25 September 2014

Have you sworn to the mission of Christ?

25th Week OT (Th)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
Notre Dame Seminary, NOLA
We know that kings fear prophets and we know why: prophets of the Lord trust in God alone, leaving no room in their hearts for the things of this world, no space for the king to occupy with threats or bribes. Now we know that kings can be perplexed by the Lord's prophets and preachers – curious or puzzled by who they are and what they might achieve in God's name. Herod the tetrarch hears “about all that [is] happening” in his kingdom, and the news leaves him “greatly perplexed.” All that is happening in Herod's kingdom is the ministry of Jesus the Christ. Teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons. All that is happening is the fulfillment of the Father's promise to His people to forever free them from the slavery of sin. All that is happening is the advent of the long-awaited Messiah and the redemption of creation as a hostage to death. Herod is perplexed b/c some say that this Jesus is Elijah the prophet. Some say that he is the martyred herald, John. So, the king, anxiously curious, asks, “Who then is this about whom I hear such things?” To quail his anxiety and satiate his curiosity, Herod persists in “trying to see him.” As priests, prophets, and kings in Christ Jesus, it is our sacred duty to show the Herod's of this world exactly who Christ is.

In Herod's own day, Christ showed himself to be exactly who and what he claimed to be: the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Messiah. In word and deed, he revealed the Father to those with eyes to see and ears to hear. And upon those who saw and heard his Word, he sent the Holy Spirit in fire and tongues to give birth to the Church. The witness of the Church – from that 2,000 yr old Pentecost up to and including Sept 25, 2014 – is the consistent, on-going testimony of the Spirit manifested in and through the words and deeds of the men and women who surrender themselves to the ever-merciful will of God and place themselves wholly under obedience to the single-hearted mission of Christ: tell my Father's people that through me His mercy is freely given for the salvation of their souls. Is this the mission and ministry you have sworn yourself to? Are you under the obedience of Christ to preach and teach the Good News – that no one has to remain a slave to sin; that no one has to endure the permanent darkness of death; that no one can be compelled to deny that Jesus is Lord? If we are not preaching and teaching and living out Christ's command to love, then how we will show our 21st century Herod's exactly who Christ is?
Qoheleth – centuries ago – prophetically describes an enduring spirit, one that still animates the powers of this world: useless vanity, futile labor, directionless change, wasted bounty, breathless speech, exhausted novelty, and the forgetfulness of memory and its destruction. We can call this spirit, Nihil – the emptiness that motivates Herod's perplexity and the principal obstacle to our mission. Nihil possesses the heart and mind and encourages chaos by convincing the poor soul that only Nothing matters; Nothing is good, true, and beautiful; Nothing rules and guides; Nothing is sacred, Nothing transcends. Against the spirit of Nihil, God's prophets and preachers bring another Spirit, another more powerful force: the spirit and power of Caritas. All that is happening through us must be the love and mercy Christ promises to sinners. It's not enough to just speak the words. We are vowed to preach the Word. Teach the Word. And act out the Word. We must be and do exactly who and what Christ is for the salvation of the world. Herod was perplexed. This world is more than perplexed; it is possessed of a spirit of destruction and deceit. Our sacred duty is to show a Better Way by being that Better Way, by being Christ for others.

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