Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola
July 31, 2015
Lev 23:1.4-11.15-16.27.34-37, Ps 81, Mt 13:54-58
To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below:
The following points were attempted in the homily:
- Over the past eight days, Jesus has been illustrating the truth of the Kingdom of God and how to enter it through seven parables of the Sower and the Seed, the Weeds and Wheat, The Mustard Seed, the Leaven, The Buried Treasure, the Pearl of Great Price and the Dragnet. Today in the scene from his hometown of Nazareth we see them being illustrated.
- When Jesus stands up to read from the prophet Isaiah and give a homily in the Nazarene Synagogue on the Sabbath, the people seem to receive what he says on rocky soil but it really is hardened soil by the way side. They are astonished, not so much by his words, but by who was saying them. “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary? Where did this man get all this?” They were totally hardened to the possibility that someone they had basically grown up around could be the Messiah as Jesus’ words, remembered for us by St. Luke, attest. And that’s what led to their taking offense at him and eventually seeking to kill him by tossing off of the precipice on which the upper city of Nazareth had been built.
- But also in Nazareth, we find good soil. We find it in the Blessed Virgin Mary, the soil of whose receptive response not just produced fruit, but the Blessed Fruit who is the Word of God made flesh. She was one whom, as soon as she was aware of what God was asking through the Angel Gabriel, replied, “Let it be done to me according to thy word,” the sincere paradigmatic refrain of everyone with truly good soil. We find it in St. Joseph, who, as soon as the Angel told him in not to be afraid to take Mary, his wife, into his home after she had become pregnant by means other than through him, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded. Mary and Joseph show us what good soil looks like, how the wheat grows up in the midst of weeds and how in God’s net are found both “good” and “evil”, how what starts small can save the world, how one or two fiats can lift up the world, and how to consider everything else as loss compared with the joy of choosing God as the treasure and pearl of great price.
- It’s worth noting that Jesus sought to do his work among his fellow Nazarenes in the synagogue on the Sabbath, in the midst of their worship. That’s where Jesus seeks to do so much of his saving work, sowing his seed and hoping to transform those who receive him on good soil, that he can sow them in the world as mustard seeds or place them as leaven who have chosen God as the treasure he is. God seeks to transform us through worship to be able to complete his work in the world. We see that in all of the liturgical feasts he prescribes for the Jews in the first reading. He gives them a list of celebrations, but what’s striking is the rhythm of “work” and “rest” he prescribes and how God seeks to incorporate the fruit of their labor and of his provident generosity into the oblations made — gifts of the first fruits, of the cereals they’ve made from the grain and more. Their work is supposed to become “liturgy,” which is the Greek word for “public work” of the people for God. In all these ways, God was preparing them to glorify him through becoming fully alive through worship, for as the great St. Ireneus taught 1820 years ago, “the glory of God is man fully alive and the life of man is the vision of God.” God was preparing them for work through worship, because it is through worship that God was doing his work in them, planting those seeds of glory.
- We see this in a very deep and beautiful way in today’s Gospel. St. Matthew describes St. Joseph as a “tekton,” which is normally translated into English as “carpenter,” but it’s so much greater than a carpenter. I often translate the term as a “construction worker” because a tekton would build using lots of materials, not just wood. But perhaps the best translation would be an “architect” who would build according to his blueprints. In being regarded, therefore, as the “son of the tekton,” Jesus’ contemporaries did not know how right they were. While they were mistaken in thinking him Joseph’s son according to the flesh — though he was his son according to the law — they were mysteriously exactly right because he was the eternal Son not only of the Architect of the Universe, of Creation and Redemption, but of the One who would build him as the definitive temple for worship and seek to build us up in him. We can recall the famous seen between David and Nathan when David was scandalized that he was living in a house of cedar while the ark of the Lord was dwelling in a tent. David wanted to build something glorious for God and asked Nathan about it and the prophet told him that it was obviously a good thing to do and he should go for it. But the Lord spoke to Nathan and sent him back to David saying that he wasn’t going to allow David to build him a house; God, rather, was going to build a house for David that would know no end. And that’s precisely what God did through David’s descendant according to the flesh, God’s own co-eternal Son. God, the divine tekton, wants to incorporate us into that same great building plan. St. Paul and St. Peter both describe how God wants to build us into a spiritual edifice on Christ the Cornerstone, how we are to be built up on the pillars of the apostles as living stones into a spiritual edifice. That’s what the King does for those in his Kingdom — he makes us a part of the living royal palace in which he dwells! God’s greater glory happens when we cooperate fully with his plans to build us a house in his Son!
- These thoughts are a fitting introduction to the celebration of today’s feast. Just like God had decreed a list of liturgical feast for the people of Israel, so for us we have not only the cycle of the great feasts of the Lord throughout the liturgical year, but we also have the sanctoral cycle, the great holy ones whose feasts fall on the days on which God has come to call them home to heaven. Today by God’s providence and love we celebrate the great founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. The motto he was led in prayer by God to make for the Company of Jesus was Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam: not just to the great glory of God but to the greater glory of God. St. Ignatius meant by the principle that we should always choose the path that would allow us to give the greatest possible glory to God. Within today’s readings, we could say that that path of greatest glory is allowing God to glorify his Son in us and bring us fully alive, bring us fully into the kingdom, build us up into his holy dwelling place, transform our life in such a way that our entire life will be liturgical.
