The Readings for the Memorial of St John Chrysostom, Doctor
24th Tuesday, Tempus per Annum (C2)
As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ.I Corinthians 12:12
TODAY is the Memorial of St John Chrysostom. By many lights, he is one of the greatest homiletic interpreters of St Paul. He’s a saint to whom any preacher should pray before presuming to preach. Although I’ve never felt him an especial patron, in terms of models and heroes, he’s certainly one I’d like to emulate for his relationship with the Holy Scripture, as is evident in his homilies, was one a personal friendship. And I would seek to cultivate that relationship, to – as the old prayer says – “read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Bible. In fact, that is what this blog is mostly about.
But to do that – or to do anything in Christ at all – we must follow St Paul’s advice at the end of today’s readings. “Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.” And he’s about to show us, although the lectionary cycle will be interrupted by tomorrow’s Feast of the Holy Cross, so I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by revealing his end goal: the greatest Spiritual gift is love. We have nothing if we haven’t love. And without love, all we have is worthless – even if we are Apostles, Prophets, Wealthy, Poor, man, woman, slave, free, it matters not. If we have not love, it’s worthless.
John Chrysostom is known for preaching an unvarnished Gospel: if he saw it in the text, it came out of his mouth. But he is also known for having no political savvy: so when he preached against sin, he was clear about what he was condemning. When he preached against greed the wealthy felt conviction individually and personally. He preached using what we would call, today, “hate speech”. If one was a sinner within earshot, Chrysostom had a gift of zeroing in on precisely the right words that would make you feel that your sin was, exactly, sin.
Today we dodge that.
Pray for the greater gift of love, though.
No sinner can be comforted in their sin by love.
No wealthy man can be comforted in his wealth by love just as no one can be comforted in their sexual sins by love. No married couple can be told by love it’s not their fault they picked “fur babies” over children for “economic” reasons. No couple can be told by love it’s ok their not sacramentally married in the Church.
But yet the very act of telling them requires love. John only got to screaming when people who should know better refused to listen.
Inside the Church, see, we’re all sinners. And so we are all parts of the body. Addiction (to sin) is a real disease. But we do not struggle alone: the entire body struggles together. And so the Christian standing next to us at Liturgy or sitting in the next pew is as much a Christian as anyone else in the room even if they refuse to see their sin, even if they are lost in the darkness of a past and cultural present that seemingly leaves them no choice but to choose their sin as their identity. They are part of the body and they must be loved into the fullness of the Gospel – even if they think they have it now.
How? As I said, tomorrow is the feast of the Holy Cross. No spoilers. But the answer is love.