Wednesday, December 2, 2009

December 3, 2009

Prayers today: Lord, you are near, and all your commandments are just; long have I known that you decreed them forever
(Psalm 118: 151-152)

Father, we need your help. Free us from sin and bring us to life. Support us by your power. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, …

Saint Francis Xavier, priest (1506-1552)

Jesus asked, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matthew 16:26a). The words were repeated to a young teacher of philosophy who had a highly promising career in academics, with success and a life of prestige and honour before him. Francis Xavier, 24 at the time, and living and teaching in Paris, did not heed these words at once. They came from a good friend, Ignatius of Loyola, whose tireless persuasion finally won the young man to Christ. Francis then made the spiritual exercises under the direction of Ignatius, and in 1534 joined his little community (the infant Society of Jesus). Together at Montmartre they vowed poverty, chastity and apostolic service according to the directions of the pope. From Venice, where he was ordained priest in 1537, Francis Xavier went on to Lisbon and from there sailed to the East Indies, landing at Goa, on the west coast of India. For the next 10 years he laboured to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Hindus, the Malayans and the Japanese. He spent much of that time in India, and served as provincial of the newly established Jesuit province of India. Wherever he went, he lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodations. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to sleep or even to say his breviary but, as we know from his letters, he was filled always with joy. Francis went through the islands of Malaysia, then up to Japan. He learned enough Japanese to preach to simple folk, to instruct and to baptize, and to establish missions for those who were to follow him. From Japan he had dreams of going to China, but this plan was never realized. Before reaching the mainland he died. His remains are enshrined in the Church of Good Jesus in Goa.

All of us are called to “go and preach to all nations” (see Matthew 28:19). Our preaching is not necessarily on distant shores but to our families, our children, our husband or wife, our coworkers. And we are called to preach not with words, but by our everyday lives. Only by sacrifice, the giving up of all selfish gain, could Francis Xavier be free to bear the Good News to the world. Sacrifice is leaving yourself behind at times for a greater good, the good of prayer, the good of helping someone in need, the good of just listening to another. The greatest gift we have is our time. Francis gave his to others.

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew (7.21,24-27)

Jesus said, Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

Building on the Rock
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)

When we read these words of our Lord we immediately think — or we should immediately think — of their application to our personal lives. I say to myself that I am a Christian. I believe in Christ. I follow him in my everyday life: I worship every Sunday and do not regard Sunday as being just another working day. I am faithful to my wife or husband, even though it is difficult at times. I dedicate myself to my family. I keep the commandments in the main. I pray every day. But what about those things in my life I know I am not doing and which I should? Do I give to the poor? Am I hoarding my possessions for selfish and unnecessary reasons? Let me ask myself a deeper question: what is the real foundation of my life, and on what is it built? Undoubtedly I wish to establish my life on a sure and sound basis and this is certainly what God wants me to do. He wants me to do all I can to ensure that the gift of life which he has bestowed on me flourishes. Christ came in order that I might have life and have it in abundance. But there is a tremendous temptation, subtle, constant and barely noticeable because so many fall into it. It is to lay a basis to our lives which is to an extent based on the will of Christ, but to a fair extent also based on the values of this world alone. We fail to be thoroughgoing in thinking according to the mind of Christ. Let this mind be in you, St Paul writes, that was in Christ Jesus. For this reason our Lord warns us in today’s Gospel passage: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Now, to know the will of our Father in heaven we have the assistance, not only of the word of the inspired Scriptures, but the word of the Church to whom the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit. The Church, speaking in the name of Christ, has formally applied the doctrine of Scripture and Tradition to life in the world. That is to say, if we wish to live in union with God and build on rock the house that is our life in the world, we ought carefully study the Church’s social teaching.

But Christ’s words in today’s Gospel not only apply to me personally, to my own living of the Christian life each day in my family and workplace setting. The social, political and economic life of the world ought be based on the teaching of Jesus Christ. The political and economic life of society is continually in the news and it ebbs and flows like the surging sea. At times there is a hurricane, at times all is calm, at times the wind and the waves are favourable to the craft on which mankind is sailing. But at times it threatens to swamp the vessel and there have been stark and sombre moments over the centuries when economics and politics have failed. We think of the great Depression of the early 1930s and we may think of the serious difficulties of 2008 and 2009. Is there any hope of finding a solid basis to the life not only of individuals but of the world? Indeed there is, and the key lies in the words of Christ in today’s Gospel. He speaks of the rock that is the foundation of the house, and obedience to his word is that rock. “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7: 21, 24-27). Now the question is, what does this mean in practical terms for the world at large? Is there any authoritative word which applies the teaching of the Son of God made man to society, to the nations, and to the world at large such that the entire edifice can be built on rock? There is, and it consists in the formal social teaching of the Church — if only the world would listen to it! At times the world has listened, as it did when Pope John XIII published his great Encyclical, Pacem in Terris, Peace on Earth. But there has been a whole stream of great Social Encyclicals and on June 29 of 2009 Pope Benedict XVI published yet another, Caritas in Veritate, or On integral human development in Charity and Truth. There can be no doubt that if the world were to listen to the voice of the Successor of St Peter and act accordingly, the house would be laid on rock.

Let us in our thinking be careful as to the basis on which we are proceeding. When we form our plans as to life ahead, let us be clear in our minds as to the surest foundation. If we hear, know and obey the will and teaching of Christ, the house of our life will be built on rock. The same applies to the entire world of economics, politics and social life. If mankind were to hear and obey the will of Christ, all would be built on rock. That word of Christ is uttered by the Church which Christ built upon the rock that is Peter, that Church to whom our Lord said, “he who hears you, hears me; he who despises you despises me; and he who despises me despises the one who sent me” (Luke 10:16). Let us then resolve to hear the word of Christ and His Church and put it faithfully into practice.

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