Sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 8, 2018 by Monsignor Patrick Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. Monsignor began the sermon by reciting a Hail Mary. First of all a few comments somewhat related to the sermon. I’m sure a lot of you have noticed this already. Just in light of our late friend, Ken Fisher and what he suffered protesting abortion, notice the shift in how they are moving the mentality – one of the great evils of our day is the introduction of feminism into every aspect of our country and even our Church. It has been completely feminized. And what does that mean? It means they don’t think. Sorry, but they emote. The feminization in the bad sense is that they have introduced the superior of emotions over true thought and reason. To this end they have shifted the notion that we are killing babies at a phenomenal rate. In this country alone – 50 million since Roe v. Wade, an incomprehensible number. The shift has now gone to pets, furry cute creatures and you will notice this in the news daily. I read one just yesterday, an op-ed about some guy who wanted to get rid of a kitten so he buried it in the ground alive. I don’t advocate being cruel to any of God’s creatures, but once again we have to put it in prospective. A kitten does not have an immortal soul, not that you are supposed to be cruel to it, but these babies have immortal souls and they are ignoring that. They were talking about people crying on the news, they were talking about this kitten was found and brought to a clinic and it was air-lifted to Kathmandu or the Catskills or wherever they’re good at fixing cats. The poor thing died and they talked about the shock waves going throughout the county that this had happened to a kitten. You see this every single day and what it does is, people will say “Oh, aren’t they cute”. Look at the way people are – We’re not going to have any children, we’re married and we’re not going to have any children but we’re getting a dog because we like dogs better than we like children, which I’m sure they are telling the truth with that. But beware! It is a red herring, it is a smoke screen. I don’t know if I should share this with you. My mind goes places sometimes and I think about how there are an awful lot of kittens out there, people don’t get their cats fixed and they have lots of kittens. Now I thought, I’m going to have a zoo – it’s going to be the Perez Zoo. Where I grew up in San Francisco we had the Fleishhacker Zoo there, the city zoo. You could go and you could put like ten cents into a gum-ball-type machine, you turned a crank and it would release these little alfalfa looking pellets and you could throw them to the elephants. So I thought okay, on the one side it will say we will take all of your excess kittens to our zoo, okay? And on the other side we have a vending machine, you put in a certain amount and it releases a kitten. And then we have the alligator pit and then it will be like the Perez Zoo – we have the happiest alligators. (Monsignor laughing) Okay, that’s copyright now so if any of you ends up doing it, you heard it from me first! Returning to today’s epistle and gospel, mainly gospel, it says today, “By their fruits you shall know them”. Now when we think, “By their fruits you shall know them” we think of the end result of something like somebody’s life who was an architect for example. Their fruits will be the various buildings they designed, kind of the end project. However, the way it’s meant in today’s gospel is not so much as an end product that’s finished and done with. It specifically refers to good works. Now you know by what our faith teaches us that we are saved not only by faith but also by good works. That’s an essential complete Christian-teaching package. Protestants have eliminated the good works part. Protestants say we are saved by faith alone. That never existed in the history of Christianity as a teaching for the fifteen hundred and something years before the advent of Protestantism. In fact, the Bible itself teaches that we are saved by faith and good works. Look at what Our Lord says, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire”; well needless to say the fire is Hell. So He’s talking about the importance of good works on a level with faith itself. Now I think many people disregard the good works part and not through some unwillingness to do good works but because it’s not clear to many what this means exactly. My personality, I like things black and white, okay? Tell me what to do and I’ll do it. Just don’t make it fuzzy; I don’t like that. A lot of times people will come to me and they were on vacation somewhere and they felt they had to go to confession to some Novus Ordo priest and he gives them a fuzzy penance which if I would have kind of reached through and slapped him one and said look, tell me what to do! Because they’ll say like well go out and express your kindness or something – and I do that all the time more or less – at least I’m trying to do it – but that doesn’t mean anything to me. Say ten Hail Mary’s or a decade of the rosary, say two rosaries – that means something to me. I think therein lies the confusion of the good works because when the catechism says we are saved by faith and good works people go, good works- what exactly are good works? Then you would have your own interpretation of that, some might be right, some not, but once again for my personality it’s too fuzzy. First of all, what are good works? Generally, when we read the catechism no matter which catechism, we come to the part about good works and it enumerates the Works of Mercy but even those can be kind of difficult to pin down. Let me ask first of all, what are good