The Memorial of St. John Chrysostom

St-John-ChrysostomToday is the memorial for St. John Chrysostom, a bishop and doctor of the Church. He lived in the late 4th and early 5th centuries and his held as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs of the Byzantine Church along with Basil the Great and Gregory of Nazianzus. John garnered the moniker Chrysostom (“golden tongue”) because of his oratory skills. John also be came quite popular because of his eloquence, his insights and  passion in his public speaking at the Golden Church, Antioch’s cathedral. Especially popular was his insightful expositions of Bible passages and moral teaching. He emphasized charitable giving and was concerned with the spiritual and temporal needs of the poor. He spoke against abuse of wealth and personal property:

Do you wish to honor the body of Christ? Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then with what is left you may adorn the altar as well. (In Evangelium S. Matthaei)

His straightforward understanding of the Scriptures, as opposed to an allegorical interpretation – meant that the themes of his talks were practical, explaining the Bible’s application to everyday life and yet inspiring.

Some 1500 years ago, St. John Chrysostom, writing to a young man on the eve of his wedding, told him to take Christ as their teacher. He urged them to always have Christ in the midst of his marriage that together his bride and he might learn from the life of Christ, especially what it means to seek the good of the other – at whatever the cost. He urged them to take as the teacher the One who lived and died for love, in freedom, and in his unquenchable desire for our good – and that what he asked of them – and of us an “unquenchable desire.”

In our first reading, St Paul wrote of the grace and gifts given to each of the baptized: “And he gave some as Apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the Body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.” (Eph 4:11-12)

May we come to know the grace and gifts we’ve been given, seek the opportunity to use those gifts to build up the Body of Christ, and seek to do so with an unquenchable desire.

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