The following is a homily based on the readings from the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. It delves into the wisdom of the Rule of St Augustine followed by the Order for almost 800 years.
Just a year ago, Pope Francis made a special announcement to the whole Church. This was that November 2014-November 2015 would be the Year of Consecrated Life. Unfortunately, many may not have known about this special announcement. Some may think that it is just for those who are religious priests, brothers, and sisters. However this way of radically imitating Jesus has an effect on the whole Church. How many of us have been blessed by the example of sisters, brothers, and religious priests? Their life teaches us about how to strive to live in community with a total desire to serve Christ.
Each one of these religious communities follows a rule of life, which gives guidance to their consecration and communal living. One of the most famous of these rules is the Rule of St Augustine. This tiny rule written in 400 AD is followed by thousands of religious. One of the more interesting passages is found in section 8:
“If you brother, for example, were suffering a bodily wound that he wanted to hide for fear of undergoing treatment, would it not be cruel of you to remain silent and a mercy on your part to make this known? How much greater then is your obligation to make his condition known lest he continue to suffer a more deadly wound of the soul.”
By these words St Augustine challenges communities, families, and friends to live true charity. We hear in the second reading that the greatest commandment is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” “Love does no evil to one’s neighbor.” We also could say that love allows no evil to befall a neighbor. How can we say we love our brother, if we allow them to remain with a serious wound which could otherwise be treatable? What if we say nothing as the wound becomes infected and threatens the person’s health or even life? To most of us we can see how obviously wrong it is to do such a thing.
It becomes less clear when we, like St Augustine, are speaking of a spiritual wound. When our loved one is caught up in a life of sin. In such cases, the normal response today is to say, “It is none of my business” or “I shouldn’t judge.” Yet, the spiritual wound is just as deadly, maybe worse, than a physical one. The physical wound effects the body while it doesn’t normally influence the person’s relationships. The spiritual wound, however, harms not only the person but their relationships. This is because the soul has such an intense effect on the whole person. The relationships to family and friends are often strained. The wounded person unconsciously turns away from those who support and love him or her the most.
Even more unfortunate is the damage caused to the person’s relationship to God their Father and Creator. Sin is a lack of love and necessarily has a profound effect on our relationship to God who is Love. Anyone who has a faith-life knows the importance of our relationship with the Lord. He is our shelter in the storm. He is our lighthouse through the darkness. God is not a distant figure who began the world only to “let it go”. No…the Lord holds all things in being, gives us our next breath, and lovingly walks with those who invite Him into their life. To lose our relationship with God is a deep loss which is experienced at every level of the person’s existence.
Let us not be mistaken. It is cruel to remain silent when family, friends, or even acquaintances are dying inside from a serious spiritual wound. In great love, we have a responsibility help them. Following the Gospel, we can do so with words and others assistance. Yet, the most
powerful way remains prayer, sacrifice, and true signs of our affection for them.
We show them that they are still loved by us and, most importantly by, God. The door remains open for them to return to the Father’s House. They will receive the healing that they need to become whole again. Love is respectful, but it is also truthful. It never minimizes the wounds of others, but always seeks their healing. May we have the same love for our neighbor as Christ has for us.