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Sermon for the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Commemorating the 13th Sunday after Pentecost, September 8, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton

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NATIVITY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

DOMINICA XIII POST PENTECOSTEN

“Almighty, eternal God, grant us an increase of

faith, hope and charity; and make us love what You

command so that we may be made worthy to attain what You promise.” This is the collect prayer for the 13th

Sunday after Pentecost. This year, the Feast of the

Nativity of Our Lady is celebrated today but in this

sermon I want to give a general idea of Faith and

Worthiness talking about both Masses and using other

elements to better clarify that general idea.

Worthiness. What an important and necessary word,

but also what a mysterious word! Perhaps there is no

word that shows better the incalculable mercy and

love God has had for us.

Years ago, when I was in the university, I decided

to specialize in Moral Theology and in Sacred

Scripture. For the latter, it was necessary to study

Greek koine and Biblical Hebrew. The first day of

classes, the teacher of Greek entered the room and

wrote a phrase on the board:

“Prima non datur et ultima dispensatur”

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This phrase corresponds to the academic tradition of

considering the first day of formal classes as a

gift. The last day is likewise a gift.

Some people were so happy for this concession of the

teacher that they started to praise his

“generosity”. He, a priest whose intellect was

directly proportional to his ego said: “Yes, I’m

generous but you must know that I have also all the

other virtues, including humility”. At the end of

the class I walked out of the classroom with him and

told him: “You know Father… some people say that St.

Augustine used to insist that humility is a strange

thing: the moment you think you have it, you have

lost it.” Obviously, after that event he didn’t like

me very much.

Anyway, this “strange thing” about humility is also

valid -in many cases- when we talk about worthiness.

Certainly, you can be aware of being worthy of doing

something, because -as St. Therese said- “humility

is the truth” but you must always remember what St.

Paul mentions in his first epistle to the

Corinthians 27-31:

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“But the foolish things of the world hath God

chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the

weak things of the world hath God chosen, that

he may confound the strong. And the base things

of the world, and the things that are

contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that

are not, that he might bring to nought things

that are: That no flesh should glory in his

sight. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who

of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and

sanctification, and redemption: That, as it is

written: He that glorieth, may glory in the

Lord.”1

After the fall, the human being lost the state of

grace but also his initial worthiness received from

God. This is especially evident in the words that

Adam referred to the Lord:

“I heard thy voice in paradise; and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself2”

1 1 Corinthians 1: 27-31 2 Genesis 3:10

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As we know, when Adam and Eve lost their original

state of grace and justice, there followed a shame

of their being naked; which they minded not before;

because being now stripped of original grace, they

quickly began to be subject to the shameful

rebellions of the flesh. Thus, the unworthiness

resulting from their actions passed to mankind

making the offspring of our “protoparentes” unworthy

of eternal life.

It is for this reason that, since then, the human

being is born unworthy, helpless and needy, and the

only one who can redeem him without man deserving it

is God himself. The word “Grace” has precisely as

its primary sense the gratuitousness of God’s gift

as St. Thomas Aquinas well explains when he says:

“Accordingly, there are two kinds of grace:

(a) One kind of grace is such that through it a

man is himself joined to God, and this is called

sanctifying grace (gratia gratum faciens)

(b) On the other hand, the second kind of grace

is such that through it one man cooperates with

another in order to be led back to God. Now a

gift of this sort is called gratuitously given

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grace (gratia gratis data), since it lies beyond

the power of nature and is given to a man beyond

his personal merits (supra meritum personae);

however, because it is given not in order that

the man himself should be justified by it, but

rather in order that he cooperate in the

justification of others, it is not called

sanctifying grace. And it is of this kind of

grace that the Apostle is speaking in 1

Corinthians 12:7, “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for its usefulness”3

Now, in most cases, God does not choose the

prepared, God prepares the ones who have chosen Him,

as St. Paul well implies in his Epistle to the Romans4. In that same letter he also mentions:

“What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to

make his power known, endured with much patience

vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction, That

he might shew the riches of his glory on the

3 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, I-II q.111, a.1. 4 Romans 8:30

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vessels of mercy, which he hath prepared unto glory? Even us, whom also he hath called”5

We are certainly not worthy, (we could have been

exterminated – as St. Paul indicates by citing

Isaiah’s words: “Unless the Lord had left us a seed,

we had been made as Sodom, and we had been like unto

Gomorrah”) but no, by His Grace He gave us the

opportunity to approach Him again and give Him the

only gift we may be able to give Him: the gift of

our willingness to serve Him and be open for Him to

guide our lives -saying “yes” as Our Lady did- and

letting Him fill with His grace the clay vessel that

is our life.

