Homilette for Thursday, July 31, 2008

Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, priest

(Matthew 13:47-53)

A second century theologian named Marcion taught that Christianity has no need of the Old Testament. Rather, he proposed that St. Paul’s letters along with his own version of the gospel were enough to relate the message of salvation. Although he attracted a considerable following, Marcion was eventually excommunicated. But his ideas have endured. Today some Christians have little use for the story of Israel or mistakenly claim that the God revealed in the Old Testament (whom they mistakenly consider driven by justice) is fundamentally different the God of the New Testament (whom they rightfully associate with love).

In today’s gospel Jesus relates a parable that refutes Marcion and subsequent subscribers to the idea that the Old Testament is excisable. He compares a worthy scribe or, we might say, theologian to a homeowner with a large storeroom. Just as the homeowner brings out both old and new items from his storeroom to accommodate the household so the theologian uses both the New and the Old Testament to describe the Kingdom of heaven. We should note the order the homeowner employs – the new comes first and then the old. Jesus means to say that his teaching, what we find in the New Testament, has a priority over the still indispensable revelation in the Old Testament.

Today we celebrate St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. He too resembles a homeowner using both new and old. He lived in the sixteenth century, a time of challenge for the Church. Protestantism was taking root then throughout northern Europe and the recent discovery of new lands made evangelization a primary concern. Ignatius drew upon new ideas to form his Jesuits without foregoing tradition. He maintained that Jesuits were to incarnate the ideal of “contemplation in action” – active in engaging the new challenges and contemplative in appreciating the Christian legacy.