Sunday, April 25, 2010

Year C 4th Sunday of Easter homily excerpt

This week I am only posting an excerpt from my homily. The point is that our vocation is holiness, the rest of it is just so many means to that end.

Readings: Acts 13:14.43-53; Ps 100:1-2.5; Rev 7:9.14b-17; John 10:27-30

It is in Jesus’ statement that he and the Father "are one" that we find the synthesis of today’s readings (John 10:30). Though united in Godhead, the Father and the Son, as well as the Spirit, are distinct. This tri-unity is the foundation of all unity, the very force that created the universe, a creation that can rightly be called both "a universe" and "a cosmos" because it is orderly and crackles with life and purpose. Just as works constitute the concrete form of faith, so the "heavens declare the glory of God" and "the sky proclaims its builder's craft" (Ps 19:1). Turning again to Von Balthasar, we see that it is in and through the Incarnation that "God has engraved his name upon matter," and has "inscribed it so deeply that it cannot be erased." Nonetheless, the most unstable part of God’s creation is the human part. We are the most unstable and chaotic part because we possess freedom, which is necessary in order for us to fulfill the end for we which we are created, namely communion. A rock has no choice but to be a rock, a tree must be a tree; an otter can be nothing other than an otter. It is only the human person who can reject her/his part in this Theo-drama. Along with Dostoevsky, Georges Bernanos saw that the "scandal of Creation [isn’t] suffering, but freedom." He further observes that "moralists like to regard sanctity as a luxury." Far from being a luxury, he insists, sanctity "is a necessity."

Like the nameless child, who is the main character in Flannery O’Connor’s short story A Temple of the Holy Ghost, who says, "I could never be a saint but I think I could be a martyr if they killed me quick,"* it is the lukewarm Christian who, Von Balthasar observed, "allots himself a measure that seems appropriate to him and considers anyone who gives more to be a professional saint.” “It is important to realize," he continues, "that the genuine saint never sees h[er] offer to God as something beyond the norm, as a work beyond what is required." The truth of this assertion is proven by Dorothy Day’s response to someone telling her she was a saint: "Don't call me a Saint," she retorted, "I don't want to be dismissed that easily." It wasn’t that she didn’t want to be a saint, people close to her remember her many times quoting Léon Bloy to the effect that "There is only one unhappiness-not be a Saint." It’s just that too often we look at people like Dorothy Day, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and St. Gianna Molla thinking and saying things like "They did remarkable things – they are saints - but it's not for me." One may believe that the era of the saints is over, but it is always the era of saints until Christ returns in glory, when "the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to springs of life-giving water, and . . . will wipe away every tear" (Rev. 7:17) as they, having "survived [their own] time of great distress," join the white-robed multitude. I don’t know about you, my friends, but my prayer is- "Lord, how I want to be in that number, when the saints go marching in!"

* This quote is often used to get a laugh, but it is not funny as it appears in the story. I feel very good about not using it to get chuckles in this homily.

Christos Anesti

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