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Sermon for the Sunday within the Octave of the Nativity – December 29, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton

1

DOMINICA INFRA OCTAVAM NATIVITATIS

One day St. Francis went to pray in the old church of

St. Damiano, outside Assisi. And, as he prayed in front

of the Crucifix placed on the altar, he had a vision of

Christ that pierced his heart, to the point that he

could no longer recall the Lord’s passion without

crying. And he heard the voice of the Lord saying to

him: “Francis, repair my church; Can not you see that

it is being destroyed?”

The Lord referred to the Universal Church, threatened

by a thousand external but mostly internal dangers, but

St. Francis understood that he was referring to the

church of St. Damiano and then decided to stay there

and repair the church personally.

Today we see another Francis, who on the contrary,

would seem to be the harpist who plays while Rome burns

and is being destroyed. Obviously when I say Rome I do

not mean the Church of Rome, but the Church in general.

We have then a Francis who says yes and repairs the

Church with a reform and the other who says no and

helps to destroy it with a revolution. But remember

what the Italian proverb says: “cattiva paga dá il

diavolo a chi lo serve bene” (bad payment gives the

Devil to those who well serve him”.

Certainly we know that the Church will have no end,

that the gates of hell shall not prevail against her,

but it is also true that our life will have an end.

2

That each and every one of us will inevitably arrive at

that moment when the darkness clouds the view, the ears

no longer hear and all the senses become weakened. That

moment where each breath becomes a struggle, or, as the

Greeks would say, the moment of agony.

Agony precisely means struggle, the last battle we will

all face. At that time, when some people struggle to

continue living, others fight against suffering, we

Catholics must worry about fighting the devil. This is

why the Church assists us with countless graces during

our life and with the sacrament of Extreme Unction and

Viaticum at the moment of our death, to strengthen us

in our last battle.

Today is the last Sunday of the year. And it is also a

good time to reflect on the endings. A moment to think

about our acquaintances and friends who started this

year with us and now they are not here anymore. A

moment in which tremble even the knees of those most

proud, a moment in which all the vanities and whims of

this world pass, in which the uselessness of

selfishness is clearly seen, and in which we can

appreciate better all the opportunities and Graces that

God has given us.

In these times when the Church seems to succumb to

confusion and error, where the integrity of the faith

is defended only in small groups of resistance, it

would seem criminal to miss the opportunities with

3

which God and Our Lady wish to guide our souls to them.

Considering this, it does not seem reasonable to put at

risk the salvation of our souls by personal whims.

The Pharisees believed that only they would be saved.

Today we know that most of them didn’t do the right

thing to be considered saved. They preferred the easy

way to condemn others to pretend to be accepted by God.

The Parable of the Pharisee and the publican is a clear

example of what should be our attitude to achieve

salvation.

Today we hear in this gospel another thing necessary

for salvation: To be willing to accept sacrifice. The

prophetic phrase that the prophet Simeon pronounces has

two parts, one addressed to the child “this Child is

destined for the fall and for the rise of many in

Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted”, and

another addressed to the Mother: “And your own soul a

sword shall pierce”

The conjunction “and”, which unites Mary with Jesus in

this prophecy can be replaced by the phrase: “to such

an extreme that …” that is to say: “this Child is

destined for the fall and for the rise of many in

Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted to

such an extreme that your own soul a sword shall

pierce”

This shows us that Jesus will be the target of the

contradiction to such an extreme that the very soul of

4

the Virgin Mother will be pierced with a sword. This

prophecy reaches a very particular fulfillment with Our

Lady but it is also a sign for each one of us. Whoever

wants to be united to Christ must be willing to

sacrifice. And there is no better way to prepare

ourselves and to thank God for the graces He gives us

than to be willing to sacrifice our pride by making our

hearts sacred. Not for nothing the word “sacrifice”

means to make something sacred (sacrum facere).

May God help us to remember His presence at all times,

give us the strength to resist temptations and the

grace of final perseverance.

Posted on January 3, 2020 at 5:29 pm

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