St. John Chrysostom

Today’s readings | Today’s saint

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St. John Chrysostom was known to be a prolific, well-spoken and challenging preacher. The name “Chrysostom” means “golden-mouthed.” He spoke eloquently of the Scriptures, of which he had an extensive understanding, and applied their words to the times of his day. He was known, actually, to often preach for two hours or more! So, in his honor, I thought it appropriate to preach … oh, never mind.

John was manipulated by the emperor to become bishop of Constantinople, the capital city, because the emperor thought he could manipulate John. But he couldn’t. John would not be a kept man. So he would preach against the opulence of the wealthy and the mistreatment of the poor. He deposed bishops who had bribed their way into office. He would only offer a modest meal to those who came to kiss up to the bishop, rather than an opulent table that they had been expecting. He would not accept the pomp and ceremony that afforded him a place above most ranking members of the court.

But not everyone liked John. Many of his sermons called for concrete steps to share wealth with the poor. The rich did not appreciate hearing from John that private property existed because of Adam’s fall from grace any more than married men liked to hear that they were bound to marital fidelity just as much as their wives. When it came to justice and charity, John acknowledged no double standards. I have to admit, I think I would have liked his preaching!

What we should get from St. John Chrysostom, though, is that discipleship has to be imbued with fidelity and integrity. We have to practice what we preach. Today’s Scriptures call us to be loving, forgiving and thankful. Those can’t be just nice words that we think other people should do. We have to be those disciples who give lavishly of our personal resources, who forgive from the heart, who avoid judging and love all people deeply. If our living had this kind of integrity, then we could be “golden-mouthed” too, not so much by our words as by our actions.

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