Dancing on the Head of a Pin

There is a legend of St Thomas Aquinas asking "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" At this blog we ask all questions dealing with our faith and spirituality. Some are down to earth, rubber meets the road questions, while others are more lofty...like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

Friday, January 27, 2006

Love to Distraction

Today, the feast of St John Chrysostom, I celebrated the Eucharist at the Convent of St Helena. During the homily I brought up the subject of modern preaching - because Chrysostom (goldenmouth) is known as perhaps the greatest preacher in all of Christendom. St John did not pull punches in his sermons. I recalled a first line of a sermon of St John's, "Recently I serverly upbraided you..." Later in that sermon he compared preaching to putting medicine on a wound; it may hurt at first, but give it time and healing will occur. One of my favorite sermons is of St John criticizing his congregation for skipping worship in the summer and complaining it's too hot, etc (not much has changed in 1600 years). Certainly zingers and criticism is abundant in modern preaching. Preaching is power and preachers are given an incredible amount of power. All of us are given the charge at our baptism to preach and build up. Unfortunately preaching is many times perverted as an ecclesial power move with one person speaking with authority (see this week's gospel) manipulating the eager ears in the pews. Did St John Chrysostom do this? I don't think so. In a letter to one of his priests, St John was critical of him for only preaching five times over a long period and for not attending to the responsibilities of worship and pastoral care, but he underlined all of his disappointments by telling the lapsed priest, "I love you to distraction." God knows we are not perfect and most of the time we know we are not perfect. Preaching needs to inform, inspire, and build up. Sometimes it must be a mirror; but it should never be a power play or a soap box for personal agendas. Preaching should be the result of love to distraction.

Steve +


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