works? Good works are all the actions of man which are performed according to the will of God while in the state of grace for the love of God. So anything you do, any act which is in good with the will of God and it is done in the state of grace for the love of God is a good work, okay? Now when we talk about the Works of Mercy I want to talk about first, what mercy is. Mercy as we are talking about here, is a virtue influencing one’s will to have compassion for and if possible to alleviate another’s misfortune or suffering. The necessity which is to be succored can be either body or soul, hence it is customary to enumerate both corporal and spiritual works of mercy. I’ll describe those in a second. Mercy – the way we mean it: When you have mercy on somebody, God has influenced you to alleviate their need or their suffering in some way for the sake of Him, because of Him, because He wants us to do that. You see, their need – their suffering, can be either physical suffering or spiritual suffering so we have these divided into two groups. But what I’ll tell you a little bit later is that there’s not really this great division between them, only a theoretical division and I’ll talk about that in a second. We all know the Corporal Works of Mercy – corporal means to deal with body things, physical things; spiritual to do with their soul, and I’ll just read through the list: Feed the hungry Give drink to the thirsty Clothe the naked Harbor the harborless Visit the sick Ransom the captive Bury the dead The Spiritual Works of Mercy are: Instruct the ignorant Counsel the doubtful Admonish the sinners Bear wrongs patiently Forgive offenses willingly Comfort the afflicted Pray for the living and the dead Now to further simplify this let me say that the works of mercy can be summed up in one word. Remember I said there is very little division really between the principle of a work of mercy and it can be summed up in one word which I will have to explain lest somebody panic and the one word is almsgiving, almsgiving. We’ve all heard of almsgiving, we’ve heard of alms but I’m pretty sure the term is not as well understood as it should be. We most of the time jump to understanding the word almsgiving in a restrictive sense to one sort of alms. I want to say something about that. What does “alms” come from? It’s a derivation of the Greek word ελεημοσύνη (eleemosýne) –remember that! – which is rendered in Latin as elemosynas — big difference – which literally means “mercy”. So the connection as to why almsgiving and works of mercy are virtually equivalent is, the name alms virtually means mercy, absolutely does mean mercy, literally means mercy. More about that in a minute. First just a word about spiritual and corporal works of mercy in the catechism: They are not in fact all-inclusive and some of them as listed aren’t even for everybody. I know sometimes, myself included in the past, go Well, okay, here are the works of mercy. You have to do them. And I thought I had to do all of them or else I might not make it! First of all let me say not all of them are necessarily for everybody to do. The corporal works of mercy are specifically commanded by Christ. Failure to do them in fact results in damnation. Look what Our Lord says about some of the corporal works. It’s a parable but He said, “Then He shall say to them also that shall be on His left hand, depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink; I was a stranger and you took me not in; naked and you covered me not, sick and in prison and you did not visit me”. Now those are pretty specific, we can do most of those in one way or another. The spiritual works of mercy have a loftier purpose. Mind you, the corporal works of mercy are important because unless your bodily needs are taken care of – I mean, imagine if you are starving all the time, your prayer life is not going to amount to anything and you need time for prayer, you need to be in a condition where you can pray at peace. We all know that. But then on the other hand the spiritual works of mercy have a loftier end, to care for that part of somebody that is immortal. Much more so – the body will eventually die and later on will be resurrected but the soul is really the primary concern. So they have a loftier purpose and the average person is not called, in fact, to do everything. Just because they are a loftier purpose; it’s like anything that requires skill. It’s not always for amateurs. You look at doctors these days, they have specialists; somebody specializes in cardiology, another one gastroenterology, another one in something else, and everyone has their specialty. Well you know even though I suppose a cardiologist could give you recommendations on your stomach problem, it’s kind of a specialty thing. You shouldn’t read on the internet how to remove your own appendix for example. It might tell you but you don’t do it because nobody removes their own appendix. Maybe if it’s a real emergency I wonder, but okay — a little novocaine, a razor blade, needle and thread. (Monsignor laughing) But it requires a level of expertise and some of the spiritual works of mercy require a level of expertise. For example, it may happen that an altogether special measure of tact and prudence or some definite superiority is required for the discharge of the oftentimes difficult task of fraternal correction. We’re not all experts at correcting our brother on their faults. If you really don’t know the person or know what you’re talking about you don’t try to correct them even though that is one of the works of mercy. Similarly, to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful and console the sorrowing is not always within the competence of every person. Others