Sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost – July 29, 2018 by Fr. Paul Alvarez Norton
Father began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary. One of the most important battles a Catholic has to fight today is the battle to live in reality. Almost everything that surrounds us encourages us to move away from reality. Babies are stimulated artificially with machines that take the place of the mother’s affection; children grow up having the television as a best friend and lessons become alienated and lose their sense of self in the matrix of the virtual world. Adults live their lives chasing gold at the end of the rainbow and when they become old, many of them return to having the TV as a favorite companion. Before entering the seminary, I was a scientist. I worked for a long time in a hospital both in the laboratory and on the floor of the terminally ill. Every day we had four or five people who died. This is how I learned to identify the presence of death in advance. And so I decided to accompany those who I knew were reaching the end of this earthly road more closely. This experience helped me to better understand why the Church recommends that we grow every day in holiness because death is a visitor who often appears unexpectedly and because in general, how a man has lived his life weighs more heavily at the last moment than the fear of death. Yes, people are afraid of death but what they should be more fearful of is a bad life, for what condemns a man is a bad life. Death is only the passage from one room to a different reality which can be blessed or unfortunate. In general, as you are in life so will your death be. The truth is, when a person approaches that moment, it is very difficult to change direction. Generally, those who have dedicated their lives to prayer, to doing good, to being faithful to God tend to experience peace and more readily seek to enter into contact with the Creator. On the other hand, those who did not know God in this life will not know Him after their death either. The latter tend to despair and vomit words of hatred to God, perhaps preparing for what will be their eternity. Seeing this almost every day I learned that the grace of late conversion is a miracle so extraordinary that no one in his right mind should even consider procrastinating his conversion until the last moment. To postpone making a change in life or even the efforts to grow in holiness is a mortal irresponsibility, more dangerous than Russian roulette. Mortal irresponsibility, or as best defined by Holy Mother Church, mortal sin, because yes, deliberately exposing one’s self to a situation of sin is in itself a mortal sin. In today’s gospel we see two men, the first a Pharisee and the other a Publican. Objectively what both say is correct. The Pharisee was not a thief nor dishonest nor an adulterer; he fasted and tithed. The Publican was definitely a public sinner. It is enough to remember the story of Zacchaeus. The reality, objectivity and goodness of the law of God is something far superior to any negative feeling that the words of the Pharisee produce in us or any feeling of compassion that we could have for the Publican. This should be very clear. In fact, in Matthew 5:20, Our Lord Himself said, “For I tell you that unless your justice abound more than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven”. The Pharisees have righteousness but Christian justice is far more elevated than the fulfillment of the law as at the last end. On the other hand, the idea that a god of false mercy who embraces the sinner with his sin is nothing more than modern rubbish. In no way can you think that Christ was implying this. His teaching is going in another direction which we see very clearly when we analyze the words with which Our Lord begins His parable, “And to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others, I spoke also this parable”. And the words with which He ends it, “For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted”. Christ did not say that God accepted the Publican with his sins but that he was justified precisely because he recognized his sin and had sorrow for it. As we know, contrition for sins implies the purpose to not commit them again. The Publican was justified rather than the Pharisee because the Pharisee could not be forgiven for his sin of pride and possibly for something much worse — the sin of closing the kingdom of heaven to others. This is the heart of the problem. St. Theresa said that humility is a truth. Certainly, humility cannot contradict the truth; much less can we understand that the greatest humility is to obey the law of God. The Renovators who seek to destroy the Catholic Faith present themselves to the world as humble men disobeying everything that God established especially in regard to worship. Many of them today call the true Catholics who try to preserve Tradition and uphold the proper worship, Pharisees, taking the verse of the gospel like the ones we hear today out of context. This could not be further from the truth. Christ was not denying the virtue that exists in fulfilling the law of God nor was he accepting the sin committed by the public sinners. What he disapproved of was the attitude of those who try to permanently close the doors of heaven to others, to usurp the prerogative that belongs only to God is precisely the satanic attitude that Christ condemned in the Pharisees. Some of the harshest words that Christ spoke during His mission were addressed to the Pharisees precisely because as the Lord Himself said in his seven curses to them, “You close the kingdom of heaven to men for you yourself do not enter in and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter”. Sometimes it is possible for us to see clearly who is heading towards hell because the Divine Law is clear. We may even have important reasons to doubt that such and such a person has been saved, and for this reason we can refuse to present that person as an example to others, but we can never say that anyone has been condemned except Judas of whom the common opinion of theologians is that he is in hell. The canonical principal that the Church has always safeguarded is De internis neque Ecclesia iudicat, “of the interior disposition of a person, not even the Church may judge”. If there is anything we can learn from today’s gospel it is that God never condemns those who sincerely strive to obey His commandments but He does condemn those who try to usurp the prerogatives of the Just Judge by declaring individual persons to be reprobates. Christ said through the mouths of the prophets, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind to reward each person according to what their deeds deserve”. Let us always remember that we must be ready to leave this earth at any moment so we cannot postpone our spiritual growth and we must take care not to call others damned or “Raca” because perhaps on our last day we will find ourselves without a priest who can give us the sacraments more than ever in these times of crises in which true Catholic priests are difficult to find. Then our only hope will be the mercy of God who said, “For with what judgment you judge you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete it shall be measured to you again”. May God make us every day holier and stronger, so holy and so strong that we can be instruments of probation and not of condemnation. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.