Sermon: Boniface

“Until well into the 20th century, prayer cards and other representations of Bonif­face typically portrayed him as an old bishop, with the accoutrements of his martyrdom: a book and a sword. These two symbols (sometimes combined into one, a book pierced with a dagger) came to emblematize him: the book reflected the Ragyndrudis Codex, regarded as a shield to ward off heathen axe blows, and the sword was a transformed version of that axe.” (source) The book is cleaved half in two as Boniface is reported to have been reading and Boniface held up the book to protect himself when his attacker charged him.

The Prophet Ezekiel was sent to the Israelites to warn them of the results should they not repent of the evil they were committing and return to the Lord.  By setting Ezekiel in this role of prophet, the Lord was making Ezekiel, a watchman over the people.  As a watchman, Ezekiel was responsible for communicating to the people God’s message.  Failure to share this message would make Ezekiel guilty of sin.

The Lord said to him, “If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give them no warning, or speak to warn the wicked from their wicked way, in order to save their life, those wicked persons shall die for their iniquity; but their blood I will require at your hand.”  The opposite was also true, “But if you warn the wicked, and they do not turn from their wickedness, or from their wicked way, they shall die for their iniquity; but you will have saved your life.”  Essentially, if Ezekiel failed to communicate God’s warning to the people, Ezekiel would be guilty of murder for failing to tell the people how they could live.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Paul said, at every opportunity presented since I’ve been with you, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus.  Therefore,” he says, “I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”  Like Ezekiel, he did the job God had called him to.  They have been warned, and it is now up to them to follow the Lord.

This commitment to fulfill God’s calling by delivering the message of salvation continued with Boniface, whom we celebrate today.

During the fifth century, the barbarian tribes overran most of Europe.  Not only did this put the Roman Empire out of business in that area, but also the Church, as the conquering armies established their pagan religions.  However, over time, the Church would return.  How?  Some of you may recall that it was Augustine, a European missionary who in 597 firmly established Christianity in England.  In 716, Boniface, the fruit of Augustine’s mission work, a Benedictine monk and English priest, went on a mission to barbarian Europe in Frisia—now Holland and Belgium—to re-establish Christianity in Europe following the barbarian invasion.  Boniface was successful and would later be named the Archbishop.  He would be martyred in 754 while preparing for the Confirmation of a thousand converts.

Just before His ascension, Jesus told his apostles that “repentance and forgiveness of sins are to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  This was the commission that Boniface heard and fulfilled in his work in Europe, so their blood was not on his hands.  However, this commission that Jesus gave did not end with Boniface.  It has been passed on to us.  Like Paul, like Boniface, and like so many others, we have a responsibility to be prophets in our own time by speaking the word of God to the world around us.

The Lord will provide you with many opportunities to share the Good News.  When he does, consider Boniface and boldly declare the faith that is in you.

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