Off a fashionable part of Rome, the Via Veneto, there is a Capuchin church dedicated to Santa Maria della Concezione (Our Lady of the Conception). Underneath the church, a crypt / ossuary, containing the bones of an estimated 4,000 friars, is located to the right of a dimly lit passageway. The crypt walls and passageway are decorated with the remains of the friars in an elaborate artistic fashion. The crypt’s five small rooms are given such evocative names as the Crypt of Skulls, the Crypt of Pelvises, the Crypt of the Leg Bones and Thigh Bones. Some of the skeletons are intact, dressed upright in the habit of the friars.
As I walked along that passageway many times, it always gave me the shivers. I’d ask myself who on earth came up with this crazy idea. The answer lay in the last empty room which contains a sign stuck into the ground; it reads: “As you are now, so once were we; as we are now, so you will be”.
In the passage this weekend from St. Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, Paul could well have used the Capuchin crypt as a visual aid for the point that he is trying to make. Our bodies, as earthen vessels, the perishable, contain something imperishable, a treasure, the treasure of God’s life within us. Perhaps the Capuchins could one day add the words of St. Paul to that last room: “Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?”
The modern world of the internet has added a new vocabulary, which we need to be familiar with to get along. My late father and mother were never asked to ‘Google it’ when they wanted to get information. When a fellow golfer knocks down a drive, or worse, drives it out of bounds, often s/he will try to work out, in the heat of the moment, what went wrong and try to figure out the error. I sometimes calmly suggest how to correct the error: “Go into settings; click on golf; then click on the icon ‘head’, then ‘head down’, then ‘save’. Not appreciated!
St Luke, in today’s gospel, is trying to make a similar point. Also, Sirach, in the first reading: “The fruit determines the cultivation of a tree” Luke says that “No good tree bears bad fruit nor does a bad tree bear good fruit”.
Our mission as Christians, I would humbly suggest, is a constant task, of trying to reduce the gap between what we proclaim with our lips and live out in our daily lives. Perhaps the solution lies in zipping up our lips and proclaiming the gospel with our lives.
If Luke was writing his gospel today, he might suggest: ‘Go to settings; click on heart; scroll to the word hypocrisy; click delete, save and close.’ Oh, that it was that simple!