however are within the reach of all. To bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offenses willingly, to pray for the living and the dead – anybody can do those and, in fact, you have no excuse for not doing them. The motive for all these things has to always be charity. The general underlying idea of why we do works of mercy, this especially applies to the corporal works of mercy, is that God put the goods of the earth here for everyone. There is no excuse for anybody starving on our beautiful planet. There is no excuse for that. The reason it happens is that people are sinful and greedy. I remember when I was a teenager there was some famine in Uganda or someplace over there and the U.S. sent tankers – you know, those big cargo ships – full of grain and food over there. Not one bite of it made it to the people who were starving to death. Their corrupt governments intercepted it all, sold it on the black market and pocketed the money. That is why people are starving to death, not because God didn’t put enough food on earth for everybody, because He did. So that is the essential principle. Just remember as one person once said, “It is one thing to have a right to possess money and another to have the right to use the money as you please”. The famous billionaires that we see, Zuckerberg and Gates and these people, God let them have what they have but not for their own purposes. When it comes down to it, He let them be rich to take care of people who can’t do it themselves. That is why God allowed them to be rich and that is why unless they are taking care of other people who are less fortunate they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. To this end do we just go up to a person and give him our money? Hello homeless person. Here is all this money. Well, there are a number of reasons why you don’t do that: a) mot homeless people aren’t really in their right mind and that would be a complete waste because they would probably go rescue kittens with the money or blow it on drugs or something like that. So you don’t just do this willy nilly. To whom shall we give and how? As a general rule let’s say the indigent, the needy of every class, saint or sinner, countryman or foreigner, friend or foe, have their claims upon the charity of those who are able to give alms. The saints universally say this goes across every party line. When somebody is in need and you have the ability to help them with these works of mercy, you are obliged to do so. The notion of almsgiving embodies the donation of commodities necessary to lighten the human misery and moralists admit that it is sufficient in fact to lend to somebody. So let’s say somebody is willing to make some money by cutting lawns. If you have an extra lawnmower and you don’t want to give it to them, you can lend it to them and you’ve still done a good deed. However, this almsgiving should be discreet, it should reach deserving individuals or families, and it should be prompt, secret, humble and abundant. Those are the things. You don’t just give willy nilly. You give to somebody who is actually competent to use the gift you are giving them. What are the benefits of almsgiving? Well, it says in the Bible to make unto yourselves friends of mammon of iniquity. So first of all, almsgiving renders the donor like unto God Himself and that’s written in the scriptures. You are imitating God by giving of what you have to those who do not. Furthermore, one saint noted something quite interesting. It renders God Himself the debtor to those giving alms. Giving alms puts a debt obligation on God to give you something which is a fascinating principle. Moreover, it adds special efficacy to prayer, it appeases Divine Wrath, it liberates from sin and its’ punishment, and thus paves the way for the gift of faith. It has many, many benefits for our souls and even for society in general. Now why should we give alms at all? Well, the simple answer is we can’t go to heaven without doing good works, without almsgiving. You cannot go to heaven without it. So let me say, Christ says, “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down, and shall be cast into the fire”, meaning if somebody who doesn’t do good works will go to hell. It’s not enough to abstain from sin. People think well, if I just don’t sin – in that sense, do some heinous or egregious sin then I will go to heaven. But that’s only half the story. By failing to do good works you are sinning and, in fact, St. Thomas Aquinas has some things to say about that. The servant in the gospel who did not even waste the talent received for example, remember the talents, but only hid it in the ground, he was cast into the darkness — the servant who had the gifts and buried it, the talent. St. John Chrysostom says, “If you had a servant who was in truth no robber, no glutton or drunkard but who sat at home idle neglecting everything for which you had employed him, would you not pay him with the whip and send him off? Is it not bad enough to neglect which duty demands? St. Thomas Aquinas says that if you refrain from doing good works from opening yourself up for those in need, you are guilty of theft. So this is very important. My dear faithful, let’s just end with a prayer to open us up to the words of today’s gospel to recognizing need in our fellow man and when we have the ability to fill that. O Lord, guard me from false prophets, heretics, and seducers, and grant me the grace, that according to St. Paul’s instructions I may become fruitful in all good works. Inflame my heart, that I may adorn my faith with them, thus do the will of the Heavenly Father, and render myself worthy of heaven. Amen. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.