The School of the Lord’s Service, 14th Saturday (I), July 11, 2015

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Benedict
July 11, 2015
Gen 49:29-32.50:15-26, Ps 105, Mt 10:24-33

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today on this Feast of St. Benedict, the great founder of western monasticism and one of the greatest saints who ever lived, and within the heart of this Year of Consecrated Life, it’s key for us to grasp what he did. He founded the Benedictine Order, as he said in his famous Rule, as a “school of the Lord’s service.” Jesus told us in the Gospel, “No disciple is above his teacher. … It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,” and St. Benedict sought to become like his Master and to train others to enter that same school of the Lord’s service. St. Benedict and his Benedictine sons and daughters seek to serve the Lord in their prayer, especially their common liturgical prayer that he called the “opus Dei,” the work of God. They seek to serve the Lord in their work. Prior to St. Benedict’s revolution, manual work, like working the fields, being in shops, even copying manuscripts, were considered things done by slaves. The Benedictines sought to do it as slaves of the Lord, not in a slavish way, but learning from the Master in the school of service how to do it well. They also sought to serve the Lord in their study, zealously learning from the Master in such a way that they could not only live it but pass on as of the first important what they themselves received. Ora et labora et studium: They served the Lord and learned from him in this three course classroom of prayer, work, and study. Those remain the three principle courses in the life of every Christian. St. Benedict would finish his rule instructing them to put nothing before the love of God, and it is in prayer that we put God first, it is in our work that we seek to offer him the sacrifice of Abel, it’s in study that we come on fire for him and for the truth that he has revealed in so many settings.
  • Today in the Gospel, Jesus continues his instructions to the Twelve about the mission he was giving them to complete his own. It is the Master’s own school of divine service. It’s all meant to help them to go out in the person of Christ, with his words, with his authority, and even with his sufferings. Jesus lets them know that if they’ve insulted him and tried to ascribe his work to the devil, they will do the same to the Apostles and us. But he reiterates to us not to be afraid, but to speak in the light what Jesus says in the darkness, to proclaim on the housetops what he whispers. He reminds us that we have nothing to fear from those who will seek to kill our bodies but can’t harm our souls. This is what gave St. Paul the courage to proclaim the Gospel despite all the vicissitudes he encountered, because he knew that after fighting the good fight, finishing the race, keeping the faith and being poured out like a libation, a crown of righteousness was awaiting him. That God loved them all, had counted every strand of hair, and would care for them more than he cares for sparrows and lilies who never go without. The whole school of divine service was to get us to acknowledge Christ before others, literally to lead others to the knowledge of Christ.
  • In that school of the Lord’s service, perhaps the most important message of all is mercy. This is a message we need to learn so that we might proclaim it in light from the housetops. And in today’s first reading we see what in so many ways is the Old Testament prelude to Jesus’ famous Parable of the Prodigal Son. Joseph the Patriarch’s brothers are all worried that after Jacob their father’s death, Joseph will seek his revenge on them. They said, “Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!” Knowing their desperation, much like the Prodigal Son, they rehearse a speech to say to Joseph and finish by saying “Let us be your slaves!” They know that without the provisions Joseph would give they wouldn’t survive. But they still weren’t relating to Joseph as their brother because they still hadn’t realized the meaning of their father Jacob’s love. So Joseph said to them, “Have no fear. Can I take the place of God? Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good, to achieve his present end, the survival of many people. Therefore have no fear. I will provide for you and for your children.” Mercy is entering once more into a relationship of loving filiation and fraternity. Joseph was treating his brothers as brothers, while they were still viewing him as a slave master, much in the same way that both brothers in Jesus’ parable didn’t get the Father and his merciful love. In this school of the Lord’s service, in our prayer, work and study, we must focus above all on these lessons. And we see how central they are in God’s salvific plan. It was from these 10 brothers who so much needed mercy and to understand what it meant, and from Joseph and Benjamin who needed mercy and salvation in other ways, that the twelve tribes of Israel descended. The “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” one of Jesus’ titles in the Book of Revelation, descended from Judah who sought to kill and then sell his brother. All of the priests descended from Levi. The school of the Lord’s service teaches its lessons in surprising ways.
  • Today we come forward on this Feast of St. Benedict before the Master, who teaches us and then feeds and strengthens us for his service today through our prayer, through our work in welcoming so many who need help in choosing life, through our study. We are so grateful that in Christ in the Eucharist we meet mercy incarnate who provides for us and for our whole spiritual family like Joseph did his. And through that mercy, as we prayed this morning, we might conform our entire life with love and haste to what the Lord is asking, as we reiterate the prayer we made at the beginning of Mass today: “O God, who made the Abbot Saint Benedict an outstanding master in the school of divine service, grant, we pray, that, putting nothing before love of you, we may hasten with a loving heart in the way of your commands.” Amen!

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 GN 49:29-32; 50:15-26A

Jacob gave his sons this charge:
“Since I am about to be taken to my people,
bury me with my fathers in the cave that lies
in the field of Ephron the Hittite,
the cave in the field of Machpelah,
facing on Mamre, in the land of Canaan,
the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite
for a burial ground.
There Abraham and his wife Sarah are buried,
and so are Isaac and his wife Rebekah,
and there, too, I buried Leah–
the field and the cave in it
that had been purchased from the Hittites.”
Now that their father was dead,
Joseph’s brothers became fearful and thought,
“Suppose Joseph has been nursing a grudge against us
and now plans to pay us back in full for all the wrong we did him!”
So they approached Joseph and said:
“Before your father died, he gave us these instructions:
‘You shall say to Joseph, Jacob begs you
to forgive the criminal wrongdoing of your brothers,
who treated you so cruelly.’
Please, therefore, forgive the crime that we,
the servants of your father’s God, committed.”
When they spoke these words to him, Joseph broke into tears.
Then his brothers proceeded to fling themselves down before him
and said, “Let us be your slaves!”
But Joseph replied to them:
“Have no fear. Can I take the place of God?
Even though you meant harm to me, God meant it for good,
to achieve his present end, the survival of many people.
Therefore have no fear.
I will provide for you and for your children.”
By thus speaking kindly to them, he reassured them.Joseph remained in Egypt, together with his father’s family.
He lived a hundred and ten years.
He saw Ephraim’s children to the third generation,
and the children of Manasseh’s son Machir
were also born on Joseph’s knees.Joseph said to his brothers: “I am about to die.
God will surely take care of you and lead you out of this land to the land
that he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
Then, putting the sons of Israel under oath, he continued,
“When God thus takes care of you,
you must bring my bones up with you from this place.”
Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten.

Responsorial Psalm PS 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7

R. (see Psalm 69:33) Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Sing to him, sing his praise,
proclaim all his wondrous deeds.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
Glory in his holy name;
rejoice, O hearts that seek the LORD!
Look to the LORD in his strength;
seek to serve him constantly.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!
You descendants of Abraham, his servants,
sons of Jacob, his chosen ones!
He, the LORD, is our God;
throughout the earth his judgments prevail.
R. Be glad you lowly ones; may your hearts be glad!

Alleluia 1 PT 4:14

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you,
for the Spirit of God rests upon you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 10:24-33

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“No disciple is above his teacher,
no slave above his master.
It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher,
for the slave that he become like his master.
If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul,
how much more those of his household!
“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul;
rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy
both soul and body in Gehenna.
Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin?
Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.
Even all the hairs of your head are counted.
So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.
But whoever denies me before others,
I will deny before my heavenly Father.”
Annigoni_Glory of St Benedict
This is an image of St. Benedict in glory from the Abbey of Monte Cassino where St. Benedict is buried.