06 July 2009

Are you a memorial stone?

14th Week OT (Mon): Gen 28.10-22; Matt 9-18-26
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Sisters of St. Mary of Namur, Ft. Worth, TX

Let no one say I am easily persuaded. It took the Holy Spirit seventeen years to track me down, show me my priestly vocation, listen to all of lame my excuses, and then beat me into submission. Don't get me wrong: I'm delighted the Lord won that fight, painful and protracted as it was—for me, that is. What's that line from the Psalms, “Do not be a stubborn mule, needing bridle and bit...”? Looking back to 1981, standing in the central plaza of the National Cathedral of Mexico, just a few feet from the newly-opened Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jacob's wondrous outburst from Genesis this morning makes a whole lotta sense to me now: "Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!" Looking back, when was the Lord with you without you knowing it? How did you come to recognize his presence? And did you follow Jacob's example and leave a “memorial stone”?

When I begin a theology class I always quiz the students to find out just how much Platonism they have absorbed from our popular culture. The surest way to figure this out is to ask them about how they understand the relationship between the body and the soul. Almost without exception they see themselves as struggling souls trapped in treacherous bodies. The soul yearns to be free but the ugly needs of the flesh anchor them to a world of temptation and vice. These same students carry rosaries and prayer cards, have statues of saints in their dorm rooms, pray before the Blessed Sacrament, and argue that churches are holier places than gyms, cafeterias, and pubs. Despite this easy acceptance of the basic Catholic notion that God uses His creation to reveal Himself to us, these students resist the obvious next step: their bodies too are part of God's Self-revelation, and as such, they themselves are “memorial stones” marking the presence of the Lord!

Let's ask ourselves again: Looking back, when was the Lord with me without me knowing it? How did I come to recognize his presence? And did I follow Jacob's example and leave a “memorial stone”? From Matthew's gospel we are hear that a woman suffering from hemorrhages touches the tassels of Jesus' cloak. She is healed. The recently deceased daughter of an official is returned to life. How? Her loving father simply asserts that Jesus' touch will revive her. Jesus does nothing. The woman's faith saves her. The father's faith saves his daughter. Jesus comes to each of them as a touchstone, a living revelation and a memory. Just “being there with them” is enough. If we are to be Christs for others, this is our work as well: to be walking, talking revelations of God; memorial stones of His presence. Just as we are and wherever we are, we are living signs of the way, the truth, and the life. But because not one of us is yet perfected in Christ, we come together in the Church to be a collective sign on the Way—a body of believers who despite our warts and scars nonetheless serve anyone who will follow.

Jacob set a memorial stone in the ground and poured oil over it, renaming the stone and founding a new city. When we were baptized and confirmed—washed in water and anointed with oil—we too were renamed and set as stones in the foundations of the Church. Look in the mirror, look into the eyes of a sister here, or a student, or even a stranger, and say with Jacob in his wonder: “This...memorial stone [is] God's abode." And know that Lord is with us. . .always with us.

1 comment:

  1. I like this homily, a lot. Nice and simiple. Maybe I should be reading more of your homilies!

    I find your quiz results amusing. It is too easy to be heady and philosophical and think that the body is treacherous. You do well in living your Dominican heritage, correcting these little thoughts before they become little heresies. :P