Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Only Homily I Will Probably Ever Write.

The last assignment for my Patristic Exegesis class this year was to write a homily in the style of a particular patristic. I had no idea how difficult it would be to write a homily in an exegetical manner with very limited space (2-4 pages) -- especially when all the patristic writers spent 20+ pages on much of the exegesis they did. If you are curious, I was trying to do it in the Antiochene style (John Chrysostom, Gregory of Nyssa etc).

Christ Never Needed to Say Who He was
Because He Knew Who He Was.

John writes that the Jews wanted a plain answer from Christ, from His mouth, as to whether or not He was the Messiah (Jn 10:24). What the Jews in this passage fail to recognize is that you know who a person is not by what they say, but by what they do, for we are people of action and not of words. If I practice thievery, am I not a thief? If I love, am I not a lover? If I run the race, as Paul says, am I not a Christian? Don’t we know that people can speak and still not be what they say they are? The Pharaohs and Emperors said themselves to be gods, yet we know that is not the case for there is only One God, One Word, One Spirit. Still, we know that words are empty unless followed by action.

Words are not what make a person. Neither is it Clothes that make the man. Nor is it shoes that make a lady. In this case it is what one does that makes the person into the kind of person he or she is. As the old maxim “actions speak louder than words” holds true in determining who one is. And Christ when he answered these Jews did not say “I am the Messiah because I say I am the Messiah.” No, His answer was much simpler. Christ said that “The works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness to me … My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:25-27).

The voice Christ speaks heard by His sheep is none other than His actions, and it is a voice He speaks without words – as actions in themselves are voiceless. Christ is the Word, and He is word enough so as not to speak any word. If Christ is God as we hold true then He must do Godly things. I do not mean Godly as in good things that we can do. I mean Godly things as in things that only God can do. There is one event in particular that God does that humanity cannot do; create and re-create.

An example of Christ re-creating is found in John 9 when Christ heals the blind man. Take note, that it was not a mere healing as people like to think. It can be called a healing, but it is more than an ordinary healing as found in other places in scripture. Notice that Christ did not just wave His hand and heal the man as if He was some kind of magician. This is not magic. This is Christ re-creating. What do I mean by this?

John says that Christ “spat on the ground and made clay of the spittle and anointed the man’s eyes with the clay … so he went and came back seeing” (Jn 9:5-7). It is at this point that we see Christ doing a Godly thing. Who else created from clay except God? Who else can create something living from something not alive but God Himself? Here is an instance of Christ re-creating the blind man’s eyes. That is, here is Christ doing what God does. To be able to do what God does, re-create, means only one thing, and that leads us to the conclusion that Jesus is God, for to do Godly things is to be Godly.

Moreover, it has been said by certain intellectual people, whose only authority rest upon the robes they wear, that because Christ never right out said “I am God” proves that He is not God. That Christ did not think Himself to be God. I say that it is because Christ did not right out say “I am God” only proves that He is God, for Christ knew who He was. He had no reason reaffirm himself of who he is.

What I mean is that why do we as humans feel the constant need to tell people what it is we do: “I am a banker.” “I am a student.” “I am a teacher, mechanic, sales clerk?” The only obvious reason is that we are uncertain of who it is we are and what it is we do. If I know I am a Christian, if I know I am a teacher, I know who it is I am, how to act and what I am to do. But if we forget this fact daily or a number of times in the course of the day I would need to be reminded after each instance of forgetfulness. Most often this reminder comes from the liturgical like announcing of my job to those people who inquired into what it is I do. Why else do we have a Creed if not to remind us of who we are and what we believe? Yet, we hold onto an imperfect knowledge, and by no fault of our own, we often forget who we are and what we do: we forget we are Christians and God’s Children. Perhaps that is why we must daily “put on Christ”: he who is perfect in all areas, and in doing so not forget who we are (Ga 3:27).

But imagine if you had perfect knowledge. There would be no need to remind one’s self of who one is and what one is to do, for that knowledge is already there – it is perfect and unforgettable because it is perfect, and when a person asks “Who are you?” or “What do you do?” we can respond in a most clever way because there is no need to constantly remind ourselves of who we are because we cannot forget with a perfect knowledge. A teacher could be a molder of minds. A poet becomes a wordsmith. A scientist becomes the eyes of the world. Likewise it is Christ who has perfect knowledge, which allows Him to not forget who He is and it allows Him to speak in an indirect manner about Who He is. As Christ becomes the Son of Man, I am, One with the Father.

So let us pray daily that we might not forget who we are and what we are to do, and let us not become frustrated by Christ’s perfect knowledge. Just because we do not understand does not mean we shouldn’t believe.


Anonymous said...

This is what I am talking about! A Structure! Read it, it was great, did you think the whole thing up? Did I mention I love it! I could see you totally divining, yes I said divining(but throught the HS) your own cool structure that some grad student way off would have to copy. How cool is that?! bets

Anonymous said...

I cant wait to read something that argues against OSAS if you could.

I think you would be great at it.

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