Sermon for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost – August 26, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Last week, the Church recommended speaking on the Sacrament of Extreme Unction. And, as you will recall, that is exactly what Monsignor Perez spoke about. The man who is dying on the road and his wounds were dressed, he was on the point of death.
Well, this week, the Church recommends that we say a little bit about confession, based upon the line in the scripture, as Christ says, “Go show yourselves to the priests”. If today’s miracle can be likened to confession, the sacrament was certainly valid in all ten cases. All of them were healed, all ten, and went their way. All of a sudden, the leprosy was gone. But, it was clearly the case that nine of them had what we would say would be imperfect contrition. Only one had perfect contrition. Only one, when he saw that he had been healed, did he basically get on his knees and thank God. He praised God, he went back to Christ to give Him thanks. And, maybe at that moment, he recognized that Our Lord was God. Maybe until then he did not. He could have given thanks to God without going back. Maybe going back, because of his humility, and because of his great contrition, maybe the door was opened in his soul to see that this was God. Maybe he wanted to go back and did not want to leave. We need to think about that a little bit in terms of our own confessions momentarily.
The other nine, if they did not have somewhat of a good disposition — remember, in the beginning they all humbled themselves. They all did make a confession of sorts. Granted, you know, they were not necessarily guilty for their contraction of the leprosy, but they still kept a distance. They still kept a distance and humbled themselves and said that they knew that they had otherwise no right to be cured of the leprosy. Strictly speaking, as creatures they knew that if God said they would be lepers for the rest of their lives, that that was His just law for any sin, even for original sin already forgiven.
They recognized that much and they were healed. But then they went their way. And you can imagine, even after they were healed, you would think, what would happen to you if you were healed of leprosy? Think about immediately what your disposition would be. I mean, you would try to get to church as soon as you could — I mean, even of itself that would lead you to make a better confession, because you would love God more for that great gift. And when we love God more, we see our souls as they are, more purely than had we not been cured. Look at St. Mary Magdalen, how she was healed by her contrition. So, it is something we definitely want to consider.
So, they all begged for help and they received it. All were doing the penance prescribed by showing themselves to the priests, but only one really understood what had just happened, and returned to give thanks. And just like last week, it was a Samaritan, an outsider, an outcast. How many are there who confess mortal sins who are literally brought back from the dead by confession, are literally snatched from the jaws of hell and the grasp of the demon, literally, yet, leave the confessional and resemble the nine who were healed but not in awe of their healing. How many could go to confession — and it is very difficult even for 30 minutes to focus on doing their penance, whether it’s stations of the cross, a rosary, or some other penance. If we realized the gift of God and what had just happened by our confession, especially if there is mortal sin. Imagine, if the only thing separating us from hell was death. And what happens, what do we do? As soon as we confess our sins, we are already in danger of falling again, already in danger of offending God so grievously again.
Think about if a doctor cured you of leprosy or of cancer or something of that nature, what would your reaction be? You would never forget that doctor. You would pray for him, you would have Masses offered for him, you would keep in contact with him. You would always remember what he had done for you, your family and friends as well. And, yet, in every confession, especially those involving mortal sin, even those involving venial sin, if we think about the cross and the sufferings of the blood and the sweat going into Our Lord’s eyes, the blasphemies uttered, the nakedness and the chill He must have experienced on the cross due to the loss of blood. We think of that, and that was all for venial sin. The nails were for mortal sin. The crown of thorns are for mortal sin. Those other sufferings of Christ were for venial sins. If we recognize them, we see in confession what He is doing for our souls, even in the case of venial sin, we see that we need to think about the fact that in that moment, God is doing so much more, even infinitely more for us than a doctor, any doctor who could bring about a miracle.
We need to use that to help ourselves to be more grateful, and to be basically prostrate before God. We don’t mean to be callous, we don’t mean to be mean, in a sense, against God. And, yet, we understand so little because we don’t take the time to meditate on what we are doing and what God is doing. Think about the Mass. How many Masses we’ve gone to, and, yet, how much farther along in the spiritual life are we? Probably not much, not nearly as much as we should be.
God will demand an account. He doesn’t just want us to get into heaven, but we are accountable for all those graces to make use of them, because He doesn’t just want to get us in, but we are responsible for being exactly where God wants us to be in Heaven. We can get to heaven, but not be exactly where He wanted us to be, and then we have to go to purgatory for a time to answer for that. We don’t want that.
And passions can be very, very strong. They can be vicious. It can seem like we have no control over them. And oftentimes we don’t have control over the temptation, but we do have a choice. We have to remind ourselves what is at stake, we have to remind ourselves what God has done for us, remember the crucifixion. Reflect upon the crucifixion every day. That’s what the saints did. If the saints had not reflected upon the crucifixion and seen what God had done for them, they would have sinned many times.
So, meditation upon the truths of the faith, not just in catechism class, but especially taking time to meditate on the cross, was food for the souls of the saints, and it needs to be our food as well.
So, we think about, again, any of those other nine who had been healed, imagine if any of them had to return to Christ, not in gratitude, but because of ingratitude. Imagine that, after they had been healed of the leprosy, not going back to give thanks, they contracted leprosy again through their own fault. Imagine, then, having to turn around and go back to Our Lord and show themselves to Him and say, Would you heal me again, please? Imagine how humiliating, how mortifying that would have been, how discouraging, in a sense. Only the goodness of the Savior could possibly leave them, in that case, to say, Okay, I’ll do this again. And, then, that time, you could be certain they would have gotten it. But for us, how many Catholics, even traditionalists, go to confession for mortal sin, leave, a week later back in confessional for mortal sin, leave, go back and are back again. I’m not saying don’t come back. Keep trying, keep coming back. I’m not meaning to pass in judgment on your souls. But, we have to see that this is obviously not the way it should be. And if you actually thought about it a little bit, we would not fall so easily.
Think about what Christ has done in that moment in forgiving us for those heinous sins, and to have the gall, after such an act of humility of the Savior, who could have sent us to hell before, knowing what we were going to do, He could have said, How dare you even think that? Come to me to be judged! Now you are in hell! He could do that. He would have every right to do that. He does not do that because He loves us. But if we thought about that, how many times in our life have would we actually have to confess mortal sins? Never.
So, from this point forward, we want to be in a situation, we want to think about the things we want to say, I am never going to commit mortal sin again. I am never going to commit even a deliberate venial sin against my God again. Only when we say that do we have hope for salvation. Before we say that, before we have the ability to say that, there is too great of a chance of being lost, because the devil can gain us at the last moment. If we have not resisted ourselves during life, then, at the moment of death the devil will win. It is something that should really give us pause and give us concern.
We need to see sin for what it is, and imagine that by sinning we freely choose to become lepers, outcasts, an abomination to the heavenly court, and a friend of murderers, thieves, blasphemers of the very demons and devil himself, without any hint of exaggeration. By one mortal sin that is what we do. We have literally made ourselves the friends of that man who murdered so many in Denver recently. We make ourselves the friends of those who now are burning for all eternity. Really, is that what we are about? Is that what we have to say for ourselves, after all that God has done for us?
Let us all just take an extra few minutes today to be thankful to God for this great gift of the Sacrament of Holy Confession and also for Holy Communion, for the Mass that we have. How many billions of people have lived and died without ever so much as setting foot in a church. And here we are having the opportunity to be at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. We must be grateful. We must love God more than we love ourselves. We must turn away from everything that in any way will offend the God who has been so very good to us. And all it takes is a little bit of extra effort, not to force it. For some of us it is more difficult to reflect. Some of us don’t have imagination as well trained, necessarily, but do your best and God will supply the rest.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.