Return to the Heart
Returning again and again to the heart of the Gospel like St. Paul at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians is essential to handing on the faith and spiritually purifying for any disciple.
Readings: Ephesians 1:1-10; Luke 11:47-54
The following homily was preached to the student brothers during compline. You can listen here or read below:
There is a document from the Vatican called the General Directory of Catechesis and its a guideline on how to Catechise. One of the observations it makes is that Catechesis should always have the initial Kerygma as part of it. That is to say initial proclamation of the Gospel. This is exactly what St. Paul does at the beginning of his letter to the Ephesians. Why is this a good pattern for us?
We cannot assume those we speak to are evangelised. Not only that but it is also good for those who have been evangelised to continue to return to it; lest we loose sight of the heart of the Gospel and thereby possess and give a distorted image of God becoming like the Lawyers of today’s Gospel. Those who shut others out of knowing and loving God in the Kingdom. We need to have and lay good foundations upon which everything else is built.
It is beneficial for those disciples who like the scribes and Pharisees know the minutiae of the law to be brought back to the cor, or heart, of the Gospel because it inoculates from scrupulosity and rash judgement. It should prevent us getting bogged down in petty squabbles like the Pharisees and lawyers in the Gospel over the past few days who obscure by what they say and do the God who is Love. This is about salvation and credibility.
Jesus then accomplishes for the scribes and Pharisees, what they try to do for themselves through his purifying word; this whole event foreshadows the condemnation he will receive at our hands on the cross and the subsequent purification we will receive from his hands, by the blood and flesh of the Word crucified and consumed.
It is not wrong for the Pharisees and Lawyers to know the small details of the law and to keep them but there are some foundations which are essential to have in place: Charity, humility, mercy, patience, understanding – and dare I say docility. Particularly Charity, as St. Paul says, without Charity, we are nothing. We are as a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal – in other words our preaching is just noise, it hasn’t taken root within us. This lack of Charity, lack of perfection, is what leads the scribes and Pharisees to murmer at Jesus not purifying his hands before dinner, which you might remember from Monday’s Gospel is how this sorry situation all began.
Imagine judging God for not being pure. Love is the key of knowledge which unlocks who God is and therefore who Christ is, and this is why they get his identity so wrong as to judge him for not doing as they would expect. As St. John tells us: ‘The darkness did not grasp the light’. Then by them showing Jesus, God himself, a lack of love they encourage others to do the same, leading others in the wrong path, and thereby prevent others from knowing God and loving him as they should precisely by doing what they think is right.
If others cannot see the fruits of the Holy Spirit in our lives; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control the message of Christ which we are entrusted as his disciples to proclaim becomes less credible. I would add to this how we speak about the Church matters: the people of God, her teaching entrusted to her by Christ, her mission, her ministers. If we are not careful we run the risk of preventing others from knowing and loving Christ in his mystical body who wish to love God. So taking that warning on board we must return to the scriptures again and again, to the heart of the Gospel as we find in today’s first reading. It is for credibility sake.
On this day 115 years ago the Miracle of the Sun took place in Fatima. One might think Our Lady chooses incredible witnesses when she appears – Bernadette Soubirous, the three shepherd Children. Just as Christ chooses incredible witnesses such as Peter, such in-credible witnesses like us, to show forth his mercy, meekness, and might. But these witnesses are not only to teach us the message but other virtues. Blessed are you Father for hiding these things from the learned and the wise and revealing them to little children. God, through the Blessed Mother, gives other signs of credibility other than the humble and the lowly messenger.
We may not all be as spectacular as the Sun dancing in the sky or have a special secrets entrusted to our care, be we do not need to. Simply returning to that initial proclamation of the incarnation, passion, death, resurrection, and ascension or even focusing on one of these events and showing why it matters to every single soul is a good help. Look at those pithy phrases from Paul: ‘Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again’. But then look at his long discourse on the fidelity of God in Romans. All his long discourses are punctuated by that initial proclamation of the Gospel. In today’s first reading: blessed be God, this is how he wants us to relate to him: as adopted Children, this is what God has done for me and why.
God has blessed us in Christ by sending his only begotten Son, Jesus the promised messiah, as a free, unearned, underserved, unmerited, gift for us; that by His sacrifice on the cross, through His own blood, we might have life in all its fullness, that our joy may be complete, by gaining our freedom not only from sin, but for Glory. That we should be, as he desired from eternity, his beloved, adopted children, brothers and sisters of Christ and each other, and heirs to the kingdom of God.