Feb. 6, 1905 5th Sunday (A) Matt. 5: 13-16 1 Cor. 2:1-5
St. Theresa of Avila had been in the Convent for perhaps some twenty years.
I forget. She wasn’t a bad nun but she was a mediocre nun. And she enjoyed
the “good life.” In the hallway leading to the dinning room, there
hung a crucifix. But she never took notice of it. But one day-- after some twenty
years--she stopped and looked at the crucifix. It changed her whole life.
She became one of the greatest women in the Church. She reformed the spiritual life of her large community. Because of her spiritual writings the Church declared her a “Doctor of the Church” There are only three women in Church history given this title. And it all began when she stopped and looked at the crucifix! [1515-1582. She was declared Doctor in 1970 by Paul VI]
WORD OF GOD: 1 Cor. 2: 2 [NAB]“No, I determined that while I was with you I would speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Athens was the center of culture and learning. Greek philosophers and their writings are famous to this very day. Among the philosophers there were some truly great and learned men. At the same time Athens was also the center for many cults and mystery religions. And there were shrines all over the place.
When Paul arrived in Athens fifteen years after Christ’s Resurrection, he first preached in the synagogue. But he also did some reconnoitering in the city. Like a good missioner he didn’t stay in Church all day. He wanted to see what was going on. He noticed that the philosophers as well as the religious teachers went to the public square. There they would hold daily debates. Paul had a bright idea. “I will go there and announce the Good News to these learned teachers.”
Paul got a box to stand on. [Maybe he made it himself. But that is not important.] He probably had a few friends planted to start the first crowd. He began preaching. . When Paul told people about Jesus he got real excited. One of the passerbys asked: “What is this magpie trying to say to us?” Slowly a crowd gathered. Paul was delighted with the questions presented by these erudite listeners until…
But then he mentioned that Jesus rose from the dead: “When they heard about the raising of the dead, some sneered while others [Homilist covers his/her mouth and feigns a yawn] and said: ‘We must hear you on this topic some other time.”
Paul was humiliated and learned his lesson. From then on he would not sugarcoat the message. He would “speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” If the listeners didn’t like it: “Tough!” No point in using fancy language to please intellectuals.
[REREAD THE 2ND READING. Or let one of the parents of each family read the passage and throw in a few words of explanation to their own offspring.]
Effective salespersons tell their customers all the pleasant stuff about their product. But from then on Paul vows to keep his message simple and to the point. He told the folks about Jesus’ suffering a humiliating and cruel death on the cross—the worse form of execution that the State could inflict. And I bet he told his listeners what happened to him and his horse on the road to Damascus. How lightning scared his horse. The horse jumped sky high--totally forgetting his passenger-Paul landed on…the road. How many of you have been thrown off a horse? Raise your hand. [No one] Good “no one.” But you can imagine Paul being bruised on whichever part he landed. [Scripture didn’t think it appropriate to tell us whether the horse sustained any injury. But that is not relevant to this homily.]
Worse yet! Paul was struck blind. And Jesus said to Paul: “Why are you persecuting me. I am still suffering, still being crucified…cut it out!” You all know what happened next.
Last week I told you how some members of the Corinthian Christian community were trying to act worldly-wise, put on airs, “throw down the book bag” [Chinese expression] They pretended to enjoy deep theology questions for example “approximately how many angels, if standing back to back, would fit on the head of a pin.” So Paul says: “I tried that approach once in Athens. I geared my talk to the pseudo intellectuals of Athens. They enjoyed the discussion until I talked of Jesus’ death and Resurrection. Then they yawned and said: “We will come again some other time.” Then and there Paul made a decsion. He says: ‘… I determined that while I was with you (and anyone else who would listen) I would speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified and how I came to meet him crucified on the road to Damascus.
Happily, a handful few of Paul’s listeners in Corinth—some well-to-do but mostly simple people, the bereaved, the oppressed, the poor, the lonely, the depressed--continued to listen. And they discovered “Christ crucified” was truly Good News.
RESPONSE Like Paul, we at St. Patrick’s are prepared to witness to our personal experiences with the Lord and Savior.
First of all, to overcome shyness, it is good for us to come together with a few members of the Christian community here at St. Patrick’s to exchange our experiences of meeting Christ. By the end of that hour, I think we will be surprised to discover: “I really have something exciting to share with one of my non-Christian friends.
Secondly, perhaps like Paul, we have met up with the crucified Lord when we were suffering real bad. Perhaps we experienced the loss of a loved one? And perhaps, we looked at the crucifix and we got the impression that Jesus was crying with us. Or perhaps we were ill and even felt that Jesus was on Mars. Only later when we got better did we realize that the crucified Lord had been with us in so many ways.
