Sermon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost – June 17, 2012 by Monsignor Perez
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
What I want to talk about today actually comes from last week. It was what I found in preparing my sermon actually, something that didn’t need any improving on, so I will kind of read it to you today. This was brought up in the gospel of last week. And if you remember the gospel of last week, there was a wedding banquet and all these people are invited. They, one by one, begin to excuse themselves. One says, I bought a farm and I have to go check it out; the other one says I have a bunch of oxen and I have to try them out, and the other one says, I have a wife and I cannot come.
Well, the Fathers of the Church agree pretty unanimously that the wedding feast referred to in the parable is the heavenly wedding feast, and that these ones who began to excuse themselves one by one are people, who because of attachment to one kind of sin or another, render themselves incapable of entering into heaven. And the specific one that I wanted to say a few words about today was the one fellow says, I have a wife, and, therefore, I cannot come. What it is referring to is that he has an attachment to a vice of impurity and that that is what is keeping him from entering the kingdom of heaven.
And I wanted to say a few words about the problem of impurity because it is all over the place. We live in a world that is very impure and very sensuous kind of thing and a lot of temptation around. It’s a good thing to keep in mind because, especially with this particular vice, we have to recall the words — well, any vice — but we have to recall the words of St. Peter in his epistle today. Because we tend to think, Oh, you know, life is kind of fluffy and, yes, I make some mistakes and the devil, he’s not concerned with me or the demons aren’t concerned with me. You know, I’m okay, I’m not that bad. After all, I’ve never killed anybody, etc., the famous words. We forget really what St. Peter reminds us of.
He says, “Be sober and watch, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom to devour. Resist ye, strong in faith”. The devil is going around like a roaring lion looking to devour each and every one of us personally. It is personal. You think the devil’s not interested in you? Well, maybe not him personally but there are lots of demons, and it may be the devil personally interested in us. And they prowl. That‘s why I don‘t like the translation of the prayer to St. Michael that says, “They roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls“, because it sounds like, you know, roaming in the gloaming, walking around until they find a soul that they are going to then tempt. The better translation is “…who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls”, because they prowl like the roaring lion that St. Peter refers to. So, it’s personal. The devil is not just waiting for us. He is actively hunting us. And we need to be forewarned because to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
If we are aware that this is a battle, this isn’t a passive situation, there is a battle for your soul between us and the good guys on the one side and on the other side the devil and his demons and the world. And, if you don’t approach it like a battle, you are going to lose. You will not just slip into heaven by being passive in this life. No more than a soldier in the midst of some great battle, for example. If he just decided to sit on the grass or whatever and field strip his M16 and whistle Dixie and maybe, you know, take a little nap or something like that. Well, you could see that in the heat of battle he won’t last very long. He’ll be quite dead in no time, probably killed by the enemy who just can’t believe that he has found such easy pickings in this idiot. Well, it’s the same with the devil. If we don’t actively fight him and our vices and the world, then we are going to be picked off by him and be spiritually dead in about as much time as it took the poor soldier to get killed by doing nothing on the battlefield.
So, I wanted to read this — this is written by a priest who was a Norbertine over three hundred years ago. Now, one thing to remember is, we have maybe perhaps more means of temptation today, namely, the internet and things like that. So, temptation and these things are literally at our fingertips, whereas before perhaps they were not as widespread or as severe. But the same sins and vices existed 300 years ago or 3000 years ago for that matter that exist today. So, it’s not like this guy wrote that 300 years ago and that was for those poor medieval shticks(?) that couldn’t do anything that we could do today. No, they were the same people. They didn’t have cell phones. That was about it. I mean, they were us without cell phones, going back hundreds of years. They are the same people and the same problems.
His name was Father Leonard Goffine or Goffiné. They don’t really know because they didn’t use accents at that time very much, and he was obviously of French descent but he was from Cologne, Germany. He wrote in German and he wrote a book which has a typical German title, very long title, and refers to something about some commentary on the propers of the Mass throughout the year. This is his little — I want to say, like a pep talk, if you will, a spiritual pep talk on the vice of impurity that was prompted by what one line, “I have married a wife and, therefore, I cannot come”.
