September 21, Feast of St. Matthew: Christ’s Mercy and Vocation to be “Ipse Christus”

The gospel for the Feast of St. Matthew begins: “As Jesus passed by. Jesus saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he got up and followed him. While he was at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat with Jesus and his disciples. Two topics come to mind: 1) the topic of mercy because the position of tax collector in Israel is equivalent to prostitution (”tax collectors and sinners”), and Jesus is calling him to be in His company, i.e. to be a saint, for be holy. 2) the topic of work and the meanng of “sanctification of work.”
As to 1), the gospel text makes the distinction between being a tax collector and being a sinner. Without further argument, and taking the text at face value, Matthew may well not be a sinner because he is a tax collector. But we can assume that he does not continue collecting taxes from the Jews as a disciple of Christ with his now primary mission of evangelizing the Jews.
As to 2), the Founder of Opus Dei would want to make the point that it doesn’t matter that one be a tax collector – or anything else whatsoever – ; rhat any professional work this side of grave sin can be made holy. In his words: “The whole asceticism of the Work (Opus Dei) rests, on its hinge, on one’s professional work, whatever it may be. Any noble human task is sanctifiable. We can convert any work into an instrument for holiness, since human work entails the fulfillment of a divine command. Everything can be raised up. I wouldn’t dare to say what is more pleasing to God whether the work of a professor at the Sorbonne or that of a village barber. I don’t know which gives the Lord greater pleasure. It depends on the purity of intention with which it is done, the self-giving – freely saying yes to God – the spirit of sacrifice, a spirit of sacrifice which prompts one to place the last stone in each task, finishing it out of love down to the last detail…
The words spoken are “convert any work into an instrument for holiness.” So, the work itself does not cause the holiness since it can be any work, and of the most secular quality this side of sin. Nor does it seem to be identified with the prayer life of the worker since, Escriva insists on the quality of the work itself with regard to its human or natural integrity as well done and finished down to the last detail. There is no mention of embedding the work in prayers with the assumption that it is the accompanying prayer that sanctifies the work.
So. It seems that the work must be done as an extension of the person him/herself- which raises up a large point, in fact, the whole point of Opus Dei. We have to readjust our understanding of Christian anthropology whereby man is not an object that participates in Christ as a platonic Holiness up there somewhere, but a subject, an “I” who by imaging the divine “I” of the Son as Action to and for the Father, is capable of going out self to God and others and becoming gift to them in the action and objectivity of the work. That is, The “I” and the work are one as gift to the other. Jesus Christ means Jesus is the Christ Who becomes sin gives Himself to death for the others, the Notice, the Name, “Jesus Christ” is the code given by the first Christians showing their understanding that Christ is the Action of being Son from and for the Father. And by the acts of honest self-giving priestly work, you are becoming Christ Himself Highpriest.
And with this, are we not before the reality of Christ Himself on the Cross 2000 years ago and on the altar today in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and confronting now at 11. 12 a.m. 2020 a job to be done that involves everything I have in me and to which I have to give all of me, and this for the love of God and others? And so, the bold affirmation and project is to become Christ Himself in the exercise of ordinary work. And it comes about by the identification of yourself with your work. I become the doing of the job which is one with the death of Christ down to the last drop driving me to finish the job for love. With this, have I not got my toe in the ocean of the Ipse Christus By this action of work, am I not becoming Christ Himself Who is Himself such an action to and for the Father as Son? And by that action, am I not becoming that Son?
Hear Joseph Ratzinger on this: “It is not possible to distinguish office and person with him (Christ); this differentiation simply becomes inapplicable. The person is the office, the office is the person. Ths two are no longer divisible. Here there is no private area reserved for an “I” which remains in the back ground behind the deeds and actions and thus at some time or other can ge ‘off duty.’ Where there is no ‘I’ separate from the work; the ‘I’ is the work and the work is the ‘I.’”

Notice the Solution: Simon, when asked to name Jesus, announces, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. How did Simon know? He prayed, understanding that Jesus, as Son, is nothing but the action of prayer to the Father. By entering into the prayer of Jesus, Simon becomes “another Christ,” and is able to say; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”(Mt. 16, 16). And Christ declares that Simon is now Peter – Rock – as He is “Cornerstone.” Like is known by like. So, that we must become divine by turning work into self-gift, which is prayer, and become able to say “You are the Christ.” Thus the new evangelization. It begins with the sincerity of the Samaritan woman who says: “I have no husband” and therefore comes to recognize who Christ is and announce Him to the Samaritan town of Sichar. We know by praying which is loving.

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