Choosing to Enslave Ourselves to Christ’s Holiness, 29th Thursday (I), October 24, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Thursday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Anthony Mary Claret
October 24, 2013
Rom 6:19-23, Ps 1, Lk 12:49-53

To listen to an audio of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • Today’s readings are about the choices we perennially face in the Christian life.
  • The first Psalm describes the choice as one between wisdom and foolishness, life and death. The wise man is described as one who ho follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent, but delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on his law day and night.” That’s what a wise person does. He chooses his friends with care, he delights in Sacred Scripture, delights in the Commandments, delights in the Lord and perseveringly and faithfully prays about what God has revealed day and night.  The Psalm goes on to say, “He is like a tree planted near running water, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves never fade.” The wise person plants himself in Christ, the living water, and that’s the source of continued fruitfulness no matter the season. This is contrasted with the fool, the wicked, who are “like chaff which the wind drives away,” whose way “vanishes.” There’s nothing ultimately substantial in this life, because they’re like dead chaff blown away in the breeze.
  • Jesus puts flesh on this fundamental choice in the Gospel. He said he had come to light the earth of fire, to light us on fire with the flame of his love for God the Father and for others. That mission of the Lord Jesus comes at a cost, the price of the “baptism” that he longed to undergo, the baptism of blood on Calvary. He made that fundamental choice for us. But he wants us, with passion, to choose to implant ourselves in him. He says that he’s come not to bring “peace,” understood as a life without conflict, but “division,” and even families would be divided. This was not because Christ is a divider, but when someone opts for Christ, others who want to be first get jealous and angry, and that’s what divides. This was true in the early Church. Often when Jews converted to Christianity, they were disowned by their family. Still today when a Muslim converts  to Christianity in Pakistan and various other fundamentalist Muslim countries, or a Hindu converts in certain fundamentalist areas in India, a contract is put out on them, and most often by the members of his or her own family. The key for all of us is that we see that our choice for Christ must come first, above our other choices, above our other loves, even if we should have to suffer as a result of it. He’s made that choice for us.
  • St. Paul describes some of the practical consequences of this choice in the first reading. Building on what he taught us yesterday in his letter to the Romans, St. Paul says that the fire of Christ is meant to change the fundamental orientation of our life. Prior to Christ, we “presented the parts of [our] bodies as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness for lawlessness,” but once Christ has come we “now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.” We got from being slaves to sin to slaves of God, yoked to his holiness. The first path leads to death. The second leads to “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” St. Paul is saying throughout this sixth chapter of his letter to the Romans that we have to make a choice to become slaves, committed life-long servants of Christ, seeking his will not ours, his kingdom, not ours, his glory, not ours. Pope Francis this morning in the Vatican said that many Christians only go half-way in their discipleship, but he reminded us that St. Paul calls us to a total commitment. Many today think that they can be a disciple while still being enslaved to impurity, or to lawlessness for lawnessness. They walk in a way contrary to the commandments. They seek to be “autonomous,” calling the shots, rather than really saying to God, “Thy will be done.” Pope Francis says that we need to “take our faith seriously” and do the works of righteousness with God’s grace, rather than continue in the way of sin. He calls us to avoid the “road of hypocrisy,” when we call ourselves “a Christian, but live like a pagan!’ Sometimes we say ‘Christians at half-speed’, who do not take this seriously. We are holy, justified, sanctified by the blood of Christ: Take this sanctification and carry it forward! But people do not take it seriously! Lukewarm Christians. … A little touch here and there, of Christian paint, a little ‘paint catechesis’ – but inside there is no true conversion, there is no such conviction as that of St.Paul: ‘Everything I gave up and I consider garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him.’”
  • The saint we celebrate today shows us the wisdom of becoming a slave of Christ, of implanting ourselves in him the living water, of allowing his fire to become the defining aspect of our life. St. Anthony Mary Claret was born in Catalunia in 1808 and eventually became a priest who sought to make the fire of the Lord’s love the defining reality of our life. He meditated on Sacred Scripture day and night. He delighted in it. He gave himself wholeheartedly to the poor and particularly to their education. He was so passionate about spreading the faith and loving others in the Lord’s name that he was named a missionary Archbishop of Santiago in Cuba, where he worked so hard for such a long time to help the Cubans grow in faith. He founded the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate to bring the fire of the Lord to others. He was recalled to Spain by the Queen to be her chaplain and he used his office, through the power of the queen, to do a tremendous amount of good. There was suffering, there was division, but he tried always to help people implant themselves in Christ, from the members of the royal family and court to the poor and ignorant. We ask him to intercede for us today that we might make the same choice for Christ, that we may live with Christ’s fire, that we might enslave ourselves to Christ’s righteousness and holiness, and bring others to experience this same Good News.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
ROM 6:19-23

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your nature.
For just as you presented the parts of your bodies as slaves to impurity
and to lawlessness for lawlessness,
so now present them as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free from righteousness.
But what profit did you get then
from the things of which you are now ashamed?
For the end of those things is death.
But now that you have been freed from sin and have become slaves of God,
the benefit that you have leads to sanctification,
and its end is eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death,
but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 1:1-2, 3, 4 AND 6

R. (Ps 40:5) Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Blessed the man who follows not
the counsel of the wicked
Nor walks in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the company of the insolent,
But delights in the law of the LORD
and meditates on his law day and night.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
He is like a tree
planted near running water,
That yields its fruit in due season,
and whose leaves never fade.
Whatever he does, prospers.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.
Not so the wicked, not so;
they are like chaff which the wind drives away.
For the LORD watches over the way of the just,
but the way of the wicked vanishes.
R. Blessed are they who hope in the Lord.

LK 12:49-53

Jesus said to his disciples:
“I have come to set the earth on fire,
and how I wish it were already blazing!
There is a baptism with which I must be baptized,
and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!
Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?
No, I tell you, but rather division.
From now on a household of five will be divided,
three against two and two against three;
a father will be divided against his son
and a son against his father,
a mother against her daughter
and a daughter against her mother,
a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”