Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, or “What is a man’s due?”


384309_549304955086309_357628736_n“As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. In one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit.” I Corinthians 12:12-13 Second Reading for the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time

“As among the different sounds which proceed from lyres, flutes, and the human voice, there must be maintained a certain harmony which a cultivated ear cannot endure to hear disturbed or jarring, but which may be elicited in full and absolute concord by the modulation even of voices very unlike one another. Where reason is allowed to modulate the diverse elements of the state, there is obtained a perfect concord from the upper, lower, and middle classes as from various sounds. What musicians call harmony in singing, is concord in matters of state, which is the strictest bond and best security of any republic, and which by no ingenuity can be retained where justice has become extinct.” St. Augustine, City of God, Book 2, Chapter 21.

one hundred piece orchestra

St. Augustine voices the Western definition of Justice when he writes it is giving every man his due. City of God, Book 19, chapter 4. There is one important thing wrong with this definition. In practical terms, what is any given man’s due? Augustine goes on to write, “There is in man himself a certain just order of nature, so that the soul is subjected to God, and the flesh to the soul, and consequently both soul and flesh to God.” In writing this Augustine refers to the intellectual tradition of the Greeks which has God, first, reason second, and the flesh third. Augustine may also have Deuteronomy 30:11-14 in mind.

This Mitzvah, I give you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No! It is something very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.”

CosmosIn Book Three Chapter 8 of his Confessions St. Augustine compares the Ten Commandments to a lyre. Just as the lyre is made of groupings of three and ten strings, so the Ten Commandments are made of the first three referring to God, and the second seven referring to man’s relations with each other. In Augustine’s writing, at least in the book, “The Complete Works of Saint Augustine,” “Music,” appears 71 times. “Concord,” appears 39 times, 10 times in Book 19 alone. Harmony appears 42 times 14 times in our Chapter 19, alone. Justice? It appears in every Book of the City of God, a grand 493 times.

moonSt. Paul tells us in our Second Reading for the Third Sunday of Ordinary time that we are to view our community as an organic whole. St. Augustine reminds us that our community is to be based upon harmony. We have all heard musical groups based upon harmony and have heard how beautiful this can sound. When asking what a man’s due is, we have only to ask, “Will the final product sound harmonic to God’s ears. As we look to the large and growing gap between the rich and poor, in this nation, and in our world, we need only ask, “Is this harmonious to God’s ear?” There is no magic formula here. Tubas are louder than flutes, much louder. The goal is not to make the tuba sound like a flute. If we could, there would be no need for a tuba player. The goal is not to make business executives into plumbers, or vice versa.

habitIn English, we have several basic concepts: Vocation, Profession, Job, and Occupations. The goal is to eliminate jobs and occupations and replace them with Vocation and Profession. Our Vocation is our calling from God. It is not something we take upon ourselves. It is not something we choose. God calls us to these things. This is what St. Paul tells us in the second reading. Likewise, professions are the way we profess our faith in our vocations. As such, professions come from God, and not from ourselves. Again, this is the heart of our second reading. Leaders are just part of the body, no more or less important than the other parts. This does not mean they should be paid the same, or differently. Tubas have different needs than flutes. They also cost more. Likewise synthesizers, pianos… We all have different needs so need to be paid differently.

What is each man’s due? Look to the final product, the final opus. The goal is, as a nation, and as individuals, to conduct the total symphony of communal life to make a work pleasing to God.

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