The Vindication of Wisdom in God’s Children, 24th Wednesday (I), September 20, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the 24th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of SS. Andrew Kim Taegon, Paul Chong Hasang and Companions
September 20, 2017
1 Tim 3:14-16, Ps 111, Lk 7:31-36

 

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

 

The following points were attempted in today’s homily: 

  •  In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares the people of the generation to whom he was preaching as “children who sit in the marketplace.” He says they call out to each other, “We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge for you, but you did not weep.” Jesus was essentially correcting them about two aspects of childish immaturity that was preventing their becoming disciples. The first is that they were seated. They were not willing to get up and follow him along the way of discipleship. They were not willing to change. The second is that that they wanted to be the ones playing the tune to which others would dance. If they were playing a joyful tune on the flute, they wanted people to dance a jitterbug; if they were playing a dirge or a fado, they wanted people weeping. They were not willing to align themselves to the ever new song, the lyrics (Word of God) and melody (tone) that Jesus is playing rather than domesticate him by getting him to conform his message to their music.
  • Jesus compared the generation to a group of spoiled, fickle children, because they had hardened their hearts totally to the message of God, trying to control and judge God rather than obey and love him. He said that when John the Baptist came to him, rather than focus on his message of conversion, they criticized him for “neither eating food nor drinking wine.” They criticized him because he fasted, ate wild honey and consumed locusts. They “classified and conquered” him and refused to convert at his message. When Jesus came with a totally different approach “eating and drinking” because he was the Bridegroom and he wanted to teach them how to feast in God’s presence rather than fast — we would fast when the Bridegroom would be taken away — they criticized Jesus for not fasting and for not abstaining, calling him a “glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.” Again, they avoided his message by judging the messenger, coming at him from a position of superiority rather than docility. The upshot is that no matter whom God sent to them, they weren’t prepared to accept him, but they’d find something to criticize, something to give them the excuse to remain seated, something that would keep them in control of the jukebox.
  • Jesus is forcefully calling us and the people of our generation to be something far different from “children sitting in the marketplace.” He calls us to be spiritually childlike, a son or daughter who lovingly trusts God, who believes what he says is true, recognizes what he or she doesn’t know, and who seeks to become like chips off the old (divine) block. When Jesus says at the end of today’s episode,  “wisdom is vindicated by all her children,” he is communicating that he wants us to be his vindication by living according to his wisdom as sons in the Son, eating and drinking, fasting and abstaining, dancing and making music, and doing everything in union with him and at his lead.
  • The truth is that there are many in our own generation who behave before God like the spoiled children Jesus mentions in his image. We judge God, we judge his Church, we judge those whom he sends us by our own criteria. We make our preferences the most important thing of all. Instead of heeding the message God gives us in a priest’s homily, for example, we judge it by its length, whether it’s too short, or too long, or to strong, or too milk toast, judging it fundamentally by our own likes and dislikes rather than seeking to align ourselves to what God is doing. Many of the people will choose Churches based on whether they play the music they like, whether chant, or polyphony, or hymnody, or polka, or rock, or contemporary praise and worship, or whether there’s no music at all, rather than singing everything as an opportunity to praise God with others. We’ll notice all the things that don’t matter much if anything at all and fail to heed the things that matter most. Jesus is calling us, rather, to real spiritual childhood, to convert and become like the little children whose example he places for us all, not the capricious kids he mentions in the Gospel.
  • St. Paul was one who after his conversion heeded the Lord’s message and became spiritually mature and paradoxically spiritually childlike at the same time. And in today’s first reading he summons St. Timothy and the first Christians to whom St. Timothy was ministering to the same full stature in Christ. He wanted them to know how to “behave in the household of God,” so that they wouldn’t be like the children in the marketplace but true children in God’s family. Using the words of what scholars believe is one of the earliest Christian hymns, he points them to Christ who was “manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the Gentiles, believed in throughout the world, taken up in glory.” That’s the tune he wants their lives humming. Christ was incarnate and he wants to take on our flesh. He was seen and adored by angels at his birth, at his death, and always, as they were ascending and descending upon him, a reminder of how we should always see to adore him. He was proclaimed not just to Jews but to Gentiles, and we should likewise announce him to all. He was believed in throughout the world, and we should seek to imitate the faith of those who have accepted him from every circumstance. And he was taken up in glory — which is why we have this passage for Vespers on the Ascension — and he wants to help us to set our hearts on the things that are above, to help us think as God thinks, and keep our minds on the things of the Spirit. This is the exact opposite of capriciousness. This is we are to behave. This is the way the Church — God’s household — is always supposed to behave.
  • We see this truth lived with remarkable poignancy in the lives 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 knew how to behave so well that they were willing to suffer for the faith, to pick up their cross daily and even die on it. 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 spread  the faith and 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, to align their lives to Christ’s perennial tune “Lift High the Cross.” He 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. The faith was to influence our behavior especially in trial. He called them to model their life on Christ’s own example of suffering. “Dearest brothers and sisters,” he wrote, “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 [a reference to today’s first reading], 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 illustrated how they showed us all how to behave, how wisdom is vindicated in God’s children, through the power and wisdom of the Cross: “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.” 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? Are we desirous of behaving as God’s children in the household of his kingdom, or do we want to play the tune, one in which there’s no suffering and therefore no real love?
  • The Korean martyrs loved the word of God and the Word made flesh in the Mass. St. Andrew traveled so long to study to be a priest so that he could bring his people the Sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It’s here that we learn to attune ourselves to the melody and lyrics of the angels and saints who sing “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of hosts, heaven and earth are full of your glory!” This is where we learn to chant “Lord, have mercy,” and to sing together the “Our Father.” How great are the works of the Lord, we proclaimed in today’s Psalm. And the Eucharist is God’s greatest enduring work in which we share liturgically in what the martyrs shared in bodily, Christ’s own passion, death and resurrection. How can we not respond with the words of the Psalm: “I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just” and put those words into practice here and now?

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 TM 3:14-16

Beloved:
I am writing you,
although I hope to visit you soon.
But if I should be delayed,
you should know how to behave in the household of God,
which is the Church of the living God,
the pillar and foundation of truth.
Undeniably great is the mystery of devotion,

Who was manifested in the flesh,
vindicated in the spirit,
seen by angels,
proclaimed to the Gentiles,
believed in throughout the world,
taken up in glory.

Responsorial Psalm PS 111:1-2, 3-4, 5-6

R. (2) How great are the works of the Lord!
I will give thanks to the LORD with all my heart
in the company and assembly of the just.
Great are the works of the LORD,
exquisite in all their delights.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!
Majesty and glory are his work,
and his justice endures forever.
He has won renown for his wondrous deeds;
gracious and merciful is the LORD.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!
He has given food to those who fear him;
he will forever be mindful of his covenant.
He has made known to his people the power of his works,
giving them the inheritance of the nations.
R. How great are the works of the Lord!

Alleluia SEE JN 6:63C, 68C

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life,
you have the words of everlasting life.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelLK 7:31-35

Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation?
What are they like?
They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another,

‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance.
We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine,
and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said,
‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’
But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”