Sermon for Quinquagesima Sunday – February 19, 2012 by Father Stephen

Epistle 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel St Luke 16:31-43

Dear Faithful,

Today is the last Sunday before Ash Wednesday and Holy Mother Church chose for today readings to introduce and lead us into the great work of salvation by our Savior, he had accomplished by his willing suffering and death he had offered in behalf of us on Good Friday and by showing us his victory over evil, sin and death by his Resurrection 3 days later on Easter Sunday. In the sacrifice of Christ by dying and in his glorious victory of his resurrection Our Savior had shown the only path to heaven, whereto all men are invited but few will be chosen by God to receive eternal life, His gift of salvation, for God does desire for men seeking Him to live with him forever in his glory and joy. This invitation is the good news God our Creator and Father revealed to man by His Son Jesus Christ, whom he had sent into the world to save us out of this world which is fallen into the dark kingdom ruled by Satan, the great deceiver and mortal enemy of God and men. Jesus’ victory over sin, death and Satan is the central doctrine of our faith that reveals for us God’ triumphant work of love, which the Church calls Christ’s redemptive work or redemption for all those who respond to God’s invitation to Heaven, made known to us by Christ.

In today’s Epistle St. Paul speaks of the power and beauty of divine love, supernatural love, charitas that moved Christ to sacrifice his human life for us, showing us that this gift of God’s love, which is God’s divine life, Grace at baptism is being poured into our hearts, has the power to lift man to God, and to bring into unity with one’s neighbor, for as St John tells us charity is the love, the very life of God in men united with Christ, who made it possible for God’s love, for divine charity to live in the heart of redeemed man. Divine charity is God indwelling in man and with man, charity that man is empowered to possess and be possessed by. Thus revealing why God’s first and most important commandment to love Him is what elevates sinful men out of his sins, out of the slavery of Satan. Thus we can grasp and fathom that God’s will for men to love him and our neighbor is man’s sure hope and salvation, that alone guarantees and is the power that leads men to live with God and reach man’s God-given destiny, Eternal Life. Jesus so said I came that man may have eternal life, for he who loves me will come to me and will find his rest in me, and I will raise him up on the last day, the day promised for us to share in the victory of Christ’s Easter Sunday resurrection, our evidence and promise of eternal life. In the Gospel for today we receive Christ’s sure teaching what it cost him to make eternal life possible for man. It was Christ’s death, which He spoke of in today’s Gospel: “The Son of Man will suffer, be mocked and be put to death, but will rise again on the 3rd day, else where he also taught that death to our human nature and will is the means by which sacrifice we can and find the opening to eternal life. He put it this way: unless the seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, just a seed, but if it dies, it surrenders itself and brings forth much fruit, bringing forth life in abundance. This “life abundant” is what Christ’s resurrection brings about and shows forth, which is our hope and reward. In other words just as Christ had to accept his cross, suffering and death to his human nature and human will, so also, as he teaches that: if anyone wishes to follow him, must likewise take up his cross daily, accept his trials and sufferings, knowing that the power of Christ, the love for God in one, brings forth oneness, the unity with Christ. St Paul affirms this, when he says, if we die with him we shall also reign with him. Christ introduced his sacrifice into our world, which shows us the power of love for God, the Father and his love for us, men. We too following Christ are called to love God and our neighbor by accepting what true love calls for. True love or divine charity, as Christ teaches us in our Christian faith is being evidenced by the sacrifice of one’s self for God and for the salvation of our neighbor. In fact Jesus affirms this truth of our holy faith when he says: “There is no greater love than of the one, who lays down his life for his friends.”

In the Gospel Jesus’ healing the blind man demonstrates that divine love requires sacrifice. So, Jesus takes his time, pays attention to one in need, shows mercy, compassion and love and, – because of that self-forgetting love, – he heals the blind man, a man in need of his love and attention, and compassion. What great example and joy Jesus demonstrates: love is generous, sacrificing itself, has power to transform and give new life. The man healed, was not only healed but was also transformed by the love of Christ and by this change in him became a follower of Christ. So, are we called to learn sacrifice from Christ’s divine love. Our Christian life is thus rooted in our faith Christ, in our love for God, as well as for our neighbor. St John says that it is in loving our neighbor is the proof that we have love for God, not forgetting that because we are moved to love God we have the power to love our neighbor also.

Loving God is his gift of divine power in us. We cannot love God, nor our neighbor without God giving us this, his gift. We do so, because we enjoy God’s gift, and yet if we don’t have this gift, his divine love, his divine life, Grace with capital letters, we ought to kneel down and ask God to grant us his gift of faith, the opening to his gift of love. Jesus urges us and says, “ask and you shall receive.” If your love for God is weak or little, you must ask The Father to grant you the power to love him. For without loving God we cannot have God’s life, nor be able to love our neighbor, as we ought. St Alphonse tells us that the devil blinds us and holds us back from loving God, first by having trapped us in our sins. St Thomas also tells us that divine charity, true love for God is not possible for anyone in mortal sin. Mortal sin and love for God are directly opposed. That is why in lent we are especially called to repent, to turn against our sins, to get rid of them all by making a thorough and sincere confession with the powerful and firm resolve by true contrition never to return to them the resolution to give up sinning. Unless one gives up sinning, he cannot be forgiven, and confession is invalid without genuine contrition, hatred to sin and genuine sorrow. As we heard last week, sincere confession is the opening way to holiness, because there is increase in goodness and sin have been given up. Growth requires true and frequent experience of remorse and hatred for sin. Heartfelt contrition, and thus good confession is the gate to increase practice the good powers of the soul, virtues and giving up attachments to sin and to the things that lead men to sin. Jesus our Lord tells us that we must change, grow, and increase in good deeds and become free from sin and attachments to sin. St Peter the prince of the Apostles tells us to leave the world, and the things and the ways of the world in order to be free to love God. This is what hermits do, turning their back on the world. During Lent move and come closer to Christ, and by your daily reading the Gospels, become knowledgeable about the way of Christ and his saints you will be enabled to come to know Him and grow in knowledge and in friendship with Christ who leads us to salvation, to our Father in heaven who is awaiting our love, the gift of our self, for holiness is bringing one’s self and will into unity with God and his saving will, as Jesus tells us: the Father loves you and is calling you. Let us begin to pray and begin to give our time, and our life back to God, who in turn wishes to reward us with his eternal life. Amen.