Saturday, June 24, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Most Beautiful House

Do you know what and where is the most beautiful house in the whole world?

According to the British Broadcasting Company or BBC, the most beautiful house is at Bear Run, 65 miles or 105 kilometers southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It has a name. It is called Fallingwater. It was built by Frank Lloyd Wright, then in the 1930s the most famous living architect in the US. It was built among trees over a waterfall with the bedrock rising up to the living room floor. It is estimated that as of 2017 more than 5 million visitors have taken a close look at this house, reputedly the most beautiful in the world.

Our Gospel reading today talks about the most beautiful house in all the worlds, in the whole universe, more beautiful than the Fallingwater in Pennsylvania.  Let us listen again to Jesus as he talks about this most beautiful house in the whole universe. He says, "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna or hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father's knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."

On first reading you do not see any house in this statement of Jesus. But when you want to understand more what he said, you will learn that he was talking about a house which is worth more than many sparrows, in fact worth more than all the sparrows in the world.

Jesus did refer to this kind of house in his other discourses. In Luke chapter 11 verse 24 to 26 he talks about this house. He says there, “When an unclean spirit has gone out of a man, it wanders through arid wastes searching for a resting place; failing to find one, it says, ‘I will go back to where I came from.’ It then returns, to find the house swept and tidied. Next it goes out and returns with seven other spirits far worse than itself, which enter in and dwell there. The result is that the last state of the man is worse than the first.”

In the first part of the passage we quoted, Jesus says, "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. There have been many interpretations of the meaning of the words “body” and “soul” here. Body usually is understood as the material, physical part of a human being; soul usually is understood as the immaterial, invisible part. One dictionary defines the soul as “the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal”. This interpretation of the soul seems to look at it as a part of man which can be separated from a person. It can leave the person and still live without the body.

But Jesus’ idea of the soul is that of a house. In the passage from Luke which we quoted, Jesus says that the unclean spirit returns to the place where it came from and finds the house swept and tidied. This spirit then calls out seven other spirits far worse than itself to dwell there. They dwell in that man as in a house.

Because spirits are immaterial and invisible they dwell in that part of the man which is immaterial and invisible, his soul.

Again, in the conclusion of Jesus’ sermon on the mount he compares the human person to a house. He says there, “Anyone who hears my words and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on rock.”

The human soul is the house of the spirit.

In contrast to Fallingwater or any other beautiful house the beauty of the human soul as a house does not consist in its building or its decorations. Its beauty depends on its occupant. The more beautiful its occupant the more beautiful it is.

This is the picture suggested by Teresa of Jesus when she talks about the beauty of our souls. At the beginning of her book THE INTERIOR CASTLE she wrote "I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal, and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. What, do you imagine, must that dwelling be in which a King so mighty, so wise, and so pure, containing in Himself all good, can delight to rest? Nothing can be compared to the great beauty and capabilities of a soul."

This is the most beautiful house in all the world, the place where God, the source of all beauty, dwells.

This is what Jesus warns us that we will lose this most beautiful house if we do not fear God who can put this soul in hell if it is not given to him to dwell in.

There have been many debates whether the human person is composed of body and soul or of body, soul and spirit. Some theologians say that this has been settled by the Eighth Ecumenical Council, the Council of Constantinople in 869. Its Canon 11 says, The Old and New Testaments teach that man has but one rational and intellectual soul. That is also the position of Jesus. But with him the soul is the dwelling place of the Spirit. This Spirit of God is the one who gives beauty to this soul.

And this is the tragedy of the human being, if he does not value this soul and abandons it to hell. It is like throwing the most beautiful house into fire.

In the first reading we heard Jeremiah exclaim, "Sing to the LORD, praise the LORD, for he has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!" The word "life" here can also be translated "soul". It is Yahweh who rescues our souls from Satan by Jesus' warning us to make sure we do not abandon our body and soul to hell by not fearing God.

In the second reading we are told by St. Paul that this saving of our souls from the power of the wicked is "the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ". Because of our sin in Adam all of us deserve death and consignment to hell. St. Paul says, "Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned." But God saved us by this gift of Jesus.

Yes, we have the most beautiful house in all the worlds, our soul, because God himself dwells in our soul by grace, the gift Jesus gives us. Let us not allow the enemy to destroy this in hell by denying Jesus.

Let us bow our heads in prayer. Lord Jesus, you told us that if we deny you, you will deny us before your Father in heaven. By doing this we lose the most beautiful house in all the worlds. Give us the grace never to deny you and thus value the beauty of our souls, your dwelling place. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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