Sermon for the 19th Sunday after Pentecost – October 23, 2011 by Father Stephen
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Beloved faithful, Our Lord Jesus in today’s gospel is facing the chief priests, those who were of the highest authority in the Jewish state, the chief priests. They were the spiritual leaders of the people. There was no one higher than them in the eyes of the people, and also the Pharisees who were a secular party in harmony with the leadership. And the Lord is addressing them directly face to face. The parable is to them. He reminds them that their ancestors, those who have gone before them, the same line of authority on which the lives and future of the people depended upon, Jesus is challenging them in person through the words of a parable.
Now, in anyone’s conception, kings are the highest authority. Jesus is speaking of a king. We, as Catholic Christians, followers of Jesus hopefully faithfully, we have been instructed and we are familiar who this king in the parable is. It is God Himself, the Father. And one of the favorite parables of Jesus is that banquet that the Father is preparing for His Son, Jesus Himself. At the end of time, there will be a wonderful eternal banquet, God’s marriage feast with humanity each soul so precious to Him. That is what Jesus refers to, but the language is veiled because this is the first time they probably hear it. Some of them who may be wiser, may be graced by God –because many of these people will become converts after Jesus’ death and resurrection. The gospel tells us that many Pharisees joined the Church. So Jesus is laying the seeds and speaks of His Father who is preparing the entire Jewish history and the world for that huge great event when God will celebrate His own marriage feast with Himself and humanity, each soul so precious to Him.
This is important. Now notice that Jesus is calling on the conscience. What happened with the invitation? They ignored it. Generation after generation ignored it. They kept busy about their own small particular political ways. And Jesus outlined those what they were very graphically in secular terms, as that’s what people get busy by with the things of this world, buying and selling, food for the table, farming and all those other things. And when they were reminded by the prophets, who were Jesus’ servants, they killed them because they touched their consciences and they couldn’t stand what they heard. And I believe that it slowly begins to appear to the Pharisees that Jesus is talking about us, the remnant or the descendants of those in line in history leading up to Jesus, the Son, because He claimed and He is the Son for whom the Father is preparing that wonderful event. At the end of time when all the curtains will be opened and everything will be made known, all secrets, Jesus said, will be made known, revealed. Secrets that you hide will be preached from the rooftop. Nothing will be hidden. And Jesus is lifting their eyes to begin to see their responsibility in relationship to God’s great design.
And yet, they still are not coming. The king sends other messengers out to get anyone to get in, good and bad. You heard it. But it doesn’t mean that they are dignified, that they are worthy of the call. Jesus Himself said all those who were invited were not appreciative, they did not dignify the invitation. They ignored it callously, coldly, rejecting God. And this is why Jesus is pointing out the anger of God, which is revealed by His judgment and punishment. He sent armies to kill those murderers. He burns their city. These are graphic, powerful figures of speech, Jesus knows why He is using them, He is not afraid of using them and pointing them toward their conscience.
In my long preparation to the priesthood, I spent some two years training in psychology. We were told that anger was in agreement with Catholic theology. It is a passion. In itself theology teaches it is not a sin in itself, but because it is called a capital sin it is sin in a sense because it is a source, the fountainhead of many other grave sins. Like hatred, the greatest crime against God, against yourself, comes from anger. Lack of charity and a host of other capital sins. But psychologists said anger is authority. Most of us are afraid of anger manifested by others, or even when it rises in ourselves, we are terrified of it. We have not managed, most of us have not managed to learn how to tame that power. It can consume you and others, its’ power. And Jesus Himself was angry. In Mark, chapter 3, verse 5, we read, “Jesus looked at them with anger”. God is angry, the Father, Jesus, is angry. That is the root, or in human psychology, the expression of authority. And the Bible says often that Jesus was respected because He had authority. They sensed it. They know it. He speaks the truth and the truth, Jesus tells us, sets you free, gives you power and authority if you yourself are truthful, and your actions don’t contradict your words. Otherwise, you are a hypocrite and people, even children, can tell that you are phony baloney. You mean one thing and you do something else.
Truth, that is what St. Paul talks about, speak the truth, don’t lie. Don’t cheat. That’s another form of lie. Don’t deceive. That’s another form of lie. Truth is God. Speak the truth. That is the source of our authority also. And Jesus spoke the truth to them. And they were stunned to the heart. Anger, Jesus describes so graphically, cities burned, armies killing off murderers. There is anger, righteous anger. Mystical theology tells us so if you read it in Tanqueray’s and all the other moral manuals. Anger has a place, but it must be tamed, it must be mastered, and must be perfectly delivered to punish that that deserves punishment for remedy’s sake and also for justice’s sake. And justice and holiness has been given to each one of us. And God will expect us to live according to that which has been given to us. St. Paul says in the epistle today to pay attention. You and I have been reborn in God, in truth, in justice, in holiness. The virtues have been given to us in baptism and we are to use them and act accordingly. In catechism we have been taught how to do that, how to lead a Catholic life that saves you. Otherwise, you are wasting God’s precious gifts.
