Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Price Shall Be So Much the More

Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Bishop and Doctor of the Church
When the years are many, the price shall be so much the more; when the years are few, the price shall be so much the less. For it is really the number of crops that he sells you. Do not deal unfairly, then; but stand in fear of your God.  Leviticus 25:16-17
Although he wanted to kill him, he feared the people, for they regarded him as a prophet. But at a birthday celebration for Herod, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance before the guests and delighted Herod so much that he swore to give her whatever she might ask for. Matthew 14:5-7
Rule of St. Benedict (Chapter 50: On Sisters Who are Working Far From the Oratory or Are on a Journey)
Those sisters who are working at a great distance and cannot get to the oratory at the proper time -- the Abbess judging that such is the case -- shall perform the Work of God in the place where they are working, bending their knees in reverence before God. Likewise those who have been sent on a journey shall not let the appointed Hours pass by, but shall say the Office by themselves as well as they can and not neglect to render the task of their service.
In the first reading, we learn that every fiftieth year is a jubilee celebration.  This time is sacred just like the weekly Sabbath. Many of the laws are connected with the release of debts in the jubilee year.  In one reading, we hear the message of jubilee and atonement and turn the page to be confronted with Herod’s execution of John the Baptist. 
John’s message (“You’ve got to change your evil ways for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”) did not sit well with Herod who had married his brother’s  wife.  Herod did not hesitate to put John in prison but chains cannot confine his message because Jesus is already on the scene picking up right where John prescribed.
Herod would not atone for his ways.  His story offers a stark contrast to everything that John was preparing.  The Kingdom of God will supplant the kingdom of Herod but Herod will not go gently into that good night.  Jesus will soon preach “Ask and you will receive.”  Jesus will talk of a forgiving God who will give the children of the Kingdom everything they ask.  Herod sits in contrast to that…giving his step-daughter and wife nothing good but the fruits of hatred and revenge.
The death of John clearly pre-figures the death of Jesus, another state-sponsored execution which will do nothing to contain the message of Christ-based love in action.  No executioner, no cross, no nail, no crown of thorns will stop the steady march of salvation.  That does not mean various kings and queens and princes and principalities will not try.  However, they will not succeed any more than Herod. One voice may be silenced but another voice of a prophet or voice of a martyr will arise to carry on the message.
Is it any wonder that the death of John the Baptist will be immediately followed with the first symbolic pre-Eucharistic banquet in St. Matthew’s Good News?    
Nothing is able to stop the march of salvation history.  Not time.  Not distance.  Not power.  Nothing.  St. Benedict reminds us that even when travelling, we must continue to “render the task of [our] service.”
As we continue to pass through the months of summer marked with hoped-for vacations and celebrations and jubilees, remember to make the time to maintain your practices of piety, study and action no matter where the summer finds you.

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