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Sermon for the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost, August 4, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton

DOMINICA VIII POST PENTECOSTEN

Last year, on this 8th Sunday after Pentecost I insisted on two topics:

1) The Divine Will is manifested in the call we all received to live in sanctity and to die persevering in it.

2) We must use our intelligence in the business of our salvation (which is the only business that matters) at least as much as a worldly men do in their own earthly business.

Today I want to talk from another perspective, not about what we must do but what we must avoid: Relegate the importance of living in the state of grace, to other affairs.

In my years as a priest I have heard many things in the confessional that could cause you the chills -obviously I won’t mention any of these things here– but will say that those things are not necessarily what scare me the most. What sometimes really scares me is to realize that certain people don’t take seriously the inevitable reality of death and judgment.

Why am I saying this? Because many people -for various reasons and in different ways- systematically try to hide or justify their sins in the confessional. I don’t see these situations regularly here, but I cannot say that I have never seen it.

Yes, sometimes it is understandable when the faithful want to explain better a situation adding important information but this shouldn’t be the dominant issue in the confessional: Remember, you come to confession to accuse yourself not to excuse yourself.

There are some people that expend all the time talking about the sins of other people. There are others that go to the confessional without even having tried to make their examination of conscience. There are also others that apparently confuse confession with spiritual direction. This last thing is a bit complex because in some situations there can exist a little spiritual direction in the confessional, but it is important to remember that the confessional is a trial and the priest is a judge and he is there primarily to save your soul, providing you the grace that washes away sins and the appropriate penance that helps you to restore your communion with God.

Also, there are others that deliberately omit their sins for embarrassment. In this regard, I believe the experience of St. Antonino[1] (Archbishop of Florence) will edify you:

One day this Saint saw the devil next to the confessional and rebuked him saying: “What are you doing there, fierce beast?”

He replied: “I’m here waiting to make a restitution.”

So the Saint replied: “What restitution? Tell me, liar.”

“I come to restore the fear and shame that I have stolen from sinners in the act of making them commit sins.”

Like the wolf that seizes the sheep by the throat, so that they cannot bleat, and takes them away and devours them, so the devil proceeds with certain souls; he seizes them by the throat so that they do not confess their sins, and so he draws them miserably to hell. St Alphonsus recommends that priests speak frequently with fervor in their preaching and in the catechisms about this shame that causes people to omit their sins, and insists that priests must remind the people of the ruin of making bad confessions because this plague of bad confessions reigns in all places.

Today St. Paul says in the lesson: “if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the spirit, you put to death the deeds of the flesh, you will live”. Certainly, to do this we need the help of the sacraments, and, more than anything, we need the forgiveness of God. That’s why it is so important to make good confessions.

As I said, “The Divine Will is manifested in the call we all received to live in sanctity and to die persevering in it” but, “live in sanctity” and “persevering in it” implies not only doing what we must do, but also not to escape from the paternal arms of God when He offers his mercy through the sacrament of penance.

Now, almost at the end of the gospel of today we can hear this phrase: “And the master commended the unjust steward that he had acted prudently; for the children of this world, in relation to their own generation, are more prudent than the children of the light” and that is true in many different ways but today I want to mention one in particular: The determination necessary to achieve our goals.

We are here in Los Angeles surrounded by a huge amount of business and companies. They expend billons and billons of dollar per year in marketing and in doing research so they can improve their strategies to gain more money, which is their last goal.

On the contrary, our last goal is to achieve Heaven, and in doing so we have to remember two things:

1) We have to act prudently in relation to the material reality (working smartly and hard to provide and protect the assets of our family) but remembering that they are always subordinate to our spiritual goal.

2) Persevering with more conviction than worldly men to achieve our goal.

There are cultures that have a very elevated concept of the defense of honor (like the Italian one, for example), a concept that sometimes is difficult to understand for other cultures (believe me, I understand it very, very well).

The truth is that in many cases, for people of this culture, it is almost impossible to forgive offences, so families carry battles for generations. I personally knew people that died without being able to forgive something or someone. I haven’t seen this kind of situation here but the example works not only in the case of the stubborn Italians but also in the cases related to many other sins.

How many times have we procrastinated in our reconciliation with God because we preferred the worldly? Where is our faith, our convictions, when we act incoherently to what we believe? Do you work harder than the worldly people to achieve your goal? Do you intend to pass your whole life postponing to live a holy life thinking that you still have many years ahead? Are you willing to bet your eternal salvation in the Russian roulette of the devil?

No my dear faithful, death is a visitor that in many cases comes unexpectedly. Anyone of us can die immediately after this Mass. The life of man is –as the Apostle James says- “a vapour which appeareth for a little while, and afterwards shall vanish away”[2]. The question is: Will we have our account prepared and in a good state when the Master comes demanding of us about our stewardship? Remember, death can end everything abruptly, in the same abrupt way I will end this sermon.

[1] St. Antoninus of Florence OP (1 March 1389 – 2 May 1459), was an Italian Dominican friar, who ruled as an Archbishop of Florence. His body is still incorrupt and can be watched in San Marco, Florence.

[2] James 4:15

(ENDS WITHOUT THE USUAL SIGN OF THE CROSS)

Posted on October 20, 2019 at 10:02 pm

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