21 June 2024
21 Jun 2024

Reflection on the Word of God

Daily reflection on the readings from the liturgy of the day

by  Vien V. Nguyen, SCJ

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Homily for the XXV General Chapter
June 21, 2024 / St. Luigi Gonzaga
Scriptures: 2 Kgs 11:1-4, 9-18, 20 / PS 132 / Mt 6:19-23

The Bible is a testament to the human experience, filled with stories of our failures and disappointments. In the Old Testament, we encounter Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Cain’s jealousy, Jacob’s deceit, and David’s betrayal of Uriah.

Today’s first reading tells a story of failure and disappointment. After her husband’s death, Athaliah took extreme measures to secure power by assassinating all of her nephews, who were potential heirs to the throne. She also used her influence as queen to promote Baal worship in Judah. Unbeknownst to her, one nephew escaped the massacre with the help of family members. Later, when this escaped nephew was publicly crowned as the rightful king, the people turned against Athaliah and executed her.

In the New Testament, disciple after disciple struggled with disappointment and failure. Jesus tried to teach them about the cross multiple times, but they did not understand. According to the Gospel of Luke, as Jesus shared the bread and wine during the Last Supper, the disciples began to argue about who was the greatest among them. They fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and left Jesus alone. Peter denied knowing him, and Judas betrayed him. At the crucifixion, all of the disciples deserted him. They constantly let him down.

Amidst our disappointments and failures, God’s love remains steadfast and His redemption for us is unceasing. The author of Psalm 145 beautifully captures this: “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in mercy” (145:8-9). In Psalm 136, we are reminded: “Praise the Lord, for he is good; his mercy endures forever.” The stark contrast between our human shortcomings and God’s enduring mercy is a testament to His unwavering love. God’s love manifests in Jesus, whose Sacred Heart symbolizes God’s eternal love for humanity. The heart of Jesus is the heart of the Trinity. As Paul says in Colossians: Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (1:15).

Hans Urs von Balthasar cautions us that comprehending God’s love solely in Christological terms is inadequate. We must delve deeper into the self-emptying or kenosis love within the Trinity.
The Father surrendered himself unreservedly and uttered forth the Word as Son.
In response to the Father’s kenosis love, the Son took reparation upon himself through his own life, passion, and death to communicate the Father’s love. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Philippian Church, reveals that Jesus willingly emptied himself, not for his own advantage but for ours. He took on human flesh in the incarnation and suffered a shameful death on the cross. Christ shared the experience of those who have been stripped of their dignity. He is our model of oblation of self to the Father: “Ecce venio!”

The kenosis love of the Father and the Son brings forth the Holy Spirit, whose mission is to guide and teach believers and to point them to the Father and the Son.

The self-gift and self-emptying nature of God is central to God’s being and draws us into the essence of the Trinity, as expressed in Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us” (17:21).

Failure and disappointment are natural parts of life, but so are grace and redemption. We are called not to succumb to sin but rather to refuse its seductive powers by striving to be gospel-centered and Spirit-empowered people. God’s self-emptying love seen in Jesus is a powerful example of love and sacrifice, and it should both inspire and humble us.

Father Dehon felt God’s self-emptying love through the Sacred Heart, which made him more aware of sin and inspired him to return love with love. He recognized social injustices like worker exploitation and marginalization as a rejection of Christ’s love. As our Constitution #4 reminds us, this rejection is the root of human suffering. Fr. Dehon wanted to respond to God’s self-emptying love by working with laypeople and clergy to uphold the rights and dignity of workers.

As believers, we are not mere spectators but active participants in divine love, as expressed in Jesus’s commission of the Eleven: “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20:21). We are not just invited but entrusted with a role in God’s redemptive mission. This is a profound invitation and a responsibility to follow Christ’s example of self-emptying love. Balthasar argues that human beings cannot truly progress in love until they embrace a degree of self-surrender, which becomes a source of energy that further impels the progress of love. The words of St. Francis of Assisi best summarize this point: It is in giving that we receive.

As sons of Fr. Leo John Dehon, we are not just called, but urgently summoned to embody God’s kenosis love in a world deeply divided along political, theological, and economic lines. In the face of our society’s increasing secularization and fragmentation, our participation in God’s redemptive mission takes on a greater urgency and intentionality. Through our vocations as sons of Fr. Dehon, may our words and actions have a positive impact on those searching for God’s love and those whom we are accompanying in ministry. In our steadfast commitment to building the Reign of God, we actively participate in storing up treasures and becoming rich in love.

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