05 August 2012

Get some beautiful feet

Solemnity of St. Dominic
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Audio File

Brothers and sisters, I would begin this morning with a question: are your feet beautiful? Up and down the mountains, do you walk with beautiful feet? If you bring glad tidings; announce the Lord's peace; bear his good news; and proclaim salvation through his mercy; if you raise a cry of joy; break into song; rejoice at his marvelous deeds; and give witness to the Lord restoring his people, then your feet are indeed beautiful. Your feet are beautiful b/c they bring you among us as a preacher of the Good News! A prophet of the Lord's salt and light, his blessing and fire. Are your feet beautiful? In word and deed, do you bring his Good News to the world? Do you rejoice, sing, give witness, bear his glad tidings? Are you Christ-for-others out there? We collect ourselves together this morning for one purpose: to become more like Christ than we were yesterday. To accomplish this, we will pray in thanksgiving; hear his Word proclaimed and preached; and we will eat and drink his Body and Blood from the altar. Then we will go out there and present ourselves to the world as evidence, as living, breathing testimony to the truth of the Gospel. We are sons and daughters of the Father. Brothers and sisters to Christ. And with St. Dominic, we are preachers of the Good News! 

Whether we know it or not, we are all preachers. Through baptism, we were all made priests, prophets, and kings along with Christ. Now, let's be honest: some of us are better at preaching than others; all of us have good preaching days and bad ones. There are times when being a witness for the mercy of God is more aggravating than it is delightful. The burden of forgiving those who hate us can be crushing. Most of the time, the temptation to dive into the flow of the world and revel in passion is overwhelming. No Christian who wakes up to an ordinary day can deny that following Christ out there can test one's patience, endurance, and resolve. It would be easier not to bother, safer to just walk away. Jesus knows this, and this is why he says to us, “You are the salt of the earth. . .You are the light of the world.” Salt preserves, enlivens, seasons. Light shines through the darkness, reveals what's hidden. As his disciples, his students, we are charged with being salt and light for one another and for the world. So, not only are we to be preachers, we're to be bright, salty preachers of the Good News! 

Jesus knows all too well the realities of being a faithful servant of the Father in this world. His life and death provide us with ample evidence that preaching the Father's word of mercy is a dangerous gamble for the preacher. Just being a Christian these days, even a bad Christian, invites persecution and death. Look at the mass murder of Christians in Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt, Afghanistan. There have been no car bombs exploding outside American churches yet; however, militant secular humanism, disguised as a human rights movement is building its case against Christ and his Church in the U.S. Through bureaucratic regulations, employment anti-discrimination laws, “hate speech” codes, social engineering in the military, and the redefinition of marriage through judicial fiat, the Church is being bullied out of the public square and silenced as a voice for the least among us. Facing this secular challenge as preachers of the Good News requires more than political savvy and good media skills. It requires courage, strength, perseverance, and, most of all, an absolute trust in God. Given all this, Jesus warns us that though we are the salt of the earth and light for the world, salt can lose its power to season, and a light can be extinguished. How does this happen? How does salt become tasteless and light become darkness? 

To put the question more directly: how do we as faithful preachers of the Good News become “go along to get along” pewsitters? The answer lies in our reading this morning from Isaiah. If we fail to bring glad tidings; fail to announce the Lord's peace; hide his good news under a bushel basket; and only whisper about our salvation through his mercy; if we stifle our cries of joy; break into griping, whining instead of song; begrudge his marvelous deeds; and give witness to only to our disappointment and despair, then our feet, the feet of Christ's preachers, become anything but beautiful. Salt loses its taste when it is stored too long, never used. The fire of the Spirit, its light will dim and go dark unless it is fed. Like any normal human person, we are all prone to being intimidated into silence by ideological opposition, threats of violence and protests, ridicule, and public bullying. And our courage and faithfulness are easily compromised by our sin. Whatever joy we have, whatever elation we may want to express with Christ can be beaten into hushed and private words. Being all too aware of our own sinfulness, our own failings, we can easily be shamed into taking our faith indoors, away from those who are all-too-ready to be offended by it. We can find ways to accept the division of our public and private selves and only show our acceptable faces outside these walls. But when we do these things, we cease being preachers of the Good News. We become dim lights and tasteless salt. 

 Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He also says that salt can lose its power to season and light its power to shine. What happens to the preacher who become tasteless and dim? Jesus says, “. . .if salt loses its taste. . .It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” When we are confronted by opposition to our preaching, to the proclamation of the Good News with our words and deeds, we must remember that this world passes away; it's nature is change. The kingdom of God is eternal, unchanging. And if we hope at all upon the promises of God, we trust, have full faith in the Spirit's guarantee that we will given what to say, shown what to show when the Enemy sends for us. What we cannot do, as preachers, is run after weak compromises, faithless accommodations, and hope upon the temporary promises of this world's princes. Paul encourages Timothy, “. . .proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” Paul knows what Christ himself knew: that when made to feel the heat of opposition, we are likely to ask for relief from those who are stoking the fires. Paul writes, “For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine. . .and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths.” 21st century myths abound! How tolerant are we of sound doctrine? Do we listen to God's truth and preach it? Or do we beg for negotiation, hoping to just be left alone? 

Do you have the beautiful feet of a preacher? In word and deed, do you bring his Good News to the world? Do you rejoice, sing, give witness, bear his glad tidings? Are you Christ-for-others out there? We are sons and daughters of the Father. Brothers and sisters to Christ. And with St. Dominic, we are preachers of the Good News! In season and out, convenient or inconvenient, shout it out: The Lord is king! And there is no other! 

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  1. What are the readings for the Solemnity of St Dominic? This is really good, but I like to read the readings that go with the homily, and what I am finding does not match up :-).

    1. Is 52: 7-10, 2 Tm 4: 1-8, Mt. 5: 13-19

    2. Thanks - and THANKS! Preaching to yourself first? Well, that was one strong and challenging homily - hitting upon so many thoughts/fears/concerns that have been going through my own mind of late. There are so many things I want to say about this homily, but I won't, except: just what I needed today, just what I need for the weeks and months to come...I found it very courageous of you to speak this way with such strength and conviction. Thanks for sharing your "beautiful feet" with us!
      God bless.

    3. "Strong and challenging"? Really? It worries me what Catholics are getting out there homily-wise. . .

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