Father reading: “From this foolish excuse it would seem as if married life were an obstacle to arriving at the heavenly banquet, whereas lawful, chaste, Christian marriage is, on the contrary, a means of eternal salvation for those to whom the gift of continency is not given. The excuse of this married man was not grounded on his station in life, but on his inordinate inclination for carnal pleasures which render the one who gives way to it, unfit for spiritual or heavenly things, for the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the Spirit of God.
Unfortunate indeed are they who suffer themselves to be carried away by their sensual lusts, who give away the priceless jewel of chastity and purity of heart which makes man equal to the angels, who for a momentary enjoyment of sinful pleasure lose that white and precious garment in which chaste souls will shine forever in heaven before the face of God! What benefit does the impure man derive from the gratification of vile lust? He gains the anger and contempt of God; intolerable disgust when the sin is consummated; the torment of a remorseful conscience, and unless he repent, the eternal torments of hell, for the apostle says: Do not err: neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate shall possess the kingdom of God. It is seen from the examples of the Old Law, how much God hates and abominates the sins of impurity. Why did God regret having created man? Why did He destroy all except a very few, by a universal deluge? Why did He lay the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha in ashes by pouring upon them fire and brimstone? Why did He punish the two brothers Her and Onan, by a sudden death? Why did He permit the whole tribe of Benjamin to be exterminated? Because of their detestable sins of impurity. And is not this vice an object of the just wrath of God? By these sins an impure man disgraces his body which should be a member of Christ, a temple of the Holy Ghost; he disgraces his soul the image of God, purified and purchased by the precious blood of Christ, and lowers himself beneath the animal, which, void of intellect, follows its instinct; he weakens the power of his body and soul, and ruins his health; he loses the respect of the good, scandalizes his fellow men, voluntarily separates himself from the communion of saints, deprives himself of the sanctifying grace of God and participation in the merits of Jesus and His saints, and, if he continues like an animal to wallow in this vice, he finally falls into such blindness and hardness of heart that eternal truths, death, judgment, hell, and eternity no longer make any impression upon him; the most abominable crimes of impurity he considers as trifles, as human weaknesses, no sin at all. He is therefore but seldom, if ever, converted, because the evil habit has become his second nature, which he can no longer overcome without an extraordinary grace from God. This God seldom gives, because the impure man generally despises ordinary means and graces, and therefore despairs and casts himself into the pool of eternal fire, where the worm dies not, and where with Satan and his angels the impure shall be forever tormented.
Do not suffer yourself to be deceived, Christian soul, by the words “love and friendship”, which is sought to cover this vice and make it appear a weakness clinging to man. This impure love is a fire which has its origin in hell, and there it will eternally torment the bodies in which it has prevailed. That which God so much detests and so severely punishes, certainly cannot be a trifle, a human weakness! Impress deeply on your heart that all impure thoughts, desires and looks, to which you consent, all impure words, songs, exposures, touches, jokes, and such things, are great sins which exclude you from the kingdom of heaven, into which nothing defiled can enter. Remember that he who so much as looks at a woman with a lustful desire, has already, as Christ says, committed adultery in his heart. We must, then, carefully guard against “such trifles”, as the wicked world calls them, if we do not wish to expose ourselves to the greatest danger of losing our souls. Although it is difficult for an impure person to be converted, yet he should not despair. God does not cast away even the greatest sinner; Jesus forgave the adulteress in the temple, and forgave and received Mary Magdalen. But he who wishes to repent must make use of the proper means to regain the grace of God, and prevent a relapse.”
Now, for those who are living a life of purity now, there are certain things that you should do to keep it that way. And for those who have trouble with this particular vice, there are things that you should be doing. Now, why do we talk about things you should be doing and maybe things you should not be doing? It’s because in order to overcome anything you want to overcome, whether it’s bad language or a vice like this, or something, you have to do your part. People think, Well, oh, I’m weak, if I fall into that sin, that’s okay. I’ll just go to confession and everything will be great and then I’ll get all this grace from confession and it won’t happen again. It doesn’t work that way. If you don’t have this battle plan — remember, it’s war. If you don’t have a battle plan for dealing with this, then, going to confession will be insufficient to bring you out of the vice. Yes, you will get your sins forgiven, but your mentality will be, Well, then, the next time I do it, I’ll just go back to confession with no plan in between. So, really, you’re going in and out of the rut. You’re not making any kind of progress with this sin.