That ́s why St. Paul concludes practically the same

thing as the collect prayer I mentioned before:

“What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who

followed not after justice, have attained to

justice, even the justice that is of faith. But

Israel, by following after the law of justice,

is not come unto the law of justice. Why so?

Because they sought it not by faith, but as it

5 Romans 9: 22-23

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were of works. For they stumbled at the

stumblingstone”6.

That is, God makes us worthy through Faith. True

Faith. As St. John also says in the last gospel we

hear at the end of each Mass:

“Quotquot autem receperunt eum, dedit eis

potestatem filios Dei fieri, his, qui credunt in

nomine eius: qui non ex sanguinibus, neque ex

voluntate carnis, neque ex voluntate viri, sed ex Deo nati sunt”7 (But as many as received him,

he gave them power to be made the sons of God,

to them that believe in His name. Who are born,

not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor

of the will of man, but of God)

Now, who else could be better example of Faith for

us than Our Lady? Her complete life is nothing else

than a Hymn to Faith. She was united through Faith

to God since her Immaculate Conception until the

last day of her earthly life. She believed in the

promises of God, she believed in the words of the

6 Romans 9: 30-31 7 John 1: 12-13

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Angel, She believed in the message of her Divine

Son. She even believed at the foot of the Cross. Not

in vain the Blessed Father St. Alphonsus says: “In

the Song of Songs (6: 10) Mary is called the dawn:

Who is she that comes forth as the dawn? Dawn is the

end of night and the beginning of day; the Blessed

Virgin is the dawn of day, because she is the end of

vice. When devotion to Mary begins in anyone, it

produces the same effect that our Lady’s birth

produces in the world: it ends the night of sin and

leads a person along the bright path of virtue.”

Yes, Her whole life is a Hymn to Faith, a

“Magnificat”, and Her name is terrible in hell and

honored in heaven.

Now, in his epistle to the Romans St. Paul also

mentions Abraham and Sarah, calling attention to the

fact that their offspring are the “children of the

promise” as opposed to the “children of the flesh.”

But for this to happen, Abraham and Sarah must first

be made worthy by God to carry out such a task. And

it is here that I want to highlight something

interesting that could go unnoticed by those who do

not know biblical Hebrew: God added the Hebrew

letter ”ה” to Abram and Sarai ́s names. ”ה” is the

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5th letter of the Hebrew alphabet and was used to

represent God Himself and His Divine Grace. One of

the principal ways to refer to God was using the

word םשאה and its initial the letter ”ה” .”ה” also

made reference to the wind, the breath… (the Spirit

of God) blowing on us. It is the divine breath of

God breathed into Adam releasing His life into Adam.

The action of adding ”ה” to the name expresses the

gift of the fruitfulness that comes from the

transforming grace of the Spirit.

So God inserted His own presence and Grace in Abram

and Sarai (which is, by the way, a beautiful way of

understanding the Sacrament and Mission of Marriage)

and they finally became Abraham and Sarah. God

poured out on them… Grace, and the transforming

power of the Holy Ghost to be fruitful and

productive. The “exalted father” became the “Father

of nations” and the “Princess” became the “mother of

nations”.

As we can see, God Himself is Who descends to rescue

us and cure us of our spiritual leprosy, as Christ

cured the 10 lepers mentioned in the Gospel for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost. That’s why we have to be

constantly grateful for the incomparable gift of

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having been made “children of God by the faith”,

even in these times of crisis in which the words of

the prophet Isaias (“If the number of the children

of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved”8) which St. Paul reminds us and seems more

and more appropriate for our days.

Yes, oh Lord, we are not worthy, and only for your

generosity we have been called as the workers of the

last hour, but we trust in your promises (which is a

sign of holding the true Faith) and we know that

although the Church is eclipsed by the shadows of

Her enemies, You will make Her shine again with the

radiance of your Son, Christ, “the Morning Star, who

came back from the dead, and shed his peaceful light

on all mankind”9

May She “that cometh forth as the morning rising,

fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?”10 protect us now and at the hour

of our death. Amen.

8 Romans 9: 27 9 Praeconium paschale 10 Canticles 6:9

Posted on October 19, 2019 at 7:12 pm

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