Sermon for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost – November 3, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton
DOMINICA XXI POST PENTECOSTEN
“In Thy will, Lord, are all things, and there is none that can resist Thy majesty. Thou hast made heaven and earth, and all things that are under the cope of heaven.” That was the Introit of today, which are the words of Mordechai, taken from chapter 13 of the book of Ester.
The Church speaks to us today about the fight against Satan and of the armor that we have to put on to defend ourselves. St. Paul clarifies this when he says that “our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places”. The Church also shows us that penance and ashes are weapons in this daily struggle when she reminds us of Mordecai in the Introit. The Offertory (from the book of Job) fully encloses one of the true meanings of this twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost: The only recourse of the people of this world, reduced, like Job on the dunghill (to the most extreme misery) is the Hope in God. The saints who still live in this world, honour the Lord with patience and resignation.
Such is the feeling experienced by those who hear the prayer formulated by Mordecai. He prayed on behalf of his people sentenced to total extermination, a figure of the human race.
Now, the Church in the Collect indicates that while she is ready to suffer the bad times, she prefers peace, which allows freedom to provide simultaneous tribute of works and praise. The last request of Mordecai in his prayer -whose first words are in the Introit- was for this freedom of Divine praise. That will be the last concession of the world. Today, here we still have an apparent freedom to do the good. Elsewhere Catholics must hide to survive.
Still, we must remember that the current situation of apostasy that we see was prophesied centuries ago. Nothing escapes the power of God. We must see this time when “darkness” reigns as an opportunity to grow in holiness and to be closer to Christ, becoming as light -as St. John Chrysostom says.
Certainly we cannot shine by ourselves as God, but for this reason is why Christ has revealed to us the Word… “which is light for our steps” as the psalm says. Scripture and Tradition are the lamps that illuminate our steps in the fight against the powers of darkness. The Catholic faith is our shield and destroys the tricks of the enemy. We can only resist the opposition of this world if we love intensely the truth, without taking as parameters the success and approval of others.
Now, as I said, another way to fight in this spiritual struggle is making sacrifices, and what better sacrifice could exist than forgiveness and mercy for those who have repented. The Gospel reminds us that God is just (but also has mercy on those who repent) and expects us to be the same. Forgiving is for many a very difficult sacrifice, but as sacrifice, it also helps us to purify our souls in this life, and in purgatory. In order to understand this, we must analyse in detail the text of the Gospel, where it says: “And his lord being angry, delivered him to the torturers until he paid all the debt. So also shall my heavenly Father do to you, if you forgive not every one his brother from your hearts.”
Again: UNTIL HE PAID ALL THE DEBT. This is no longer possible in Hell, because there, all possibility to make up for things is gone. However, those who make sacrifices in this life can make up for sins: sacrifices, and Masses, and other prayers. The Church calls us to remember this always but especially during November. Our debt to the Lord we cannot pay by ourselves (in the parable this is well noted, when Christ spoke of the servant who owed the king TEN THOUSAND TALENTS and … How much was one talent? Eighty pounds of silver. That is, the servant owed the astronomic sum of EIGHT HUNDRED THOUSAND POUNDS OF SILVER. This, he could not pay by himself.) Instead, the other man’s debt was only a hundred dinars (seventy pounds of silver). We see here the incomparable contrast between what we owe to God and what others owe us. When we understand this we can see how insignificant we are, how needy we are of forgiveness, and the merciful attitude that we are OBLIGED to have with those who repent. The Lord, with his death on the cross, paid-off instantaneously all our debt, but left us two conditions: 1) ask for His forgiveness through the sacrament that he instituted and 2) follow a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you”.
Lord, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.