Sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 15, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
“By their fruits you will know them.” One may be tempted to believe that because in Our Lady Help of Christians, we have one of the biggest traditional chapels in the country, that this, in fact, represents the good fruit of which Christ, the Lord, speaks to us today. But, then, if we look a little bit deeper and we think about it, what did the state of the church look like before the Second Vatican Council? The chapels and churches were filled. The devotions were numerous. And it seemed as if everything was going okay. But what happened? Very soon, very soon, Our Lord visited them with a chastisement. You know, if you looked at the numbers in the 1950s, even into the 1960s of vocations, they were soaring at the highest level in decades. And, yet, something happened, something wasn’t right. God was not pleased. God does not allow something like a Second Vatican Council to happen unless He is very displeased, not with the world, but with Catholics.
So, we need to look at that and say, Well, just because therefore we have been blessed, doesn’t mean that in and of itself we are pleasing to God. In fact, what I want to read, one verse, actually, that came to mind. Actually, it’s a passage from the scripture that I think adequately describes our situation today. And we should, when I read this brief passage from the Apocalypse, I want you to see us in this.
“And to the angel of the church of Ephesus write: Thus sayeth he which holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, which walketh in the midst of the seven candlesticks of gold:
‘I know thy works and labor, and thy patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and has tried them which say themselves to be apostles, and are not, and has found them liars, and thou hast patience borne from my name, and hast not fainted.”
So the Lord is very pleased it seems so far. I mean, you can read to this point, you know, we’ve opposed modernism, we’ve opposed the false prophets, and when you talk about apostles, how many bishops do we have to oppose because of what they are saying and doing. We can see our situation today very clearly in this. But read on.
“But I have this against thee a few things, because thou hast left thy first charity. Be mindful therefore from whence thou art fallen, and do penance, and do the first works; but, if not, I come to thee and will move thy candlestick out of its place, unless thou do penance. But this thou hast, because thou hatest the sects of the Nicolaitans…..”
The deacon Nicolas was a heretic, actually, he became a heretic, one of the first seven deacons, and they were resisting him and his errors. So, again, He tries to finish this by praising them in a certain sense. But he also warns them that because they are not practicing the faith with enough charity, because they are too objective about their faith and not loving Christ from the depths of their soul, He is warning them that He is going to remove their candlesticks. The candlestick was representative of the Church itself. The seven candlesticks were the first seven Churches, Ephesus, Galatia, Thessalonica, all in Asia Minor especially.
So, Our Lord is praising them, but He is warning them. Now, if we were to think for ourselves, too, in our situation, that if the practice of our faith’s symbol is coming to Mass on Sunday, if the practice of our faith simply is holding to the truths of the faith, then Our Lord is warning us today we are not going to remain in the state of grace. Look at King Henry VIII or Louis XIV. They had the faith, they were defenders of the faith, both of them. They were praised by the Pope for this. Yet, what happened? I mean, it looks like at least Louis died in the grace of God, he repented at the end. Henry, probably not.
So, we see that God is not pleased simply with us believing the truths of the faith. So much about modernism, so much of our fight today in so many circles is simply about defending the faith. That is necessary, but do the former without neglecting the latter. That is what Our Lord expects of us.
So, we need to go beyond simply the material truths of the faith. And this takes for us to succeed in this, it takes an entire effort, an effort that gets to the bone and marrow. It is an effort that is more than simply saying our rosaries every day, more than simply going to Mass on Sundays, more than simply saying the other prayers and other things that we are supposed to be doing.
Remember, the saints have said that we don’t need to do extraordinary things, but we need to do the ordinary things in an extraordinary manner. Are we doing that? Or are we allowing ourselves like the people before the time of the Council — you know, why did the Council happen? They were distracted either with Communism, right? Or, they were distracted maybe by the world, in the sense that how many gadgets, how many things were gaining their attention, taking them away from the spiritual life. Things that are of themselves neutral, but tended to weaken the supernatural spirit. Is that not what we have today? Exactly. Only even more so. Is it better today or is it worse today? Are we better than those people in the 1940s, 50s, or are we worse? Even if we are just the same, God visited them with the chastisement. And most of them did not get it.