So, Father Goffine, he gives certain counsels here and there are 10 of them, and we should pay a lot of attention to them, because, as I said, if you are living in a state where you are pure, you need to do these things to keep yourself that way. And if you go in and out of purity and have a problem with that vice, then you definitely need to do these things to the nth degree to get yourself back on track and to save your soul.
So the first is
1. Constant prayer. Hence the admonition of the wise King from the book of Wisdom who said; As I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, I went to the Lord and besought him.
So, you have to be praying and you should be praying particularly and specifically for continency, for purity.
Mortification of the flesh by fasting and abstinence. Jesus says these impure spirits can in no other way be cast out but by prayer and fasting.
The frequent meditation on the four last things, and on the bitter sufferings of our Lord; for there is, says St. Augustine, no means more powerful and effective against the heat of lust than reflection on the ignominious death of the Redeemer.
The quiet consideration of the temporal and eternal evils which follow from this vice, as already described.
The love and veneration of the Blessed Virgin who is the mother of beautiful love, the refuge of all sinners, of whom St. Bernard says: “No one has ever invoked her in his necessity without being heard.”
The careful mortification of the eyes. The pious Job made a covenant with his eyes, that. he would not so much as look upon a virgin.
7. The avoidance of evil occasions, especially contact with people of the other sex. “Remember,” says St. Jerome, “that a woman drove out the inhabitants of paradise, and that you are not holier than David, stronger than Samson, wiser than Solomon, who all fell by evil company.”
Now, this is really important. You know, we say in the Act of Contrition about avoiding the near occasion of sin. And, yet, a lot of people march right into the near occasion. What’s the near occasion of sin? It’s being in a time and a place with somebody or with something that you pretty much know you are going to commit a serious sin with. That’s basically what it is. So, if you have a problem going on the Internet and looking at things you are not supposed to be looking at, for example, then you should use your computer in the office and do what you have to do on there, the emails or your work or whatever, and turn it off and go away from it. On your idle moments walking around and saying, “I think I’ll look at the computer and see what I find. That’s the near occasion of sin because it can tell you what you are going to find.
Also, being in the company of somebody who is a temptation for you, an inordinate temptation. For example, you know, boys and girls, men and women who are single, whatever, should never be alone together in a place where something might happen. It’s simply good advice. I know how you think, but some people are just fooling themselves. They are going, Well, you know, we can deal with it, we won’t commit any kind of a sin. So, some boy has his new apartment, he’s all alone there, and he calls up his girlfriend to come and study or something like that. We’ll just have a cup of coffee and everything will be fine. Well, I guarantee you probably everything will not be fine, and you’ll be studying, all right. You’ll be studying anatomy in no time. You know the problem with it? The problem is, when you march into the near occasion of sin, you are tempting yourself. And even God can’t save you from that. Why can’t God save you? Because there is no in between. You are tempting yourself. If you tempt yourself, what do you expect God is going to do? Save you from yourself? Even He can’t do that, because you have excluded any possibility of His intervention.
So, avoid the near occasion of sin, boys, girls, men, women, etc., of any age. If you are not married, don’t be alone together in some place like that. It is foolish and imprudent, because you are tempting yourself.
8. The avoidance of idleness: for idleness, says the proverb, is the beginning of all evil.
And, it’s true. How many of these sins happen because people are just not doing what they are supposed to be doing. Anybody out there, do you really have nothing to do? Do you have nothing better to do at certain times? I look at my schedule, it is always filled with some silly thing, you know, not so silly and silly things. On my list of to do’s was to start doing things for the Christmas Boutique. So Friday I made 46 half pints of raspberry jam. (Monsignor laughing) You know, that’s on the list. And if it weren’t that, it would be something else. Now, if anybody here can tell me, Father, really, I have nothing to do. It’s just awful, well, call me up. Okay? I just have this list of things that you could start doing around my place to keep you out of trouble. But I’m sure the reality is, that there are always things that we should be doing and we have a mental list of that. But we take a vacation from that and just say, I’m going to just sit here and do nothing for a while, and then the mind wonders and bad things happen.
9. The immediate banishing of all bad thoughts by often pronouncing the names of Jesus and Mary, which, as St. Alphonsus Ligouri says, have the special power of driving away impure thoughts.
