Living Credibly By Faith, 32nd Monday (II), November 10, 2014

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Retreat House of the Carmelites of the Sacred Heart of Los Angeles, Alhambra, CA
Monday of the 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Leo the Great
November 10, 2014
Ti 1:1-9, Ps 24, Lk 17:1-6

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

 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • At the beginning of today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about scandal and then forgiveness in such a way that the apostles cried out to the Lord, “Increase our Faith,” and Jesus replied about the power of faith, that if we have even a little faith, we can do the impossible, like transplanting mulberry trees into the sea. The combination of the lesson is for us to ponder the meaning of faith in terms of the example we set, especially the example of forgiveness.
  • Jesus begins the passage talking about scandal and the damage it causes for others’ growth in faith. “Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,” the Lord says, “but woe to the one through whom they occur. It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck and he be thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” In the first reading, St. Paul describes the qualities for the discernment of priests and bishops precisely so that they won’t cause scandal. Most of these qualities will pertain to any Christian. He says that they need to be blameless, which is the opposite of scandalous; married only once, meaning that they can live chastely and not be men who had to marry after the death of a first wife, because then probably they wouldn’t be able to live the continent chastity required; with believing children who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious, because if a father can’t raise his own children in the faith, how can he raise others’ children in the faith?; not arrogant, because he must be a humble servant like Christ; not irritable, because he must love even those who annoy him; not a drunkard because he must be sober and alert; not aggressive, but meek; not greedy for sordid gain, but poor in spirit because the kingdom he seeks is the Lord’s; hospitable because he sees Christ in the stranger saying, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”; a lover of goodness, so that his virtue is not just in seemingly virtuous needs but comes from a good fruit-producing tree; temperate since he must have self-mastery; just, since he should be right with God and fair with others; self-controlled since he must be disciplined to be a discipline and help form other disciples; hold fast to the true message as taught so that by his life he can exhort the faithful and refute opponents; and in short, holy, dwelling in and reflecting the holiness of God.
  • When a priest or a bishop does not live with these traits, it obviously does impact people’s faith. They have high expectations of those who have been given much in the Lord’s service. We are all held to high expectations because we wear religious habits and cassocks. They expect us to behave like Jesus, to speak like him, to love like him, to be merciful like him. We even have high expectations of each other. We can be scandalized when fellow priests, or bishops, or religious live in a spiritually worldly way, make decisions as serpents without any glimpse of the purity of doves, those who speak more like sailors than they do the Lord. Today Jesus is calling us to a higher standard, reminding us that by faith in him, by his power, we can live up to that standard, so that we might draw people to him by our behavior rather than drive them away.
  • One particular area in which this increased faith is important is in forgiveness. Jesus says, “If your brother repents, forgive him. And if he wrongs you seven times in one day and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you should forgive him.” We sometimes think we’re heroic if we give somebody a second chance, even a third. But Jesus is calling us to give people an eighth chance each day. He’s saying that we should be people rich in mercy, because when we fail to forgive, it’s truly a scandal. When St. Peter asked Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel how often he had to forgive, as many as seven times, Jesus replied, not 7 times, but seventy sevens (which leads to the different interpretations of 77 or 70 x 7 = 490 times) and then tells the parable of the two debtors, one who owed 10,000 talents and the other 100 denarii, the equivalent in today’s money, if someone made $100 dollars a day, of being forgiven $6 billion versus $13,000, reminding us that if we’ve been forgiven billions by the Lord, we can be, and ought to be, lavishly merciful with those who owe us. We’re the ones who are supposed to show that we get that unless we forgive others, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us our sins. Sometimes in the priesthood and in religious life we find priests and sisters who nourish grudges, who haven’t forgiven even after many years. Today Jesus wants to increase our faith so that we will forgive as frequently and as generously and as from the heart as he does.
  • It’s also important that we seek to form people in these virtues. At the beginning of the letter to Titus today, St. Paul says that he was writing “for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones.” He was writing to strengthen their faith. That’s the point of setting a good example, to strengthen the faith of others. Today we celebrate one of the greatest saints who has ever lived, Pope St. Leo the Great (d. 461), who was one who took that duty to strengthen the faith seriously. As a deacon of the Church in Rome, he strengthened the baptismal faith of everyone; his famous baptismal verses teaching the meaning of the Sacrament still adorn the octagonal baldachin over the Lateran baptistery. He strengthened the Marian faith of everyone, being the Archdeacon under Pope Sixtus III charged with building St. Mary Major Basilica to enshrine the Church’s teaching that Mary is Mother of God, which had just been infallibly defined at the Council of Ephesus in 431. He strengthened likewise everyone’s faith in Christ, writing his famous Tome against Eutyches, who claimed that Jesus only had a human body and soul but not a human intellectual spirit, which would not make him fully human. His Tome was decisive at the Council of Ephesus. Leo’s Christmas homilies were also very formative to help people to grasp the meaning of the incarnation. He sought to have everyone set a good Christian example for others, beginning with the clergy, refusing to lay hands on anyone whom he thought wasn’t worthy of the office. He sought to have all Christians live by this good example. As he reminds us each Christmas in the second lesson of the Office of Readings, we need to remember who we are and live as we are and have promised to live: “Christian, remember your dignity, and now that you share in God’s own nature, do not return by sin to your former base condition. Bear in mind who is your head and of whose body you are a member. Do not forget that you have been rescued from the power of darkness and brought into the light of God’s kingdom. Through the sacrament of baptism you have become a temple of the Holy Spirit.” To remember our dignity and to live according to it is the way our life can draw people to the faith rather than push them away.
  • The means by which the Lord most seeks to augment our faith each day happens here at Mass. He strengthens our faith by what he teaches us in the Liturgy of the Word. He strengthens us even more by entering into us in Holy Communion. We know that if we receive a particle of the host the size of a mustard seed, we’re receiving within Him who can strengthened us to do all things. As we consume his precious blood given for the remission of sins, this is the way by which we’re able to go out to forgive others their sins. This is the means by which we are strengthened never to give scandal but instead become “signs of contradiction,” just like Jesus, capable of bringing people to conversion and to the forgiveness God wants to give that we show by our forgiveness is possible. Lord, increase our faith!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ti 1:1-9

Paul, a slave of God and Apostle of Jesus Christ
for the sake of the faith of God’s chosen ones
and the recognition of religious truth,
in the hope of eternal life
that God, who does not lie, promised before time began,
who indeed at the proper time revealed his word
in the proclamation with which I was entrusted
by the command of God our savior,
to Titus, my true child in our common faith:
grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our savior.For this reason I left you in Crete
so that you might set right what remains to be done
and appoint presbyters in every town, as I directed you,
on condition that a man be blameless,
married only once, with believing children
who are not accused of licentiousness or rebellious.
For a bishop as God’s steward must be blameless, not arrogant,
not irritable, not a drunkard, not aggressive,
not greedy for sordid gain, but hospitable, a lover of goodness,
temperate, just, holy, and self-controlled,
holding fast to the true message as taught
so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine
and to refute opponents.

Responsorial Psalm ps 24:1b-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

R. (see 6) Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
He whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face.

Gospel lk 17:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples,
“Things that cause sin will inevitably occur,
but woe to the one through whom they occur.
It would be better for him if a millstone were put around his neck
and he be thrown into the sea
than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.
Be on your guard!
If your brother sins, rebuke him;
and if he repents, forgive him.
And if he wrongs you seven times in one day
and returns to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’
you should forgive him.”And the Apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed,
you would say to this mulberry tree,
‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”