Spiritual Reading of Sunday 27th August
Week of 21st August (reference: readings of Sunday 27th August)
21st Sunday of Ordinary Time
Reading: Rom 11,33-36; Mt 16,13-20
"And you, who do you say that I am?"; "You are the Messiah, the living Son of God."
The readings for this week address a complex matter, but which becomes simpler if we put ourselves in a position of humility: the knowledge of God.
In his Letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us: "His judgments (of God) are inscrutable and His ways impenetrable!" In fact, who knew the thoughts of the Lord? In St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus already challenges the Apostles asking them "And you, who do you say I am?" Saint Peter quickly responds: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus clarifies: "happy you, Simon, son of Jonah, because it was not flesh and blood that revealed to you, but my Father who is in heaven".
Throughout the history of the Church, many philosophers and theologians studied the issue of the human ability to know God and, at the same time, Man’s relationship to Him. This subject was studied, in particular, by what we call negative or apophatic theology. Despite the name, there is nothing wrong with the negative theology; in a simplified manner, it says that it is impossible to know God, because God is above any description, anything; therefore, it is only possible to describe God by what He is not.
In particular, Saint John of the Cross, considered this issue from the mystical aspect, that is, the mystery of God. In his classic book "The dark night", he shows that it is God who works in the purification of the senses and the spirit, so that we can understand Him. And he adds that it is through the "dark night" that we can make disappear all the soul’s imperfections, giving us the perfection for a human but also divine understanding of God. And that happens through the emptiness, through darkness, so that the light of the soul can receive the divine light that overcomes the natural light and allows us to understand God. That is why many times we need suffering or the sense of emptiness in order to know God, who is and has always been within us. In this regard, as Saint John of the Cross and Mother Teresa of Calcutta pointed out, the "dark night" is a gift from God so that He lets us get closer to Him. It sounds complicated, but it is extremely beautiful.
For us, Vincentians, this reflection allows to better understand why Saint Vincent defined humility, as one of his five virtues: humility allows us to put everything in God's hands, starting with our own knowledge. In the same line of reasoning, humility allows us to understand what Vincent meant by the fact that "the Poor are our Teachers", simply because the Poor allow us to know God.
How does this happen? It is solely up to us. If we look at the assisted person as another person that we help, we cannot enter into the "emptiness", i.e., we do not give the Father the opportunity to reveal himself as he did with St. Peter in the Gospel of this week. On the other hand, if we look at the poor as Christ himself and consider the visit as a rare opportunity for the light of our soul to be replaced by the divine light, everything changes. The visit is, as well as the mystical nature of the "dark night", a gift from God, so that we can perceive his presence, although our intelligence is not able to know it completely.
We pray before each visit to the poor, so that God transforms it into a mystical and glorious moment!