Sermon for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost – September 4, 2011 by Fr. Stephen


In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Dear Faithful, in the epistle, St. Paul tells us that our sufficiency is from God. We depend on God. Without Him, without His grace, without His help, it’s not possible for us to be saved. Jesus said that. It is impossible for man, by his own powers alone, unaided by God, to be saved. It is necessary that we have God’s grace, but that requires our spirit of  receptivity, a willingness to hear the invitation, and our part to respond to that invitation. As St. Augustine, perhaps the greatest theologian of all times, said, “God has created us without us, but will not save us without us”.

Protestants tell us that all you need is faith and God does everything. That is heresy. Jesus  innumerable times tells us that our part is necessary. God is awaiting for our obedience, for our faith, and a living faith at that. St. James points that out, that our faith must produce fruits. Jesus said that also. It is not enough to have faith and God does everything. He does not. He does His part indispensably, but it is required because God wishes to crown us, and there is a dignity about us that is still not clear how we share in that. But I believe that Jesus tells us that we must respond, we must do our part. As He pointed out, the talents and gifts that we are given, we must use them and bear fruit, make interest. Those who made interest, Jesus pointed out, they’ll receive even more beyond anyone knowing ahead of time beyond measure. The one who received the talents said, “I knew you were a hard man. You harvest where you did not sow, so here is the talent.” And the Lord said, “Out of your own mouth, your judgment is spoken. You knew I was hard, all the more you should have given it to the bankers to gain interest and you could return it to Me with interest. You lousy lot, get him out.” And he was thrown out, where there will be gnashing of teeth and wailing without end.

God is merciful, but not a fool. God is calling every one of you and me to respond, to do your part and to merit. Now God gave us our creaturely nature, a dependent nature at that. Catholic philosophy, theology teaches that creatures are not of themselves, they are by other creatures, beings by other . We didn’t make ourselves. Only God alone has saved us by Himself, of Himself, ungenerated. You and I, everything under heaven, everything under heaven, everything, I mean, that includes everything created in the material order, is changing, passing away, dies, must die. Jesus’ death seals that reality, this law. Creatures must die. What dies with them is this changing nature. God wants something more than that for each one of us, something that is permanent, something that lasts. So it is good news that Jesus teaches that the seed must die in order for it to bear abundant fruits that last forever in the supernatural order.

We Americans fool ourselves by the prosperity we have, that we are independent enough. That is only appearance, not a reality. Everyone, the richest and the most famous, dies the same way, passes away, must die to make room and the possibility for eternity to be ours. It is an act of mercy on God’s part that we must die. It’s not cruel of Him to expect His Son to die on the cross. It was an act of mercy, because awaiting is His resurrection which He promised to everyone of you and me because we were baptized into Him. Into His death, St. Paul says. Very clearly, we are baptized into the death of Jesus with the certain hope that we, as Jesus did show what happens in God’s works. God is merciful and He is replacing that which is corruptible, which falls apart, which gets weak, sick and dies, and gives place for glory, eternity. That’s God’s infinite mercy. Only God can do that, and Jesus has promised, “Any one of you who believe in Me,” He said, “I will raise him up.” But, of course, again, he means not a dead faith, but a faith that is alive and does God’s Will. That’s why He said, “Whoever does the Will of My Father will live forever”.

You know, Jesus, the Lord, Himself, when He shared His presence with real sinners, because sin and good don‘t go together, yet Jesus overcame any human prejudice, including those of the Pharisees. They scolded Him for it. They thought He was changing the rules. No, he didn’t,in any more perfect. “Many will come to Me”, and this is the explanation why He did what He did when He mingled with sinners. He ate with them  The Pharisees pointed out, He eats with sinners. And Jesus explained that. “Many will come to Me, many will come to Me,” who lived on the same street with you, who ate with you at the same table.” Jesus shakes his head, “Get away from Me, evildoers. I have never known you.”

If that’s all we do during the week is to do evil and not good, increasing grace and virtue, sanctifying ourselves, earning the treasures in heaven that last, we’re worse than useless. Jesus said, “If you say that you obeyed everything that was required,” say to yourself, You are useless, I am a useless servant, because I only did what I was supposed to do and nothing more. If you greet only those who greet you, where is the merit? Pagans do that. You are no more than a pagan. If you have no forgiveness and generosity of reaching out to those who may offend you, and despite that, you overcome yourself and say, I am not going to slap back, I will overcome my nature, I will do as Jesus teaches me to do, I rise over myself and figuratively turn the other cheek by doing something kind to that person. That is a treasure, that is an act of mercy, because mercy is divine and comes from God. But it can act to you because you are engrafted in the life of Jesus, the mystical body of Christ. By baptism you have entered into the death and resurrection of Jesus, and you can, with God’s grace. And, yes, your cooperation. You need that. That’s where you earn your merit. At the end of the road, Jesus said, “Blessed are you, blessed is My Father because I was hungry and you fed me. I needed you and you gave it to me. And the start of the revelation of that is and make that real in your own real awareness now, that whatever good you do to anyone, Jesus is hidden in every thing under heaven. It’s His possession. It’s His. So whenever you have a comment, or whenever you spend a time that may be difficult for you to spend, but yet give yourself, give your time to that person that you may not like, you are giving of yourself to God who is hidden in that person. That is mercy. These are the kinds of treasures Jesus wishes you and me to earn, to store up where things do not change, do not die, and will be your crown in eternity. God is merciful, even when He corrects us, even with suffering, even with death. God is merciful.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.