Sermon for Sexagesima Sunday – February 12, 2012 by Monsignor Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
My dear faithful, we are now thrust into the season of the Sundays after Septuagesima which result in, of course, Lent at the end of it, and finally Easter at the end of all that. Just a brief word on the season itself. The Church is sending a message by the color, and what the message is is really not so much you have to start doing penance now, but the message is, Begin to consider seriously how you are going to live a good a profitable Lent.
The history of this season leading up to Lent is that the season of Lent is called quadragesima in Latin, and that means forty, referring to the forty days. Well, a little bit into the history of the Church, some religious congregations, predominately monasteries and this, began to petition the Holy See to be able to do more penance, to extend the penitential season a bit, either a little bit or a lot of bit beyond the forty days. And, so, depending on what the congregation in particular wanted — some wanted one week more of penance, some wanted two, some wanted three — and so they said, Well, we’ll call these Sundays something, but they don’t relate to the same thing that quadragesima does. Obviously, Septuagesima, it means seventy, but it’s not seventy days before Easter. It’s just that they picked that name for it, Sexagesima is sixty, Quinquagesima is fifty. But they don’t refer to the number of days actually. They are just beginnings of penitential seasons for particular religious.
What it says to us is prepare, get ready to live a profitable Lent. And, so, the Church has left them in the calendar, traditional end of things anyway, for us to consider. So we prepare to consider. And today’s reading, the epistle especially of Septuagesima Sunday last week, give us a lot of food for thought on this particular season and how we are going to accomplish what we need to do. And what it has to do with is the meaning of life. What is the meaning of life? There have been movies on the subject, some of them not too pious. People have asked themselves this question, but the real problem is that some people never ask themselves this question, or even they probably think that life actually has no meaning. But there is a starting place. And the starting place begins the same place that the Baltimore Catechism begins. Why did God make me? And, if somebody never asks themselves this question, then there will be no meaning to life. Unless you ask yourself, Why did God make me, your life will have no meaning, because the answer to that question is the meaning of life. And the answer to that question is, “God made me” — come on little kiddies who have the Baltimore Catechism — “..to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life, that I may be happy with Him in the next.” Okay? This is the meaning of life. And it begins with what? To know God. Because you can’t love and serve somebody you don’t know. It just stands to reason.
So, where do we go with that? Well, first of all, we already know God. Everybody here knows God. Some of us, maybe most of us, know that we don’t know Him as much as we want to, but everybody here knows God. And how do we know that? First of all, because it would be silly for you to go to Mass if you didn’t answer the first question. The Mass is the answer to some of the other questions. But, secondly, because God put into nature itself evidence of Himself, to the point where you may know God with the unaided light of reason itself. This is something taught by the Church. What that means is, If you use your reason and you apply it to what you see everywhere around you at all times, or experience — you know, even blind people can know God without seeing — experience life, the air, the plants, whatever. You can know that there is a God from that.
Now why do so many people say that they are agnostic or atheistic? Well, agnostic means they don’t know that there is a God, and atheistic means they are positively against the idea. But agnostics especially say, Well, we don’t know. Well, how do you deny the input of your senses. And the problem is that so many people claim to be agnostic or atheistic these days, because, as I said, you may know God with the unaided light of reason. They don’t have any reason, they don’t use reason. In fact, the educational system, especially in our country but elsewhere, it is positively against the use of reason. Reason means using your brain and the rules of logic in an argument to go from step A to step B, et cetera, down to a conclusion. And when you agree on these rules of logic which are well established, they were established by Greek philosophers, for heaven’s sake, before the time of Christ. When you use those rules of reason, you will reach a conclusion about what you see and experience around you. In fact, the conclusion is inescapable. And it is first of all that there is a God who created everything who is all powerful and all good.
Now, this is interesting because when I say people don’t use reason, what the educational system is getting them to do is use your feelings. It’s like, you know, here’s this subject and you can learn about all the things you want to, Mathematics, Physics, but they are telling them in the end it’s their feelings that matter over anything else. May I tell you that God doesn’t care about your feelings in this case. He doesn’t give one little hang for how you feel about whether He exists or not. The fact of it is He continues to exist whether you believe it or not.
Feelings, yes — you know, I was in grammar school when this marvelous thing called New Math came in. Now, I see a lot of nods because all it meant is my parents could no longer help me with my Math homework. But we had all these meetings and stuff. The parents all had to come in and they had to sit there while New Math was introduced, and what they told the parents was actually, Well, with New Math it doesn’t matter whether you get the right answer or not. It’s if you know how to do the processes and things like that. Well, it seems to me if you knew how to do the processes, if New Math were actually a good system, that you would get the right answer at the end of it. But this might not have been the beginning. The beginning went before that. It was the teaching the supremacy of feeling over reason. We are overrun by myriads of these pests that are the product of modern education who value feeling over reason.
