Sermon for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost – October 14, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
Just as a preliminary side note, the epistle, which doesn’t really fit in to what I am going to say exactly today, is one that I would recommend you meditate upon this day. “See how you walk circumspectly, not as unwise, but as wise; redeeming the time”. And, there are two aspects to the epistle today, the first half and the second half.
The first half reminds us of how short the time is, and reminds us of the way we are supposed to be conducting ourselves, and a bit of an examination of conscience for the fact that we probably do not live up to this. How many sins we would avoid if we were walking in the way of the Holy Ghost, if we were forcing ourselves to follow our schedule, if we were forcing ourselves to conform ourselves to the will of God in every moment. What is God’s will for me right now? That is the only thing we need to ask. God, is this sinful or is that sinful? If we are doing the will of God, we will know whether it is sinful or not, and not just what is sin, but also what is pleasing.
This is a constant battle against ourselves. We want to exert our own will, we want our independence. Without even thinking it, there is this spirit within us that is in rebellion against God’s order. We all experience it, and we could be doing something in and of itself is fine and even praiseworthy, but may not be the will of God.
So, this epistle today is telling us, Do the will of God. As in another place in Philippians, St. Paul says, “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling. Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” He is saying that for all the time, holy fear and trembling. We are constantly walking before God. We are always in His presence whether we are in church or outside of church. Is the music I am listening to now what I should be listening to? Yes or no. Is this pleasing to God or not? If Our Lord were there with you, which He is, but if you saw Him before you, if Our Lady were there, would you be listening to this or would you be doing that, whatever you are doing? We need to continually ask ourselves this question because we always forget, and this is because of original sin, the effects of sin upon our souls.
The second half of the epistle today has to do with the way in which we can work up the Holy Ghost within us, the way in which we can stir up — you know, the fan into the flame — the Holy Ghost. And when we feel like we are being weighed down, to ourselves, at least — I don’t know if we want to be singing with others around or not, not necessarily unless you are singing together — but, speaking to yourselves, at least speaking, right? — in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord. We don’t do this enough. We focus on the law so much, which is very important, but we lose the fact that we need to remember that, you know, the Lord wants to be sung to. He is God.
Sometimes we feel stupid, sometimes we feel embarrassed. But, really, St. Augustine says that to sing is to pray twice. And this can help in our Rosaries, too, and I’ll mention that in a moment, because it is the month of the Holy Rosary. But, to stir up in ourselves the spirit in which we overcome our sloth, we overcome our ambivalence and our rejection a lot of times of the Holy Ghost by specifically doing the opposite, singing and giving thanks, going over and above simply saying the prayers. So that is one way in which we can work at this fight. Because it is a battle. The devil tries to weigh us down, he tries to discourage us and to tear us down. And, in effect, when we sing, he covers his ears. He doesn’t want to hear it, especially if we are singing from the heart. This is what the Christians used to always do. St. Paul is not saying this for nothing.
Now, how would we do this? I’m not saying when you are praying the Rosary, for instance, you have to sing every Hail Mary necessarily. But maybe in between the mysteries, you sing an Ave, one of the accompaniments that we have, or maybe some other little hymn to Our Lady, something like that, to remind you why you are doing this, why we are praying, and to help us be encouraged. Because singing is part of our souls, that is why, even whether or not we have a voice or not. You know, every Mass is supposed to be sung really. That’s the way it used to be. Obviously, we don’t really have the means so much, unless the priest is just singing the whole thing now, each and every time. We don’t really do that, but ultimately, ideally, even the Mass itself, the highest form of prayer, is supposed to be sung.
Concerning the Rosary, you know there is vocal prayer and mental prayer, two different aspects here. And there are three different levels. I’ll try to go through this as briefly as possible. There is vocal prayer, which if all we are doing is praying the prayers vocally, as long as you are not getting distracted, there is a certain value to it, but not that much, okay. Not nearly as much as mental prayer, but two different ways in which we can pray mentally. St. Louis De Montfort said that in addition to vocal prayer, we can do one of two things. We can either pray our Rosaries, reflecting upon the words of the Our Father and the Hail Mary, and taking our time with each one and trying to meditate — you know, in the Our Father, we are speaking to God now. Our Father, who art in heaven — He is in heaven — hallowed will be Thy name, holy will be Thy name, you know, you are thinking these things over and over. And the Hail Mary, the angelic salutation, we imagine Our Lady there with the holy angel. So, that is one way.
The second most powerful way to pray a Rosary would be specifically to look at the prayers themselves. But the most powerful way by far to pray the Rosary with the most fruit is when you are praying the prayers, to be thinking about the mystery itself, so that the words of the Hail Mary are actually in the background, and in the foreground you have the mystery. That is the best way to pray the Rosary. It is also, for those of you who don’t have much of an imagination, the most difficult way. The easiest way is just to say the prayers. Right? No problem.
But, think about three different responses of Christ in the gospels. One comes today. The first response is when a man comes to Him with his son and says, Oh, I asked your disciples to help my son but they could not. And you see Our Lord basically looking at the sky and saying, Oh, you stupid and foolish people. How long do I have to put up with you? Right? But, then, what happens? The man still came with a certain level of faith, and, therefore, the son was healed. So that’s like the level of vocal prayer, vocal prayer alone.
he second level is that of today’s gospel. “Unless you see signs , you believe not”. This man today came with more faith than the other man we just mentioned. He really believed that Christ could heal his son. But what’s the difference between this man and the third example I’m going to get to in a minute, of the centurion? The centurion said don’t come down, just say the word. He believed in the power of Christ, even without His physical presence. This man did not. This man pushed Christ. He said, “Please, come down and heal my son”.
