The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on May 29th at the Mother of the Light Convent
In the Gospel today, Jesus refers to the hour which in some circumstances refers to the End Time, other times however, like here, it refers to the moment of Redemption through His death and glorification.
Our Lord has spoken about His sacrifice being a condition for entering into His glory. What holds true for the Master applies also to His disciples, then, now and forever.
In his letter to the Ephesians, to no surprise, St. Paul continues on this general principle as he has done in his previous letters. Enormous consequences flow from the fact that we are called to form a Church through Baptism and by being members of a holy nation.
All of the faithful have received this call to holiness, and we must strive to respond to God’s grace. Our Lord expects his people to continually strive for holiness. For if they fail to respond in thought, word and deed; not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be severly judged, for to whom much has been given, of him shall much more be required (Lumen Gentium 14).
To show the importance of unity in the Church St. Paul quotes an acclamation which may have been used in early Baptismal Liturgies. Just as you are called to one hope that belongs to your call, there is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism. Recognition of only one Lord underlies the unity of all members must seek as a single body.
Since there is only one Lord, there is a common dignity deriving from a common grace through Christ, a common vocation, perfection and salvation, a common hope and undivided love. This unity of souls is more intimate and more perfect than that of any natural being. It is however, maintainable only by the bond of peace. It cannot exist in the midst of disorder or enmity.
St. Paul goes on today to present the flip side of the coin, so to speak. Internal discord is not only division, there is also the abuse of charisms with which Christ endows each individual. This diversity of grace or charism given to individuals in the Church does not in any way undermine its unity, rather they enhance it.
St. John Paul the Great wrote in Redemptor Hominis, 21: As a community of the people of God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit’s workings, each member has his own unique gift….although this gift is a personal vocation, and a form of participation in the Church’s saving work, it also serves others, and builds the Church in the various spheres of human life on earth.
This building up of the Body of Christ occurs to the extent that its members strive to hold firm to the truths of the faith and to live in charity. As Christians develop in faith and love they become more firmly inserted into the Body of Christ and make a greater contribution to its development (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 34).
St. Paul says in verse 13 that this building up of the Body of Christ must continue until we all attain the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son, which brings us back to the letter to the Thessalonians: Love one another, let it increase and abound to one another and to all; so that your heart may be found unblemished in holiness.
St. Augustine said: we must try not only to be good, but to conduct ourselves in such a way in humility we everyone as our superior. As members of the living Christ, incorporated into Him by Baptism, all of the faithful have an obligation to collaborate in the growth and spreading of His Body, so that they might bring it to fullness as soon as possible.
Twice, earlier this month, we encounter the symbol of the Church as a Boat—what is a boat? A boat is not just the vessel, but it is the sum total of the gear and crew, officers, and cargo which fill the boat and make it ready to weigh anchor and set out.
Having presented this teaching we can now look at the life of St. Theodosia, born in the city of Tyre, Lebanon in 287AD. The historian Eusebius, writes that she appears to have suffered and been eventually martyred for refusing to sacrifice to idols at the order of Maximinus. The persecution lasted about 5 years.
When she was 19, she came to Caesarea, where she approached some prisoners who were awaiting their sentence of death. She asked the prisoner if they would ask the Lord to remember her when they came into the presence of God. Soldiers immediately seized her as if she had done something criminal or impious.
She was led before Urban, the Governor, who being in a foul mood ordered her to be tortured. Her flesh was torn to the bones by iron combs. She endured this suffering with a joyful and silent face. Again the governor ordered her to sacrifice to idols but she refused saying: You fool! I have been granted to join the martyrs in the glory of Jesus in heaven. Urban ordered a stone to be tied around her neck and thrown into the sea, but angels rescued her. Then they threw her into a den of wild and hungry beasts to be eaten; but the beasts would not touch her. Finally she was beheaded on April 2nd, in the year 307, on the day of Our Lord’s Resurrection.
We have diversity of gifts, of vocations, not all are called to witness by death, but all are called to witness with truth.