Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Twenty-fifth Sunday (6th after Epiphany) after Pentecost—15 November AD 2015

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English


    Saint John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) was the Bishop of Constantinople, that city in  in modern day Turkey that is known now as Istanbul. He is renowned as a Doctor of the Church—one of the great teachers who produced explanations of doctrine and holy Scripture.  I was fortunate enough to come across his commentary on today's Gospel, at least the part about the leaven,  so I have to give him credit for any good things I might say today. (He and one other Bishop.)

    Saint John observed that the leaven is very powerful, able to bring fermentation to a mass of dough three times its own size.  The leaven must be “hidden” in the dough, which is to say that the baker kneads the leven and the dough, squeezing the two together with his hands in order to mix them thoroughly.  Then the dough is put into a dark and moist place and allowed to sit for a time.  During this time the yeast organism permeates the dough so that the entire mass becomes leavened.  If you take a portion of the leavened dough, it is capable of leavening another three measures of flour—the leaven is a living organism that grows as it does its job.

    For Saint John, the first leaven of the Church was, of course, our Lord Jesus Christ (although he does refer to some Old Testament characters as the leaven of the Old Covenant).  Our Lord, through the good example of His holy life, was the leaven of the Apostles—and the Apostles, in turn, spread the leaven of the Church throughout the known world.

    Saint John asks the pointed question: “If twelve men could leaven the whole world, why then cannot we leaven the remainder?  Since we are so many more, shouldn’t we be able to spread the Faith to a thousand worlds?”  He anticipates the likely answer—modern people will no doubt protest that Jesus and the Apostles could work miracles; a great advantage over those who cannot.  He insists that the miracles had little or nothing to do with the spreading of holiness.

    John the Baptist “did no sign” yet many were converted by him due to the truth of his preaching.[1]  The Old Testament Elias did work some miracles toward the end of his life, but his renown was in standing up to evil authorities, challenging the priests of false religion, and in living a life of voluntary poverty filled with good works.  Job of the Old Testament did no miracles at all, but he astonished the Devil himself with his upright life and ever-enduring patience.  King David, and the Fathers of the Jewish nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob worked no miracles, yet they were to prepared the way for Jesus Christ through their obedience.

    God would even say of David: “I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man according to my own heart, who shall do all my wills.  Of this man' s seed God … raised up to Israel a Savior, Jesus:”[2]

    John Chrysostom even goes so far as to point out the divisiveness of some miracle working:  He mentions Sint Paul’s Corinthians who were filled with pride over the miraculous gifts they possessed from the Holy Ghost.[3]  Likewise the spiritual pride of his Romans.[4]  And look at Simon the Magician of the Acts of the Apostles, who was so impressed with the workings of the Holy Ghost that he tried to pay Peter for the power to confer the Holy Ghost  “But Peter said to him:  Keep thy money to thyself, to perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.”[5]  Simon has the awful distinction of having a sin named after him—simony!

    Our Lord was far more concerned with Peter’s good example to the Apostles and the converts who were to be made.  He did not say, “If you love Me, Simon Peter, work miracles.”  What He did say was “feed my sheep”—make sure that they have My doctrine, My truth, and My Sacraments.[6]

    Saint John Chrysostom is saying to us that we too can be the leaven of the Gospel, spreading God’s Church much like the Patriarchs, much like the Apostles, and even much like our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  We must not be afraid to mix ourselves with those who do not know Jesus, leavening them with the yeast of good example.  Doing good works among them, praying for them, and keeping ourselves unspotted by the temptations of the world.

    I will close with a favorite saying of mine—that of another bishop, although one who was much more recently among us:  Emmanuel Célestin Suhard, the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris throughout the 1940s.  Suhard wrote a brief letter to the Parisian clergy, entitled “Priests Among Men.”  In that paper Suhard wrote a phrase which, I believe, explains the need for good example, rather than miracle—particularly for the unbeliever.  I will never forget that he wrote:“to be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.”

It means to live in such a way
that one's life would not make sense
if God did not exist!







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