Sunday Sermon for October 21, 2012, the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Is 53:10-11; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:33-45

In the first reading today we hear one of the most troubling statements in all of Scripture: “The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.” On the surface it sounds like we have a very sadistic God or at least one Who is very vengeful. But when we look at the context of the statement and, especially, when we apply it to our Lord, we can understand the meaning in a deeper and richer way.

We do not have a sadistic God. Sometimes in our own lives it feels like we are being crushed beyond our endurance. Sometimes we even say stupid things like “What did I ever do to You?” Do we really need to ask? But even such a question demonstrates that we are thinking along the lines of punishment. In other words, if something goes wrong it must be because God is angry with us or because He is punishing us for something we have done.

We do not have a God Who seeks revenge. If we believe that in the Sacrament of Confession our sins are forgiven, i.e., removed, destroyed, no longer on our souls, then we should not be thinking that it is about punishment because there is nothing there to punish if our sins have be taken away.

Someone might quote the Scripture “Vengeance is mine says the Lord.” This is true, but it means that we do not have to take matters into our hands because God will bring about true justice. Our sense of justice might be too lenient if we are the culprit and too harsh if we are the victim. What if the person repents? What if the person makes restitution? God alone knows what is in the heart of each person and He is the One to judge; therefore, He will mete out consequences or rewards as the circumstances require.

We have a God Who loves. This does not seem to square with the idea that it pleased the Lord to crush the servant in infirmity, but when we realize that the Servant is God Himself, then we can see everything in a different light. If it made God happy to crush some poor soul who meant little or nothing to Him or if He enjoyed watching people suffer for no good reason other than entertainment, He would be a sadist. But the One He crushes is Himself so His investment is total and complete. This is not about fun or entertainment; it is about love.

In the second reading St. Pauil speaks about Jesus being our High Priest. The great act of our Lord’s priesthood was accomplished on the Cross; therefore, it was in being crushed that His Priesthood was exercised fully and He became our High Priest. The fruit of this act of priestly sacrifice is found in two statements in the first reading which explain why it pleased God to crush Him. First we are told that He gives His life as an offering for sin then we are told that through His suffering He shall justify many and their guilt He shall bear.

What pleased God was that the sacrifice was offered to Him in pure love and for the good of others. There was nothing in it for our Lord on the natural level. But for us it is a demonstration of how much God loves us. Beyond that, it is an example to us of how we can love God and those around us. A perfect act of love is one in which there is nothing selfish. This is very difficult for us to accomplish, but it can be done.

This said, it can only be done when our soul is purified of all pride and self love. How does this happen? By being crushed. This could bring us right back to where we started, but we have to remember that we are members of the Mystical Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the work of our Lord continues in us and through us. Beyond that, we realize that being crushed is not to punish but to purify, to make us able to love more perfectly.

Our Lord told His Apostles in the Gospel reading that they would drink the cup He would drink and be baptized with the same baptism as He. He also tells us that He did not come to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many. Are we willing to suffer with Him? Are we willing to offer our sufferings for the salvation of others? This is the way we exercise our priesthood in Christ. What a privilege to share in the work of redemption! If we are able, by the grace of God, to do this in love, how pleasing it will be to God.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit