Ceiling Fresco, Albenga Baptistery, cir. 6th c.

Translation of the Epistle for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Brethren, all we who are baptized in Christ Jesus are baptized in His death. For we are buried together with Him by baptism unto death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in the newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin may be destroyed, and that we may serve sin no longer. For he that is dead is justified from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ. Knowing that Christ, rising again from the dead, dieth now no more, death shall no more have dominion over Him. For in that He died to sin, He died once; but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God. So do you also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark

At that time when there was a great multitude with Jesus and they had nothing to eat, colleagues and disciples together he saith to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, for behold they have now been with me three days and have nothing to eat, and if I send them away fast into their home they will faint on the way.” For some of them came from far off and his disciples answered him from whence can anyone fill them here with bread and the wilderness and he asked them how many loaves have you who said seven and he commanded the crowd to sit down on the ground and taking the seven loaves giving thanks he broke and gave to his disciples and said before them and they said before the people and they had a few little fishes and he blessed them and commanded them to be set before them and they did eat and were filled and they took up that which was left of the fragments, seven baskets, and they that had eaten were about 4,000 and he sent them away.

The Saving Words of the Gospel

He looked on them and had compassion.

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Transcription of Audio

There’s this dynamic we see repeated over and over in the Scripture in which it says that Christ looked at them and had compassion. That’s a beautiful conjunction there of these two verbs that are almost one act in the Heart of Our Lord. The word for compassion that Sacred Scripture uses is σπλαγχνίζομαι (splanknizomai) And σπλαγχνίζομαι is a very graphic term which means to suffer pain in your intestines. And so, Our Lord, He experiences a profound pain upon seeing the pain of another. He makes it His Own.

John of the Cross, probably the greatest mystical writer in the history of the Church, he says that for God to look at you is for Him to love you. And think about what that means for your times of Adoration when you’re distracted, or when you’re not in Adoration, when you’re not even praying, and He’s still looking at you. His love for you is no less those times when you’re asleep, when you’re distracted, when you’re going about your business, or sinning, His love for you is no less. And when we suffer, He makes it His Own.

Why? Because there’s a certain union between Christ and those that He created. We see this in radical terms here in Paul’s Letter to the Romans. It’s all about union with Christ. And this union with Christ is something that begins in our baptism. We are grafted onto Him. We are made members of the Mystical Body, and He is the Head. Ultimately, what Paul speaks about, and then all of the Fathers in the East and the West will discuss, is this deification, divinization, of man to become God.

Now this divinization of man to become God is not in the Mormon sense, which, you know, the Mormons teach that if you really behave in this life, you’ll become a god in the next, and you’ll have your own planet. Well, we don’t believe that we will become little gods, okay? And we don’t keep the temptation of Satan in Genesis who said, You will be like gods, because his promise that you will be like gods was at the cost of a relationship with Our Lord, at the cost of obedience to His will.

And so, this being like God that Our Lord gives us through grace is something much more profound than what Satan promises because it’s only His work. It’s the work of sanctification, justification, Divinization, and deification. We don’t hear much about this in the West and that’s a shame. We’re too busy talking about climate change, and we don’t think about what really matters, which is that Our Lord wants us to be like Him. And He allows us to participate in His nature. And this participation in His nature is something that Peter discusses in his Second Letter, Chapter One. He says,

His divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and devotion, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and power. Through these, He has bestowed on us the precious and very great promises, so that through them you come to share in the divine nature,

-There it is. –

you come to share in the divine nature, after escaping from the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire.

So, this sharing in divine nature doesn’t mean that we become little gods. It means that our nature remains intact as human nature, but it’s elevated to a participation in the nature of God. And this is through grace we participate. So, in philosophical terms, we would say we become god per accidens not per substantia. So, our substance doesn’t change. Rather, we’re elevated to a divine level to participate in His life and that’s why we are members of the Mystical Body and Christ is the Head.

The great English convert, St. John Henry Newman, speaks about this in one of his sermons. And he says,

“It is plain that such an inhabitation brings the Christian,”

— he’s talking about the life of grace, this inhabitation of the blessed Trinity through grace —

that such an inhabitation brings the Christian into a state altogether new and marvelous, far from the possession of mere gifts, exalts him inconceivably in the scale of beings, and gives him a place and an office which he had not before. In St. Peter’s forcible language, he becomes “sharer of the divine nature,” and has “power” or authority, as St. John says, “to become sons of God.” Or, to use the words of St. Paul, “he is a new creation; old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” His rank is new; his parentage and service new. He is “of God” and “is not his own,” “a vessel unto honor, and sanctified and meet for the Master’s use, prepared unto every good work.”

This wonderful change from darkness to light, through the entrance of the Spirit into the soul, is called Regeneration, or the New Birth; a blessing which, before Christ’s coming, not even the Prophets and the righteous men possessed, but which is now conveyed to all man freely through the Sacrament of Baptism.

And if this is true, and it certainly is because we see it there in Scripture, it’s all over Tradition, what does this mean for how we see ourselves, how we see others? If we are to be, if we are truly children of God, and if we are made Temples of the Holy Spirit, how do I see my body? How do I see my soul? How do I see other people? As children of God, as Temples, whether filled or not by the Blessed Trinity, that’s something that only God knows. But nonetheless, Temples made for Our Lord. This radically changes how we see Christ, not as a historical figure merely and not as somebody far off in Heaven, where He is certainly, but also Christ who’s in the tabernacle, is in the tabernacle of a soul in the heart of one in the state of grace. So, he’s closer to us than we are to ourselves.

If we are truly members of the Mystical Body, we are Christ in time and space. We are extensions of Christ. We are members of His Body. For a Head to not be able to control the members of a body, that’s called a palsied body. We would call that, in spiritual terms, sin; where the body, the members, do what the head does not want. And that’s the challenge we all have.

We have, we all incarnate what St. Paul says. The good I want to do, I don’t do; the evil I don’t want to do, I end up doing. And so, we have this fallenness at the same time, and this is the struggle. And nonetheless, Our Lord can win the day if we let Him, if we are truly members of His Body. Well, this ought to redefine how I see myself, how I see the things I think about, the things I say, the things I plan to do, my intentions, my desires.

I know a priest who before he was ordained visiting a town in Scotland Fife, and a street preacher approached him and said to him – he wasn’t dressed as a priest because he wasn’t ordained yet – and he approaches him and says, “Do you want to have a relationship with Jesus Christ?” And he says, “Well, I already have one, but I don’t want it.” And the man looked at him, “What do you mean, you don’t want?” He says, “No, I don’t want just a relationship with Christ. I want to be Christ.” And he said, “That’s impossible.” He said, “Well, it’s not impossible if Paul says, That it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. So, he says, “I don’t want something as superficial as a relationship with Christ, because that would be something outside of me. He says, “I want to be Christ. I want him to take over my mind, my heart, my ideas.”

And how true that is if we accept this reality that Paul is telling us about: It’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. What Christ wants to do through us and can’t because we occupy our minds and our hearts with things that are not of Him. And nonetheless, we can get up, dust ourselves off, confess, and start again, and say, “Lord, I want Your mind at work in my mind. I want to love what You love just as You love it. I want to be You.” And how does this change our everything; our thoughts, our intentions, our words. And so, that’s His great longing to live through us, and it’s up to us to give Him that joy of living through us, and in as much as we do, we will never regret that.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen. 

— Fr. Ermatinger