Helping Jesus to Preach the New, Risen Life, 24th Friday (II), September 19, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Corpus Christi Monastery, Bronx, NY
Friday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Januarius and Our Lady of LaSalette
September 19, 2014
1 Cor 15:12-20, Ps 17, Lk 8:1-3

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today in the Gospel, we see Jesus’ peripatetic preaching, journeying with the Twelve apostles from one town to another preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. This was a snapshot of ordinary life, what occupied most of the days. He was announcing the kingdom and inviting people to enter. In the midst of all of their sufferings, hardships and up-until-then unfilled hopes, he was proclaiming the good news. He was helping them to see that Sacred Scripture was being fulfilled in their hearing, inviting them to strive to enter through the narrow gate, encouraging them to buy the treasure buried in a field and selling everything they have for the precious pearl of the kingdom.
  • But St. Luke adds another detail, a very important one. He said that some women were accompanying Jesus and the apostles, women who had received Jesus’ healing power — they “had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities” — and wanted to spend their life assisting him to heal others. Three get named — Mary Magdalene, Joanna, the wife of Herod Antipas’ epitropos or money man Chuza, and Susanna — but he also says “and many others,” who “provided for them out of their resources.” They were the ones who, to some degree, made possible Jesus’ and the apostles’ preaching, so that Jesus everyday wouldn’t have to multiply buns and sardines, so that they wouldn’t have to appall the hypersensensitive Scribes and the Pharisees by plucking heads of grain while walking through the fields. Like the widow with her two lepta that she placed in the Temple treasury, these women were giving all they had not just to make possible but to assist the preaching of the Gospel. They were the ones who were provided drink to lubricate Jesus’ and the apostles’ vocal chords, they were the ones who made sure that as they would have the necessary bread within to be able to preach man doesn’t live on bread alone but on every word that comes from God’s mouth.
  • They’re a beautiful, though insufficient image, to describe the beauty of your vocation as nuns of the Order of Preachers, assisting the preaching and proclaiming of the kingdom of God by providing out of your resources what those in pulpits and plazas and pathways need even more than food and drink: incessant prayers that their words will be God’s words, that the seed they sow will be received on good and fruitful soil, that their lives most of all will become sacred preaching that helps make ever more efficacious their words. The whole Church needs your spiritual provision far more than Jesus and the apostles needed material provision. And we thank you. I remember once in the past I was sharing with a Dominican nun my happiness that a retreat that I had just finished preaching for the priests of a Diocese in the Midwest had gone well. I was, frankly, thinking mainly about the combination between God’s grace and hard work that had gone into preaching the retreat, but she reminded me that there was a very important element that I was missing. She reminded me that she and the nuns of her monastery had been praying throughout the whole retreat that the words God would give me would bear great fruit. I’ve never forgotten that lesson or that reality. Now no matter what pulpit I mount, or what lecture hall or classroom I enter, or even what one-on-one conversation I have, that I am never preaching the Gospel alone, but that, just like Jesus and the apostles were accompanied by these holy women, so I, too, and every priest, bishop, deacon and friar, every teacher and catechist in the Mystical Body, is provided for by those who constitute the Mystical Body’s genuflected knees and the heart that beats with love.
  • But as Dominican nuns you do not merely assist the proclamation of the Gospel and make it possible. You also preach. You preach occasionally through written words. But you preach most powerfully by your choices and example. And the message you’re called to preach more than any other is that the kingdom is not just a “message” but a reality, that the newness of life proclaimed can be embraced right now, that the pearl of great price isn’t just an image, but something you’ve seized. In today’s first reading, St. Paul is describing the reality of the resurrection to the Jewish and Greek Christians in Corinth who were doubting or denying it. There were doubtless some Jews who, like the Sadducees, didn’t believe in the resurrection because the allusions in the Hebrew Bible were not strong enough for them and what they had read about Sheol convinced them that it was permanent. There were also many Greeks who, following Plato, believed in the immortality of the soul, but viewed the body as a prison from which a person needed to be liberated in order to experience that immortality. They didn’t deny Jesus’ resurrection, but considered it basically a unique exception. St. Paul sought to explain to them that if the resurrection is impossible for us then it was impossible for Jesus according to his humanity, and if we’re not raised, and Christ is not raised, then our faith is vain, then our preaching is vain, then all of Paul’s labors are vain, then the forgiveness of sins is impossible, then hope is gone, then we’re the most pitiable of people, and then the last one to start his ignition in the Church parking lot and leave is the biggest fool. But — and he finishes with a powerful adversative conjunction — “but now Christ has been raised from the dead,” he says, and states that he is the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” He’s the first of many.