Now, putting it into prospective, God only cares about you using your reason. Your feeling, if you rely on that, will not get you to God. It won’t. You can’t feel your way through some of the stuff, you have to rationalize your way through to make it to heaven.
So, the first is to know God. We have the parable of the sower. The sower, of course, is God, and adding to the explanation that our Blessed Lord gave this, I want to add another thing. This seed, He said, is the word. What is the word? The word is the grace that God gives every human being on earth that is sufficient for them to be saved if they apply their reason and pursue it. Okay? It is a teaching of the Church that God gives this grace to every single human being on earth, sufficient grace to find Him and be saved. But it means you have to do something with that grace. Okay? So He’s the sower. He goes around and He casts the seeds of knowledge of Him and grace to be saved everywhere on earth. The seed is everywhere. But what can happen to the seed? Well, first of all, the deficiency would be in the knowing at all. This is the seed that fell by the wayside and was trodden down and the fowls of the air devoured it. These are the people who go out and deny that there even is a God, they deny the input of their senses. They deny the inevitable conclusion that a rational person has to have when you experience the creation of God.
We’ve been brainwashed into thinking by the media and whatnot that belief in God is a religion, and we don’t want to impose that on anybody, do we? Excuse me. That is something that they just came up with. Belief in God is not religion. It’s sanity. People who constantly deny the conclusion of reason are nuts. They are dangerous. They should be removed from schools. It’s not prayer that should be removed from schools. It’s these dangerous insane people who want to keep God from being taught there. So those people, then, they don’t even make it to first base. We’re talking baseball. They don’t even get there because they don’t even hit the ball. It goes right past them. What happens? The birds of the air come and devour it. Their faith doesn’t get off the ground. The seeds are gone before they start. Okay? So they are not even starting to know God.
Then there are others that some fell upon a rock and as soon as it had sprung up it withered away because it had no moisture. These are people who start to know God from reason or from revelation of some kind being taught to them. But they don’t do anything with it. Oh, yes, that’s interesting. I believe in God, but, you know, that’s about it. I’m not a religious person. How many times have you heard, I’m not a religious person from somebody? Well, okay, nonreligious person, you are going to hell. How do you like that? You brag about that to everybody by telling us how not religious you are? Well, you are telling us you are going to hell and you seem to be happy with that. That’s what that means, when they say, I’m not a religious person. Why? Because you’ve got to be religious if you are going to go to heaven. You’ve got to pursue it with everything you have. So, these people then, those seeds, they spring up, okay, God, yes, I’ve discovered God, and there’s no moisture. They don’t do anything with it to water the seeds. Consequently, they wither up and die and they’re gone, too.
Some others fell among thorns and the thorns growing up choked it. These people were given knowledge of God and the grace to find His church, but they never pursued that gift they were given of asking the question, Okay, now I believe in God. How do I get to heaven? How do I do it? There must be a way. There are all these churches out there. They can’t all be right. One of them has to be the real church. But then they go, Well, let’s just try the Jehovah Witnesses. We’ll just do that and stop there. Or the Mormons or the Presbyterians or the Methodists or Buddhists or Hindus or the worshippers of the great thumb and things like this. They stop at that. And what happens? Those are the thorns. They become so tangled in the false religions that they go nowhere, and they, too, their souls die and they don’t make it.
And other seed fell upon good ground, and being sprung up yielded fruit a hundred fold. That obviously a people who responded to the call, who asked the questions and who pursued salvation, and pursued it in the way that St. Paul told us to do it last week in last week’s — he didn’t tell us last week — yeah, we have this new revelation going — (Father laughing) — in the epistle last week St. Paul says it’s a race and you keep your eyes on the prize and you never deviate from that line, that nothing else matters. And he said, But look at the — St. Paul was a runner, by the way. Probably a lot of you know that, but it was his hobby before he was made St. Paul kind of thing. And he ran in many races, and he knew running. And he knew what you had to do to prepare for a race. And we do, too., Remember Jim McKay and Up Close and Personal, and the Olympics and stuff? Okay, so he would have all these little vignettes about the Olympic athletes, you know, take a swimmer or whatever. And he would go through their lives and show the immense training and discipline that they practiced, denying themselves, everything, and focusing on their sport, and living and eating and drinking and sleeping whatever their sport was, like swimming or running or something like that. That’s all they did. And you know what? It was for a Gold Medal or Silver or Bronze Medal. And you know, many, many Olympic athletes who sacrificed everything to win that medal are now in the afterlife and left those medals here, and left every opportunity to pursue the truth, unfortunately, here as well. And he is saying, These people, they sacrificed everything for a corruptible crown. In those days you just got some bay leaves on your head. Now you get gold which lasts a little longer anyway. But, still, it’s corruptible. In the end you can’t take that with you, and they sacrificed everything. And St. Paul is saying, Even more so because that’s why we are here. We’re here to do what it takes to be saved and you have to keep your eyes on that prize and never deviate, and do everything it takes to get there, which means you deny yourself certain things. You eat, live and sleep certain things, like the faith.