So what we have done is when the new Mass came out, many people resisted that, but didn’t go far enough back to recognize the source of how the Novus Ordo ever came into existence to begin with.
So, we can’t just go half, we can’t just go back to the way that the Mass is supposed to be. The Mass without Christian culture will not lead to our sanctification, because — actually, the Mass could actually lead to our damnation if we don’t make use of those graces. And we are not making use of those graces if we are resisting grace itself.
I think, in general, given the times we live in and given how much we allow ourselves to be diverted from our mission each day, we have much to fear at judgment. Christ says to His disciples, He says to them, “Fear not the one who can destroy the body and do nothing to the soul, but fear him who can destroy the body and then cast the soul to Gahanna, I tell you fear him.” How many Catholics are in hell presently? How many souls, how many traditionalists, even, have made it?
As Father Stephen, not too long ago, gave a sermon in which — you know, I’ve heard about this from a number of sources. And he said that many here probably aren’t making it. And, you know, for your own good, I have to re-echo that. Do we love God or do we not? Are we serving Him or are we serving ourselves. And unless we can answer that question honestly today before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, before receiving Him in Holy Communion, then we will be found wanting and unworthy of Him.
But, the funny thing is, all we have to do is die in the state of grace and we go to heaven. But in order to die in the state of grace, remember, look at the Apocalypse today. Christ warns that if we don’t love Him first, He will take that lamp from us, so we will not die in the state of grace unless we love Him first.
Objectively speaking, yes, all we need to do is die in the state of grace. But how do you die in the state of grace. How do you persevere at the time of death when the devil is attacking you more fiercely than he ever has? When he pulls out all the stops — he hides from us most of the time now. He just does enough to get us. He’s playing with us quite often. But we have to struggle, now. Our life is a struggle. It’s not for us to relax, it is not to be comfortable. It is to fight. We are warriors, we are soldiers. And unless we fight that battle every single day against ourselves, against the world, the flesh, the devil, unless we resist, we deny ourselves — even sometimes lawful things, unless we are in the habit of doing that every day, we run a serious risk of being lost.
Many Catholics who otherwise were good during their life fell at the end. And why? Because they were not fighting sufficiently to please God. And, so, even though many things today in and of themselves are not evil, we are wasting our time and our energy on those things that do not bring about salvation, do not help us to grow in sanctity, which should be our one and only concern. Every other concern in our life, centers around whether or not we are becoming saints. If we are not becoming saints, it doesn’t matter what we do, we will go to hell. That is a promise.
So, today, we need to renew our efforts. The first thing we have to do is pray, ask the Holy Ghost. We can’t do it on our own. It is for God to do it in us. It is because of our lack of fidelity, our unfaithfulness, our lack of love for God and trust in Him that we fall away.
So, today, the one thing we can do is just get on our knees and beg God to give us that grace that we have been lacking. Because, if we have that grace, everything will be added onto us. Everything will be given us. But if we have it not, it doesn’t matter what else we do.
Especially, anybody who has the habit of unfortunately falling into mortal sin, you know that all too well. It is a warning from God to stay in His ways.
All we need is good will. All we need is the will to be saints. God will make good on it. But that is how we will have the good fruits that Christ is talking about in the gospel. “As once we yielded ourselves unto iniquity, now yield your members to serve justice unto sanctification”, St. Paul says.
What fruit do we have today? If we had to die today, what do we give to God? What do we have to show for ourselves? We need to be honest. And even if we have nothing, the very recognition of that is something. The very willingness to humble ourselves and be what we are before God. It is then that Our Lady of Mount Carmel, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, will obtain for us the necessary grace to not only love her scapular, but to use that scapular to remember the purity of life that we need, to have, to possess. The purity of intention, the purity of soul, without which nobody can please God. Nothing unclean shall enter into His presence. And we don’t want to go to purgatory. But as of now the question for us is will we even get to purgatory if we die now. Does God find us pleasing or not? And let us not think again that simply because we have been blessed by God with a beautiful parish and with a beautiful school, that because of that, that we are pleasing Him. God is somewhat pleased, as the reading says today. But is He thoroughly pleased? That is the question and that is the answer we need to give to Him today and the day of judgment.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.