Three Exercises of Spiritual Maturity, 22nd Wednesday (II), August 31, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Wednesday of the 22nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year II
August 31, 2016
1 Cor 3:1-9, Ps 33, Lk 4:38-44

 

To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • St. Paul in today’s first reading points to the type of spiritual growth he was seeking to help catalyze among the Christians in Corinth, something that points to the spiritual growth God would like to see in all of us. He began by saying that when he was first evangelizing them, he needed to care for them spiritually the way parents care for newborns. “I could not talk to you as spiritual people but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ. I fed you milk, not solid food, because you were unable to take it.” That’s the way it is whenever we try to pass on the faith to young children. We don’t give them a copy of the adult Catechism of the Catholic Church. We speak to them very simply about God, about prayer, about charity, about the Bible, about the Sacraments. We “breast feed” them, digesting the truths of the faith and passing these truths on to them in ways they can assimilate.
  • But we don’t want them to stay there. Just like a little child passes from milk to Gerber’s baby food to normal food for children to more healthy food for growing children to the challenging cuisine of adults, so a similar passage is meant to happen in us spiritually. And St. Paul was saying that that’s what was not happening among the Corinthians. “Indeed you are still not able [to take solid food], even now, because you are still of the flesh.” They were living according to their earthly, fleshy desires, instead of living according to the Spirit. He then says why. “There is jealousy and rivalry among you.” Such things are not manifestations of a life according to God. We’re called to look at each other as brothers and sisters, not as competition, and we’re supposed to be happy to see them grow and thrive, not jealous. When we’re living by the Spirit, we love each other rather than resent each other.
  • St. Paul gets specific about the envy and contention that was dividing the community: Some were saying “I belong to Paul” and others “I belong to Apollos” and later, as we’ll see, “I belong to Cephas” (Peter). St. Paul is clear that that’s the talk and behavior of spiritual infants, siding according to their preferences with “ministers through whom [they] became believers” instead of to the Lord who sent them to them and who caused the growth. They were focusing on earthly likes and dislikes rather than on God and St. Paul wanted to provoke them by his strong language to grow up. There are many similar issues of living according to the flesh in a childish (rather than childlike) way that afflict the Christians of today, especially here in the United States. In an age of spiritual consumerism, people are led to focus more on their personal preferences rather than God when it comes to which Church they attend, which music is their favorite, which pew they want to sit in and more. Many pick and choose among popes, or bishops, or priests, or Church councils, rather than receive with gratitude and follow all the Lord sends. People define themselves less with the Lord than with the instruments of the Lord that most meet their tastes. We see it even more with those who define themselves too much with the adjectives they put to their “Catholicism,” whether liberal, progressive, traditional, conservative or others, rather than with the faith that transcends any constricting label. And that’s why there is still so much “jealousy and rivalry” in parishes, dioceses and the Church, when Jesus prayed and worked that we might have a unity as profound as the unity among the Persons of the Blessed Trinity (Jn 17). Many people are still immature in their understanding and living of the faith and there’s a need for all of us to receive God’s help to grow in a healthy way so that we may live truly by the Spirit.
  • In the Gospel today, we see in Jesus three manifestations of spiritual maturity. Insofar as each of us is called to grow to full stature in Christ (Eph 4:13), we need to examine each of these and resolve to live them.
  •  The first is in mature, self-sacrificial charity. Even though Jesus was doubtless tired from teaching in the Capernaum synagogue, he responded readily when the disciples interceded with him to help Simon’s mother-in-law who was in the grip of a serious fever (think of 103 degrees). After curing her, word spread throughout all the town and at “sunset,” when he was probably getting ready to wind down for the day, “all who had people sick with various diseases brought them to him” and “he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” It would have been easy, if he were living according to the flesh, to ask everyone to come back the following day. It would have been easy for him, by his power as God, simply to do a “group healing” and cure them all in a way that would have saved him hours, but the Good Shepherd knows each of us his sheep by name and he went one-by-one to cure each of them and cast out demons from those who were possessed. This is a great sign of spiritual maturity, that you put others ahead of yourself. We witness that type of spiritual maturity in Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. As soon as she was cured by Jesus, she used her health not to run the errands she couldn’t get to during her days in bed, not to divert herself in the ways many of us look to do, but instead to serve them. St. Luke says “She got up immediately and waited on them.” Our health is a blessing from God that we’re not supposed to look at selfishly, but as a blessing to help us love others. When we’re very ill, when we’re bedridden, when we’re in the hospital and especially when we’re dead, we no longer can help others the way we ought. The spiritually mature don’t take their health for granted, the spiritually mature don’t waste their health in perpetually seeking to “have a good time” and to give into various degrees of hedonism, but endeavor to use it to love God and others.
  • The second habit of the spiritually mature is in making the time to pray, even when tired. Jesus went out “at daybreak” to a “deserted place” to pray. Those who are spiritually mature have their priorities straight and for Jesus prayer was a higher priority than “sleeping the fat morning” as the French are accustomed to say A great sign of being a spiritual adult is when we are able to put God ahead of our human appetites, and one of the strongest appetites is to be like little children who never want to get out of bed. For the mature, getting out of bed to do the “work of God” is something that isn’t necessarily easy physically, but it’s a no-brainer spiritually, in a similar way to how a mature parent gets out of bed in the middle of the night to care for a crying child.
  • The third illustration of spiritual maturity we notice is that when the crowds came looking for Jesus and tried to prevent him from leaving, he said, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent.” Jesus would have had it made staying there in Capernaum. He had just cured and exorcised many in the town, the people were amazed and astonished at his preaching, and he would probably have been elected mayor in a landslide! But he didn’t forget his mission. He was sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and he needed to go out looking for the lost sheep rather than staying with the fold that would have made him as comfortable as anyone would want. There’s a great lesson here for us about putting the mission God has given us above our likes and dislikes and being willing to leave our comfort zones for God. That’s something those who are led by the Spirit do. That’s something the spiritually mature do. This is an important lesson for us at a time of transfers in your religious community. For those of you have just moved here, you may have preferred to stay where you are. For those of you who have remained here, you may be struggling with the transfer of someone to another convent whom you very much miss. But the key thing to recall is that we and others in the kingdom often need to go to “other towns” because that’s the “purpose” for which God has called and sent us.
  • Today as we come forward to pray this Mass, we ask, through the intercession of St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Peter’s holy Mother-in-Law, to pray for us that we may respond to all of God’s graces to mature to the “full stature of Christ” (Eph 4:13) whom we are about to receive as he feeds us not with milk or spiritual Gerber’s but with Himself, the food that will bring us to true spiritual maturity if we allow the Lord to bring our whole life into conformity with Him.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
1 cor 3:1-9

