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06/19/16 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Deacon Ron

Homily Summary for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Deacon Landry


The Gospels teach us three important responses of Jesus Christ on the subject of suffering and death: First, our compassionate Savior was very sensitive to the suffering of others, and many times we witness Jesus performing a miracle to relieve someone's suffering—even bringing some back to life.

Secondly, in a radical departure from the beliefs of that culture and time, our Savior absolutely rejected the notion that suffering was punishment for the person's sin—or even the sin of ancestors. But rather than a source of relief, this proved to be a source of great consternation. To this day, there are some who perceive suffering and death as payback for sin, which then translates into our individual expression of, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  

And finally, during his entire ministry, Jesus preached a loving, forgiving and merciful God; a God who was not distant and threatening, but one whom Jesus referred to as "Abba", as one might address a father as "Daddy". This is radical teaching for their time and culture.

When we consider the image of an all-loving and-merciful God that Jesus presents to us, it can be difficult to reconcile the prevailing Catholic understanding of the purpose of the Incarnation and the meaning of the suffering and death of the Christ. We believe that Jesus suffered and died in expiation for our sins. But, why the suffering and death?

In the Middle Ages, the question was posed: "Would the Son of God have become incarnate if humanity had not sinned?" Theologian St. Thomas Aquinas  answered "No", viewing the Incarnation as a remedy for sin.

Another great philosopher and theologian, John Duns Scotus, disagreed with Thomas's emphasis on sin. Scotus defended what theologians call "the primacy of the Incarnation." He argued that God's supreme work, the Incarnation, had to be first and foremost in God's mind. It could not be dependent on or occasioned by any action of humans, especially sin.

This alternative view most certainly does provide an opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of the suffering and death of Jesus. If nothing else, it might provide for some a reconciliation between an all-loving and -merciful God and the suffering and death of his Son. It might also serve to help us deal with questions that haunt us in times of serious challenge and even tragedy: "How could God allow this to happen?" "Where is God in all this suffering?" "Why did this happen to me?" And sometimes even, "What did I do wrong to be punished in this way?"

As our Savior understood so well, suffering can also crush the human spirit. Sacred Scripture provides for us a model of what our response to suffering should be, and it begins with honestly sharing with God how we feel. The Psalms are a valuable resource for reflection and prayer.

Then we must place our trust in God. How sadly ironic that when we need God the most, we can so quickly turn away from him. We question how he could allow such a thing—perhaps even blame him. Here again, the Psalms are especially effective as we can pray with others who have felt our pain; and most importantly, maintain a conversation with God.

We must seek to fully understand and appreciate the significance of the Passion and Death of our Savior, and how our Savior transforms these into the ultimate triumph of the Cross. Jesus Christ brought a totally new meaning and purpose to suffering. This does not eradicate suffering, but it raises it to a whole new level. Our suffering and death are raised to the Cross.



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