Remaining in Christ’s Peace While Confronting the Sword, 15th Monday (I), July 17, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of the Carmelite Martyrs of Compiègne
July 17, 2017
Ex 1:8-14.22, Ps 124, Mt 10:24-11:1

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today Jesus concludes his instructions to the Twelve about the mission he was entrusting to them and to us. We’ve already covered what they were to say, how they were supposed to accompany those word with deeds of healing, exorcism, and resurrection that would manifest God’s kingdom, and how they were to package that message in word and witness by the way they themselves gave evidence to God’s providence by their traveling without money sack or extra tunics, of his peace, love and joy by the way they would respond to each other, of his mercy by not holding grudges and taking them with them to the next town. Today, among several final points he makes, he focuses on one that has pervaded all of these instructions and on which we really should stop to ponder. It’s the theme of welcome and rejection.
  • As Jesus is preparing to send out the twelve, he gets them ready to identify those who are open to the Gospel by those who welcome them. He tells them to stay in the houses where they are welcomed not just as a courtesy, not just so that it wouldn’t be bad form to be looking for a better deal, but precisely to learn from those who welcome them one of the crucial aspects of the Gospel, the welcome necessary to embrace God and his word (as we were able to ponder yesterday in the Parable of the Sower and the Seed). Jesus goes on to say that there is a far deeper dynamic happening in their being welcomed: in welcoming them, they’re welcoming God himself:  “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me. Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever receives a righteous man because he is righteous will receive a righteous man’s reward. And whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones to drink because he is a disciple – amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.” That’s why one of the most important habits we need to cultivate in ourselves, and form in others, is this habit of welcoming, because in welcoming others, including strangers, not to mention in welcoming those sent out by the Church in Jesus’ name, we’re welcoming the Lord who has sent them as his emissaries.
  • But not everyone will receive Christ’s missionaries in this way and Jesus wants us to be prepared for that. He’s already spoken that some strangers won’t welcome us and if they don’t, to leave the city wiping the dust off our feet and moving on. But he describes a particularly difficult type of rejection. He says that even when we go to our very family members, they might not welcome us in Christ’s name, because they might reject that we have now made Christ first in our life, loving him above parents, above children, above siblings and friends, and embracing the Cross he gives above a life of comfort. He wanted us to be ready for that. He says something shocking: He whom Isaiah prophesied would be the “Prince of Peace” (Is 9:5), who was heralded by the angels at his birth as the one who would bring “peace on earth to men of good will,” who during the Last Supper would leave us his peace, and who in these very instructions to the Twelve told them to say to a household, “Peace be to his house!,” said at the end of these instructions, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s enemies will be those of his household.” This is not because Jesus came to divide: he came to gather and to save. But he was saying that not everyone would welcome him and if we were clinging to him more than to them, we would experience his rejection. We see this in families often when one member starts to go to Eucharistic Adoration or daily Mass or starts getting involved in charitable work: often the other family members can get jealous of where the person is spending his or her time and rather than supporting these changes for the better, they can begin to tease and oppose. These rejections from family members, these divisions that come when some (often sinfully) refuse to welcome God, including in their family members, are the toughest of all. How do we prepare for this? By welcoming Christ within, by experiencing the profound peace that comes from the tranquillity of order in the Bethany of our souls from loving him with all our mind, heart, soul and strength and loving others as he has loved us and them, being willing to die for them (even when we and them are treating him as an enemy). Jesus, as he has been explaining throughout these instructions, will give us all the grace we need to be “worthy of him” by embracing this Cross and following him, offering up the pain for the conversion of our beloved family members so that they, too, will welcome Jesus, welcome us and the other members of Christ’s body, and come to experience the peace Christ lives and wishes on the world.
  • The whole theme of welcoming and the sin of unwelcoming are featured prominently in today’s first reading. Pharaoh’s sins can be summarized all under this theme of the lack of hospitality to God and others. The passage from Exodus begins by saying, “A new king [pharoah], who knew nothing of Jesus, came to power in Egypt.” How is it possible that he knew nothing of Joseph? Joseph had helped to save the Egyptian people. He would have been one of the more famous servants of any pharaoh at any time. But the new pharaoh new nothing of him, almost assuredly because he was so self-centered that he had lost his memory, lost a sense of roots, lost a welcoming for all that his ancestors had done and accomplished. And that self-centered lack of hospitality would worsen. Even though Joseph was a Jew and pharaoh should have been extra generous to Joseph’s fellow Jews including some of his descendants, even though the Jews with their extraordinary diligence were building up Pharoah’s kingdom in a trustworthy way, he, paranoid, began to fear their growth. So he first treated them like slaves and then, when that wasn’t enough, started genocidally killing their male babies. His heart was closed and disintegrating through sin. And he was murdered, rather than welcoming, fellow human beings. When Moses would be sent to him, he would not even welcome the Lord who had commissioned him, or the Lord’s request. His heart was indeed hardened because there was no room in it for God or others.
  • Sisters, it goes without saying that you are on the front lines of the battle against this type of inhospitality, when many in our culture are celebrating the lack of welcoming, are structuring their sexuality with a firm “no” to welcoming the children who are naturally supposed to flow from the one-flesh union of a man and a woman and then, when a baby is conceived, they are tempted to continue that rejection by ending the life of that growing child. Many, like Pharaoh, can forget where they came from, that they were once the same size. Many, like Pharaoh, can be so self-centered that they can think that if they don’t want a child or haven’t chosen that child that it’s find for the child to be discarded. Such a culture of exclusion that leads to a culture of death we’re not made for. And that’s why your vocation is so important. In the midst of the diabolical temptations toward behaving like Pharaoh, you are there welcoming women in all types of situations and trying to help them show the same type of welcoming to the children growing within them. You give far more than a cup of cold water. And in receiving them, not only are you receiving Christ and the Father who sent him, but you’re also receiving a tremendous reward, here in this life in terms of the growth in love that you experience, and forever, as Jesus promised.
  • The second example we have today are the 16 Martyred Carmelite nuns of Compiègne, who 223 years ago today were beheaded one by one in Paris during the Terror of the French Revolution. These 11 Discalced nuns, three lay sisters and two Carmelite tertiaries, refused to obey the Civil Constitution that mandates the suppression of their monastery and pray for the restoration of peace to France and to the Church. They, spouses of Christ, were treated as traitors and experienced the sword of the guillotine. At the foot of the scaffold, they together renewed their vows and sang the Veni Creator Spiritus. As they mounted the scaffold, one by one, from the novice, to the lay sisters and externs, through the Prioress, they began to sing and kept singing until the last was killed. There are different accounts of what they were singing, probably unfamiliar were not totally familiar with the tunes. Some said they were singing the Salve Regina, as they were accustomed to do at Compline each day before going to bed, entrusting themselves to the Mother who prayed for them at every moment and was praying for them at the end of their life, preparing to show them after their exile the blessed fruit of her womb. Others say they were singing the Laudate Dominum, Psalm 117, which is sung at the foundation of a new monastery, because they were all being translated to the monastery of the Father’s house. The Reign of Terror ended only a few days after their martyrdom and it’s routinely ascribed that their blood extinguished the fire of that terror. They were who were the great servants of God and of France were rejected, but through that rejection and the way their blood continues eloquently to speak more than two centuries later, they are a continual source of conversion for us all.
  • Today as we come forward on their feast, we ask the Lord to help us to welcome him here, to embrace his word, to embrace each other, and to embrace him in his Real Presence, so that having received that peace, joy and love we may go out to the world and create a culture of welcome even if in doing so we will experience rejection and even martyrdom. Our help is indeed in the name of the Lord who comes to strengthen us for this mission. May our welcoming of him today here at Mass help us to recognize and welcome him in all we will meet and help us to be courageous in giving witness to him until the end!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Ex 1:8-14, 22

