11 November 2005

32nd Week OT(Fri): Wis 13.1-9; Luke 17.26-37
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
St Albert the Great Priory and Church of the Incarnation

If we were Gnostics rather than Catholics we would hold that it is what we know that saves us. Our ignorance is damnation, so enlightenment is our salvation. The question, then, about how we get saved is a question about how we get enlightened: where, how, and from whom do we get the right info so that we will be saved? It is simply a matter of gathering the right data and understanding it: the gnosis. Usually, modern Gnostics urge us to look to nature, science, and the experts for our salvation. You might recognize this heresy in some modern theologies or some recent ecclesial movements. It is not uncommon among trendy Catholic intellectuals and church activists with reform agendas. In fact, it is an elitist preoccupation with the intellect, a self-absorption, that immediately and directly denies one of the most basic tenets of our faith: our salvation is first the invitation made by God to us in the Incarnation of His Son, and in passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Our salvation is the invitation to participate in the divine life now and after our death. Our acceptance of that invitation is a life of holiness.

Ignorance of God is foolishness, as Wisdom says, but mere knowledge of God is not salvation. Our sin was made flesh and so was our deliverance. Nothing created can save us, nothing acquired can deliver us. No amount of correct thought, hard facts, proper method, just ideology, or strategic planning will rescue us from our disobedience, our dis-ease with the holiness we are called to. There is no seminar, no workshop, no spirituality, no new mythology or cosmology, no paradigm shift in worldviews that will lift us up and make us worthy to live as invited guests in the house of the Lord. We make it to the wedding feast of the Lamb b/c we are invited, we accept the invitation, we put on our party clothes, and we show up. And we show up and we show up and we show up.

The Pharisees ask Jesus when the kingdom of God will come. He tells them that the kingdom cannot be observed. No one will be able to announce its arrival. Why? “Because the kingdom of God is among you.” We do not need to announce the arrival of that which has already arrived. The promise of the kingdom is fulfilled in the preaching, teaching, and healing ministry of Christ that continues now in his church; but, the promise of the kingdom has not yet been fully realized, completely accomplished. That is for a time not yet.

The Pharisees ask when the kingdom will arrive and the disciples, hearing that the kingdom is among them and that some will be left out, ask where this judgment will take place. Jesus’ very cryptic answer is: “Where the body is, there also the vultures gather.” As usual, Jesus is answering a question more important than the one actually asked. The question Jesus is answering is: how do we find ourselves on the side of salvation when the day of judgment comes? His answer: do not let me find you among the carrion—the dead flesh, the rotting bones. Let me find you alive in the Spirit! Let me find you well-dressed at the wedding feast! Let me find you living your eternal life now as abundantly, as vigorously, as perfectly as your gifts allow.

The revelation of the Son of Man on the last day will not be a matter of knowing the right things—the secrets of creation, or the spiritual mysteries. It will be then as it is now a matter of living with He Who Is, the artisan of creation, living in his kingdom, both its promise now and its completion then.

Brothers, sisters, I don’t know about you, but I’m not dead flesh nor am I a vulture: I’ve come dressed to party…forever!


  1. Hi, Father, another OP blogger! We should get a ring or whatever they call it....

    I'll put you on our link list.

  2. Father, welcome to the blogosphere. I am delighted to see that this is becoming a virtual marketplace for Dominican preaching!

    I've put a link on my blog.

    God bless.