28 September 2012

A time to measure. . .

25th Week OT (F)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA

Audio file

We've heard it said—many times—that we live and move and have our being in God. Without God, we are nothing, literally, not a thing at all. So, one of the most humble services that we perform for ourselves is to measure, to take account of, where we stand in the creating and re-creating kinship that gave us life and sustains us in love. When we perform this humble service, what are we measuring? What sort of scale do we use? Since our relationship with God is familial, that is, we think and act along with God as a family, and since a family is bound together by blood and nourished in love, we could describe our relationship to the Father as holy—a relationship set apart from the world, consecrated to a divine purpose. How then do we measure holiness—our nearness to the Father, our distance from Him? Sin measures our distance from God; obedience measures our nearness. The Preacher of Ecclesiastes tells us that all things under heaven have their appointed time, a time to arrive and unfold, a time to depart and decay. As we live and move and have our being in God, it is always time to measure our kinship with Him. Now and always is the right moment to ask yourself, “Who is Jesus for me and mine?” Your answer measures your holiness. 

When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter answers, “The Christ of God,” Jesus rebukes them all and orders them to keep this answer a secret. Having taken the measure of his disciples and heard their confession of faith, our Lord not only silences them, he also reveals to them his immediate future: suffering, rejection, death, and resurrection. Does he silence them b/c he fears too many will suffer and die along with him? Or does he demand they keep this secret so that his ministry might not be impeded by his enemies? Our Lord knows that to follow him is invites persecution. But following him also guarantees rescue. Following him guarantees death, but it also promises resurrection. Maybe he demands silence about his true identity b/c he knows that too many will too quickly chase after him and fail to soberly measure the consequences, fail to honestly take account of the sacrifices required to live the radical love that the Father demands of His children. If there is a time to be born and a time to die, a time to sow and a time to harvest, then there is a time to soberly, honestly measure who Christ is and who you are as his student in the school of charity. 

Friday is the traditional day in the Church calendar when we remember the crucifixion and examine our relationship in holiness with God. If sin measures our distance from God and obedience our nearness, then there is no better day to take account our of disobedience and give thanks for the nearness of His mercy. And there is no better way to accomplish this work of humility than to spend some time seriously contemplating our answer to the question, “Who do you say Jesus is?” For there to be any chance at all that he is the rock of your holiness, he must be—minimally—the one, the only one who suffered on the cross for you; died for you; and rose on the third day for you. Whatever else and whoever else he might be for you—enlightened master, social justice icon, moral exemplar—he must be the Crucified Christ, the long-promised Messiah. Your faith in this truth is the unique measure of your holiness. Not the only measure to be sure but the one that gives all other measures their scale. I dare you: examine your day—your thoughts, words, deeds—and ask yourself before you fall asleep: seeing and hearing me today, is there anyone out there b/c of me who loves God more now than they did when they woke up this morning? 

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  1. I liked it when I read it -- I really liked when I listened to it (thanks for the audio). Lots of good tidbits, reminders, tied together with phrases and ideas like "bound together by blood and nourished in love", "radical love" ....

    And I always appreciate a homily that doesn't soften things up (I know you wouldn't ever do that!)because if we're never shown the "radical" or the hard-edge, or never dared to take a good hard look at ourselves and our lives, then how will we ever grow in holiness? Please, continue to challenge and dare away! :-)

    1. And I am compelled to add. . .always. . .I'm daring myself right along with y'all.