Sermons

Summary: The Church continues the mission of Jesus Christ as one Body and is able to do so because of the prayer of that same Christ.

Tuesday of the 7th Week in Easter 2019

Sometimes it helps us to understand that the Roman world in the first century did not speak Latin all over, or write in Latin all over the place. Most of the writing was done in Greek. And the Bible that they used was the Old Testament, because the New Testament hadn’t been written down very much. The Old Testament version used in the early Church was what we call the Septuagint, and the language of that collection echoed throughout the Church’s liturgy. There’s a phrase in today’s reading from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles that we ought to look at closely. Paul says that he is “bound in the Spirit.” When we look at the Greek word translated “bound,” we see the OT telling about pack animals that were tied up, but we also see in the Book of Job the word describing a wineskin that is under pressure, ready to burst, and in the Song of Songs the King being bound in the tresses of His true love.

I believe that Paul is using the word bound in the sense of those two passages. He is “bound in the Spirit” much like we in the South say somebody is “bound to” do something. Paul has taken on the yoke of Christ, from the first moment he met Jesus on the Damascus road. So when the Holy Spirit tells him to take the Word of God somewhere, he takes the Word there. He is bound in the Spirit because He is so full of the Spirit of God he would burst if he didn’t share that Spirit. Paul is “bound” in the sense that he is so in love with Jesus the Messiah he cannot conceive of a life lived without following Him. He is freely enslaved to the Blessed Trinity. The plain fact is that every Christian is called to be in that same condition, so that when someone is on the way to canonization, the first step is an investigation of his or her whole life, and when that has been confirmed, they are called “servant of God.”

St. John records that Jesus, at the Last Supper, prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee.” And part of that glory is that the Father’s Word and mission have been successfully given to the Church. The Church continues the mission of Jesus Christ as one Body and is able to do so because of the prayer of that same Christ, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.”

Today’s saint, Francis Caracciolo, lived in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries in Italy and Spain. The details of his life are, frankly, almost incredible, and nobody could believe them if they weren’t so well attested and documented. At twenty-two, he was attacked by a series of skin diseases that in his time were considered “leprosy,” and incurable. “With death so near, he made a vow that if he regained his health, he would spend the rest of his life in the service of God and his fellow men. He recovered so quickly after this vow, that his cure was considered miraculous.” He then studied for the priesthood in Naples and was ordained in 1587, joining a religious order “whose object was to assist condemned criminals to die holy deaths.” In other words, what we today call “prison ministry.” But that didn’t last long.

“Five years after he went to Naples, a letter from Venerable Fr. Giovanni Agostino Adorno of Genoa to another Caracciolo, Fabrizio, begging him to take part in founding a new religious institute, was delivered by mistake to [Francis], and he saw in this circumstance an assurance of the Divine Will towards him.” So he joined the new society and helped write its rules. Among the rules they follow is a strict one to spend at least one hour a day in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, and that is a very good idea for all of us. “Such was [Francis’s] love for the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist, that he would spend almost the entire night in adoration. The little sleep he allowed himself was often spent on one of the altar steps.”

He and his order performed many good works during and after his life. But the end of his life really bears mentioning: at the shrine of Loreto he was allowed to spend the night in prayer. There, the other founder of his order appeared to him and told him he would soon die. On June 1, 1608, he was seized with a fever and set his affairs in order. “On the Vigil of Corpus Christi, Wednesday, June 4, 1608, he seemed absorbed in meditation until an hour before sunset when he suddenly cried out, ‘Let us go, Let us go to heaven!’ And then he died. What a great set of final words for anybody!

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