So, anyway, this has to do then with knowing God. We have to know Him first, and we can know Him by unaided reason, but we continue to know Him by delving into the truths of religion, which religion is true, which one is not, stay with the true one and learn as much as you can about it. Lent is coming up. What are we doing on a daily, or at least weekly basis to learn more about the faith? And a lot of people go, Well, I kind of half listen on Sunday to what the priest is saying. And there’s a lot there so I think I know enough about God. I don’t have to go home and do any reading or anything like that. But please consider we are talking about God who is infinite, which means you can never learn everything about God and everything you do learn about God will be to your profit. We have the class on Wednesday evenings. I remind people it’s not too late to get in on that. That’s a wonderful way to get to know God more, and that will lead to loving Him more.
All right. So, let’s take the purpose of Lent as the reason for our purpose on earth. The first is then knowing, and that’s how you can make your inroads in knowing God.
Loving Him. If you are successful in knowing God, you will love Him, because our God is not Zeus or Apollo or Aphrodite or Nirvana or something like that Our God is the all-good, all-loving, all-powerful God. Now, going back to the first thing I was telling you, you can also know this by your unaided reason without ever reading a religion book, although I want you to, you could know that much. Why? Go out there and look at creation. Somebody had to make this. Right? And He had to be all powerful, because the creator of everything that is could not be a secondary figure himself created. If he is, then you haven’t got the right God. Then you have to go back a step. Well, who made him? Who made him? Who made him?, until you get to one that was uncreated and all powerful. That is the God we believe in, because that’s the real God.
So, you do that. Well, then, what do you know about Him? He is all powerful and He is perfect. He has to be because by definition, once again, if he is Zeus or Apollo hurling lightening bolts and sometimes missing and turning people into calves and does and things like this, then that is not the right god. The right God is the one who is perfect. Being perfect, He is all good. Why? Because evil is not a thing. It’s like cold. You know? Your mother says, Shut the door because the cold is getting in. Well, there is no real cold to get in. It’s the heat that’s getting out. Cold is a lack of heat. You can take something and you can add heat to it. In fact, almost indefinitely you can add heat to it. You can’t add cold to anything. You can take away the heat until you get to what we call absolute zero. And when you get there, minus 273 °C or somewhere around there, then — is that right? See, I remember high school. When you get there, that’s it. It doesn’t get any colder. You can’t add more cold. In the same way, evil is a lack of good. And, so, God, if it’s the right God you have, He can’t be evil. He must be good. He must be all good, because He cannot lack anything. If He were lacking anything, then He wouldn’t be complete and perfect.
So, we know he is all powerful and all good. Well, when you contemplate God who is love, who is good, you have to start to love that God. You have to. Because you realize that whatever thoughts people may have about God that are erroneous, then that’s not the truth about God. You know, people go, Well, I’m not believing in a God who would wipe out Tasmania with a tidal wave or something, or make a little child get cancer. Well, they don’t understand original sin. And they are blaming God for things that are blasphemes. You can’t blame God for doing something bad. He allows it. But that’s a whole other different sermon.
So, loving Him, then. Furthermore, real love and the level of our souls over virtue is something we call charity which only gains it’s increase from God Himself. So, however much we love God, we should want to love Him more. And so we pray to Him, God, please make me love You more and more. I think that’s a song.. (Father singing, Let me love You more –) Yeah, whatever. I remember it’s a song somewhere, but the truth is the same. We want God, we want to be able to love God more and more. That’s what we beg Him for. And as a response, He sends us grace, an increase in sanctifying grace that results in a greater love for Him. We have to frequent the sources of those graces, most frequently confession and Holy Communion. Every time we are in the state of sanctifying grace and we go over — well, even if you’re not, but you go over to the confessional, if you are already in the state of sanctifying grace and confess venial sins, your sanctifying grace meter goes way up. And when you come over here to receive Holy Communion after that, it goes way up even more. And with every increase in that sanctifying grace is the ability to love God more and more and more.