They drive away impure thoughts because they drive away demons and the devil. Demons and the devil cannot stand to hear the holy names. They can’t stand it. So, when we get a temptation, right away we should go, Blessed and praised be the holy names of Jesus and Mary now and forever. Amen. As many times as you have to say it. Or if you have this temptation to the vice of impurity kind of thing, when you get the temptation, start praying the rosary. I have a couple of things that I recommend to people who have an inordinate temptation in that area. And there are two principles. First of all, nobody ever committed a sin against purity in Denny’s. Okay? So, if you want to meet somebody and there is no other place to do it, you drive in separate cars, you go to Denny’s and you have whatever the Denny’s special of the day is. I haven’t been there in about 10 years, but they have some kind of good thing that’s not good for you, and you can sit there and have that and talk together. Or go to Farrell’s, you know, and the two of you could share a trough, you know (Monsignor laughing), but anything but say, Come over to my place. Anything but that. No one ever committed sins against purity at Denny’s. Second of all, no one ever committed a sin against purity while praying the rosary. And you start the rosary — well, you don’t say, Well, now I’ve finished the rosary, now what? I’ll just sit here and see what happens. No. If you have to, you start another rosary and you say other prayers. You know, we have prayer books full of wonderful prayers, and all of them express such great and holy sentiments we should read and make our own that will keep us on the straight and narrow path. We have to make use of these things. Remember, I keep on saying it, it’s warfare. You won’t win it by doing nothing. You have to do something, something good.
And, finally, number
10. The frequent use of the holy Sacraments of Penance and of the Altar. This last remedy in particular is a certain cure if we make known to our confessor our weaknesses, and use the remedies he prescribes. The Scripture says that frequent Communion is the seed from which virgins spring, and the table which God has prepared against all temptations that annoy us.
And this is it. Remember, I told you, the two-pronged approach of St. Augustine. You pray as if everything depended upon God, and you work as though everything depended upon you. It takes both of those. If you keep on sinning and going to confession and confessing, and even going to Communion after that, but you do nothing else, then you will be visiting us again very soon in the box, you see? But, if you add to that, your struggle, your effort against these sins, and you do what it takes to conquer them, then we won’t see you as frequently. But, remember, that if you have the misfortune to fall into that sin or any serious sin, you get in and you go to confession right away. Because, what happens then, they call it in Britain, In for a penny, in for a pound. You go, Well, I’ve blown it now and there are still six and a half days until Sunday, so I might as well have a great bonanza of sinning because I have to go to confession now anyway, and it really doesn’t matter if I say once or 37 times. Right? Because I still have to go to confession. But that’s wrong. You know, when you repeat a sin without confessing it in the meantime, you repeat it and you keep on doing that kind of thing, it’s the equivalent in the old days of when you would drive down a dirt road with a cart and it would make a little groove, you see, a rut in the road. And, if you didn’t vary, you didn’t move the horse to the left or the right every so often on the firm ground, the rut would get deeper and deeper and deeper until you couldn’t get out of the rut. It would be as deep as the wagon wheel from going over and over.
That’s what happens to your soul and your will when you throw all caution to the winds and just decide, In for a penny, in for a pound. Even if you confess at the end of the week, it becomes a habit. And a habit is something you resort to almost automatically without giving a second thought to it. And that’s what these sins of impurity can become, almost automatic and habits. And, mind you, young men, boys, this does not disappear. If you get this habit, you go, Oh, one day I’ll be married and everything will be fine and this is going to go away. Unh-unh. No. You are going to end up 85 years old confessing the same sins, because you didn’t do your spiritual combat when you should have and get it out of the way and come back to God and stay on the path of grace and keep on that path, which is the only way to beat this.
If you are still having problems with this kind of thing at 70, 80 years old, you need an intervention. You have to realize what has happened to you and what you’ve become. You’ve got to get out of that as soon as possible. So take to heart the words of Leonard Goffine, especially about the seriousness of sins of impurity and how much God detests them. You know, all those things he said, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the sudden death of the brothers, that was all — you can read it right there, read it for yourself in the Bible. It was all for sins of impurity.
And, finally, let us pray, “Inflame, O Lord, our loins and hearts with the fire of Thy Holy Ghost, that we may serve Thee with pure bodies, and please Thee with clean hearts. Amen.”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.