Longing to See God through Prayer and Chastity, Tenth Friday (II), June 10, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Tenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
Memorial of St. Landry, Bishop (Paris, d. 660)
June 10, 2016
1 Kings 19:9.11-16, Ps 27, Mt 5:27-32

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily:

  • Today Jesus continues to sketch out for us how the righteousness, the holiness, of his followers must surpass that of the scribes and the Pharisees, going from externalism to an inner conformity with the very life of Jesus. Jesus was helping us to interiorize the law he had desired to write on our hearts, so that we would act with integrity, not hypocrisy, with deeds and words flowing from a heart united with the Lord. Today he advances the argument.
  • In the Responsorial Psalm, we pray, “I long to see your face, O Lord,” and that points to the desire that leads to vision that then transforms a life. We see two types of longing for sight in the readings today. The first is to see the Lord in prayer, which is the journey on which God led the Prophet Elijah in the first reading, and Elijah, on Mt. Horeb, didn’t find God in the various manifestations that Moses did when he was at the top of the mountain — in the howling wind, the earthquakes or the fire of a burning bush — but in the whisper of a gentle breeze. God doesn’t always respond according to our expectations in granting the desires he plants within us. He can sometimes come in the least suspecting ways. But when we long to see his face, we’ll be able to find that face speaking to us even in something small like a gentle breeze.
  • In the Gospel, we see that longing and vision on display in Jesus’ words about adultery of the heart. He tells us that someone who has looked on a woman with lust has committed in his heart the sin of adultery. Lust begins with an unholy longing in the heart that passes to what St. John Paul II called a type of porno-vision, when we seek to appropriate, possess, objectify, rather than love, serve and die for the one beheld. Lust changes the entire intentionality of a human person, St. John Paul II said, from a self-giver to a taker, from someone called to lay down his life out of love for others to someone who sacrifices someone else for his own pleasures. The righteousness Jesus wants of us begins with chaste longings and chaste looking, something that views the person as a whole, rather than objectifying and abstracting the person’s values through the prism of meeting one’s desire or needs. Chastity, as John Paul II taught in his Theology of the Body, is linked to purity and to piety: purity allows us to “see God” (Mt 5:6) in others rather than make that person an idol, or idolize our own urges; piety allows us to reverence the God we see. Rather than the adulterous desiring and looking that Jesus says we should brutally root out of our life — with graphic language about plucking out eyes and chopping off hands — Jesus wants us to replace it with holy longing and vision that leads to a genuine love, which often involves forsaking human romantic love according to the other person’s or to one’s own situation in life. Adulterous desires, looks and actions are actually similarly adulterous in terms of our spousal Covenant with God, and God’s righteousness — and the help of the Holy Spirit — call us to a different way of life.
  • Someone who had a holy longing to see God in prayer and in others in such a way to love them with purity and piety was St. Landry, Bishop of Paris in the middle of the Seventh Century. Not many people — outside of Louisiana, where there is a whole country named after him and a huge Church in Opelousas where I celebrated my tenth Mass a week or so after my ordination — have a devotion to him, but in Paris there’s a chapel dedicated to him at Notre Dame Cathedral not to mention a beautiful one in St. Germain L’Auxerrois, where his relics were interred until they were destroyed during the French Revolution. St. Landry had a great longing to see God’s face and found them in a particular in the poor and in the sick. He sold all of his own personal property and much of what the Church had to care for the poor of Paris during a famine and, because there were no hospitals to speak of at the time, he built the first, which he dedicated to St. Christopher, because so many of the sick were pilgrims who had no family to care for them. Eventually this hospital grew to become the huge institution called Hotel Dieu, God’s hotel, where he sought to treat patients like they were Christ saying to him, “I will ill and you cared for me.” His longing to see Christ in prayer allowed him to see Christ far more easily in his image, even when that image was sick, disfigured and ill.
  • Today we come to find the Lord not in an earthquake, strong driving wind, or fire, but in the gentle whisper of the Word of God and under the appearance of simple Bread and Wine. God asks us, like he asked Elijah, “Why are you here?,” and we respond that we’ve come longing for him. He’ll send us out not on a journey of nearly 1,000 miles from Mt. Horeb to Damascus, to complete our task as Elijah was sent to anoint kings and his prophetic successor, but out into the streets of Manhattan to complete the task he’s given us today, as we seek to find him in the events and persons we encounter. The Lord indeed responds to our longing by allowing us to behold his humble face in the Eucharist and in the events of the day. May his pure longing and vision become our own!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 KGS 19:9A, 11-16

At the mountain of God, Horeb,
Elijah came to a cave, where he took shelter.
But the word of the LORD came to him,
“Go outside and stand on the mountain before the LORD;
the LORD will be passing by.”
A strong and heavy wind was rending the mountains
and crushing rocks before the LORD—
but the LORD was not in the wind.
After the wind there was an earthquake—
but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake there was fire—
but the LORD was not in the fire.
After the fire there was a tiny whispering sound.
When he heard this,
Elijah hid his face in his cloak
and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.
A voice said to him, “Elijah, why are you here?”
He replied, “I have been most zealous for the LORD,
the God of hosts.
But the children of Israel have forsaken your covenant,
torn down your altars,
and put your prophets to the sword.
I alone am left, and they seek to take my life.”
The LORD said to him,
“Go, take the road back to the desert near Damascus.
When you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king of Aram.
Then you shall anoint Jehu, son of Nimshi, as king of Israel,
and Elisha, son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah,
as prophet to succeed you.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 27:7-8A, 8B-9ABC, 13-14

R. (8b) I long to see your face, O Lord.
Hear, O LORD, the sound of my call;
have pity on me, and answer me.
Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.
R. I long to see your face, O Lord.
Your presence, O LORD, I seek.
Hide not your face from me;
do not in anger repel your servant.
You are my helper: cast me not off.
R. I long to see your face, O Lord.
I believe that I shall see the bounty of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD with courage;
be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.
R. I long to see your face, O Lord.

Alleluia PHIL 2:15D, 16A

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Shine like lights on the world,
as you hold on to the word of life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 5:27-32

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery.
But I say to you,
everyone who looks at a woman with lust
has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin,
tear it out and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
And if your right hand causes you to sin,
cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one of your members
than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.“It was also said,
Whoever divorces his wife must give her a bill of divorce.
But I say to you,
whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful)
causes her to commit adultery,
and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

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