A new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt.
He said to his subjects, “Look how numerous and powerful
the people of the children of Israel are growing, more so than we ourselves!
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase;
otherwise, in time of war they too may join our enemies
to fight against us, and so leave our country.”
Accordingly, taskmasters were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Thus they had to build for Pharaoh
the supply cities of Pithom and Raamses.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and spread.
The Egyptians, then, dreaded the children of Israel
and reduced them to cruel slavery,
making life bitter for them with hard work in mortar and brick
and all kinds of field work—the whole cruel fate of slaves.
Pharaoh then commanded all his subjects,
“Throw into the river every boy that is born to the Hebrews,
but you may let all the girls live.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 124:1b-3, 4-6, 7-8

R. (8a) Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Had not the LORD been with us–
let Israel say, had not the LORD been with us–
When men rose up against us,
then would they have swallowed us alive,
When their fury was inflamed against us.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
Then would the waters have overwhelmed us;
The torrent would have swept over us;
over us then would have swept
the raging waters.
Blessed be the LORD, who did not leave us
a prey to their teeth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.
We were rescued like a bird
from the fowlers’ snare;
Broken was the snare,
and we were freed.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
R. Our help is in the name of the Lord.

Alleluia Mt 5:10

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mt 10:34—11:1

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
For I have come to set
a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;
and one’s enemies will be those of his household.
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,
and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
and whoever does not take up his cross
and follow after me is not worthy of me.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“Whoever receives you receives me,
and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.
Whoever receives a prophet because he is a prophet
will receive a prophet’s reward,
and whoever receives a righteous man
because he is righteous
will receive a righteous man’s reward.
And whoever gives only a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones to drink
because he is a disciple–
amen, I say to you, he will surely not lose his reward.”When Jesus finished giving these commands to his Twelve disciples,
he went away from that place to teach and to preach in their towns.