And God will call you to that and will exact justice from you. Judgment is coming. It’s not an idle threat. Nothing hidden will remain hidden. And God is just and the judge. And so is judgment given to the Church. The authorities in the Church are to make judgments. Jesus said, privately speak to them if they do evil. If they listen to you, they gain, then. If they don’t listen, call someone else. So, we have two witnesses. If they don’t listen, then cast them off. That’s judgment. Power given to the Church must be used with moderation even by fathers and parents. Your anger must not take you out of yourself. That is your authority you must exercise. If you fail, God will punish you. And He punished the Jews that did not exterminate those pagans because they were a threat to their survival. And instead of exterminating them, they mingled among them and learned their crafts at evil, worshiping demons, sacrificing their children to demons, burning their daughters and sons in pagan ritual sacrifices. That’s what the pagans did. They did not obey God and that is why God punished them over and over again. God is just and for the sake of our life and for justice and truth’s sake He is the judge and delivers judgment. You must correct your children. You must watch what they do. Don’t say, Well, God is merciful and I will be merciful, or as one of the Popes said recently, not so long ago, I was born to bless, not to condemn. Was he trying to improve on Our Lord? Jesus condemned evil and the Church must condemn evil. Priests and parents must condemn evil and do not tolerate them.
And, if you master anger, you must show it. But be careful. Don’t give up charity because all the judgments in sacred theology teach us it is a remedy, it is a medicine for us to turn around for the second chance if, God so wills it. They cannot count on their second chance unless God exercises freely without any obligation His own will. So punishment is remedial, not for the sake of causing anxiety and ending up in an insane asylum. That is not the purpose. But that the person change. And Jesus said, Who does the will of God who says, yes, I’m coming, but is not coming. Or the one who says, I’m not coming and yet he relents, he reflects on his stupidity and says, I’d better go. That is the one who does the will of My Father. In other words, obedience, your actions will live if you are truthful, if you are obedient, if you are faithful.
So, anger is something that you need to learn to manage, exercise. Don’t neglect it, because God will call on you if you have fulfilled the responsibilities that He has given you as a parent. Children must obey their parents. Disobedience can be a mortal sin and often is. So don’t take it lightly. Your obedience to the priests and to the Church also is serious, not light. Sin entered the world because of disobedience by Adam and Eve. But then God, who is on target always, is still intent on making the hall filled, and everyone comes in. And this is where the second truth is revealed, which actually is the first and most important, sanctifying grace, because without sanctifying grace we are not pleasing the Holy One, the Most High who bends down for wretched beings to be lifted up and transformed, and to be welcomed to His great feast. Sanctifying grace is what the wedding garment represents. And this man, the king singles out this man — how important it is that even one man not following God’s way will be cast out. What did Jesus say at the end of the gospel, “Many are called”. I sometimes wonder if too many of us are baptized. Why do I say that? Because so many of us won’t make it. We’re not taking our baptism seriously. What did Jesus say? Many are called, many are baptized, but how many are going to be saved out of them? Because we’re not taking our cause seriously, and we have known, and yet, as those people did before Jesus and many of those of His own generation, going their own stupid ways, ignoring the Most High. That’s why the anger of God is being shown to the Pharisees and the chief priests. Truth matters. Your eternity depends on it.
Sanctifying grace is what made us born in God, with God, of God. We are no longer a part of the human race. We are part of God’s household with a vocation, with a calling, but how many of us are fulfilling that call. That is why Jesus said, “Few are chosen”, and of those, few will enter heaven. Few, not many. Many are called but few are chosen. Reflect on that. This is as serious as life and death. Eternity of your soul hangs on it. Sanctifying grace, if you are not in it — and make sure you know what it is and how to be in it, because if your conscience is formed correctly without compromise, without cheating, lying, deceiving, properly, as Jesus teaches, it’s infallible, you can’t make a mistake out of knowledge. You can make a mistake out of weakness, but not out of knowledge. Your conscience becomes infallible as the Pope is infallible, as God is infallible, if you have a conscience. But you are responsible to be sure that you know the truth, and you are instructing your children and you yourself have been instructed correctly. And check on it to see if you were correctly instructed, because your eternity depends on it. Truth is infallible because it is God. Sanctifying grace, that will marry us to the most high, the Blessed Trinity, the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost, at the banquet of life. God’s wedding feast. Every one of us are being called to it.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.