The Leaven of Cruciform Integrity, 28th Friday (I), October 20, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Paul of the Cross
October 20, 2017
Rom 4:1-8, Ps 32, Lk 12:1-7

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • We should be aware of the times Jesus says “beware.” He means that we should be totally on our guard. Today he says, “Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.” While we do not have a Pharisaical party today as he confronted in his own day, we still have pharisaical leaven. Jesus defines it as a particular form of hypocrisy and says it is a double-life that can, like leaven affects dough, infect others around it. Hypocrisy comes from the Greek work for acting and there are two ways we can describe today in which one can be a hypocrite.
  • The first is by pretending to be someone he isn’t. The Pharisees were actors in this sense because they were concerned only with external deeds, not the heart. At the same time they were meticulously washing their hands and conspicuously and supposedly seeking to carry out the works of the Mosaic law, many of them were plotting to murder Jesus. Against this type of hypocrisy, Jesus tells us today that there is nothing hidden that will not come to light.
  • The second form of hypocrisy is shrinking from living according to what we believe out of fear, when Christians, for example, fail to say or do what needs to be said or done lest they suffer for following their Christian faith. Against this type of hypocrisy, Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t fear those who can only kill the body, but rather fear God more who can destroy both body and soul. We should care far more, in other words, about what God thinks and wants than what others think, including those who are threatening to kill our bodies. In the same way that God can cast body and soul into Gehenna, he can also raise us from the dead, a reality shown in Jesus’ resurrection that helped the apostles go from cowards on Holy Thursday to intrepid evangelists after Pentecost, when they refused to be intimidated by the threats of the same Sanhedrin that weeks before had publicly conspired to execute Jesus. When Jesus, however, tells us to “fear” God, he doesn’t want us to relate to him as if he is some type of punishing sadist. Jesus describes that the Father loves us so much more than the sparrows and cares for everything so carefully that he counts every strand of our hair. So Jesus is saying, essentially, don’t be afraid but live your faith in the Father’s love with confidence. Act on your faith. Live it boldly. Be leaven, be salt, be light.
  • St. Paul used to be a Pharisee and knew well the type of leaven of which Jesus is warning us today. In his Epistle to the Romans he was warning against that type of externalist leaven invading the Church, something that was happening among the Judaizing Christians in the capital who thought that in order to be a good Christian they first needed to be a good Jew. Rather than being saved by our own actions, essentially by our ourselves, St. Paul is stressing that we’re saved by God’s action, his grace, received and responded to by faith. To convince the Jews and Judaized Christians in Rome that this is true St. Paul mentions how Abraham was saved by faith, the faith to leave Ur, the faith to believe he would become a dad, the faith even to sacrifice Isaac knowing that God could raise him from the dead as the son of the promise. Abraham was not hypocrite but lived according to faith.
  • Today we celebrate a great son of Abraham and the Church, who lived by faith, St. Paul of the Cross, who was canonized 150 years ago this year. He is someone to whom the Sisters of Life ought to have a great devotion, since he was the founder of the Passionists who run St. John and Paul Church on the Coelian Hill in Rome, which was the titular Church of John Cardinal O’Connor. His tomb is in the beautiful chapel off the right side of the nave. I think it’s without doubt that Cardinal O’Connor prayed in front of St. Paul of the Cross’ tomb very often, prayed for his sanctity, prayed for the Archdiocese, prayed about the seed God had planted to found an order of sisters to pray, fast and work to defend and advance the dignity of very human life. St. Paul of the Cross (1694-1775) learned how to live with Christian integrity from his very devout parents, who had 16 kids, ten of whom died in infancy, and so they were very accustomed to real suffering. He suffered with physical pains throughout his life, but when he was young, his Mother would bring him a crucifix so that he would learn how to unite that suffering to Christ’s suffering for the salvation of the world. When he was 26, the Lord in a vision allowed him in a vision to see himself clothed in a black habit with the a Cross about a heart saying “Passion of Jesus Christ.” He heard these words spoken to him, “This is to show how pure the heart must be that bears the holy name of Jesus graven upon it.” St. Paul’s heart, our heart, is inscribed from our baptism with the Passion of Jesus, with his Cross, but we need to live that reality with integrity, not hypocrisy. It’s not enough for us to sing, on September 14 each year or in Lent, “Lift High the Cross!” but then complain about the Crosses given to us. We can’t say we’re a disciple of Jesus — who says that to be his follower we must deny ourselves, pick up our Cross daily and follow him — unless we actually are denying ourselves, picking up our Cross each day and following Jesus’ footsteps. We can’t be the type of leaven Jesus wants us to become unless our heart is cruciform, unless we’re willing to pour ourselves out in love as Christ did for us. St. Paul of the Cross, like his apostolic namesake, glorified in the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ by which the world was crucified to him and he to the world. He preached nothing but Christ crucified, often holding a large Crucifix when he would preach. He was able to say that the life he was living in the flesh he was living by faith in the Son of God because he had been crucified with Christ to make that type of life possible. And he loved and celebrated the Cross as a great gift. In the breviary lesson in the Office of Readings we ponder this morning, there’s a beautiful — and challenging! — passage in which he says, “When you become true lovers of the Crucified, you will always celebrate the feast of the cross in the inner temple of the soul, bearing all in silence and not relying on any creature. Since festivals ought to be celebrated joyfully, those who love the Crucified should honor the feast of the cross by enduring in silence with a serene and joyful countenance, so that their suffering remains hidden from men and is observed by God alone. For in this feast there is always a solemn banquet, and the food presented is the will of God, exemplified by the love of our crucified Christ.” He celebrated it because “by this sacred path we reach union with God. In this most holy school we learn true wisdom, for it was there that all the saints learned it.” And he urged all who listened to him not to be hypocrites when it came to the Cross but live with integrity: “Live in such a way that all may know that you bear outwardly as well as inwardly the image of Christ crucified, the model of all gentleness and mercy. For if a man is united inwardly with the Son of the living God, he also bears his likeness outwardly by his continual practice of heroic goodness, and especially through a patience reinforced by courage.” That’s what we prayed for today in the Collect, when we asked, “May the Priest Saint Paul, whose only love was the Cross, obtain for us your grace, O Lord, so that, urged on more strongly by his example, we may each embrace our own cross with courage.” 
  • And he received his strength each day from the Mass, in which we eat and drink the very Body and Blood that was offered on the Cross for us. May we receive Christ today as a holy leaven and cooperate with him as he seeks to expand his influence, and his cruciform love, into all parts of our life.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were:

