The Love of God Impels Us to Act

Jeremiah R. Grosse
12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)
Reproduced with Permission

St. Paul's Second Letter to the Church at Corinth speaks to us about what it means to finally come to the realization that Jesus died for all of and therefore we, too, have died. While this morning's reading refers to "us" and "we", the fact is that Paul is speaking about himself. He is not doing what he does out of a desire for riches or glory, but because the love of God impels Paul to do it.

Adam stands for all mankind and it is through his act of disobedience that we inherited our sinful human nature. Adam did not stand in for us as though he was not like us but was used as an example.

In Greek mythology, there is the story of Damon and Pythias. Pythias was a resident of Syracuse in Greece who was found guilty of speaking out against the cruelty of Emperor Dionysius and was condemned to death.

After hearing of his fate, Pythias asked for permission to go and visit his family, who lived several hours away, before being executed. The emperor wanted some assurance that Pythias would return, so his friend, Damon, told the emperor that he would take Pythias' place in prison and if Pythias did not return he could execute Damon instead.

Several days passed and on the morning that Pythias was to be executed he had still not returned.

Damon stood in for Pythias. He was not the one who was convicted, but was willing to stand in for his friend so that Pythias could visit his family one last time.

Just as Adam did not stand in for all mankind, neither did Jesus stand in for us. Our faith teaches us that one man died for all. Jesus died and, by virtue of his death, we all died as well. Jesus died so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.

We are indeed a new creation. Death no longer has any power over us; the gates of Heaven have been opened to us once more, and the long reign of sin has ended. What a splendid paradox, that by dying we received our life back! Even though we once knew Jesus according to flesh, we no longer know Him in that way. What is true of Jesus is true of us as well. We still interact with each other in our earthly bodies; however, we have become a new creation through baptism. We are children of God now and co-heirs with Jesus of the Kingdom of Heaven. We no longer need to fear death because we know that death is not the end. As children of God we can ask, along with Paul, "O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?"

The story of Damon and Pythias continues with Emperor Dionysius mocking Damon as he asks, "So, Damon, where is your friend, of whom you were so confident? I fear you have allowed him to take advantage of your simplicity." "It is impossible for me to doubt my friend's constancy," replied Damon. "Perhaps he has met with some accident along the way."

At that moment a horse broke through the crowd, and Pythias, travel-stained and weary, half fell out of his saddle, and ran to embrace his friend.

"I am here - in time," he gasped. "My horse - was killed, and I could not find another. Thank heaven I am in time to save you!"But Damon did not want Pythias to die. He pleaded with him to allow the execution to continue, and Dionysius watched in disbelief as each friend eagerly sought to give up his life for the other.

"Cease, cease these debates," Dionysius exclaimed, stepping forward and taking their hands. "I hereby set both of you free. Never in my life have I seen such loyalty; nor did I dream such a thing could exist. I beg you will accept my pardon and allow me to share in your friendship."

The love which inspired the loyalty between Damon and Pythias is the love which impelled Paul to do all that he did for the early Church. It is this same love which inspires us to give of ourselves in service to others.

As we go forth from this liturgy, let us bring this love to those we meet and thereby transform their lives as well.