The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Homily: Wednesday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time

Readings: 1 Tm 3:14-16; Ps 111; Lk 7:31-35

Some years ago there was a small storefront church in nearby Wildwood. A large sign over its door included a reference to 1st Timothy 3:15, one of the verses we heard in today's first reading:
"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" [1 Tim 3:15].
I'm pretty sure that little church displayed that verse because of the phrase, "the pillar and foundation of truth" -- one of the better-known definitions that St. Paul gives for the Church.
Vatican: St. Peter Receiving Keys to the Kingdom
Sadly, ever since the Reformation there has been an explosion of Christian churches, and each has a different understanding of the truth. And because many disagree on even some of the most basic Christian beliefs, they can't all preach and teach the truth. The irony is that logically only one Church can be "the pillar and foundation of truth."

Now I'm not criticizing the faith and devotion of the folks who attended that little church on Main Street. I know some of them and they're all good Christians who love the Lord. Neither am I criticizing any other Christian church, but I'm pretty sure Paul was referring to something greater, something more universal, more catholic.

Pray for Unity
For Paul knew, as we know, that the fullness of truth resides only in one Church, in one united Church. And just as Jesus stressed and prayed for unity among His followers, so too does St. Paul. Indeed, in many of his letters he pleads for unity, for obedience to the legitimate authority, an authority that comes directly from the Apostles. Paul even alludes to the Church's universality in the very next verse of today's reading when, referring to Jesus, he says:
"...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" [1 Tim 3:16].
Can there be anything more universal than "believed in throughout the world?" This belief in a united, universal Church founded by Jesus Christ was so strongly held by the Apostles and Church Fathers, that for over 1,000 years they withstood every serious attempt to destroy it.

One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic
Sadly, over the next 500 years leading up to the Reformation it suffered wounds, some self-inflicted, some not, resulting in the splintered Christianity we see today.

But Jesus promised He would be with His Church - His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - until the end of days. And so we, too, pray for unity.

St. Paul says something else about the Church in that brief passage, calling it the "household of God." What a wonderful image! To be a member of God's own household. But notice the context: " should know how to behave in the household of God..." [1 Tim 3:15]. 

This is where things get serious.

Too often our behavior as Christians gives no indication that we're members of God's household. Indeed our behavior seems to conceal Christ from the world rather than revealing Him to the world.

Jesus accuses his listeners of acting "like children who sit in the marketplace" [Lk 7:32], self-centered and full of complaints.

How often do we make our Christianity look and sound like a disagreeable chore? And so we do only the minimum, acting less like a true member of the household and more like the teenager who's never home because he has better things to do than spend time with his family. Why are so many of us like this?

Jesus accuses and challenges us, doesn't He? In our contradictions and complaints, in our tendency to criticize rather than listen, we don't hear what God is trying to teach us.

"Listen!" Jesus pleads. Be open to God's Word.  And then, referring to Himself, He tells us, "...wisdom is justified by all her children" [Lk 7:35].

I suppose that's the question for us today: Are you and I among those children of God's household whose behavior justifies the wisdom of Christ?

Just as God came to the people of 1st century Palestine through the prophet John and then in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ, He comes to us under different guises. The Holy Spirit is like that, often using the least likely among us to manifest His Presence.

How do you respond to the people God sends into your life? Are they like John, that odd, wild-looking firebrand who wasn't quite acceptable to polite society? Do you accept them for what they are or do you ignore them, or worse yet, criticize them because they don't quite fit your idea of God's messenger? Brothers and sisters, God's household is not only large, but it's also a varied household, filled with all kinds of people.
Give some thought today to how God might be using the others in your life to bring you closer to Him -- how He's calling you back to His household.

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