The Obedient and Receptive Listening that Strengthens Divine Filiation and Christian Fraternity, 24th Tuesday (II), September 20, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time
Memorial of Saint Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions, Martyrs
September 20, 2016
Prov 21:1-6.10-13, Ps 119, Lk 8:19-21

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

 

  • On Saturday, Jesus spoke to us the Parable of the Sower and the Seed, which is a means by which to assess our receptivity and responsiveness to Christ’s words and work in our life. Yesterday we look at how, in order to receive on good soil, we must take care of how we hear, receive God’s word as light to be shared, and then act on it in such a way that, like a muscle or a talent, it will grow. Today we see a beautiful illustration of that lesson in the reference to Jesus’ mother, who not just conceived Jesus in her womb, but conceived him in faith. When the people told Jesus that his mother and his relatives (there’s no separate word in Aramaic and Hebrew to distinguish siblings from cousins) were outside wishing to see him, he replied, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” This was not a violation of the fourth commandment and a put down of his mother, but, like we’ll hear later in St. Luke’s Gospel in the scene of the anonymous woman from the crowd blessing the mother who bore and nursed him, Jesus was giving the real secret to his mother’s greatness: she was the first of all those who would “hear the word of God and act on it,” someone whose whole life developed in accordance with the word of God.
  • Jesus came from heaven to earth to found a family and that family would be constituted by loving obedience to God’s will, together with Jesus’ obedience. St. John in his prologue focused on the connection between these two realities as well: that Jesus came unto his own, but his own did not receive him, but to those who did receive him, he gave power to become children of God. As we accept Jesus by his own grace, he constitutes and confirms us as children of God.
  • We see this connection between faithful receptive fruitfulness and filiation illustrated as well in the story of the Korean martyrs. In the Opening Prayer today, we turned to God and asked, “O God, who have been pleased in increase your adopted children in all the world and who made the blood of the Martyrs Saint Andrew Kim Taegon and his companions a most fruitful seed of Christians,” something that shows that we become and behave as children of God through becoming fruitful seeds in response to Christ’s seed. And that seeds was sown in blood. As Tertullian wrote 1800 years ago, sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians. This is clearly the case of the Korean martyrs. In the late 1700s, some educated Korean laypeople found some texts from the Jesuit priests who were missionaries in China. Because Korea was so xenophobic, it didn’t allow any foreigners in the country, including missionaries. But these lay people, searching for the truth, found that the truth had a name. They baptized each other and tried to live the faith as best they could. When finally missionaries were smuggled in later, they found that there were already 4,000 Catholics present. And these Catholics were willing to suffer for the faith. There were 6 ferocious anti-Christian persecution waves — in 1791, 1801, 1827, 1839, 1846, and 1866 — but none of them had the purpose that the Korean authorities wanted, of intimidating those who remained out of the practice of the faith. They continued to persevere. Today we celebrate St. Andrew Kim Taegon, who was the first Korean priest. At the age of 15, he was identified by a smuggled French missionary priest as someone with a priestly vocation, and he was sent to walk by foot over 1000 miles to study in a seminary in Macão. While he was away, his father, a convert, was tortured and martyred in the 1839 persecution. Fr. Andrew returned in order to sow the faith that had been sown in him and he would die in the persecution of 1846. While he was in prison awaiting execution, he wrote a letter to his fellow Korean Catholics to strengthen them in the faith. It continued the whole image of sowing and bearing fruit. He first asked what good would their baptism be “if we are Christians in name alone and not in fact? We would have come into the world for nothing, we would have entered the Church for nothing, and we would have betrayed even God and his grace. It would be better never to have been born than to receive the grace of God and then to sin against him” by betraying the faith under duress. He then turned to an agricultural image, much like the Parable of the Sower and Seed: “Look at the farmer who cultivates his rice fields. In season he plows, then fertilizes the earth; never counting the cost, he labors under the sun to nurture the seed he has planted. When harvest time comes and the rice crop is abundant, forgetting his labor and sweat, he rejoices with an exultant heart. … The Lord is like a farmer and we are the field of rice that he fertilizes with his grace and by the mystery of the incarnation and the redemption irrigates with his blood, in order that we will grow and reach maturity. When harvest time comes, the day of judgment, those who have grown to maturity in the grace of God will find the joy of adopted children in the kingdom of heaven.”
