Br. John Paul Heiser
St. Emma Monastery
Monday of Fifth Week of Easter
Memorial of St. Catherine of Sienna
This is my first real homily so, sisters, I thank you for your indulgence in allowing me to serve as deacon today and experiment upon you.
Paul and Barnabas appear on the scene at Lystra (where our first reading began) after fleeing from a murderous mob in another city. Like athletes of excellence they do not weaken, do not falter in the face of adversity but push into it, using it to fuel the flames burning in their hearts. The two will later strengthen other disciples by exhorting them that, 'it is by many tribulations that we must enter the kingdom of God'. Indeed these two Apostles had come to know that , 'many are the trails of the just man, but from them all the Lord will rescue him.' So, despite a recent brush with death for preaching the Gospel, Paul and Barnabas, propelled by the Spirit of Truth alive within, again proclaim the coming Kingdom of the Resurrected Christ.
The Kingdom is not long in coming. It arrives with the healing of the lifelong cripple. Paul offers the Kingdom to the man of budding faith and he not only accepts it, but rushes towards the walls of the kingdom, leaping over its walls. He does not slowly stagger up, but 'jumps' as in the NAB or "springs" as in the RSV to his feet and immediately begins to walk. The man not only enters the kingdom from what St. John calls 'the world', but also the kingdom enters him in the form of the infused virtue of faith.
Astounded by such a marvel, the citizens really think Barnabas and Paul to be gods. From our perspective today this seems silly; however, the citizens of Lystra who wanted to worship these apostles are not far from the truth, and so, not far from the Kingdom. Why? Well, in a very real sense the divinity, that is the entire Trinity, was indeed before these citizens as it tabernacled in the souls of Paul and Barnabas. These two had kept the commandments of Christ, and it is as if Jesus says to them, "you have kept my word, so the Father loves you, and we have come to you, and made our abode with you'. It is the indwelling deity that causes the fireworks of miracles, anoints their tongues, and stirs the hearts of their hearers so that God may be all in all.
My sisters, you are well aware that in striving to live the consecrated life a murderous mob of quiet another sort seeks our lives and you have the splinters under your skin from His cross to prove it. Nevertheless, you also ardently believe that the bridegroom dwells in you to rescue you and to renew you, to renew you especially when things look most bleak. It is He who commands us to stand when we are crippled by sin or by pain, and we can chose to jump, to spring, to run while we still have the light of day. It is through seeing with his eyes that we perceive the infinite dignity of even those most repulsive to us. My sisters, you are consecrated to him, he dwells in you powerfully, because of him, 'you are little less than gods'. Know that you are beautiful in him, united to your crucified spouse. Today, like Mary most beautiful and Saint Catherine of Sienna, her little daughter, let that splendor bubble out you and flow into the hearts of those in most need of your intercession. Truly my sisters, 'the Kingdom of God is within you.'