Knowing Jesus through Building our Life on his Word, 12th Thursday (II), June 23, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Thursday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Joseph Cafasso, Priest, Extraordinary Apostle of the Confessional
June 23, 2016
2 Kings 24:8-17, Ps 79, Mt 7:21-29


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


The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus concludes his most extensive homily on living in his kingdom by his distinctive Christian way of life by helping us to resolve not just to know about it but to do it. He tells us that the one who will enter into his kingdom is not the one who refers to him as Lord, not the one who prophesies, or exorcizes or works miracles in his name, but the one “who does the will of my Father in heaven.” This was the way by which we would come to “know him,” through doing his will not as a dry extrinsic command but in tandem with him as we preach, act and live in his name, which means in — within — his person. Jesus calls us to listen to his words and act on them, a move he compares to a wise man’s building his own on a solid foundation that will remain firm when tested by rains, floods and gale force winds. The winds will come, the storms of life are inevitable, but Jesus wants us to build our existence on him the Cornerstone so that when they come we will be able to face them together with him who can calm the storms and lead us even through death to life. To build our existence on any other foundation than him, that the life he has indicated to us by his words, is to build on sand that will not hold up during a storm.
  • Jesus, of course, was a tekton and the foster-son of a tekton, a construction worker. He knew that in the Holy Land some seeing a smooth sandy bed in the dry season found it a nice easy place to build, rather than a jagged series of rocks, but when the rains would come all of the water and the howling winds moving from the Mediterranean toward the Sea of Galilee would come into that plain and wash away a house. It’s a reminder to us that sometimes the foundation we are building our life on seems smooth and easy, but if God is not really the foundation, we’re setting ourselves up for ruin.
  • He wants us to build our life on what he has revealed to us in the Sermon on the Mount, as we’ve been discussing over the last two and a half weeks. It’s not enough for us to pass a quiz on the Beatitudes. We must, with God’s help, become poor in spirit, meek, peacemaking, and pure of heart; we, like Jesus, must love others enough to mourn when they are physically or spiritually in pain, we must hunger and thirst for holiness, we must be willing to be persecuted for the sake of Jesus. We must really become with him the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We must live the seven antitheses Jesus announced, not hating others, not lusting, not divorcing and remarrying, being truthful always, reconciling with brothers and sisters, not seeking vengeance, loving our enemies and being good and praying to those who persecute us. We must refuse to serve mammon and to seek after material goods but seek first the kingdom of God and his holiness. We must pray to and relate to our Father as he taught, knowing that he knows what we need, knowing that he loves us more than the sparrows and the lilies, knowing that he won’t give us a stone when we ask for bread. We must, in short, in Jesus, become perfect as a Father is perfect, which means to grow to fall stature in Christ together with Christ. Not to do so is foolishly to build the house of our life out of cardboard on a foundation of quicksand.
  • Today Jesus calls us to examine whether our lives are really built on the words he has taught us, whether we’re really living in the way God intends. Many of us, including priests and religious, “sort of” live by Jesus’ words. We’ll put “some” of them into practice. But it would honestly be an exaggeration to say our entire life is built on them. As Jesus says in his images at the beginning of today’s Gospel, It’s not enough to call to him in prayer, by crying out  “Lord, Lord”; it’s not enough for us to spread his word by “prophesying in his name”; it’s not enough for us to some obviously good deeds, to cast out demons or do many deeds of power in his name; he wants us to put these words into practice, to be his full-time disciple, his full-time follower, his full-time friend, to know him much more intimately than a loving husband and wife know each other. Otherwise he’ll say, as he mentions at the end of today’s Gospel, “I never knew you!” We get to know him by living together with him, by keeping a holy communion of life and love.
  • This is something that the Jews around the year 600 BC didn’t get, as we see in the first reading with the Jews. Even after they had sealed once again their Covenant with the Lord under King Josiah as we saw yesterday, they eventually rebelled against under King Jehoiachin. Even though they were still going through the motions of the faith, they were building their lives on “evil” as the Second Book of Kings chronicles  rather than on God. And in 597 the storms came in the form of Nebuchadnezzar and his troops from Babylon, they blew and buffeted against the house of Israel and it collapsed and was ruined, with everyone being deported into captivity in Babylon.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of a saint who built his life life on Christ the rock. St. Joseph Cafasso (1811-1860) was one of the greatest diocesan priests of all time, someone who in this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy stands out all the more because, with St. John Nepomuc, St. John Vianney, and St. Leopoldo Mandic, he was named by St. John Paul II in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia was one of the four “extraordinary apostles of the confessional.” He built his entire life on Jesus words, example and call to mercy, seeking to become merciful like the Father is merciful. From a young age, knowing that he had received a priestly vocation, he sought to learn God’s word and live by it. He was ordained at the tender age of 22, got his doctorate a few years later, and became one of the leaders of a house of formation for priests called the Convitto di San Francesco. There he sought to help his brother priests learn how to overcome spiritual worldliness and build their lives on friendship with Christ. One he introduced into that circle was an orphan he met when he was 15 and the orphan 11. The orphan’s name was Giovanni Bosco. John couldn’t prepare to be a priest because he didn’t have the money for studies, but Joseph Cafasso tutored him to get him ready for seminary, and, after Joseph had founded a ministry for ruffians, involved John Bosco in the work and, after Don Bosco’s ordination, entrusted it to him. St. Joseph Cafasso became a spiritual director to many, including four would would go on to be canonized thanks to his helping them base their whole life on God’s word and do the will of the Father in heaven. But he’s most famous for his work as a tender confessor to all who would come but especially to prisoners. He would go into prisons that even prison guards wouldn’t enter to confess the people within, to give them a chance to base their life on God’s word as well. He would patiently persuade and help those on death row to make their peace with God and go from sand to rock before they met him face-to-face. He would call them his “saints of the gallows.” He died at the age of 49 having founded so many different apostolates and having given his life to trying to help others enter into friendship with Christ alongside him, to build their life on Christ the cornerstone.
  • The center of St. Joseph Cafasso’s life was the daily celebration of the Mass, where he would hear and announce God’s word, recommit himself to become the living commentary of it, and seek to inspire others to make that work the plan of their life. And then he would enter into communion with the Word made flesh, building his life on the one he would hold in his hands, receive with devotion and give to others. This was the means by which he was able to preach, to cast out the devil who was leading so many to sin, and to perform the ordinary miracles of the priesthood — including the miracle we’re about to witness and receive on the altar — not as deeds apart from Christ but deeds in which Christ truly was acting through him with his conscious and full cooperation. Today as we finish the Sermon on the Mount and prepare to receive the same Jesus whom St. Joseph Cafasso used to consecrate and receive, we ask him to intercede for us, so that just like he led so many on death row, and so many spiritual directees to heaven, he might lead us, so that together we might praise and adore the Lord in heaven in whose name we preach and live here on earth!

