Transcription of Audio
Christ Among the Pharisees, Jacob Jordaen, c. 1660-70
Translation of the Epistle for the 17th, Sunday after Pentecost
Brethren: I plead with you, I, a prisoner for the Lord, to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, with perfect humility and meekness, and with patience, bearing with one another lovingly. Make every effort to preserve the unity whose source is the Spirit and whose bond is peace. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given you by your call. There is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all. Who is blessed forever. Amen
Translation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew
At that time, the Pharisees approached Jesus, and one of them, a lawyer, in an attempt to trip him up, asked him. “Master, which commandment In the Law is the greatest?” So he said to him. ” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is similar to it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments. the whole Law is based, and the Prophets as well.” In turn. Jesus put a question to the assembled Pharisees, “What is your opinion about the Messiah? Whose son is he?” ‘ David’s,” they answered. He said to them. “Then how is it that David, under divine inspiration, calls him ’Lord,’ as he does, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I humble your enemies beneath your feet’? If therefore David calls him ‘Lord.’ how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, and so no one dared, from that day on, to ask him any more questions.
The saving words of the Gospel.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Today we are confronted with these powerful, and I would even say shameful, examples of the Jews who tempt, test, and put on trial our Lord. There’s an interesting juxtaposition of words here, verbs. We heard in the Epistle that it was the Holy Spirit that called us and this is actually that word in Greek καλεο, kaleo, call, at the root for the word for church, εκκλησία, ecclesia. Εκ, ex, is out of, καλεο is to be called, or summoned, or invited. So, what is the church then? We are those who have been summoned, called, invited out of the world into communion with the Blessed Trinity in the Church. So that’s the definition of the Church. The reason I bring that up, Paul uses the word call, and it’s interesting because we see kind of an anti-church in this Gospel. The verb here has a root called σύναξις, synaxis. Σύναξις means to gather together together. In fact, in Hebrew, we’ve got synagogue, right, it has got that same that same root, σύναξις, which is a human initiative. Notice the difference between εκκλησία, called out of the world by God, the Holy Spirit, and this coming together. It says they came together, they assembled, you know, you can use different words to use to explain that… what that verb is. They assembled, they gather together, but it’s their initiative in order to what? Test Christ.
So they assemble for a nefarious purpose, and that word test is only used six times in Matthew’s Gospel; πειράζουν : peiratzon. They gathered to test Him. That word, that verb, to test Him, also means to try, prove or even put on trial. So imagine, here’s a lawyer putting God on trial by giving Him this test and asking Him this question. And he calls Him Master, which is really used in a sarcastic sense. You don’t test your teacher. Okay? The teacher tests you. And so, there’s a demonic inversion here. And what’s really interesting is whenever that verb, to test, is used, it’s only used six times in Matthew’s Gospel, whenever it’s used in Matthew’s Gospel, there’s always something demonic about it. The first time it’s used is when the devil tests or tempts Christ in the desert. The other times that it is used are in similar occasions when, at the behest of the devil, these would-be followers of God show themselves to be followers of somebody else. Truly they are working at the behest of Satan in kind of assembling, gathering together, to put God on trial, to test Him, to tempt Him. It’s a form of anti-Church.
And how does our Lord respond? He doesn’t just quote scripture, as if He knew it by heart. Okay, well, He wrote it, okay. So He knows it quite well, that’s for sure. But the way He quotes it is as author, not a scholar. He is the Word, after all. So of course, He knows Scripture inside out, and He surprises them with His answer because His answer is in the singular. It’s not, You all should love God with all your heart and mind. He says, You, singular, to this man. Which, in other words, You’re not doing this. You’re not loving God with all your heart, your mind, and your strength. But that is the greatest of all Commandments.
And what does that mean anyway; to love God with all your heart, mind, and strength? Well, in Scripture when we use the word heart, it refers to the center of the human person, refers to the passions, those things that kind of keep us grounded in this life. He says all your heart, your mind… What is the mind? The mind, the intellect, is the faculty that… it’s an ordered faculty ordered towards the truth and Christ has defined Himself as the Truth; I am the Truth. So our minds were made for Christ. That’s why He’s also the Logos; He is the Truth. He is being. He is intelligibility. And if we don’t understand everything in the context of Him, we don’t understand much. And that’s why in Greek there’s an interesting… of the many words for sin, there’s an interesting word called αλογον, alogon, which is basically insanity. That’s one of the words for sin, because sin is so illogical. It goes against the Logos. It goes into the mind of God. It goes against ourselves. It’s a form of self-imposed schizophrenia. And so, the mind is made for the Truth, and Christ has revealed Himself as the Truth. Therefore, our mind was made for Him, to know Him.
But He says also, your soul. So if the heart and our passions keep us rooted in this life, in this world, our soul is that part which is destined for Heaven. And so there’s something earthly, something heavenly about us, something material, something spiritual, and we have an ability through the mind to know God to know His will, to know His Law. He revealed it in Scripture. He revealed it in what’s called the Natural Law, our ability to know what’s good and evil, but He also gave us the Faith. So when we were infused with grace at our baptism, we were given not just a forgiveness of our sins, which is great, we were given an infusion of Divine Life. The Blessed Trinity comes to dwell in our hearts.
And so, to commit a grave sin is not to break a rule. it is to break a relationship. To commit a grave sin is basically an auto-exorcism of the Blessed Trinity from my soul; to cast Him out. You have no place here because God can’t reside where sin is. So, our Lord gives us through grace, which comes to us to the sacraments, through the Church, a participation in His life. He gives us also the Faith so we can know the Truth. We know Him who is the Truth.
He also gives us something that we don’t often don’t hear about; infused virtue. Infused virtue means these are not virtues that we’ve worked that they’re ones that He’s planted in our souls, and, if we’re in a state of grace, then our natural virtues then can be elevated and they can do supernatural things. They may look the same materially, but the infused virtues then are infinitely pleasing to God because it’s His work at work in us.
And so, when we submit our hearts when we submit our mind, when we submit our souls, to Him through grace, through the sacraments, and then our living of His will, beautiful things happen. They make us free. Those surrenders of ourselves, they make us free. They make us responsible. They help us to discern His will better and they give us a deep communion. And that is the beginning of Heaven already in this life.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
— Fr. Ermatinger