TWENTY–SEVENTH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR B
Psalm 127:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum , et vivam;
et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.
Receive me, O Lord, according to thy word, and I shall live:
and let me not be ashamed of my hope.
The Word of God, even while it speaks today of marriage, speaks to all of us: to the married and the unmarried, to those living within monastic enclosure, and to those living in the countless others “enclosures” of parenthood, friendship, elected solitude, and professional responsibilities. To each one of us the Word of God speaks today of the mysterious covenant of love between man and woman, and of the mysterious covenant of love between Christ and His Bride, the Church. When we listen with the ear of the heart to the liturgy and to the sacred gift of life itself, we are drawn more deeply into the mystery of the covenant. The Suscipe (Psalm 118:116) of monastic profession — Receive me, O Lord, take me wholly to thyself — and the message today’s Gospel are related, the one helping us to enter more deeply into the other.
A God Who Is Bridegroom
In answer to the question of the Pharisees, Jesus makes it clear that Moses was incapable of changing the hearts of his people. He found them unteachable, stiff-necked and hard-hearted . . . and so Moses was obliged to mollify the Law concerning marriage (by providing for divorce) and in so doing, Moses obscured the nuptial mystery behind the Law: a God who is bridegroom and a people called to be bride. The mystery obscured by the “pastoral provision” of Moses is brought back into the light by Christ. In Christ the splendour of the original nuptial icon is restored.
The Bride Wounded by Love
Christ, our new Moses, comes changing hard hearts into hearts capable of being wounded by love. All this past week we celebrated men and women wounded by love: Thérèse, Columba, Francis, Bartolo Longo, Faustina, and Bruno. They passed before our eyes one after the other, and in each one we discerned the mystery of the Bride of Christ.
Christ and the Church
Christ comes opening eyes that had grown accustomed to living “in darkness and in the shadow of death” (Lk 1:79) to the deifying light (RB Pro:9). He comes opening ears to a new teaching, “speaking as the Father has bidden Him” (Jn 12:50). Recalling how it was in the beginning, when Adam and Eve came forth from the Father’s creating hands, He reveals “the nuptial mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to the saints” (Col 1:26). “This mystery is a profound one,” says the Apostle, “and it refers to Christ and the Church” (Eph 5:32).
From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. In woman, man perceives that he has been given another self. In man, woman perceives that she has been given another self. They are the same, and yet they are different. Made together in the image of God, they reflect the mystery of the Son begotten of the Father, without division, without inferiority, “co-equal” we say in the Athanasian Creed.
Communion and Fecundity
Jesus, returning to Genesis, says that a man leaves his father and mother, for the sake of one woman. Man goes toward woman in a movement of self-offering. Oblation. Man says to woman: Suscipe me, “receive me, take me unto thyself,” et non confundas me ab expectatione mea, “let me not be disappointed in my hope.” And a woman leaves father and mother for the sake of one man. Woman goes toward man. She goes forward to receive his self-oblation. In receiving, she offers herself. Suscipe me, secundum eloquium tuum, “receive me, take me unto thyself even as thou hast said” et non confundas me ab expectatione mea, “let me not be disappointed in my hope.” This exchange of oblations becomes a fruitful communion blessed by God. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in the heart of your house; your children like shoots of the olive around your table” (Ps 127:2).
The Bridegroom Coming Forth
“A man must leave father and mother . . .” Hovering over this text in a kind of counter-point, I hear the opening lines from the hymn at Matins of Corpus Christi: The Word proceeding from above, / Yet leaving not the Father’s side, / Went forth upon His work of love. . . .” (Verbum supernum prodiens). There is an exodus here, an ecstatic movement, a going forth from the intimate circle of origin: it is the Word coming out of the bosom of the Father “like a bridegroom coming from His tent” (Ps 18:6).
Coming forth from the bosom of the Father without leaving it, the Word entered the womb of the Virgin and there, in “a wondrous exchange” He took our humanity to himself. “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become one body” (Gen 2:24). The Incarnation is the mystery of the Word saying to Mary, and to each one of us, Suscipe me, “receive my self-offering, open thyself to the emptying out of My divinity and let me take thy humanity unto Myself.” His Suscipe me invites us to a nuptial covenant. His Suscipe me invites us to utter ours. The Virgin Mary shows us how: “Let it be to me according to your word“(Lk 1:38).
The Creation of Eve
Having taken our humanity to Himself, “it was not good that the man, the new Adam should be alone” (cf. Gen 2:18). “I will make him a helpmate, a companion (Gen 2:18), said the Father. So it was that while the new Adam fell into the deep sleep of death on a cross, His side was opened by the soldier’s lance and blood and water poured forth. The first Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib; the new Eve is fashioned from the water and the blood.
The Eucharistic Suscipe Me
“And the two become one body . . . “(Mk 10:8). Again it is the Suscipe me in the mouth of the Bridegroom. “Take this, all of you, and eat it; this is my body which will be given up for you. Take this, all of you and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood.” The two, Christ and the Church, the Bridegroom and the Bride, become one body. The Eucharist is the Suscipe me of Christ addressed to the Church.
Receive Me, Father
When we as a Eucharistic Church respond to the Suscipe me of the Bridegroom, we become “one body” with Him and members one of another. “You are the Body of Christ,” says Saint Paul, “and individually members of it” (1 Cor 12:27). As the Body of Christ, Head and Members, Bridegroom and Bride, “no longer two but one flesh,” we sing another Suscipe, the Suscipe of the Crucified intoned from the altar of the cross, for “so often as we eat this bread and drink the cup, we proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes” (1 Cor 11:26). “Receive me, Father, take me unto thyself, and I shall live; let me not be disappointed in my hope.”
His Resurrection Is Ours
The Father’s answer to the Suscipe me of the Crucified is the Resurrection. And because Christ and the Church are united in one Body and form no longer two but one flesh, His resurrection is ours. Jesus, who was for a short while made lower than the angels, is now crowned with glory and honour (Heb 2:9) because He submitted to death. On His right stands the queen in gold of Ophir (Ps 44:10), the Church — the Church as we see her already in the mystery of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Recognize today that the Suscipe me of the Bridegroom addressed to you, and respond with the Suscipe me of the Bride. Then from this altar and from this church the Suscipe of the Crucified will ascend to the Father, in the Holy Spirit, today for the life of the world. “And we shall not be disappointed in our hope” (cf. Ps 118:116), for today is the day of resurrection.