The readings for today’s Mass are: 

Reading 1
2 KGS 24:8-17

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign,
and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.
His mother’s name was Nehushta,
daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem.
He did evil in the sight of the LORD,
just as his forebears had done.At that time the officials of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
attacked Jerusalem, and the city came under siege.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon,
himself arrived at the city
while his servants were besieging it.
Then Jehoiachin, king of Judah, together with his mother,
his ministers, officers, and functionaries,
surrendered to the king of Babylon, who,
in the eighth year of his reign, took him captive.
And he carried off all the treasures
of the temple of the LORD and those of the palace,
and broke up all the gold utensils that Solomon, king of Israel,
had provided in the temple of the LORD, as the LORD had foretold.
He deported all Jerusalem:
all the officers and men of the army, ten thousand in number,
and all the craftsmen and smiths.
None were left among the people of the land except the poor.
He deported Jehoiachin to Babylon,
and also led captive from Jerusalem to Babylon
the king’s mother and wives,
his functionaries, and the chief men of the land.
The king of Babylon also led captive to Babylon
all seven thousand men of the army,
and a thousand craftsmen and smiths,
all of them trained soldiers.
In place of Jehoiachin,
the king of Babylon appointed his uncle Mattaniah king,
and changed his name to Zedekiah.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 79:1B-2, 3-5, 8, 9

R. (9) For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
O God, the nations have come into your inheritance;
they have defiled your holy temple,
they have laid Jerusalem in ruins.
They have given the corpses of your servants
as food to the birds of heaven,
the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the earth.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
They have poured out their blood like water
round about Jerusalem,
and there is no one to bury them.
We have become the reproach of our neighbors,
the scorn and derision of those around us.
O LORD, how long? Will you be angry forever?
Will your jealousy burn like fire?
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Remember not against us the iniquities of the past;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.
Help us, O God our savior,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake.
R. For the glory of your name, O Lord, deliver us.

MT 7:21-29

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the Kingdom of heaven,
but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.
Many will say to me on that day,
‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name?
Did we not drive out demons in your name?
Did we not do mighty deeds in your name?’
Then I will declare to them solemnly,
‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’
“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them
will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine
but does not act on them
will be like a fool who built his house on sand.
The rain fell, the floods came,
and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”
When Jesus finished these words,
the crowds were astonished at his teaching,
for he taught them as one having authority,
and not as their scribes.