So, Our Lord honors that, but He says, “No, your son is healed. Go your way”. This man had to be brought a little bit farther. So, that’s like the level when we are praying the Rosary, and we are praying the prayers, we are meditating on the actual prayers themselves. Okay? We don’t, yet, have the faith of children to really love the mysteries. We have enough faith to pray the prayers, to say them better than simply just voicing them, but not at the level that Christ expects.
What is the third example? The third example is what I just mentioned, when Our Lord says to the centurion, “I have not found faith like this in all of Israel”. Imagine you are these three different men. Which response do you want to hear from Our Lord? The only one that you really want to hear is the third one. The first two you don’t want to hear.
So, only when we come to a level of faith in which we have meditated sufficiently upon the mysteries, where we really believe what is happening, we see what is happening, especially in the Sorrowful Mysteries — the Sorrowful Mysteries are probably those that should be the easiest to meditate upon, because they involve the suffering of Christ, and we see exactly what God is doing for our salvation.
So, just to reflect even simply upon the Sorrowful Mysteries, and to look at what Our Lord is going through, what Our Lady is suffering with Him, that will increase our love so much that we will be able to say, Just say the word, Lord, and thy servant shall be healed. Just say the word, my soul will be healed.
So, if we pray the Rosary as well as we can and the best way as given by St. Louis De Montfort, we are going to come before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and believe that He can and will heal our souls. If we have one of the first two levels, we can still receive worthily, but we are not going to receive the same fruit. We are not going to be as pleasing to God. Only the third way really and truly pleases God, because the only way we can get to that point is if we put God before all else. If we do not, we are going to get distracted and then we can’t focus upon the mysteries. The only way we can really focus on each of the mysteries and have the prayers in the background is to be all for Christ and have no part for self. Otherwise, the devil is going to be able to win his battles and get us at level one or two, and sometimes not even one. Sometimes we can be so distracted that the vocal prayers themselves can be displeasing to God.
Think about how St. Dominic prayed the Rosary. Think about how Blessed Alan De Roche, who was one of the superiors of the Dominicans, maybe a hundred years after St. Dominic died. If you look at the book, The Secret of the Rosary, and you see Blessed Alan De Roche, every Hail Mary he said, it was like a rose coming from his mouth literally. Our Lady was taking and making a crown for him out of those Hail Marys. St. Dominic, if he did not pray the Angelic Salutation well, as well as he did, how could he preach? You cannot preach the Rosary unless you pray the Rosary. And he was the best preacher on the Rosary.
So, how much strength we will have, whether for preaching, or for being a good example before our family, how much energy we will have, spiritual energy to overcome our vices, and the encouragement to win these battles. So much is dependent upon how we say these prayers.
Think of how Mother Mary Ana from Quito Ecuador, brought our Lady down from heaven by her devotion. Our Lady said it herself. It is because of your love for me, it is because of how devout you were in praying to me that I have come down from heaven. Why can’t we do that? We don’t believe. Look at St. Thérèse of Lisieux, obviously a great saint. She just had her feast day a couple weeks back. And what did she do? She prayed for snow on a day on which it was fifty degrees, or something of that nature, for her clothing day. She got the snow. Why don’t we receive the same blessings? Not just because St. Thérèse is so much greater than we are, but why is she so much greater than we are? Because of self will, because we have not sufficiently overcome ourselves, where she, when she was two, overcame herself. When she was two, she already began to defeat, to conquer herself. It’s never too late.
A lot of the power of our prayer will be determined by how we live before and after we are praying, by how it is that we are preparing ourselves, remote preparation, by how focused we are staying on the task at hand and living our schedule, as I mentioned earlier in the very beginning.
So, remember that the saints themselves said, have revealed, that if they even prayed one more Hail Mary, they know now how much glory they could have obtained, and, if they could mourn now, if they could be discouraged, or if they could be sad, it would be because of how much time they lost — remember the epistle today — and did not pray as much and as well as they could have. Even the saints would say this. If they could regret now, if they had any regrets, it’s the fact that they did not use the time as well as they ought. Even though they prayed the Rosaries very well, they could have prayed more, they could have prayed better, and they know that now.
And, how much power, again, we just had October 13th yesterday, the 95th anniversary of the miracle of the sun. Let’s think about what Our Lady said about the Rosary, how powerful the prayer is, that there is nothing that we cannot obtain if it is in accord with the will of God, there is nothing that we cannot obtain by praying the Rosary. So, let us try today, the next time you are praying the Rosary, take a little bit of time before you start, put yourself in the presence of God, ask Him to remove from you all distractions, beg Him that He will help you to pray the prayer well, and then pray as though it was your last one. Pray it really trying your best, you can use pictures, you can have a picture in your mind, just focus on the mystery. And if you do that, that will help you to remove distractions, because it is something to keep your mind on, and then, also, you will gain all those things that you are distracted about, all those things you want, all those things you think you need, stay focused on the mystery, and you will get them much more quickly than you would by thinking about those things, rather than the prayers themselves.
Let’s remember that, and then use this intention to be able to receive Our Lord so worthily in the Blessed Sacrament that He will say to you, “I have not seen such faith in all Israel“.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.