Baptismal Living, part 7: Domestic Life in the Spirit

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Seventh Sunday after Trinity (Proper 12), 2020.

With the return starting next Sunday of eucharistic worship in the Mass with Holy Communion, the elements that make up the baptismal life of the Church will all be again in place for us. The elements of Christian life are fellowship in the apostles’ teaching and doctrine (which is our overall devotional life loving God and neighbor according to Scripture), the breaking of bread (which is the Mass with Eucharist), and the prayers (the daily liturgical praying of the Church). This is the Christian way of life revealed on the Day of Pentecost, empowered in all moments of the life by the Holy Spirit, as the way to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Who is the promise of the Father. This threefold Regula (or Rule) is everything that is meant by Christian discipline, and it is the sure means for everything that is meant by Christian repentance, that is, turning to God.

While the Christian life obviously demands commitment, it is not in any way complicated. It is not the province only of those with intellectual gifts, or of certain personality or temperament. Rather it is an everyday life of discipline and repentance meant for all, available to all, and benefiting both all of the baptized, as well as, through the local worshipping community, the whole world. The Christian life is far more domestic, quiet, and even mundane than it is spectacular. It is picking up your Bible and Prayer Book and praying when no one is watching; it is tending responsibly to the Christian duties of life, when no one is watching; it is loving God in our neighbor when no one is watching, and even our neighbor is unaware.

It is in the unspectacular life of fully loving Jesus when no one is watching where Our Lord teaches the kingdom of heaven is often found. The mustard seed, growing into a mustard bush—not a very large bush, not beautiful or itself awe-inspiring; but just as in a small seed and small bush nonetheless a whole world can be found for those with patience and quieted mind, so as God’s glory can be found in the normal domestic life of tending our garden, keeping our homes, protecting our family life through prayer and humility before God.

And Our Lord teaches that the kingdom of heaven is as everyday unspectacular as leaven that is hid in flour. Flour by itself is lifeless and inedible, as we are without God’s grace. But just as a little leaven leavens the whole of the lump of flour so as to become delicious and enriching loaves of bread, so as God’s grace, being the heavenly reality of Christ’s sacred humanity, grace which teaches us how to pray and calls us ever closer to Him, this grace raises up our pitiful, sinful, unfulfilled lives that we might become the Sacrament of Christ’s heavenly bread for the world.

And Our Lord teaches that the kingdom of heaven is as treasure hidden in a field, and in which a man sells all he has and buys that field. The treasure is the daily bread of God’s Word in Scripture, and the field is the world. The man selling all he has signifies placing nothing in our lives before God, above God, or with greater priority than God. For when we do that over the course of our growth in the Spirit, which is the process of baptismal living called “sanctification,” the world is seen as full of grace, and we receive the world as in all ways made by God through His Eternal Word which is Christ. And while this may sound spectacular, extraordinary, and even mystical, such recognition of God’s grace permeating the whole of creation is captured so well and in such earthy terms in the hymn, “All Things Bright and Beautiful”—for all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all. God’s endless grace fill all in all—and He does so in ways miraculously ordinary.

Brothers and sisters, the Psalmist as he often does captures all of this poignantly when he sings “When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” The baptized people of God are not asked to be anything but simple—people who fear God, and as a result live an uncomplicated, largely unspectacular domestic faith that knows the eyes of Our Lord are upon all who love Him, and that His grace is hidden everywhere in the world to seek, find, and treasure like the pearl of great price. We are people seeking light—light which can only be found through the opening of the scriptures and the breaking of bread, for it is only through the opening of the scriptures and the breaking of bread that the Christian God is revealed in Jesus Christ.