And the more you love God, the more you want to love God. And so you go out of your way, you sacrifice for Him. You pursue that goal like a runner. You never take your eyes off it. Because after a point nothing else matters but being eventually with the God that you have come to love. You know, however much you love earthly people, and we all do. We have our parents, you have your wives, boyfriends, girl friends, this kind of thing, that you love, that you grow to love. And that is a foretaste of the love of God. It doesn’t bring with it the complete union of souls and hearts that will happen when we are before His throne in heaven seeing Him face to face. But it’s a foretaste. And it’s food for thought, because however much you love your husband, wife, boyfriend, girl friend, mother, father, relatives, anybody on earth, that is a taste, and you like that love. You love to love and you love to be loved. And that is a little gift God has given you to pursue Him.
Well, imagine in your heart and soul when, by sanctifying grace He gives it to you to love Him more and more and more, you know if you love your wife or husband you don’t want to be separated from them. You hate it when they work late. You know why. You don’t want to be away from them that long. Well, with God when you love Him that much, you can’t imagine being separated from Him at the end of life. And, so, you do everything to be with Him at the end of life. And that is the ultimate love of God, foregoing everything for the goal at the end of the race.
And, then, finally besides knowing Him and loving Him, serving Him. Serving is a natural byproduct of knowing and loving. We can increase it. The inclination, I should say, to serve, would be the natural byproduct. We can increase it by finding ways to serve Him. And when we are in the state of sanctifying grace, and we find more ways to serve Him, our sanctifying grace and love of Him increases more. And it becomes this big, huge snowball kind of thing. So, serving Him. How do we serve Him? Okay, Lord, I love you so much, I want to serve You. Well, let’s see what the Bible has to say about this. What are the two great commandments? You love the Lord your God with your whole heart and your whole mind and whole soul for His own sake. That’s commandment number one, Our Lord says. And, number two is, You love your neighbor as yourself. These cause you to serve Him in particular ways and more and more.
In particular, we call some of these ways the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Good works. And I speak with priests on the subject from time to time and one of our great laments is that a lot of times even the majority of our people do not realize the key part of good works in salvation. Oh, they are all hip on the faith, oh, yeah, I can tell you what Transubstantiation is and I go to the Latin Mass. But you would all have to ask yourselves, What do you do as a good work? I’ve given up asking people because most people can’t find anything to tell me when I ask them that. And that means, guess what?, you are lacking half of what it takes to be saved. Oh, yes, I put my $5 in the collection every week. Well, that’s nice, if you make like $5 an hour or something like that. But almsgiving is only part of it. What are you doing that’s a good work? Look at the corporal works of mercy and the spiritual works of mercy as a baseline. I used to get them all mixed up. When I try to quote them out of my head, I get them mixed up and it’s like saying, well, it’s like feeding the naked, you know, and stuff like that. (Father laughing). But, you know, feeding the hungry, clothing the — these kinds of things. Read your catechism about what are these spiritual and corporal works of mercy. And then say, What do I do? The devil tries to get us in all kinds of ways, and one is he’s made our lives so intruded by other things and so hectic, that we don’t stop to ask ourselves the essentials of salvation. We go, Oh, it’s been a long day at work and I just want to sit in front of the television and, you know, watch Roadrunner reruns and drink a beer and forget about everything. Okay? Well, I kind of understand that. You know, I’m not totally unsympathetic. But it’s an example of what can happen to our lives. We go through it and this modern world is so charged with input, that we last from one Sunday to the next, and that is the sum total of our religious experience for many people. And it can’t be if you are going to go to heaven. There has to be not only faith, but there has to be good works to go with it.
So, my dear faithful, we are coming up on Lent. This has got to be the best Lent ever for everybody here. You just start to realize after a while, will there be another after this? You know, we’ve had many people pass away, and very, very unexpectedly some of them, some maybe expected, but just young people and things like that, and it has to make your wonder. So every — of course, every moment of our existence should be filled with some kind of something to do with God, even if not conscious. But our Lent should be very, very special, and very, very focused on the meaning of life, and the whole meaning of life without which there is no point, is to know, love and serve God with all our hearts and all our minds and all our souls, so that we may be happy with Him in the next.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.