Sermon for the 23rd Sunday after Pentecost – November 4, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
(Father recited the Hail Mary — Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom, Pray for us.)
A few things today — it’s ironic that the Benedictines are here today. I was just reading Dom Guéranger and the Liturgical Year concerning the 23rd Sunday. He said a lot, and one of the things concerns salvation history. If we look at the gospel today, it is more of the doctrinal aspect of the mystery here. Because we know, everything recorded of Our Lord’s life in the gospels are many levels of mystery. And there are many different things, you could focus on the spiritual, you could focus on the doctrinal, the moral. There are many different senses of the scripture as well. But for this one aspect, the woman who was troubled with an issue of blood — you see, Our Lord is going — His will is to cure this other girl who represents the Jews, His will is to cure the Jewish people and bring them back to Himself, in spite of their apostasy, but before He actually cures them at the end of time and brings them back into the fold through the prophet Elijah during the time of anti-Christ. Remember, Enoch and Elijah are the two prophets, Enoch to the Gentiles and Elijah to the Jews, very much like St. Peter and St. Paul, similar to that in the time of the gospel of dispensation. Well, Elijah will help bring about the conversion of the Jews and will happen at the end. And that’s why in the gospel today this girl is cured. You wonder, I mean, if it was one of us, and we came in looking to heal and then we’re scoffed at, we wonder if we would have cured the girl and then said, Okay, now the rest of you are dead. (Father laughing) We might have, you know, given our nature, we might have been more likely to take a little vengeance upon them for their lack of belief, but Christ does not do that, obviously.
So, the first one who was cured who comes recognizing her illness and knowing, seeing in Christ one who could bring her out of it, represents the Gentiles, which is why, you know, the Jews were lost for a time, and then the Gentiles come in and the Jews at the end are returned. So, this is the gospel specifically used at this time because it is this time of the year during October, November, when we start talking a lot about the anti-Christ and about the end of the world. So that’s why, you wouldn’t normally get that sense just reading the gospel, but that’s really what it is about, among other things.
Now, in the epistle today, I would recommend that a few times today, maybe periodically, you return to this reading. Which one of us has not ever made a god of our belly? Which one of us has not often times followed the promptings of the flesh before the promptings of the spirit? How many of us, when all of a sudden we get an inkling of the desire for food, go and fulfill that by getting a snack from the cupboard or making ourselves a little meal. Which one of us also, though, when we are prompted to pray, actually fulfill that, or do we resist it? So often times, to some degree, we have lived, to our shame, what St. Paul is pointing out today. And the next thing he says is, Our conversation is in heaven. For ourselves each day, how often do we actually speak about God, about prayer, about the favors that we have been granted. In the early church, you know, as Father Stephen has said, and I still have to get used to this myself, since Father Stephen has come, he greets everybody, Laudetur Jesus Christus, and we say, In Aeternum. Amen. That was very common in the early Church. It was just a regular greeting. And the conversation would be sprinkled — I mean, they had other things that they would talk about, but everything would always be in that spirit of union with Christ. You could see in the conversations, the impression we get, is that they were so in love with God, so in love with the Catholic faith, that that is what they thought about, that is what they talked about first and foremost. Anything else and everything else that they would talk about or think about was in some way related to this, and they would never depart from it. It was not an end in and of itself.
So, the way we gain the spirit is little by little to start directing conversations to the things above, to remind ourselves, to remind others why we are here. And we can do it indirectly. We don’t have to directly tell somebody, Okay, what you are talking about is evil, you know, necessarily, but just switch things, change the channel. This is our job, it is our responsibility to be leaven in the dough, it is our responsibility to edify, to give good example. And, unfortunately, what I oftentimes see is, you know, we’ve gone back, and I think I’ve mentioned this before, where we accept and embrace the Latin Mass. We have gone back to a time, it would seem, that is maybe 1940s, 1950s Catholicism, where we have embraced, objectively speaking, the content of the Catholic faith, we have embraced the Latin Mass, but when it comes to the practice of the faith, when it comes to the spirit of the faith, maybe a little bit too much the spirit of the world, maybe resembling too much the time before the Council, which is exactly what led to the Council to begin with.
So that is something we really need to work on and to pray about. Maybe this is something we need the Holy Ghost to illumine us about. Otherwise, we can remain blind our whole lives. So, we need to take St. Paul’s epistle today very seriously, not as referring to somebody else, but as the finger of God is pointed directly at us. Because at judgment — you know, now is the time for mercy, but at judgment, it is a time for justice. If you read the book on purgatory, I recommend reading the book by Father Schouppe on purgatory. It is very scary, actually, but it’s very true. And, if you look at that and see how strict God is in the account, for some it would terrorize them. For some, it might discourage them. But for those of good will, they can use it to adore God. They say, Wow, this is the Holy, Holy, Holy One. This is the One whose eyes are ten thousand times brighter than the sun, as St. Paul says in Hebrews. It is very, very powerful to reflect upon that holy state of purification, and to see how rigorously God punishes. He chastises sin, He hates sin. If we get to purgatory, He will love us obviously very, very much. He will love us in purgatory more than He loves us here, because we are truly beloved of Him at that point, and we cannot be lost. But, if we actually reflected really upon those pains, reflected upon the justice of God, it would lead us to think twice before we committed sin. And those promptings of the flesh would be combated, and, if not by the love of God, certainly by the fear of God. And all of the saints had this holy fear, even once they loved Him as He should be loved by his creatures, they still had that holy fear, because they knew that at any time they could fall. Until the end, they knew the devil was prowling like a roaring lion, and they knew that he was going to come and try to steal their souls. So, without a holy fear, they could be deceived by holy love. Because it is holy fear that keeps us in certain moments from committing sin.
