Salvation and Service: Christians Are Called to Provide for the Needs of Others
User’s Guide to Sunday, July 1
Sunday, July 1, is the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B). Mass Readings: Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Psalm 30: 2, 4-6, 11-13; 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15; Mark 5:21-43.
In today’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we encounter a philosophical retelling of the creation account from Genesis 1-3 that would have been familiar to those living in a world that was heavily influenced by Greco-Roman thought.
The main point of today’s reading is that the reason why God, who is existence itself, chose to create the universe was to communicate, or share, his own existence (1:14). Furthermore, human beings were meant to share in God’s existence in a privileged way: They were made in the image of God (2:23).
There is an important conclusion that can be drawn from this reality, namely that all created things as well as the created universe as a whole play an important role in our relationship with God (1:13-15).
But what exactly is the nature of this role?
First of all, Wisdom teaches us that because everything shares in the existence of God, the created world is a means by which we can, to a limited degree, come to know and experience God. In addition to this, and perhaps even more surprisingly, God has ordained that created things play a role in our salvation.
In Wisdom 1:14, the author uses the Greek word soterios — translated in today’s reading as “wholesome” — to describe everything that exists (hai geneseis) in the created universe. This word is typically used to describe things that are a means of salvation, and, thus, we learn from Wisdom that everything that exists has the potential to play a role in bringing about our salvation.
For a concrete example of how the created world plays a role in our salvation, we can turn to the second reading from 2 Corinthians. Here, St. Paul teaches us that we are to use the abundance of our wealth in order to supply the needs of others.
Wealth — the “stuff” that we possess — is nothing but a collection of material, created things. Yet this wealth is a means by which we can work out our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13) insofar as it enables us to demonstrate charity, the theological virtue “by which we love God above all things for his own sake and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1822). St. Paul teaches us that the act of providing for the physical needs of others is not only an act by which we show our love of neighbor, but it is also an act by which we detach ourselves from material things, thus demonstrating our love for God.
In addition, St. Paul compares such acts of charity to Christ’s own perfect act of charity, that is, his incarnation.
As Paul describes this, “though he (Christ) was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus Christ became poor by exchanging the glorious riches of the Godhead for the humble poverty of mortal flesh.
The effect of Christ’s becoming poor in this way is that we become rich beyond measure: We receive the possibility of eternal life with God.
In the face of so great and generous an act of becoming poor, we, too, ought to become poor, albeit in an infinitely smaller way, by providing for the needs of others from the abundance of our wealth.
Dominican Father Jordan Schmidt is an instructor
in sacred Scripture at the Pontifical Faculty of the
Immaculate Conception at the
Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C.