Isaiah 52, 7-10 + 2 Timothy 4, 1-5 + Matthew 8, 5-8
So many people live the anguish of the centurion of this Gospel who begs Jesus Christ: “Only say the word, and my servant will be healed”. The community of men and women who call this place home preach to give that Word of healing to the world. Dominic and those who followed him preach because they burn with this desire, and their desire has illuminated the church since they made a home in this place. The purpose of Dominican preaching is to generate others: “The object of their preaching is either to cause the faith to be born, or to allow it to penetrate people’s entire lives more deeply” according to their own constitution. More than a message, Dominicans preach the person and event of Jesus Christ: the Incarnate Son of God whose voice we can still hear, whose face we can still see, whose Passion is still saving us, and whose heart calls us to a transforming encounter. This is the gift we have received from the heritage and the tradition of Dominic and those who have followed him. A great Dominican preacher Saint Vincent Ferrer (+1419) urged preachers, “Let people find in you a father full of compassion for his children.
Dominicans have used every possible tool for preaching the Word of God, but best of all is the indispensable reality of human presence. The wisdom that has guided their preaching is that the proclamation of the Gospel requires both a profound understanding of Scripture and of Christian tradition presenting the faith in a way that is intellectually engaging and morally persuasive. As a constitutive part of their vocation, Dominicans have always embraced the life of study. From the beginning of the Order and St. Dominic’s first missionary efforts among fallen-away Catholics in Southern France, Dominicans have realized that the proclamation of the Gospel requires both a profound understanding of Scripture and Christian tradition, as well as a presentation of our faith that is intellectually engaging and morally persuasive. To accomplish this Dominic sent his brothers to the new universities of Europe, to Paris, to Bologna, and to Oxford, to study, to teach, and to obtain the academic training that they would need to serve the Church as compelling preachers of God’s word.
Their study has a contemplative aspect to it as well. Dominicans believe that in a daily reflection upon the Word of God, looking at the world around us we will come to a personal knowledge of the One who is Truth himself, Christ Jesus Our Lord. Because study draws us to prayer and prayer for others leads to study, there is in the Word of God an opportunity to encounter God’s grace.
At this first stop on our pilgrimage in this place it is worth remembering a tradition that says Dominic received the rosary from the hands of Our Lady herself in a moment of mystical prayer. While development of the rosary was slow, a Dominican Pope (Pius V) in the 16th century fixed it as a summary of the Gospel meditated upon with Mary. Headed to Lourdes as we are, the Rosary becomes our prayer as we move more deeply into the faith, the prayer, and the life of our church.
Healing, is what the man of this Gospel begs for and receives. Healing is what we celebrate in the days to come at Lourdes. That Word which brings this healing is what we celebrate here in this place. The proclamation of that Word is no longer the sole mission of the Dominicans. Dominic, Thomas Aquinas, Catherine of Sienna, Rose of Lima, and countless others can say what Mary said at the home of Elizabeth. They are words we can say as well: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim the Good News to the poor; he has sent me to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, to give sight to the blind, to free the oppressed and proclaim a year of favor in the name of the Lord”.
We are a prophetic people who, having taken the Word of God seriously must take the courage to bring that Word into confrontation with this world. Dominicans remind us that we are called to be prophets, to awaken consciences, to be people who, in season and out of season, remind the world of the primacy of the Word of God, the Word who desires salvation for all people and who draws himself close to those who are excluded or despised.
This is a good place to be today, a good place to hear the word, a good place to remember our own calling in faith, our own mission to witness with joy our salvation. Saint Dominic and Saint Thomas, pray for us.