Today celebrates the memorial of Saint Dominic, priest. It is quite fitting given the readings and their focus on living according to God’s rule and the Word of Christ. St. Dominic was a wonderful example of this throughout his life. Stories of him tell of his devotion from an early age and his calling to serve God. Living in the late 12th and early 13th century, he gave his life to serve, at first cloistered where he was very comfortable with total devotion to God. However, when called to serve in a different way, he also did that and found that he was very gifted in preaching and reaching to the very hearts of those he taught. The order that he established had “the ministry of the Word” as its chief aim. According to his bio, he taught his friars the art of reaching the hearts of their hearers by animating them with a love of men. So let us keep St. Dominic in mind as we reflect upon these readings and then return to some of his wisdom at the end.
Both the first reading and the responsorial psalm seem typical of the Old Testament with a proclamation of salvation and restoration yet a firm warning for those who did not follow the way. The second paragraph of the first reading makes it very clear what the fate is for those who value lies and greed. And so it is a lesson for us to examine our values and while I would guess that no one reading this would say they ascribe to these, we must all find the subtle ways they work themselves into our lives. I know for myself I must stop and think before I buy some things that seem so important and necessary as to whether I truly have a need or just want it. Maybe I saw someone else wearing something similar or in someone else’s home and I now think that is just what I “need.” I remember a phrase I believe attributed to Dorothy Day that talked of “living simply, so others may simply live.” It does echo in my head when I think of these unnecessary purchases I’m tempted to make.
The gospel clearly carries this theme as well. Jesus is explicit that “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself.” A very telling line is “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” Many of you will remember the bumper sticker that was so popular a few years back. It was a reflection of the greed and values unfortunately eagerly displayed. The bumper sticker stated: “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” Maybe it is true . . . it didn’t say what he would win!! We can be assured that they were not referring to salvation or an eternal life with Christ. We know, however, that it is not what we have in life but what we do with our lives that is the critical piece.
St. Dominic based his preachings on love: love of God, love of the Word, and love for fellow man. One of his quotes reflected this deep love: “A man who governs his passions is master of the world. We must either rule them, or be ruled by them. It is better to be the hammer than the anvil.” So our lesson from him is to recognize our potential as that hammer and use it in the most positive way. In the parting words of St. Dominic, “These, my much loved ones, are the bequests which I leave to you as my sons [and daughters] ; have a charity among yourselves; hold fast to humility; keep a willing poverty.”
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