Growing in Faith and Love during the Year of Consecrated Life, 18th Saturday (I), August 8, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Monastery of the Poor Sisters of St. Clare, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Saturday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Dominic
August 8, 2015
Deut 6:4-13, Ps 18, Mt 17:14-20

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • During this Year of Consecrated Life, we’re all called to be renewed in the central elements of our baptismal consecration and, for those in the more intimate form of consecrated in religious life, in the graces of that state of life. Today on this Feast of St. Dominic of Guzman, the founder of the Order of Preachers and one who has been a great example of this more intimate form of consecration for 800 years, we can focus on two essential elements: faith and what is meant to flow from living faith, love.
  • In today’s Gospel, which takes place when Jesus and the three apostles descend the Mount of Transfiguration, a father runs up to Jesus, falls down on his knees before him and begs, “Kyrie, eleison,” “Lord have mercy on my son.” His boy seemed on the surface to have been suffering from a type of epilepsy that when the seizures happened led him to endanger his life by throwing himself into fire or drowning himself in water, two polar opposites (fire and water) showing that he was basically never safe. Jesus recognized that there was more than simply a disease at work, but one of demonic possession, something he would attack. The father added, “I brought him to your disciples but they could not cure him.”
  • We see how Jesus uses the scene both to help the father and then everyone grow in faith. In St. Mark’s recollection of the scene, the man says, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us,” to which Jesus replies, “If you can! Everything is possible to one who has faith.” The dad then exclaimed, “I do believe. Help my unbelief!” The father recognized he did have some faith, but that his faith was weak and he needed Jesus’ help to grow in faith. He had the faith to come first to ask the disciples for their assistance in healing his son. When that didn’t work, he ran to Jesus. He had faith not to give up out of discouragement. But he recognized he needed a lot more faith, faith to recognize fully how silly it is to say to Jesus, “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” Jesus would use this man’s faith as an illustration of just how much a mustard size portion of faith could accomplish as he would heal his son.
  • But Jesus wanted to help his disciples to recognize their own lack of faith, their own need to recognize that they had some faith but needed to grow in faith much more. Jesus cried out, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you? How long will I endure you?” Many think initially this is a cry against the father’s little faith, but it actually seems to be of the disciples who didn’t have the faith to “move the mountain” and work the exorcism and cure, for reasons we’ll soon see. He numbers them among the “faithless” and “perverse” and wonders aloud how long it will take for them to get the message he’s been teaching. The word “per-verse” is etymologically the exact opposite as “con-verted.” Con-vert means to “turn with” the Lord whereas “per-vert” means to “turn away.” From the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus had been calling us “to repent and believe,” to convert and be faithful,” but even the disciples where joining the Scribes and Pharisees —  whom Jesus elsewhere addressed by the same phrase for always seeking signs — as “perverse” and “faithless.” Why? What does it mean to convert? What does it mean to be faithful?
  • We see it in the very next phrase. Jesus says, “Bring the boy here to me.” The “bring” here is a second person plural infinitive, not singular, which means Jesus was saying it to the disciples, not to the father. He was showing them what they should have done in the first place. He was showing what someone who lived by faith and was turning with the Lord would have done. They had essentially tried to work the miracle by themselves. “Why could we not drive it out?,” they asked later, failing to grasp that the power to drive out demons, the power to heal, the power to raise the dead, was not a power that would come from them but from God and in order to do any of this it needed to be done in union with God. Symbolically we see their failure to unite all of this to Jesus by the disciples’ failure to run to Jesus for help when at last they saw him. They, rather than the boy’s dad, could have been the ones to go to Jesus immediately and say, “Jesus, this boy desperately needs this miracle. Please come!” Instead, they stayed put and the father, with his little faith but great love, was the one to make the humble overture. In St. Mark’s version, Jesus would add, “This kind can only come out through prayer.” Prayer is not only true faith in action, but prayer is what we do when we recognize we don’t have the power to do anything. We turn to God and ask him to work the miracle. We ask him to move the mountain. It’s in prayer that we grasp that nothing is impossible. Jesus wants us all to learn this lesson and in prayer to bring to him the mountains that need to be leveled, to bring to him the needs, because the more we do, and the more persistently we do, the more we will grow to turn with him, to be faithful, to live by faith, to become truly just. This Year of Consecrated Life is precisely a year to grow in faith.
  • If we have true faith, it will show in deeds. St. Paul wrote that faith without works is dead and that the type of faith God gives us is a faith working through love. In today’s first reading, God through Moses tells us not that he wants us to respect him, or fear him, but love him. He calls us to love him with all not just some, or most, of our soul, heart and strength. When Jesus was asked by a lawyer what was the greatest commandment of all 613 in the law, Jesus replied with this famous Shema, “Hear, O Israel,” and then added that the second is like it, to love our neighbor as ourself. In this Year of Consecrated Life it’s key for us to examine how our faith, whether the size of a mustard seed or a mountain is leading to acts of the love of God and love of others. There are many Christians who believe they love the Lord simply because they have good thoughts about God, they admire him, they think that he’s kind, merciful and generous, the way we can say we love Pope Francis, or love firefighters who sacrifice themselves for us, or love anyone who is honorable like a philanthropist who gives millions to a cause we believe in. But Jesus is calling for much more than this. Love is more than having good feelings or impressions about another; love is willing the good of the other for the other’s sake. Love is choosing to sacrifice oneself for another, putting someone else ahead of you, like Jesus would say during the Last Supper and put into action the following afternoon, laying down one’s life for one’s friends, in little ways or supremely. There are other Christians who do love God to the point of sacrificing for him, sacrificing some of the time, financial resources and talents that he’s given them for him and their glory. They give him some of their mind, heart, soul and strength. That’s good, but it’s still not what Jesus is calling us to do. He’s not calling us to love him with 14 percent of our mind, 21 percent of our strength, 38.2 percent of our heart and 91 percent of our soul. He’s calling us to love God with all we’ve got. To get there requires a deep conversion on our part, not just to be good people but to be really holy people. We should make this practical. Jesus calls us to love him with all our mind. How much of our mind do we dedicate to God? Do we try to think as God thinks in our decisions? Do we fill our minds with his thoughts through prayer and reading the Bible and good spiritual books or do we fill our minds with the world’s thoughts? Jesus likewise calls us to love him with all our heart. Do we really love God more than we love everything and everyone else in our life? He says elsewhere in the Gospel that we’re not fit to be his disciple unless we love him more than our family members, more than our stuff, more than even our own life. This is obviously challenging but do we try to love him with all our heart? He calls us to love him with all our strength. How much effort do we make to love him? Do we battle through distractions in prayer? Do we make more effort to pray Mass each day rather than just attend? He calls us to love him with all our soul. That means he wants us full of grace. Do we seek to stay free of all sin or do we compromise with sin and give in to gossip, complaining, holding grudges and the like? Do we take advantage of the opportunities for the Sacrament of Confession so that whatever in our soul is not of God can be forgiven? And does this love lead us to love our neighbor in deeds?
  • Sisters, you are here in this Monastery because you have made the choice that you want to love the Lord with all you’ve got. That’s what’s led you to leave behind your families, the possibilities in the world, the great good of marriage and a biological family of your own, a sense of autonomy, careers and material possessions for the Lord. We could say that for sure the spirit is indeed willing. But we also constantly need to make sure our flesh is strong in putting these desires into practice. This Year of Consecrated Life is a grace to help us do that.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of one who did seek to love the Lord with all he had and to bring many others to love him in the same way. St. Dominic received his priestly vocation young in life and became a canon of his cathedral in Osma. He was asked to accompany his bishop on a diplomatic mission and while staying with innkeepers in southern France came face-to-face with the Albigensian heresy, which was one of the dualistic heresies that thought all matter was evil. These people wanted to serve God — and many of them were extremely ascetic — but they were serving an idol, a God who hadn’t pronounced the material world good. St. Dominic stayed up all night to convert the innkeepers. And he recognized within a deep desire to convert his faith into deeps to help others, who were enslaved by falsity, to come to faith as well. He first founded in 1206 a monastery of nuns to give those women who were formerly Albigensians a way to love God with all their heart, soul and strength beyond and to pray for the conversion of others. Then, in 1216, he founded an order of Friars Preachers to help in the propagation of the truth. Later there would be third orders associated with the Dominicans as well. And since they have been trying to live and spread the truth faith and have that faith overflow in love. It’s significant that God was calling Dominic to do this at the same time he was calling Francis and Clare. In complementary ways the Dominican nuns, friars and laity, and the Franciscan nuns, friars and laity, have been God’s complementary instruments for helping the Church learn how to live in practical ways the call to faith, the call to love, the call to Christian consecration ever since.
  • Today at this Mass we remember that the greatest way that the Lord has given us to love him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength is here at Mass when we’re able to pour ourselves out in love of him who pours out his blood and gives his body, soul and divinity here to us. We come here with all our petitions and prayers as he says, “Bring them here to me.” And we remember with St. Dominic, who was God’s instrument for various miracles during his lifetime and after his transitus, that all things are possible for those who have faith in the One we’re about to receive.