In 2004 I was sick for three full months. A broken arm. Then a fever that depleted my energy. Followed by sleepless nights with a skin rash. None of these illnesses was life threatening. But I couldn’t tell that to my feelings. For several weeks I couldn’t pray. The best I could do was to lie there and let God love me. Later I was able to pray the joyful and glorious mysteries of the Rosary but not the sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary. I didn’t want to even think at all about Jesus’ suffering much less my own. When I got my health back, I discovered that Lord was my companion and made sure that the illness didn’t try me too much. And the crucified Savior sent many people to help me. Now that it is over I am kind of grateful for sharing those three months with Christ. [It is the feeling of a solder who doesn’t look forward to going into battle. He has a desk job. But one day he is sent into battle. He is afraid and he is wounded. Very painful. But afterward, he is happy that he is now able to have shared the sufferings of his buddies.]
And finally, I presume that each of our homes has a crucifix. This week, we might stop to look at it for several minutes like St. Theresa did.
Smile if you intend to do these at least once.HOMILY NOTES AND STUFF
Feb. 6, 1905 5th Sunday (A) Matt. 5: 13-16 1 Cor. 2:1-5
TEXT: “No, I determined that while I was with you I would speak of nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2: 2 [NAB]
ONE WORD: Crucifix
TWO WORDS: Christ crucified
CONGREGATION: 10:45 A.M. Families with children
TOPIC SENTENCE: We meet Christ is different ways. We are willing and prepared to share these personal experiences with those who are willing to listen. Paul’s personal experience was meeting Christ crucified. I am sure that many of those in Church this morning have now or one time or other met the crucified Christ.
One of our priests is Director of prison chaplains in Hong Kong. For many years he regularly visits the prisoners. Non-Christian prisoners ask him and other chaplains for crucifixes. Father gives them little wooden crucifixes. Father is not sure of the meaning behind this repeated request. Superstition? Perhaps. But why not a holy picture or reading material or a plastic medal? If any of you work in prisoner, perhaps you could give your opinion. <[email protected]>
DESIRED RESULT: “Father, thanks for the homily last week. I am been having a tough. But all week long, I thought of the times when Jesus met me on the road. I bought a cheap crucifix and hung it in my bedroom. I looked at it several times this week.”
CHURCH TEACHING ” It is love ‘to the end’ [Jn. 13:1] that confers on Christ’s sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction…. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.’ [Gal. 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25]. Catechism of the Catholic Church, (Mission Hills, CA: Benziger, 1989) #616, p. 160.
“Thus his [Paul’s] witness to the world is based on a concrete, existential experience. The missionary will only convert others when he himself has passed through the conversion experience. Otherwise he is no more than a propagandist; his message is not really witness.” Thierry Maertens & Jean Frisque, Guide for the Christian Assembly: A Background Book of the Mass: Revised: 2nd to 8th Sunday (Notre Dame, IN: Fides Publishers, 1969) p. 181.
1. In homilies, we don’t like to speak about ourselves. However, I felt to make this homily authentic I had to be able to speak of my own experience—just as I was asking my listeners to share their experiences with one another and with a non-Christian.
2. Since these homilies are prepared in advance, the thoughts hopefully simplify during the week. I discover what I really want to say. I may find a more precise “One Word.” Often I get a better illustration. This must be the experience of every homilist.
The 4th Sunday homily, last week, turned out to be two sermons one on wisdom and the other on the cross. Since there would be many children at the 10:45 A.M. Mass, I feared I would bore the kids. Then came an idea!
[At beginning of Mass]: “Parents, please close your eyes. I wish to ask the children a question. ‘Children, raise your hands if you think that your parents are very wise.’”
“Teenagers, raise your hands if you think that your parents are very ‘wise.’”
[At the beginning of the homily] “When I was young I did not think my parents were very wise.” I think many young people are like me and do not appreciate the wisdom of one or other of their elders.] [Story of dad’s wisdom.]
[Later in the homily] “I will give the parents 15 seconds, to tell their children something ‘wise’ that they learned from their own parents.”
CHEWING, DIGESTING AND DOING GOD’S WORD
Feb. 6, 1905 5th Sunday (A) Matt. 5: 13-16 1 Cor. 2:1-5
NAME _______ GRADE _______
The members of the Corinthian Christian community in general were not the in________ls, inf_______ and afl_____ent members of Corinthian society.
After Athens Paul concentrated on preaching? c______ Christ.
Of your friends and acquaintances, what percentage do you guess would have no interest in hearing about Jesus’ teachings? ___%
Of your friends and acquaintances, what percentage would have no interest in hearing about Jesus Christ crucified? ___%
(Optional) Write a few words about a time when Jesus Christ-crucified had special meaning for you.
[Curious. Are these exercising, worth doing? Does anyone ever use these questions? Love to hear from you. Fr. Gene Thalman-Hong Kong HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected]]
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