  • There are many still in the world who don’t really believe in the resurrection of the body because they’ve lost what Pope Benedict described in Spe Salvi as the “great hope.” That’s where you’re preaching is so important. To those who have lost the great hope, or who doubt it, your life is a profound provocation. They believe that when one enters a cloistered monastery, one enters a tomb. One dies. They can’t imagine that in a world that places its faith, hope and love in mammon that someone would embrace poverty for the kingdom with a smile. They can’t grasp that someone would forsake autonomy by a vow of obedience. They are confounded that in a world dominated by libido, who think that the only immortality one really can hope for is to continue one’s family line through the generation of children, that someone would take a vow of chastity. But it’s hear that you show the newness of life that happens when one chooses to live with the One who has raised from the dead, who was poor, chaste and obedient first. You’re the ones more than any other who are able to show in your hidden life a glimpse of that life with God that so much needs to get noticed in the light. This preaching of the eschaton, of the hope and joy of the resurrection, of the communion of life and love with God that you announce today, is so important, and this is one of the most important ways, too, that you strengthen all of those preaching in pulpits and trenches.
  • Today we have two important models for the preaching of the resurrection. The first is Our Lady of LaSalette, who appeared on this day in 1846 to two young children in the French alps. As they were grazing their sheep Melanie Calvat and Maximin Giraud found her sobbing. Her tears initially frightened the 14 year old girl and 11 year old boy, but she told them not to be afraid, to come close, because she wanted to announce to them great news. That was the great news of conversion. They had built a little shrine called “Paradise” and that’s where Mary first appeared, to show them that not everyone was on the way to Paradise. She lamented four practices that are still very common today: blaspheming the name of God; missing Sunday Mass; failing to pray, and not even taking the conversion of Lent seriously. She was calling them to conversion, to the life of life that anticipates the resurrection even here in this world, by praising God rather than blaspheming, by participating in the foretaste of the eschatological banquet here at Mass, by conversing in prayer with the Lord whom we hope to adore forever, and by converting and receiving God’s mercy so that we may be able to sing of his merciful love forever. She wore a radiant crucifix that had two symbols on it, one a hammer and another a pair of pincers, which was a sign of the freedom that everyone has, the freedom to refuse God and hammer Jesus to the Cross by sin, or the freedom to love God and take the pincers to remove the nails. That is the choice that faces every Christian, the choice of death or life, the choice of hell or heaven, the choice of ourselves or God. Melanie and Maximin, who were not practicing Catholics when Mary appeared and seldom said their prayers, were the first to make that choice of life, but then they soon helped others, beginning with Maximin’s father. When he was drunk and yelled at his son for speaking about this Lady so much, the 11 year old responded that she had spoken of him. That pierced him and he came to the place where Mary had appeared to the children, where a stream had begun to flow where Mary had sat. He drank some of the water and received a spiritual healing, to give up the booze and live off of the Living Water. He became a daily Mass goer for the rest of his life. That conversion to the new life with the Risen Jesus and his Mother is a sign of hope to everyone of the way we can seek, and help others to seek, the things that are above.
  • The second image we have is St. Januarius, the bishop of Naples who was martyred under Diocletian in 304. Every martyr shows a compelling witness of faith in the Resurrection, announcing that even when someone tortures and maims the body, even when someone ends a life here on earth, that life is not extinguished and the body doesn’t pass into oblivion. They proclaim the Church’s faith and hope in the resurrection of the body even as their body on earth breathes its last. And the continual miracle of St. Januarius’ boiling blood on his feast day — blood is a sign of life! — shows that the blood he shed hasn’t coagulated forever, but instead is alive and awaiting the resurrection of the body.
  • Today as we come together on their feast days, we ask them to intercede for us, that we might seek the things that above with them, that we might become signs and agents of the resurrection, messengers of the kingdom, in the midst of all today, supporting Jesus in his continued mission to go about healing the entire world of evil spirits, infirmities and death, and announcing that our faith is not in vain, but that to live without faith is the greatest vanity of vanities. As we prepare to receive Jesus’ risen body and blood, we ask him to keep us united to him in poverty, chastity, obedience and communion so that we may be united with him forever.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 cor 15:12-20

Brothers and sisters:
If Christ is preached as raised from the dead,
how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead?
If there is no resurrection of the dead,
then neither has Christ been raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, then empty too is our preaching;
empty, too, your faith.
Then we are also false witnesses to God,
because we testified against God that he raised Christ,
whom he did not raise if in fact the dead are not raised.
For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised,
and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain;
you are still in your sins.
Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
If for this life only we have hoped in Christ,
we are the most pitiable people of all.But now Christ has been raised from the dead,
the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 17:1bcd, 6-7, 8b and 15

R. (15b) Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hear, O LORD, a just suit;
attend to my outcry;
hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God;
incline your ear to me; hear my word.
Show your wondrous mercies,
O savior of those who flee
from their foes to refuge at your right hand.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings,
But I in justice shall behold your face;
on waking, I shall be content in your presence.
R. Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.

Gospel
lk 8:1-3

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another,
preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God.
Accompanying him were the Twelve
and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities,
Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza,
Susanna, and many others
who provided for them out of their resources.