Seventeenth Sunday after
Pentecost—27 September AD 2009
Read between Epistle and Gospel Psalm
109 “Dixit Dóminus.”
1 The Lord said to my Lord:
Sit thou at my right hand: Until I make thy enemies thy footstool. 2
The Lord will send forth the sceptre of thy power out of Sion: rule thou in
the midst of thy enemies. 3 With thee is the principality in the day
of thy strength: in the brightness of the saints: from the womb before the
day star I begot thee. 4 The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent:
Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech. 5
The Lord at thy right hand hath broken kings in the day of his wrath. 6 He shall judge among nations, he shall fill ruins: he shall crush the
heads in the land of the many. 7 He shall drink of the torrent in the
way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
One of the remarkable things about the
Sacred Scripture is that it always seem to have an application in the current
moment. Its topics are always fresh—having instructions for us about how
we are to do things in the here and now. The events in today’s Gospel
took place almost two‑thousand years ago, but they provide us with an
answer to two great questions of our modern age.
Questions of secularism,
We talked about the first one a few
weeks ago (on the 12th Sunday after Pentecost). Our Lord gives us two
Commandments which sum up the Moral Law: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy
God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind....
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It is vitally important for
all of those living in our age—Catholics or not—to recognize that our rights
and our responsibilities are all based on God’s Eternal Law. All
legitimate ruling authority on earth comes from God, and its legitimacy is seen
in that ruling authority’s conformance with the Natural Moral Law. The
people of a nation may designate their rulers and establish their desired form
of government—but the authority of those rulers comes from God—and the
legitimacy of their rule is proportionate to their observance of God’s law in
their ruling. The idea that a nation’s rulers, or even the vast majority
of its people, may ignore God’s Natural Moral Law or disregard the God given
rights of each individual, ought to be a repugnant idea to our thinking.
Such ideas are often clothed with Utopian descriptions of the bright and shiny
new world that can be built without God’s Law—they always end in disaster.
The “scepter of power” comes from the Lord.
The second question answered in
today’s Gospel is the question of the Christ. Who is He? What is
The Pharisees and many of the Jews were
waiting for a promised Messias. But, what exactly were they waiting for?
What were they expecting? When our Lord asked them, “Who is the
Christ—whose Son is He?” They were quick to answer that He would be
King David’s Son. This was promised in the Old Testament, and many of
them were awaiting a warrior‑king like David, to once again make them a
great nation and to throw out their oppressors. They wanted another David,
who could slay the Roman Goliath. They wanted another Solomon to restore
the earthly splendor of the Kingdom of undivided Israel.
But our Lord used King David’s own
words to show them that they were missing an altogether more important dimension
of the Messias. He quotes Psalm 109, in which David refers to the
Christ as his (David’s) Lord—in which David describes the begetting of the
Christ before all creation “in holy splendor before the daystar,” begotten
in secret “like the dew. The Lord God is speaking to the Lord Christ,
claiming paternity. He is speaking of begetting the Christ from all
eternity, even before the “day star”; even before the “light
bringer”—the Christ was begotten before time began, before even the angels
were created. But in the same phrase the Lord God speaks of the
“womb”—which can be none other then the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary
who in due time gave birth to the Christ of the Lord after being overshadowed by
the Holy Ghost.
And yet another attribute of the Messias
was to be His priesthood: “The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent:
Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.” The
priest is one dedicated to the offering of sacrifice to God on behalf of the
people. The Messias would come to offer the perfect sacrifice to
the Father—a sacrifce offered “once, in offering Himself.”
As He spoke through the prophet Malachias: “from the rising of the sun
even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place
there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation.”
This “clean oblation,” of course, was still some time in our Lord’s
future, when He would unite His Sacrifice on the Cross with the “clean
oblation of the Mass.
King David thus acknowledged that the
anointed Christ would come as both King and Priest.
Our Lord was reminding the
Pharisees—as He reminds us—that the kingdom of man is important because it
is part of, or a reflection of, the kingdom of God. Both of the two
“Great Commandments of the Law” are essential because they compliment one
another. We are liars if we say that we love God, but ignore the
needs of His adopted sons. We are fools if we think that we can
love our fellow man and neglect God. Liars and fools!
The modern myths of Secularism,
Humanism. Socialism, and Modernism make precisely this mistake. They
pretend that we can have a society in which man is respected simply as man.
The hallucinate the ideas that man can manufacture his own truth, his own
morality, his own law without regard to the unchanging God. They ignore
the fact that man is God’s creation, and that we are ever dependent on Him for
everything, even on down to our very existence.
So, if we are going to be a sign of
God’s love to the modern world—and we must be—let us keep today’s
words from Saint Paul firmly in mind: Have “humility and mildness, and
patience ... supporting one another in charity ... One body and one spirit ...
One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above
all, and through all, and in us all, who is blessed forever and ever. Amen.