Living Hidden with Christ Set on the Things Above, 23rd Wednesday (I), September 13, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the 23rd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. John Chrysostom
September 13, 2017
Col 3:1-11, Ps 145, Lk 6:20-26

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily:

  • Throughout this week, as mentioned on Monday, we have a chance to prepare for the feast of the Triumph of the Cross and ponder the cruciform life to which Christians are called yoked to the crucified Christ, helped by two feasts of our Lady, the celebration of martyrs and confessors. The Cross is the new tree of life. The cross is the way that leads to happiness, holiness and heaven. God has given it to us as a means by which to share in Christ’s redemption but he requires that we freely embrace and venerate it. It’s a choice to overcome worldly standards and embrace Christ’s. It’s a call to metanoia, conversion, literally a revolution in our way of looking at things. Today’s readings and memorial of St. John Chrysostom teach us some important truths about how this is done.
  • St. Paul in his Letter to the Colossians is helping them to set their hearts and minds on the things of God rather than the values the pagans seek or the Gnostics teach. He’s charting out for them the path to make up in their flesh what is lacking in Christ’s sufferings, to experience the mystery of Christ in them, to walk in him, to be firmly rooted, built upon, and firm in faith in Christ. Today he advances the argument. He says, with words we hear every Easter Sunday morning, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.” We have been raised with Christ through Baptism and that reality must be consequential in what we think about, what we choose, what we do. Our heart should be where our treasure is, and if our treasure is in God, that our heart should be seeking to hallow his name, to enter and advance his kingdom, to do his will. He reminds them of what happened in baptism as they were took off their clothes, were baptized, and the vested with a white garment symbolic of Christ’s virtues: “You have taken off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed, for knowledge, in the image of its creator.” They have put on the mind of Christ and are called to seek him. This is the path to life, to living “hidden with Christ,” to having Christ be “all in all,” even if the world doesn’t recognize. But that path involves the Cross. It involves death to the old Adam in us, to the way they “once conducted” themselves. That’s why he says that in saying yes to God we’re saying no to other gods and must make that no firm. “Put to death, then,” he says, “the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. You must put them all away: anger, fury, malice, slander, and obscene language, … lying.” This is the choice a Christian makes. To die with Christ so as to live with him.
  • To seek the things that are above, to ponder them and live them, is to treasure what Christ treasures, to yearn for his wisdom and to live by it. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reveals to us what is truly valuable — and it’s something contradictory to worldly standards. He gives us in the Sermon on the Plain a different version of the Beatitudes, which are a snap shot of his face. He tells us we’re blessed when, like him, we’re spiritually poor and find in God our true wealth; when we hunger, recognizing that material hunger helps to make us more dependent on and grateful for God’s providence in giving us each day our daily bread; when we weep in sorrow and reparation for our and others’ refusal to accept God and order our lives to him; when we’re hated, excluded, insulted and persecuted like Christ and the prophets, because that whole experience will help us to learn how to seek to please God rather than men. He tells us that we’re in danger when we think the real blessings are riches, food, gaiety, popularity, because those can often anesthetize us to living hidden with Christ in God, they can in fact become gods. To seek the things of God is to seek to live by the beatitudes just like Christ did. The beatitudes are perhaps the greatest expression of the contrast between thinking like God and about the things of God, and thinking like the world and about the things of the world.
  • Today we celebrate the feast of someone who lived this way. St. John Chrysostom is most famous for his preaching, but he also lived very much the type of life to which today’s readings call us. When he was baptized between the age of 18-22 (scholars disagree), he began to live a truly different life. He was the greatest student of the rhetorician Libanius, who wanted him to succeed him, but instead he left the world for a time to fill his mind with the things of God. He spent two years as a hermit continually standing, scarcely sleeping, and learning the Bible — God’s thoughts given to us — by heart. He was so zealous that he damaged his stomach and kidneys and needed to return for reasons of health. There the Patriarch of Antioch ordained him a deacon and then a priest and allowed him to begin to preach publicly, and his sermons quickly became famous and his eloquence, speaking about the things of God, calling people to conversion, reverberated throughout the empire. In 397, he was elected Patriarch of Constantinople — another Patriarchal see at the center of the empire — and there he went. Whereas he could have lived a sumptuous life, he lived poor; rather than be a social animal, he wept; rather than feast he fasted; rather than bask in his reputation over his oratory, he used it to call everyone, including the emperor and empress to conversion. For this he quickly became a sign of contradiction and suffered, being exiled many times. But that didn’t shake him, because he knew it would happen for anyone who modeled his life and preaching after Christ. His example inspired so many of his day to sanctity and courageously to seek the things of God by the way of the beatitudes. The sermon taken from this morning’s Office of Readings was preached when he was about to be exiled again. It shows how much he was influenced by God’s word and was willing to embrace derision out of love for God.
  • “The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. … If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. … For I always say Lord, your will be done; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.” We prayed in the Collect of the Mass to be able to imitate him in his way: “O God, strength of those who hope in you, who willed that the Bishop John Chrysostom should be illustrious by his wonderful eloquence and his experience of suffering, grant us, we pray, that instructed by his teachings, we may be strengthened through his example.” He shows us how to suffer together with Christ so as to reign and live with him.
  • “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above.” At every Mass, in the Preface dialogue, the priest says, “Sursum Corda” and the people reply, “Habemus ad Dominum.” “Hearts above!” and “We have [lifted them up] to the Lord. The Mass is the daily gift God gives us to help us to lift up our minds and hearts to Him, to fill us with his words, to reward our hungers, to receive our tears and console us, to meet us in our poverty needing him, and to strengthen us to remain united with him, hidden in him as he hides himself Eucharistically within us, even if and especially when we have to suffer for and with him. The Eucharist was the center and root of St. John Chrysostom’s life and what led to is indomitable courage. Let us ask him to intercede for us so that we receive God’s grace to live fully and faithfully the challenging way to which he calls us, so that we may one day experience the friendship of St. John and the saints, no longer seeing the things that are above, but living in that place that is above!

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 COL 3:1-11

Brothers and sisters:
If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.
Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly:
immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire,
and the greed that is idolatry.
Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.
By these you too once conducted yourselves, when you lived in that way.
But now you must put them all away:
anger, fury, malice, slander,
and obscene language out of your mouths.
Stop lying to one another,
since you have taken off the old self with its practices
and have put on the new self,
which is being renewed, for knowledge,
in the image of its creator.
Here there is not Greek and Jew,
circumcision and uncircumcision,
barbarian, Scythian, slave, free;
but Christ is all and in all.

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13AB

R. (9) The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the LORD and highly to be praised;
his greatness is unsearchable.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your Kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.
Making known to men your might
and the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.
Your Kingdom is a Kingdom for all ages,
and your dominion endures through all generations.
R. The Lord is compassionate toward all his works.

Alleluia LK 6:23AB

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Rejoice and leap for joy!
Your reward will be great in heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 6:20-26

Raising his eyes toward his disciples Jesus said:“Blessed are you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
Blessed are you who are now hungry,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who are now weeping,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
and when they exclude and insult you,
and denounce your name as evil
on account of the Son of Man.
Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Behold, your reward will be great in heaven.
For their ancestors treated the prophets
in the same way.But woe to you who are rich,
for you have received your consolation.
But woe to you who are filled now,
for you will be hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will grieve and weep.
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”