26th Sunday of ordinary Time
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but also for those of others.
How did Jesus Christ redeem us, the human race, from our sins and save us from Eternal damnation? The Catechism teaches us the faith of the Church when it says that Jesus redeemed us by his self-sacrifice on the Cross. St. Paul describes that sacrifice as essentially an act of perfect, humble, obedience: “he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is the perfect act of sacrifice that redeemed the whole of creation by reversing the whole course of human history, reversing the pride and disobedience of man from the beginning. Jesus’ perfect self-sacrifice infinitely compensated for the Original Sin of the human race and for all of man’s disobedience in history by which man alienates Himself from God.
The external, bloody self-immolation of Christ on the Cross is the final act of his perfect obedience to the will of the Father, Who willed that the Son should not defend himself by using His infnite power as God but should allow himself to be subjected to man’s utter cruelty and evil that knows no bounds. Jesus was to suffer with the human race and for the human race, and by that solidarity conquer evil,demonic and human, by love alone.
It is not within our frail capacity to understand this decision of the Father, but we believe firmly that it is an integral part of the mystery of God’s love which surpasses all human comprehension. We do not understand God’s ways, as Ezekiel says, and above all we o not unerstand such love that led Jesus to the Cross for the sake of us sinners.
This mystery of divine love is manifest from the beginning, for God created the universe and man not out of any necessity, as some philosophers asserted in their ignorance, but purely out of an incomprehensible act of divne love. Indeed, it is the same act of divine love that originated the creation that guides everything in creation, and it is the same love that redeemed creation by redeeming man in the supreme act of Jesus’ stupendously generous love on the Cross.
Moreover, that redemptive love is simultaneously an act of utter self-affacing obedience which reverses the self-assertive disobedience of our first parents. This loving obedience and infinitely satisfies Divine Justice for that aoriginl Sin and for all the sins of man which are essentially acts of profound disobedience and utter failures to love God as we must. Man’s disobedience, his countless rejections of the divine law, and the divine love that stands behind that law, is now repaired, satisfied for, reversed in the glory of Christ’s perfect obedience which is the heart of the sacrifice of the Cross.
This all being true, how then can we Christians continue that mystery of iniquity by our sins, by our disobedience and by our failure to love God sufficiently to obey him. We see how deeply this rebelliousness runs in man right from the earliest years of our life when we disobey God in disobeying our parents. But who taught us to rebel? Who teaches little children to rebel against good and loving parents? It is Original Sin that implants this spirit of rebellion in us right from the beginning, and that spirit of rebellion will grow if not checked by God’s grace and parental discipline. We see this frequently in the rebellion of many adolescents against authority in general , parental authority, other forms of human authority, and even against God’s authority.
So, if Original Sin accounts for the spirit of disobedience in us, what was the root cause of the Original Sin itself, which will be the root of our sins as well? What, then, is the ultimate root of sin and the rebellion which we experience in our souls even after the grace of Baptism purifies us from sin and reestablishes our filial relationship with God?
Again St. Paul teaches us the truth about this ultimate root; it is human pride, the self-centeredness that leads us to rebel against any authority that constrains our sefl-assertion, including the authority of God. Listen to the truth about that ultimate root of sin found in the description of Jesus’ self-sacrifice, which reversed it, the self-immolation which began at His conception and ended on the Cross: “He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave … He humbled Himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Pride was the root of man’s Original rebellion, and pride is thus at the root of every sin thereafter in the human heart: Satan’s I will not serve, which is also found in the heart of man after Man’s first sin. See this I will not obey again in th parable the two sons in the Gospel today. Even the son who eventually does obey says first, I will not serve. The other son says he will, but in his heart he refuses. That’s us at different times in our lives. Our pride says no to the Father when God’s will is contrary to our and to legitimate authority for the same reason.
Jesus shows us the way back from this rebellious pride to the love that always does the will of the Father and fulills us. He emptied himself. We are so full of ourselves that we cannot love as we ought to. He humbled himself. We are anything but truly humble. We are creatures who act as if we are God, placing our will, our self above the will of God our Creator. Unless we learn to empty ourselves, to humble our selves, we will never really know how to love, to love God as God loves us.
The way of love, God’s way of love can be seen in Jesus’ life and death: In Hebrews he says simply, I come to do your will, and in the Garden of Gethsemane He says, while sweating blood, thy will be done, not mine. Obedience is the path back to divine love, the path of humility, of self-emptying. Obedience is the creature’s act of humility, the pre-condition of perfect love, to human fulfillment and happiness. Every time I deny my self, my self-will, to obey God’s Will, even in the smallest things, I grow in humility and in the very power to love. There is no other way back for us sinners. Jesus has shown us the sacrificial way to the Father’s Love. There is no other way but His.