Sermon for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost – September 16, 2018 by Father Paul Alvarez Norton
Father began the sermon by reciting the Hail Mary. There are four basic brain injuries that are easily identifiable in physiology. If someone is injured in the Broca’s area that person cannot talk; that is called aphasia. If someone is injured in the Exner’s area the person cannot write; that is called agraphia. If someone is injured in the Wernicke’s area, the person does not understand what he hears; this is called auditory verbal agnosia. And if someone is injured in the left visual cortex the person does not understand what he reads. Now in these modern times what is happening? It so happens that even without any brain injury, more and more students do not understand what they read or what the teacher says. Statistics show this has become a very serious problem. Students reflect this by such a tremendous decline in their vocabulary. Every day people talk more but express their thinking less coherently because they have fewer words and ideas to communicate. It is significant and regrettable that modern society is causing in the human being the same symptoms of a brain injury but through cultural introduction. This translates into the modern man reaching an almost definitive inoperative state to the point that the man adapted to modernity is like a monkey with a knife: he has developed skills and techniques but his intelligence and his capacity for empathy have atrophied and he has stopped seeking the good, the beautiful and the truth. He has stopped seeking God. If anyone doubts it, I present this book, (Father holding up a copy of Summa Theologica) the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas. In the prologue St. Thomas wrote the following: Quia Catholicae veritatis doctor non solum instruat sed proficientibus docere incipientium, in hoc libro ad propositum tractare, quod ad religionem Christianam ita quod ad eruditionem incipientium. “Since the doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach those who are proficient but also should instruct beginners, we propose in this book to treat of all that pertains to the Christian religion in such a way as for the instruction of beginners.” As we hear, the Summa was written to teach beginners. No commentary. The prosecution rests. Now this attitude of refusing to seek God is not something new. We found it in the time of Christ in an exponentially different but essentially same way. Last Sunday the Church showed Christ as Lord over the law. Today He Himself teaches the Pharisees how the law leads to Him. Both the Introit and the Gradual refer to the success of those who walk in the law of God, despite the pitfalls the wicked set for the just. Notwithstanding, Psalm 37 says that they end well. First, St. Matthew says that the Pharisees gather. This is the exact form that the Septuagint used in Psalm 2:2; and the rulers took council together against the Lord and against His anointed. St. Matthew clearly shows how this prophesy is fulfilled. St. Matthew tells us that the intention of those law experts is “to tend”, (Father giving the Greek translation). We saw this word (“to tend’ in Greek) in the narration of the temptation. In the gospel of St. Matthew only the devil and the Pharisees tempt Jesus. St. Matthew puts them both on the same page, both trying to make Our Lord fail. Although the Pharisees hypocritically call Jesus, Master, their intention is to embarrass Him with questions that he cannot answer. They ask, What is the greatest commandment in the law? This is not a strange question. The rabbis frequently posed these questions in a sincere attempt to delve into the law. The problem is not the question but the spirit in which it was made. The Old Testament has 613 commandments without providing any clear way to judge which one is more important. Whatever Our Lord would reply, the Pharisees could respond with questions designed to undermine the credibility of Christ. Some rabbis even believed that because God gave the commandments, they all have the same importance. By placing one over another Christ could offend those rabbis. However, other rabbis said that there were both heavy and light commandments. And there was an ongoing debate regarding the relative importance of several of the commandments and how to summarize them for ordinary people. Moses has given 613 commandments but David reduced them to 11; Isaiah to 6; Micah to 3; Amos to 2, and Habakuk only 1. Jesus responded by joining two commandments; first, the Shema: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy might.” The words of the Shema spoken in the daily worship were something serious and dear to Jewish hearts. No true Jew could discuss the primacy of this commandment. And then He adds, The second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. This comes from Leviticus 19:18. In saying that the second is like the first, Our Lord is saying they are related. Love of God naturally leads to love of our neighbor. 1 John, 4 makes the connection explicit. “If anyone say he loves God and hates his neighbor, he is a liar for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” Now Leviticus 19 clearly presents some of the details that explain what it means to love one’s neighbor. But something interesting is that it also says to confront your neighbor frankly, suggesting that the law is strong when it is proved in the confrontation, so that evil may be corrected. This verse makes it clear, the love spoken about by Christ and Leviticus is different from the bane emotion we believe is love. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Christ reassures us that if we ask in this way we will be in full compliance with the law of God without risking changing one iota of the law. We must remember here that at the beginning of His preaching Our Lord said, “Do not think that I came to avoid the law or the prophets. I have not come to avoid but to fulfill”. Christ fulfills the law, not emphasizing the small points but taking the understanding of the law to a new dimension. Well, now comes the turn of the Master to give a quiz – He asked the Pharisees, “What think you of Christ; whose Son is He?” And they said to Him: “David’s.” The Son of David is a common title for the Messiah. And St. Matthew used it several times in his gospel but Christ did not come to meet the traditional expectation of the Messiah as a warrior or as an earthly king. Yes, He is the Son of David, but even more He is the Son of God, a fact God announced both at the baptism of Christ and in the Transfiguration. While the title “Son of David” may be used restrictively regarding the role of Jesus Christ as the Messiah sent to the lost sheep of Israel, the title “Son of God” speaks of the Universal Lordship as one in whom the gentiles will also have hope. And then Christ quotes Psalm 110 and asks, “How then dost David in spirit call Him Lord? The phrase “David in the spirit” means of course that Christ is attributing the authorship of this psalm to David, an attribution that His listeners, including the Pharisees, would agree with, although today modernists deny this. The fact that David wrote this psalm under Divine Inspiration gives great authority to His argument. Critics of Christ would have to be very careful in attacking this argument. In Psalm 110 we can read, “The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand while I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”. Here is the question: Who are the two Lords in this verse? In Hebrew Psalm 110 says “Yahweh said to Adonai”. The Jews avoid saying the name “Yahweh” so they read this as Adonai said to Adonai; the Septuagent simply says “Kyrios said to my Kyrios”. The point is that the first of the two Lords is Yahweh, a fact hidden by the Jews’ reluctance to pronounce that word. If the first Lord is Yahweh, who is the second Lord mentioned in the verse? It cannot be a second God because the Old Testament makes it clear that God is One and there are not other Gods. He cannot be the son of David because David will never call Him Lord. The only possibility is that the second Lord is the Messiah of God who is not the son of David but David’s Lord, the Son of God. In our times all these things seem highly technical and not very important, but the identity of the Messiah and the relationship of the Messiah with David were important to the Pharisees. They spent many hours studying and debating issues like this. They were scholars and this was their territory. But even with all the knowledge they possessed, they were blind guides because they didn’t want to see the Truth. They did not really want to hear God and to find the Messiah. If they, having the knowledge they had, were made blind because of their bad will, imagine the punishment for the people of this century who don’t even know what the four last things of men are or what is in their own catechisms. Anyway, the Pharisees, the experts, asked a question of Jesus, the Son of the carpenter hoping to embarrass him. Now Jesus returned the favor posing a question to which they had no answer and shames them. Here we understand better what the Church tells us both in the Introit and in the Epistle of St. Paul about humility and obedience to God and also at the end of this gospel with the phrase, “And no man was able to answer Him a word”. After that Christ would speak to the crowds and to his disciples and he addressed the Scribes and Pharisees only to publicly denounce them as hypocrites. May God give us the strength to keep drawing nearer to the good, the beauty and the truth; to keep drawing nearer to God. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.