14 November 2014

Are you on the roof?

This morning I had the opportunity to celebrate the Holy Mass (in English) for a group of nuns here in Rome. Here is the homily I preached to them:

Friday of the Thirty-second Week of the Year (Year II)

It is not every day that a person is found on the roof of a house, and yet today the Lord Jesus refers to one “who is on the housetop and whose belongings are in the house” (Luke 17:31). He speaks of such a person in the same breath as one in the field. We think it curious a person might be on the roof; Jesus seems to think it ordinary. Who, then, is this person on the roof?

In his Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Saint Bonaventure quotes Saint Bede the Venerable, who quotes Saint Augustine, when he says, “The person on the rooftop who, going beyond carnal matters, lives spiritually as if in the open air.”[1] The spiritual person lives in the open air because he or she has overcome temptation and can say with the Psalmist, “Within my heart I treasure your promise, that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11).

The one who, having climbed to the housetop, returns to collect his possessions is as one, having set hand to the plow, looks back to what was left behind (cf. Luke 9:62). This is a temptation for the roof dwellers, if you will, because, “on account of the righteousness of the just man the enormity of the sin of the wicked was magnified.”[2] This comes about not because of arrogance but because of a sincerity of life.

Living before others in this way, in the way of seeking the Lord with all our hearts, often brings ridicule and sometimes malice, because the unjust do not like their deeds being seen (cf. Psalm 119:2). When the ridicule or malice comes, we are tempted to return inside, to return to our former ways of living, because it seems simpler or more comfortable away from the open air, but we must we on the rooftops to let our shine (cf. Matthew 5:16). We have to remember the words of the Pope Emeritus: “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You we made for greatness.” Such greatness only comes through the Cross, through which we find our lives and know the peace that the Lord Jesus can give, the peace which no one can take away.

Let us, then, this day, ask the Lord to strengthen our resolve to walk in the way of truth (cf. II John 4; Psalm 119:1). May he grant us the grace of perseverance so that “[we] may not lose what [we] have worked for, but receive a full recompense” (II John 8). Amen.

[1] Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 17.54. In Works of St. Bonaventure, Vol. VIII, Part 3: Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Robert J. Karris, ed. (Saint Bonaventure, N.Y.: Franciscan Institute Publications, 2004), 1686.
[2] Saint Bonaventure, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, 17.49. In ibid., 1679.

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