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 Dt 6:4-13

Moses said to the people:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.
Drill them into your children.
Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest.
Bind them at your wrist as a sign
and let them be as a pendant on your forehead.
Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.“When the LORD, your God, brings you into the land which he swore
to your fathers: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
that he would give you,
a land with fine, large cities that you did not build,
with houses full of goods of all sorts that you did not garner,
with cisterns that you did not dig,
with vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant;
and when, therefore, you eat your fill,
take care not to forget the LORD,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
The LORD, your God, shall you fear;
him shall you serve, and by his name shall you swear.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 18:2-3a, 3bc-4, 47 and 51

R. (2) I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim!
And I am safe from my enemies.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD live! And blessed be my Rock!
Extolled be God my savior!
You who gave great victories to your king,
and showed kindness to your anointed,
to David and his posterity forever.
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.

Alleluia See 2 Tm 1:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Our Savior Jesus Christ has destroyed death
and brought life to light through the Gospel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 17:14-20

A man came up to Jesus, knelt down before him, and said,
“Lord, have pity on my son, who is a lunatic and suffers severely;
often he falls into fire, and often into water.
I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
Jesus said in reply,
“O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you?
How long will I endure you?
Bring the boy here to me.”
Jesus rebuked him and the demon came out of him,
and from that hour the boy was cured.
Then the disciples approached Jesus in private and said,
“Why could we not drive it out?”
He said to them, “Because of your little faith.
Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you will say to this mountain,
‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.
Nothing will be impossible for you.”
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