Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Kingdom of God is like...

[This is a homily I preached this morning on Exodus 34: 29-35 "Seeing the face of Moses, they were afraid," and Matthew 13: 44-46 "He sells all he has and buys that field."]

St. John Cassian teaches us that the final goal of a monk is the Kingdom of God, so whenever our Lord teaches about the Kingdom, we should be especially attentive.

I have an acquaintance in the Chicago area who used to invite me over frequently. She would ask, “Will they let you out?” as if I were in some kind of prison here. One often comes across the same mentality in books on medieval monks or reporting on monks, nuns or priests today. One reads sentences such as, “The Church forbids monks to marry or own anything,” etc. It is tempting, of course, to blame the inconveniences of monastic life on ‘them’, meaning probably the superior of the monastery, but the truth is that no one imposes the renunciations of monastic life on a monk. He freely undertakes them. Why? For the sake of the Kingdom of God. The monk recognizes the tremendous victory won for us by Jesus Christ and wishes to remove every possible obstacle from his pursuit of God as God truly is.

When we first enter monastic life, the renunciations are mainly on the level of the material: we remove the possibility of marriage, and private ownership and turn over decisions about the use of our time to the community. However, the quest for the Kingdom of God requires us to go even deeper, renouncing our own preferences, likes and dislikes, even ultimately renouncing our own opinions about God, our images of God and impressions of God, since God is infinitely greater than anything we can imagine about Him. This does not always feel good. Just as the Israelites were frightened by what happened to Moses when he encountered God face to face, we often find our way forward to God blocked by fear of the unknown and fear of losing what is known and is comfortable in our lives. At these times, we should remember this teaching of the Lord. If a merchant is willing to sell all he has for a pearl, how much more should we be willing to give up in return for the ultimate joy and happiness of knowing God?

Athletes deny themselves all sorts of things to win a crown that perishes. Why should we not have to fight a little bit to attain the Kingdom? What’s more, the athlete denies himself without any guarantee of winning. Only one runner wins the race, everyone else goes home disappointed. We, by contrast, are assured of entering the Kingdom if only we persevere in faith. Let us pray for the virtues of hope and faith as we celebrate this morning’s Eucharist.

1 comment:

+ Alan said...

Very good stuff Father. Very much appreciate especially that middle sections about "renouncing our own preferences" for the Kingdom. Something all of us need to be weaving into our daily living, not just you monk types. :) I've pulled that quote out and used it on my blog to encourage just that. Pax vobiscum.


This blog is published with ecclesiastical approval.

If I, who seem to be your right hand and am called Presbyter and seem to
preach the Word of God, If I do something against the discipline of the Church
and the Rule of the Gospel so that I become a scandal to you, The Church, then
may the whole Church, in unanimous resolve, cut me, its right hand, off, and
throw me away.

Origen of Alexandria
Locations of visitors to this page