Testament authors consistently reached to the Old Testament for their categories of understanding. Hence, Jesus is the Torah in person; the new and definitive Temple; the prophet par excellence; the fulfillment of the covenant; etc. But one of the most important of these Old Testament points of reference is the Mashiach, the anointed one, the Messiah—which is to say, the new David.