  • Then he specifically called them to bear that fruit of fidelity with courage, knowing that suffering waters the seed of their faith and makes it grow by testing it: “Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded his Church; now he gives it increase through the sufferings of his faithful. No matter how fiercely the powers of this world oppress and oppose the Church, they will never bring it down. Ever since his ascension and from the time of the apostles to the present, the Lord Jesus has made his Church grow even in the midst of tribulations. For the last fifty or sixty years, ever since the coming of the Church to our own land of Korea, the faithful have suffered persecution over and over again. Persecution still rages and as a result many who are friends in the household of the faith, myself among them, have been thrown into prison and like you are experiencing severe distress.… But, as the Scriptures say, God numbers the very hairs of our head and in his all-embracing providence he has care over us all. Persecution, therefore, can only be regarded as the command of the Lord or as a prize he gives or as a punishment he permits. Hold fast, then, to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished.” This is the example that we asked God at the beginning of Mass today to help us profit from always!
  • Two years ago Pope Francis went to Korea to beatify another 123 of the great martyrs of Korea. There he wanted to help not only Korean Christians today but Catholics everywhere to ponder their example and profit from it in imitation. He said, continuing the agricultural image Jesus employs in the Parable of the Sower of the Seed, “The victory of the martyrs, their witness to the power of God’s love, continues to bear fruit today in Korea, in the Church which received growth from their sacrifice.… Soon after the first seeds of faith were planted in this land, the martyrs and the Christian community had to choose between following Jesus or the world. They had heard the Lord’s warning that the world would hate them because of him (Jn 17:14); they knew the cost of discipleship. For many, this meant persecution, and later flight to the mountains, where they formed Catholic villages. They were willing to make great sacrifices and let themselves be stripped of whatever kept them from Christ – possessions and land, prestige and honor – for they knew that Christ alone was their true treasure.” He went on to apply the example of their witness to our own situation: “So often we today can find our faith challenged by the world, and in countless ways we are asked to compromise our faith, to water down the radical demands of the Gospel and to conform to the spirit of this age. Yet the martyrs call out to us to put Christ first and to see all else in this world in relation to him and his eternal Kingdom. They challenge us to think about what, if anything, we ourselves would be willing to die for.” Are we willing to sow ourselves for the faith that has been sown in us? Will we conform ourselves to Christ in his suffering, death and resurrection, or seek to conform ourselves to this staurophobic (cross-fearing) age? Are we willing to die for him who died for us, to become like him a fruitful grain of wheat for the world’s salvation?
  • Today as we celebrate this Mass, the Lord wants to sow his word in our ears, minds and generous hearts, so that we, like Mary, can become his mother in the faith, conceiving that word within and allowing it to grow until we give birth to it in loving needs; so that we, as his siblings, might imitate and cooperate with his holy obedience. As Jesus sows himself within us today, we ask him to help us to stay united and help others to come into a similar communion!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 PRV 21:1-6, 10-13

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the LORD;
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.
All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the LORD who proves hearts.To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.Haughty eyes and a proud heart–
the tillage of the wicked is sin.The plans of the diligent are sure of profit,
but all rash haste leads certainly to poverty.

Whoever makes a fortune by a lying tongue
is chasing a bubble over deadly snares.

The soul of the wicked man desires evil;
his neighbor finds no pity in his eyes.

When the arrogant man is punished, the simple are the wiser;
when the wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.

The just man appraises the house of the wicked:
there is one who brings down the wicked to ruin.

He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself also call and not be heard.

Responsorial Psalm PS 119:1, 27, 30, 34, 35, 44

R. (35) Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Blessed are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the LORD.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Make me understand the way of your precepts,
and I will meditate on your wondrous deeds.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
The way of truth I have chosen;
I have set your ordinances before me.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Give me discernment, that I may observe your law
and keep it with all my heart.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
Lead me in the path of your commands,
for in it I delight.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.
And I will keep your law continually,
forever and ever.
R. Guide me, Lord, in the way of your commands.

Alleluia LK 11:28

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are those who hear the word of God
and observe it.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel LK 8:19-21

The mother of Jesus and his brothers came to him
but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told,
“Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”
He said to them in reply,
“My mother and my brothers
are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

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