I delivered this homily on Sunday, July 5, 2015, at the Church of the Assumption in Nashville, Tennessee. This was the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Here are the readings.
If you’d rather watch the video of me delivering the homily at Assumption, then scroll down and watch. Without further hesitation, here’s the homily.
Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary?
A few weeks ago, I spoke about the importance of answering the question, “Who is this man?” Those who reject Jesus think they know the answer: “He is a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.” They echo the people of Nazareth so many years ago and insist “we know his family. He was a boy here.” By this, the entire Gospel is rejected as just the ravings of an apocalyptic prophet who was put to death by Rome for disturbing the peace.
Ironically, when the people of Nazareth mused, “He is a carpenter, the son of a carpenter. We know his family. He was a boy here.” They were right, just not in the way that they thought. Like Caiaphas with the Sanhedrin when he said
“It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” John goes on to explain, He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. (John 11:50-52)
Caiaphas prophesied. So, too, do the people of Nazareth prophesy.
The Greek word TEKTON is translated here as carpenter, but it is better translated as workman. Indeed, Jesus is the son of a workman. “Jesus is called the son of a workman, of that one, however, whose work was the morning and the sun.” (Pseudo Jerome, in Catena Aurea, Aquinas) Jesus is the only begotten son of that master craftsman who created all things, and, in his love, holds them in existence. Jesus is the master builder who, in the fullness of time, came to set creation back on the road to perfection. He is, indeed, the son of a workman, a TEKTON, and he is, himself, a workman, also, for “through him all things were made.”
Ezekiel was charged with a mission that prefigured Jesus. He was to preach the truth to Israel so, whether they accepted or rejected him, the people would know that a prophet had been among them. “For us, and for our salvation, [Christ] came down from heaven. Then, after his passion, death, and resurrection, few could deny that a prophet had been among them. Rising from the dead is a pretty impressive trick to show that. Even more, unlike Ezekiel, a prophet had not been among them. God, himself, the Word become flesh, had taken on the form of man and come among us for the forgiveness of sins, for the salvation of mankind.
So, do we know this man? We should reply with a resounding “YES!” Because if we know the one he has sent, then we know him. God sent his only begotten son, The second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. He sent the apostles, and they are represented today by the Church. Christ’s presence remains in and with us through the Church and his gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, it is time to look at that second question from a few weeks ago, again: what does this mean for us?
It means, with Paul, we must be “content with hardships, persecutions, and constraints for the sake of Christ.” But we live in the world of religious freedom, liberty, the right to worship the way we choose. We no longer live with persecution and constraint. Is that true? Or is it true that we live in a world in which the place of the Church of Jesus Christ, founded on the work of the apostles, and living to this day through their successors has been ever more marginalized? The world is willing to slaughter each year far more of our young than Herod ever killed in his psychopathic search for Jesus. We are told that we can worship as we choose, but the truths found through the Gospel and human reason must never leave these four walls or be preached in the streets if they do not support the whims of the times. We do, and we will, suffer “hardships, persecutions, and constraints.” I suspect, if we don’t, we are probably not living our faith and preaching the truth rightly.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that we reject persons different from us. We do not reject women who have sought abortions. We do not reject those who suffer from same sex attraction. We do not reject or attack Christians who have severed their communion with the Church nor those who have never accepted the Gospel. We love all persons, no matter what. Some of us here today may even fit into some of these descriptions – if you are looking at me right now and saying, “I had an abortion! I’m gay! I think the Catholic Church is just wrong on this or that.” If you are in that group, let me say to you, I love you. I can confidently speak for Father Jerry to tell you that he is your pastor, and he loves you, too. Both of us, though, want you to be happy, and we know true happiness – the happiness that lasts rather than the fleeting pleasure we often chase in life – this true happiness comes from realizing that God created us to be happy in him, and the only way to be truly happy in him is to live life as he intends! Love does not mean blindly approving of all someone does; it does not mean that we ignore the sin to love the sinner. That is a false love. Rather, love means truly desiring the best for someone. We love the person because of the dignity that comes with being a creation of God, beloved by him. It is often our job to help a person see sin in his life and refuse to participate in that sin to help that person to rise to true happiness. We still must hold fast that there are morals that are absolute; it is not just a question of what feels good or seems right in all cases. Right and wrong exist, and we cannot pretend they don’t. As long as the world insists that these can be defined by a vote or a judge, we will experience “hardships, persecutions, and constraints.”
In our world, we will often feel like things aren’t working out, like the world is falling apart around us. Even today, there are those who see that in the signs of the times. But we must not lose hope! Pope Benedict wrote a whole encyclical to inspire us to an ever greater trust and hope in the salvation offered by Christ, Spe Salvi, Saved in Hope. We must, at the same time, remember that our hope is not in some utopia on earth in this age. Rather, it is hope in our Lord’s master plan, the plan for which He is always the master builder, the great craftsman, and we are laborers gifted to participate in his master plan for creation. “The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” (Spe Salvi 2)
So when we leave this church, when I am given the gift and responsibility to dismiss this congregation, we are to go and announce the Good News that is salvation and hope in Jesus Christ. We, like Jesus, must never engage in a false love in which we treat the truth as unimportant. Rather, we must always preach the truth in love and hope to a world that needs to hear it more than ever before. That preaching may not be accepted. We may be seen as someone people think they know and, thereby, feel comfortable rejecting our preaching, the preaching of both our words and our lives. But we must never falter from this preaching in every moment. We must do our part to bring creation to perfection as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our savior, Jesus Christ.