Sermon for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost – July 31, 2011 by Fr. Stephen
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Both the epistle and the gospel today the Church selected that we may penetrate the mystery that we recently celebrated at Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension, which, if you follow the Creed and some of the prayers on the altar, are being commemorated every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of Our Savior, the only Savior of the world, Jesus Christ, on this altar or any altar that is faithful to Him. The death, the resurrection and the ascension of Our Lord are major stations in the life and mission of Christ, and are the focus of our Catholic faith, especially death and resurrection.
As I said a couple of Sundays ago, the most important day of your life is the last one when you breathe your last breath, when you die. Dying is the moment when we creatures, the crown of creation of God, we surrender everything and we are humbled down into what makes us dust. That is why in the beginning of the preparation for the celebration of Easter, the beginning day of Lent, which is forty days preparation for Easter, on Ash Wednesday we are reminded by the priest, Dust art thou and into dust thou shalt return. Yet, sacred scripture tells us that the death of saints are precious to God, precious is the death of the saints to God, precious. Because in death everything in us surrenders, bows, is humbled and it magnifies the divinity, God who breathes life into us and was generous enough to create every one of us.
That is why last Sunday St. Paul reminded us that in our baptism something extraordinary happens. The natural man that committed all those sins ever since the disobedience of Adam and Eve is dying. Sin is destroyed in baptism. All sins are destroyed in baptism. We die spiritually with Christ because the death of Christ, the greatest humiliation the world has ever seen, God has taken human flesh for one reason, that the Son of God become man, may also surrender and die, because His death is most precious to Almighty God, the Blessed Trinity. It is the glorification of the deity, the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The death of Christ is so precious and it has such power that it is able to destroy all the powers of evil, even death itself. Because Jesus having died, the Father did not abandon the human Jesus. He raised Him on the third day. But Jesus also taught that I will rise. In other words, the resurrection, as everything God does, is done by the three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The death and resurrection was no accident. The human Jesus obeyed His heavenly Father, God the Father. The human Jesus, because the second person of the Holy Trinity became man, not ceasing to be God, united with Him. And that is why Catholic theology teaches that Jesus always as a man had the beatific vision of His Father.
That is why Jesus said, “Whatever work I do, I do it Myself alone, the Father in Me is working it. That is why you have faith in the Father, because of the works that I do.” The miracles of Jesus speak loudly of the power of God in the human Jesus. Jesus revealed one time when Nicodemus came to Him at night, the Pharisee who listened to Jesus and loved Jesus’ teaching. He was afraid of his brother Pharisees and that is why he was sneaking to see Jesus at night that he might not be discovered that he is actually seeking out Jesus, honoring Him by his presence, because Pharisees were nobility. And Jesus revealed to him during the night in conversation, He said that the Son of man who is speaking with you is in heaven, the deity, the second person of trinity with which His humanity was united by the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, everything God does, the Blessed Trinity is at work together. They are inseparable, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Now, Jesus alone, who is also God, can show us the way to the Father. That was the only reason why He came to earth, to save us, lift us out of our misery, our death and sin and all the things that are void of God, sanctify them, and bring him back to God. He knows the way. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me. Whoever follows me shall not walk in darkness. He will have the light, he will have the life of eternal light, sanctifying grace”. That is why in baptism when we die to sin — and as adults, if we are — we must have renounced sin, because only then we are able to validly accept baptism, and baptism becomes active and gives us the grace. In a person who mimics baptism, Well, I just want to be like everybody else, but he doesn’t really believe it, he is baptized, but, you know what? He receives no grace. He is still in his sins, because his faith is not there. In fact, his faith contradicts with action. But Catholic theology teaches that when that person comes to his senses and goes to confession sincerely and tells the priest who has the power from God to forgive sins — when Jesus said, “Whose sins you forgive” — He was telling it human beings, the apostles — “there sins will be forgiven, but whose sins you do not forgive, they are not forgiven”. So the power of God that Jesus had was passed on to the Church. And if that person who faked the baptism but did receive the water, it was poured on his head, it becomes active and gives grace to him when that man has gone to a sincere confession, confessing all his sins, to be sorry for them, turns against his sins, hates them, because he loves God, at that moment the impediment of grace is removed, and the baptism that he received is now free to impart to him sanctifying grace, the very life of God, into his soul.
