HOMILY WEEK 19 01 – Year II
Learning to Listen – Lavishing Praise:
Memorial of St. Dominic de Guzman
(Ezk 1:2-5,24-28; Ps 148; Mt 17:22-27)
Have you ever heard God speak to you? Was your response one of praise?
Today’s liturgy invites us to hone our ability to listen to God’s voice, and to respond by singing God’s praises.
The truth is God is speaking to us all the time, in a variety of ways. We are the ones who need to brush the rust off our receivers and be more attentive to the myriad ways God communicates to us every day.
Sometimes Jesus speaks matter-of-factly about practical needs. He offered Peter a simple concrete although unusual way to solve a problem about paying taxes. The catch of fish with a coin in its mouth is a small miracle, showing God’s glory and ability to communicate is not limited. In the Gospel, Peter is asked if Jesus pays temple tax. That tax was for foreigners, not the local people who were already heavily taxed. Jesus was really exempt from that tax, as he was THE temple in his own person, the glory of God in a hidden way.
Jesus can speak to us in practical ways as well. We need to try to be more attentive to his presence and listen at different points during our day. Perhaps an idea will pop into our thoughts as we ask about an issue or need. Or maybe a friend will give us a suggestion that seems just right. Jesus might be speaking to us through him or her.
Our emotions can be a fairly trustworthy way to assess if something is from God or not – when we are in line with God’s will for us, there will usually be a sense of peace, calm and well-being. That might be apparent especially after a time of prayer – even if that time was rather dry and uneventful. Personally, the question of my vocation to religious life was settled for me when I arrived at the Oblate novitiate in Ontario. The peace I experienced as soon as I stepped out of the car was similar to the peace I used to feel after the family rosary at home and on the way back from church on Sunday in the family car with dad looking at the fields and me sitting on his lap steering the car. Right away – I knew I was in the right place and doing the right thing, and that was how God communicated that to me.
Other times, Jesus speaks in more mystical ways, as he spoke to Ezekiel in today’s first reading. Ezekiel recognized God was speaking to him in the violent winds, the flashing fire, the flapping wings, and the roaring waters, even if he wasn’t exactly sure what the message was. Describing his vision, the prophet Ezekiel used the word “like” often, as he struggles to describe the glory of God he was in his vision. He was limited by language that can only express so much, so he would say it was “like” this color; “like” fire, like the stained-glass window in a chapel. It’s like that sometimes, almost like learning a foreign language. God occasionally does speak through dreams, visions, and even talking donkeys (Numbers 22:22-35)!
More often than not, God speaks in more commonplace ways, God may make a line from scripture strike a chord in our heart. A homily may seem to have been written exactly to help us. Or a conversation gives us direction, encouragement or a wisdom when we need it most and expect it lease.
God can use anything. God is speaking always, everywhere. Little by little we can learn to hear his voice. Then, with practice, we will grow in understanding what God is saying and how God want us to respond.
Today the Church honors St. Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominicans, and one who truly listened to God speaking to him. Born in Caleruega, Spain, around 1172, he began his priestly life in Osma as a cathedral canon. In 1205, he and bishop Diego of Osman were sent to France to combat the Albigensian heresy. Dominic worked tirelessly to defend the truth of the Incarnation.
Dominic possessed great integrity and was strongly motivated by divine love. He was a man of great equanimity and grace, often moved to compassion and mercy. His profound spirituality was manifested by a joyful heart, kindness and a peaceful composure.
The Dominicans saw the importance of education, stressed community life and valued poverty while being involved in the world, contrary to the rich Benedictine monasteries of the time. In his conversations and letters, Dominic often urged the members of the Order to study the bible constantly. He always carried with him the gospel according to Matthew and the epistles of Paul, that he almost knew from memory.
The Friars had a lasting impact on mediaeval Europe fighting heresy. They provided a well thought-out, rational response to the new learning that was appearing as Aristotle was becoming known again in the Christian West. Dominic himself walked from city to city, preaching and inviting vocations. Two or three times he was chosen bishop, but he always refused, preferring to live with his brothers in poverty. He desired to be scourged and cut to pieces, and so die for the faith of Christ. Of him Pope Gregory IX declared: “I knew him as a steadfast follower of the apostolic way of life. There is no doubt that he is in heaven, sharing in the glory of the apostles themselves.” He died at Bolognas in 1221, was canonized in 1234 and is a patron saint of the Dominican Republic, astronomers, scientists and the falsely accused.
The Eucharist is our greatest prayer – one that brings together all kinds of prayer: petition, praise, adoration, thanksgiving, worship, etc.
May our celebration help us to listen more closely to God’s word, be more aware of how God may be speaking to us in our everyday lives, and lead us into a more heartfelt praise of God in response to the love God is always trying to communicate to us.