Also today, Clement, we want to understand what this spirit of sacrifice, this spirit of martyrdom, which is when we die to sin we are martyrs, dry martyrs, whether or not we ever have the gift to be physically martyrs. Clement is Clement of Rome. Now, St. Clement of Rome was one who was the fourth pope. He was the third successor of St. Peter. And, think about what it would have been for him to have been elected pope at that time. Peter, crucified upside down, Linus and Cletus were also martyred. He knew in becoming pope, I’m going to die and it’s not going to be long. Think about what must have been going through his mind. What a gift. There is no greater gift that man can be given than to be made pope. At the same time, to realize, I have not long for this world, so I had better be holy, I had better be a pattern, an example, as St. Paul says today — and, actually, he would have read this before he became pope. He would have seen this and remembered, and made sure that he was exactly what he was supposed to be. And, you can imagine having somebody like St. Clement in our times, because too many, I’m not saying anybody here, but I’ve heard this too many times where you hear, Oh, the popes the last forty or fifty years have been prisoners of the Vatican. Well, St. Clement would not have allowed himself to be a prisoner of the Vatican. He would have died, and would have either consecrated Russia to the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart, or he would have died trying. None of this, Oh, you know, he’s in hiding, he can’t really do, like John Paul II, what he had said is, I wanted to consecrate Russia but the cardinals were against it. Well, do it anyway, excommunicate them, you know. Do what you are supposed to do, do your job. And St. Clement, you know, would have done that.
St. Clement’s example may be for the pope now to return to the practice of the Catholic faith, because this whole opening to the world, as John XXIII put it, he said, that he wanted in the Second Vatican Council to use the medicine of mercy, rather than the rigors of justice. And, you could imagine giving a cough drop to somebody who has an aneurysm. It’s not going to work. Right? So, obviously, that did not work. But, for us, we already know, I mean, I don’t need to talk to you about the crisis in the Church too much. At this point, most all of you know basically what’s going on in the Church. But where we need to make the application may be in this case, to be more like St. Clement and to have more of that spirit of martyrdom. Because, if we had more of that spirit of martyrdom, to be willing to die for Christ, or be willing to give others what they need, the justice that they need, in order that they may obtain mercy. Because, oftentimes, we see this maybe among parents or prospective parents, or other adults, they often times use this medicine of mercy too much, afraid, maybe, to lose the children, they don’t do what they need to do in terms of discipline. And this has many applications, but it is very important that as parents you obtain the spirit, the spirit of sacrifice, the spirit of mortification, the spirit of martyrdom if you are to know how to apply the gospel to your family’s situation, and how to limit or eliminate certain distractions that are oftentimes too much allowed among the children that gets them off track, whether or not it leads them to sin and leads them to waste time.
So, there has to be, really, a lot of discipline there, scheduled responsibilities. And a number of you have that. But, at the same time, it needs to be done with the proper spirit. It needs to be done, not just as an end of itself, but specifically for Christ, specifically for the Holy Catholic faith, and to grow closer to our Mother of Mercy. So, just remember not to follow the example of the Council within your home. Because, otherwise, the Council opened up its arms to the world, and in the process, lost the faith, or at least the practice of the faith. So, for all of us and our families, be very careful that we resist that spirit. Otherwise, the faith in the home — the faith life, will be destroyed. Because we should and we need to ask ourselves, Do we love God above all else? Do we really love Him, or are we in love with our own lives? Do we look forward to going home so that we can do what we want, or do we look forward to going home so once again we can pray, so once again we can have the time to be outside, to get away from all the distractions and be home and to give God the first fruits of the day, and to make our Act of Contrition, to go through our examination of conscience from when we have been away. Do we come back, do we return to Him, do we seek His blessing? As the man today, seeking a blessing for his daughter, you fathers of families, do you, when you go out, do you return home, are you seeking in your prayers God’s blessing on your family. Are you seeking that He preserve your family from sin, especially your children, who are in a state of weakness because of their immaturity still, much more easily scared by the wolves.
So, without going on and on here, everything today, what a time for, given that it is the month of the holy souls and the month before Advent in which we are preparing for the coming of Christ, what a time for us now to really take an account of whether or not God is first and foremost in our thoughts, in our affections, in our resistance to not just sin, but the promptings, any promptings of the flesh. So, this is the spirit we want to be cultivating today and throughout the rest of this week and to the next Sunday, the spirit of sacrifice and the spirit that says no to self, recognizing that it could be sometime this week in which we enter upon eternity and then we may have to be, ourselves, in purgatory for our negligence.
So, pray to Our Lady, Mother of Mercy, that she will help us to acquire the spirit of holiness, the spirit of the martyrs of St. Clement and St. Paul, and these women that I mentioned in today’s epistle, and recognize that if we do that, the peace that we will experience, the peace that God will give to us is much stronger, much deeper than anything we experience in those times in which we tend to turn to the world, rather than to God for comfort. It is God who wants to be our comfort, and if we don’t give that to Him, He becomes jealous, and that’s why purgatory exists.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.