Reading 1 ROM 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters:
What can we say that Abraham found,
our ancestor according to the flesh?
Indeed, if Abraham was justified on the basis of his works,
he has reason to boast;
but this was not so in the sight of God.
For what does the Scripture say?
Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
A worker’s wage is credited not as a gift, but as something due.
But when one does not work,
yet believes in the one who justifies the ungodly,
his faith is credited as righteousness.
So also David declares the blessedness of the person
to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven
and whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not record.

Responsorial Psalm PS 32:1B-2, 5, 11

R. (see 7) I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Blessed is he whose fault is taken away,
whose sin is covered.
Blessed the man to whom the LORD imputes not guilt,
in whose spirit there is no guile.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
my guilt I covered not.
I said, “I confess my faults to the LORD,”
and you took away the guilt of my sin.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you just;
exult, all you upright of heart.
R. I turn to you, Lord, in time of trouble, and you fill me with the joy of salvation.

Alleluia PS 33:22

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
May your kindness, O LORD, be upon us;
who have put our hope in you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 12:1-7

At that time:
So many people were crowding together
that they were trampling one another underfoot.
Jesus began to speak, first to his disciples,
“Beware of the leaven–that is, the hypocrisy–of the Pharisees.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
Therefore whatever you have said in the darkness
will be heard in the light,
and what you have whispered behind closed doors
will be proclaimed on the housetops.
I tell you, my friends,
do not be afraid of those who kill the body
but after that can do no more.
I shall show you whom to fear.
Be afraid of the one who after killing
has the power to cast into Gehenna;
yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one.
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins?
Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God.
Even the hairs of your head have all been counted.
Do not be afraid.
You are worth more than many sparrows.”