Welcome. Today is the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“No one knows the Father except the Son,” says today’s gospel. But what does it mean to know someone? To really know them?
In some ways, this isn’t hard, we live in a relentlessly confessional culture. Frankly, sometimes I’d like to know a little less, but no, the parade of lurid details seems unending. Why is his father in jail? Details at 11. What does she look like now? Click here.
But what do we really find out? Gossip about someone’s worst day, a blurry photo of panic, a damning list of who called who. We all know the human heart is more complicated than any of that. But we settle for the quick anecdote. Case closed.
And sometimes we bring this check-list model to our understanding of Christianity -- Who did what? How many times? With whom? – as if heaven, too, is driven by “metrics.”
Today’s readings, however, paint a different story about the Christian life, because they speak about what it means to know God, and knowing God IS the heart of the Christian life – not keeping score.
The gospel often turns things upside down – we turn the other cheek, the poor are lifted up, life conquers death. Today we are called to look for a king of peace, not the sword, a king who will come to us humbly, not in a gilded palace, not in a chariot drawn by a brace of horses, but lurching about on a colt, a young donkey – more than a little awkward, hardly an entrance in glory.
The reversals don’t stop there today. We are also called to live in the spirit, not the flesh. But here am I in a body – how is this possible? Body – spirit
One distorted reading of this theme pits body against spirit in a “mind over matter” dualism in which bodies are rejected as bad – or evil. In this dualism, the need to “discipline” our bodies becomes a fetish in itself – in a “survivor” or “biggest loser” mentality.
But the self-denial of the gospel is not a test of your bodily fortitude in a “boot-camp” kind of way. The call to live in the spirit is a call to right relationship with our bodies. We are called to “put to death the things of the body,” not because the body is bad, but to rediscover our bodies as the vehicle for our encounter with God. We were created in order to know God, to find God “in all things,” as Saint Ignatius reminds us. We find God in an encounter with one another and in a world that is good.
In that finding, we enter into the dynamism of God’s life – as Father, Son and Spirit – a life in which the Father and the Son live in an intimacy so profound that is revelatory. It spills over, and the Spirit invites us into its embrace.
Here’s the key: Life in the Spirit, is a fully embodied life; [we are] no longer debtors to the flesh, but fully alive in our bodies, able to know, able to love.
When we are “fully alive in our bodies” we seek intimacy with God, and we do things -- prayer, care for the poor, community life -- that flow from and support that intimacy. The Christian life, therefore, is a call not to self-denial as an end in itself, but rather to the habits and virtues that free us for the “easy yoke” of God’s love.
This way is not other-worldly, it is right here, right now -- just as the fully human Jesus knew God, and was “God for us” in that knowing.
We say that Christ is the icon of this kind of knowing, as Father and Son are truly and infinitely “face to face,” not only known, but made known. This is the glory of God, here and now, in time and space.
And this glory makes a difference. In our own lives, we hunger for this kind of personal relationship, and our world is crying out for the human reversals it causes.
When we really meet others face to face, seeking the face of Christ, we toss our prepared agendas. A new way forward is found.
When we really meet others face to face,
the table around which we gather changes our dynamics --
truth speaks and prestige listens.
Skin color, scars, wrinkles all fade. Eyes meet.
Here, at this table, we know and love, and find that we are known, and loved.
“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him."
The resume will tell you nothing. Linked-In data simply feeds an algorithm. We have put all the details of our lives on Facebook, and we still do not know our “friends.”
Today is the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, not quite half-way between Easter and Advent – this is about as ordinary as liturgical time gets.
On this ordinary day, let us remember that God came among us, riding on a donkey.
Let us ask ourselves whether our lives are recognizably Christian, if we are living in a way
that brings our bodies fully to life.
And on this very ordinary day, let us pray for the grace of God’s revealing Spirit, as we seek in the face of those we meet the humble glory of the face of Christ.
Nancy Dallavalle is Vice President for Mission and Identity and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Fairfield University in Fairfield, Connecticut. She received a bachelors degree in music from Benedictine College (Kansas), and a masters degree in theology from Saint John's University (Minnesota). Her Ph.D. is from the University of Notre Dame, where she wrote on the Trinity under the direction of the late Catherine Mowry LaCugna.
Professor Dallavalle's current work focuses on the meeting of feminist thought and Catholic theology. She is a member of the American Academy of Religion, and currently serves on the steering committee for the Karl Rahner Society at the Catholic Theological Society of America. She has published scholarly articles in journals such as Modern Theology, Horizon, Philosophy & Theology and Liturgy. A recent book chapter is “Sex and Gender and Sexuality: Competing Claims? A Catholic Response” in Heft and Cadegan, eds., In the Lógos of Love: Promise and Predicament in Catholic Intellectual Life (OUP, 2015) 124-145.
She is currently on the advisory board of directors for the Liturgical Press, and the editorial board for the peer-reviewed journal, Horizons.
She speaks on Catholics in public life, social policy, sexuality and the family to general audiences, and has appeared on CNN and CBS as well as contributing to Commonweal and the Huffington Post.