Jesus in the Temple

Homily: Solidarity with Norcia

Fr. Basil Nixen, OSB
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Extraordinary Form
September 18, 2016

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Gospel reading today, says Saint Peter Chrysologus, shows that through His incarnation, Christ reveals divine wonders in the midst of human actions and by visible things, renders invisible realities. With these few words, the holy Bishop of Ravenna describes not only the logic of the incarnation, but also that of the sacraments of the Church, which continue to communicate to us the reality and the salutary effects of the incarnation of the Son of God. Christ came to take upon Himself our infirmities and to give us His virtues; to seek our human things and bestow upon us His divine things; and finally, to accept unjust treatment and restore us to the dignity that was lost to us.

In today’s Gospel, the Lord, with paternal tenderness, calls the paralytic man a son and offers a word of forgiveness: this is the reality perceived. But behind this perceived event, there is an unperceived phenomenon, the remission of sins, that takes place like a coronation of the miracle of justification. For the justification of the soul, says St. Thomas Aquinas, there are four things that happen at the same instant: the infusion of divine grace in the soul, the free will’s approach to God through faith, the free will’s moving away from sin, and lastly, the remission of sins. This is the most amazing miracle that Christ accomplishes in today’s Gospel, still more miraculous than the bodily healing of the paralytic. The less prodigious of the two deeds, that is the bodily healing which comes later, acts as proof of the more important miracle, the remission of sins – which comes first. In both miracles, Christ demonstrates His divinity because only God can restore the health of soul by forgiving sins and only God can heal the human body with just His word. But Christ manifests His divinity in yet another way. A few scribes who are present at this episode murmur in their hearts, accusing the Lord of blasphemy because He forgives sins. The authority of the Old Testament was clear that only God can penetrate the heart of man and see the thoughts that arise from within. Christ, then, seeing their thoughts, asks them openly, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts?” as if to say to them, with the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “I, the Lord, test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.” (Jer. 17:10).

We can be sure of this: that God sees the thoughts of our hearts. He sees if they are good or bad, if they are inclined to what is evil or to what is noble, towards vice or virtue, towards hatred or charity, towards death or life. No one else can see these thoughts. Only ourselves and God. It is highly dutiful for us, therefore, if we wish to be healed spiritually and saved eternally, to confess our bad thoughts so that we may be absolved, do penance, and seek to increase our good thoughts.

Cor mundum crea in me Deus: Create in me a clean heart, O God – this should be our prayer. We monks make this our prayer every morning during lauds. The monastic life exists for this reason. All the practices of the rule, that is, liturgical and personal prayer, fasting, abstaining from certain foods, vigils, poverty, obedience, stability, consecrated chastity, solitude and silence, life in the cloister and separated from the world – all of these monastic observances are undertaken in order to purify us from unworthy thoughts and acquire a pure heart, by the grace of the Holy Spirit that works in us by means of these observances because we seek God and the Savior has told us that only the pure of heart will see Him.

Today, 24 days from the earthquake on August 24th, we monks are in spiritual solidarity with the city of Norcia. On account of the damage to our church and some parts of the monastery, which required us to seek refuge in the mountains that overlook the city, our physical presence here is less noticed. We would like to assure you, though, that your monks, the sons of Saint Benedict, in the native land and at the birthplace of the Patriarch, continue to offer for you, for the Universal Church and the whole world, daily Mass, silent prayer and liturgical chant, praying that the Lord will hear their prayer offered for the protection and sanctification of the world.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.