Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily on the feast of St. Benedict July 11 at Holy Angels Convent in Jonesboro.
We are gathered today to celebrate three jubilarians from your community: the Diamond Jubilee of Sister M. Elaine Willett and Sister M. Lenore Dust, and the Silver Jubilee of Sister M. Laura Cathcart. And we do so at a time of transition, having just elected Sister Johanna Marie as your new prioress.
A few weeks ago I asked what the readings for this Mass would be, and I see that in addition to the regular readings for Tuesday of the 14th Week in Ordinary Time in Year 1 of the Liturgical Cycle, we have added a Second Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians (3:12-17). So that’s what I’d like to speak about today.
After all, our first reading is about fighting — not a good topic for a jubilee (Jacob fighting with an angel which leaves him crippled for life) — and our Gospel is about Jesus casting out demons, also not quite appropriate for the joyful tone we want to set today.
Except that, I guess they do fit with today’s feast of St. Benedict who was famous for fighting with Satan and those under Satan’s influence, and then emerging victorious. Indeed it was for that reason that the Rule you follow was devised by him to create a community in which peace and love prevail, precisely the focus of St. Paul in the extraordinary Second Reading you have chosen for this Mass.
And what does St. Paul say? He has just listed a series of virtues with which the Colossians must clothe themselves, putting aside all those passions that are unworthy of the Lord. Indeed he gives us a list of 11 different vices, most of which have something to do with evil desires, anger and malice — and then in today’s Second Reading he proceeds to list those virtues that should characterize us instead, namely: heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, putting up with one another, forgiving one another and over all these, to put on love, which St. Paul describes as “the bond of perfection.”
He says that if you do this, the peace of Christ will control your heart and you will become one body — truly united. And then he goes on to describe the gratitude that fills our hearts when our hearts are united to the Lord and to each other in this way ... the Word of Christ dwelling in us so richly that we do everything we do “in the name of the Lord Jesus,” meaning that we do everything we do in a way that is worthy of him. What a nice message with which to begin the term of office of your new prioress. What a nice message with which to celebrate the jubilee of Sister Elaine, Sister Lenore and Sister Laura!
In today’s reading, St. Paul offers us a great challenge that is of immense help for the spiritual life, namely that everything we say or do should be in “the name of Jesus.”
This means that before we do or say anything, we should ask: “Can I do this calling on the name of Jesus? Would I say this if Jesus were right here with me?” Well he is! Keep that always in mind and the virtues St. Paul lists will take ever deeper root in your hearts and in your behavior.
Jubilarians, thank you for your faithful witness over all these years. May the Lord bless you abundantly in the years that lie ahead!
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