Saint John Chrysostom was born around 347 C.E. in Antioch, and is a Doctor of the Church. He died in the year 407 C.E. During his lifetime, he turned away from negative societal influences, and entered monastic religious life; in which that period he was ordained as a lector. He was ordained a priest in the year 386 C.E. and much of his early ministry prior to the priesthood was instructing catechumens, as well as looking after the sick and poor. After being ordained, over the next twelve years, he composed many important writings on the priestly life, as well as several impactful sermons about living a virtuous Christian life. The three most significant aspects of his ministry were being a great preacher, a great exegete of Scripture, and a well versed dogmatic theologian. As Dominicans, our charism is essentially the ministry of Saint John Chrysostom.
He was consecrated Bishop of Constantinople in 398 C.E. after the death of Nectarius. His first important act as Bishop was reconciling with Rome, as well as enacting reform on the local level due to many scandalous acts taking place among clergy. Even though there was some success with this reform, Saint John Chrysostom eventually faced tensions with members of society over wealth and Church leaders; which led him to be exiled from Constantinople, and died as was buried in Comona but his body was eventually transferred back to Constantinople to be put to final rest.
The life of Saint John Chrysostom relates to the readings for today very well. The stories within the readings practically parallel much of Saint John Chrysostom’s ministry. The first reading from First Corinthians speaks about the Body of Christ as a whole Community of believers, rather than divided groups; and Saint John Chrysostom was important in re-establishing a relationship with Rome. Even though he was known for his preaching, he was also very gifted in other capacities, just as First Corinthians speaks about people having gifts and talents to help contribute to the Community. In the Gospel, we see that Jesus is raising a man from the dead; and Saint John Chrysostom literally ministered to the sick, but he also brought the Christian Community in Constantinople back to new life through reforms and his ability to preach well.
So, what does all of this have to do with us as Christians today? Let me share a little story. Prior to my initial seminary studies I worked at a local retail store, and the department manager who hired me knew how to be a team leader, and had a vision for where the department could go beyond where it was. Our department was essentially a well-oiled machine with everybody contributing in their own way; then the department manager took another position. The new department manager shared the same vision as the previous manager, yet eventually hired someone who was not a team player. The manager obviously did not see this coming because the situation only became evident after the person started on the job. There was great distention between several staff in our department, and things fell apart. Essentially, it takes only one person to destroy a “community”.
During my time with the Church which has become the UOCC, I have seen that same situation several times instead of leaders working together as a team; and fortunately, we are now moving in the right direction with working together with other Churches. As much as the various Churches are now moving in a positive direction, we as individuals need to examine whether we can make an impact within the Christian Community to help spread the Gospel, and be the team player through giving of ourselves though our talents. Not everyone is an eloquent preacher, nor is everyone an expert in dogmatic theology; but it is important to look to Saint John Chrysostom as an example of how to be effective people in ministry by using the gifts and talents we do have.
May we look to Saint John Chrysostom for guidance as how to be better Christians, and leaders within our own Communities. This we ask through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.