Brothers and sisters,
I could not talk to you as spiritual people,
but as fleshly people, as infants in Christ.
I fed you milk, not solid food,
because you were unable to take it.
Indeed, you are still not able, even now,
for you are still of the flesh.
While there is jealousy and rivalry among you,
are you not of the flesh, and walking
according to the manner of man?
Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another,
“I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely men?
What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul?
Ministers through whom you became believers,
just as the Lord assigned each one.
I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth.
Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,
but only God, who causes the growth.
He who plants and he who waters are one,
and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor.
For we are God’s co-workers;
you are God’s field, God’s building.

Responsorial Psalm
ps 33:12-13, 14-15, 20-21

R. (12) Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD,
the people he has chosen for his own inheritance.
From heaven the LORD looks down;
he sees all mankind.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
From his fixed throne he beholds
all who dwell on the earth,
He who fashioned the heart of each,
he who knows all their works.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.
Our soul waits for the LORD,
who is our help and our shield,
For in him our hearts rejoice;
in his holy name we trust.
R. Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own.

Gospel
lk 4:38-44

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon.
Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever,
and they interceded with him about her.
He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her.
She got up immediately and waited on them.
At sunset, all who had people sick with various diseases
brought them to him.
He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.
And demons also came out from many, shouting, “You are the Son of God.”
But he rebuked them and did not allow them to speak
because they knew that he was the Christ.
At daybreak, Jesus left and went to a deserted place.
The crowds went looking for him, and when they came to him,
they tried to prevent him from leaving them.
But he said to them, “To the other towns also
I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God,
because for this purpose I have been sent.”
And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.
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