- St. Ignatius didn’t always receive this vocation to holiness on good soil. There was a time when his life would have easily been considered a weed or a bad fish, but once he discovered what the true treasure and pearl of his life would be, he eventually became far more leaven or a mustard seed, but founded a Congregation that has allowed not just the “birds of the air” but so many millions of people in the missions, education and in service to the poor to find refuge.
- Until he was 30, St. Ignatius sought his own glory, hungering after worldly honor to placate his vanity on the battlefield. But then, in a battle, he had his left leg shattered by a cannonball, and that was the greatest gift he could have received at the time. While he was convalescing, after exhausting all the romances and knights’ tales he had in his castle, he read a book on the lives of the saints and was pierced by his own shallowness in compared to their substance. He was moved by the saints’ valor and heroism. He grasped that they were fighting the good fight in the battle that counted most. And he asked one of the most important questions in the history of hagiography: “Why can’t I do what Francis of Assisi did? Why can’t I do what Dominic of Guzman did?” He knew that they were men just like him, but men who said yes to God, men who did the Lord’s work and allowed the Lord to work through them. And Ignatius made the commitment to serve the true King and help extend his kingdom. His transformation was arduous. He spent nine months in a cave in Manresa praying, turning his wish into a firm will, allowing God to do the difficult work of removing the thorn bushes, drilling through the rocky layers, and overturning hardened earth. The interior struggles he went through as he pondered his sinfulness and Christ’s beauty eventually became his famous Spiritual Exercises, the most popular and influential retreat manual in history. He then knew he would need an education to be of much use, so, in his 30s, he returned to grammar school with young children in order to learn Latin before going for advanced degrees in universities. It was at the famous University of Paris that he met the other first Jesuits, including his roommates, the future St. Francis Xavier and St. Peter Favre, and he helped them to become truly good soil, leaven and seed the Lord could so in the world — and they became the heralds of the King and helped to call the whole Church back to God’s original building plans after the scandals that led to the Protestant Reformation. Their lives in cooperation to God’s grace was done all for God’s greater glory and they continue that maximal glorification with God’s heavenly throne.
- Today it’s important for us to ask, “Why can’t I do what Ignatius has done?” Why can’t I open myself up to God’s grace and seek his greater glory? Why can’t I be formed by God into a spiritual edifice so that the work he gives me will be part of his eternal glory? That’s what God wants to do in us. That’s what we do in the liturgy. That’s what is meant to happen in the liturgical cycle. That’s what God the Father builds us into by nourishing us with, and uniting us in, his Son, who comes to us in his own native place seeking that we welcome him, not like most of the Nazarenes, but as Mary and Joseph did. Through the graces we receive here, may God help us convert all the work we do today into a liturgy of the hours as we seek to do it all through Christ, with him and in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all to the Father’s honor and greater glory forever and ever!
The readings for today’s Mass were:
Reading 1 Lv 23:1, 4-11, 15-16, 27, 34b-37
“These are the festivals of the LORD which you shall celebrate
at their proper time with a sacred assembly.
The Passover of the LORD falls on the fourteenth day of the first month,
at the evening twilight.
The fifteenth day of this month is the LORD’s feast of Unleavened Bread.
For seven days you shall eat unleavened bread.
On the first of these days you shall hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.
On each of the seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD.
Then on the seventh day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and do no sort of work.”The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the children of Israel and tell them:
When you come into the land which I am giving you,
and reap your harvest,
you shall bring a sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest
to the priest, who shall wave the sheaf before the LORD
that it may be acceptable for you.
On the day after the sabbath the priest shall do this.“Beginning with the day after the sabbath,
the day on which you bring the wave-offering sheaf,
you shall count seven full weeks,
and then on the day after the seventh week, the fiftieth day,
you shall present the new cereal offering to the LORD.“The tenth of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement,
when you shall hold a sacred assembly and mortify yourselves
and offer an oblation to the LORD.
“The fifteenth day of this seventh month is the LORD’s feast of Booths,
which shall continue for seven days.
On the first day there shall be a sacred assembly,
and you shall do no sort of work.
For seven days you shall offer an oblation to the LORD,
and on the eighth day you shall again hold a sacred assembly
and offer an oblation to the LORD.
On that solemn closing you shall do no sort of work.
“These, therefore, are the festivals of the LORD
on which you shall proclaim a sacred assembly,
and offer as an oblation to the LORD burnt offerings and cereal offerings,
sacrifices and libations, as prescribed for each day.”
Responsorial Psalm PS 81:3-4, 5-6, 10-11ab
Take up a melody, and sound the timbrel,
the pleasant harp and the lyre.
Blow the trumpet at the new moon,
at the full moon, on our solemn feast.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
For it is a statute in Israel,
an ordinance of the God of Jacob,
Who made it a decree for Joseph
when he came forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
There shall be no strange god among you
nor shall you worship any alien god.
I, the LORD, am your God
who led you forth from the land of Egypt.
R. Sing with joy to God our help.
Alleluia 1 Pt 1:25
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The word of the Lord remains forever;
this is the word that has been proclaimed to you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Mt 13:54-58
They were astonished and said,
“Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter’s son?
Is not his mother named Mary
and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
Are not his sisters all with us?
Where did this man get all this?”
And they took offense at him.
But Jesus said to them,
“A prophet is not without honor except in his native place
and in his own house.”
And he did not work many mighty deeds there
because of their lack of faith.