That is why we raise our children in the faith after baptism, making sure they learn the faith, the true faith as Jesus left it for the apostles. That is why we call it in a few minutes after this sermon when I recite the Nicene Creed, what we believe, what the Church believes ever since the beginning without change for two thousand years. We have the power of the Holy Spirit with us, whom we also are empowered in baptism, to renew our faith that purifies us and reminds us that without faith in Jesus Christ, being the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, become human, then born of the Virgin Mary, who herself was without any sin whatsoever, raised above all humanity, Mary, but not God, but an intercessor between God and Jesus, who is praying for us ceaselessly. That’s why we have her statue reminding us that she is our Mother and Queen, because she has power from God, honored by God. Because what the angels said to her was God’s words. “Hail, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed are you among women. Because a child born of you is of the Heavenly Father who is in Heaven, not from a human father.” God and Mary gave us the God man Jesus. Our faith purifies us.
When Jesus was teaching the apostles, He said, “The words I have spoken to you have purified you”. Now, the words that I speak to you will help you but will not affect any change as Jesus can affect. Remember the person next to Jesus dying, the good thief, reminded the bad thief who was cursing Jesus, “You and I deserve that, but He doesn’t”. And that good thief, he was not baptized. He didn’t go to confession. And, yet, the presence of Jesus and His words to him, “Today, I tell you, you will be with Me in Paradise”. He was sanctified by the words of Jesus. That doesn’t happen to you and me. We have to go to confession because that’s the way Jesus established the rule. God is not bound by the sacraments, but you and I are, because the sacraments are from God, from Jesus. Do not play with the sacraments. When we go to confession we must be sure that we have turned against our sins. And we vow, promise, solemnly to God and to the priest who represents God, that we will not go back to our sins. And unless you made that resolution, your confession is invalid. You made a sacrilege of confession because in the back of your mind you have a reservation made, a place for sin. And sin and God do not mix.
Do not play with the sacraments, dear faithful. Make sure that your confessions are complete. You know your sins and you confess all of them without hiding any of them in sincere sorrow to the priest who in God’s Blessed Trinity, the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, absolves us from the chains of sin, frees us from sin. Those are the valid confessions that we insist on, because our faith we hold on to according to our ancient tradition, which is apostolic, it does not begin in the 16th Century or the 20th Century. It began with Jesus and the apostles who handed it on to us, the true faith.,
Dear friends, the death and resurrection is the heart and center of every Catholic sacred Mass which we call the Holy Sacrifice of Christ, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. That is why when we come to the death of the King of kings, the Lord of lords, we kneel, we bow, interiorly we have turned against our evils, our sins, confessed them in true sorrow with the intention not to go back to them. And thus cleansed, validly absolved, we can approach the altar and receive with a pure heart, innocent as we were at the moment of our baptism, receive the King of kings, the Lord of lords, in humble, obedient love. For that we must prepare ourselves. The night before we look at the missal, read the text of the Mass, the teachings of Jesus and the apostles, making sure if we are planning to go to Holy Communion that we have gone and validly received the Sacrament of penance, confession, and, thus, honor God.
The Holy Mass is the most sacred thing under Heaven. There is nothing more sacred, more holy, than the sacrifice that Jesus offered to the Father. And the Catholic Mass is miraculous in this sense. It brings you of every generation until the end of time to the place and the time, the moment when Jesus offered His sacrifice to the Father when He died on the cross. It is like a time tunnel. We are actually witnessing the one and only death, because Christ cannot die more than once. We don’t repeat the death of Jesus. We are brought to the one single sacrifice of Our Lord, the awesome sacrifice that redeems the entire world until the end of time. The memorial of Jesus that he commended the apostles at the Last Supper to make in His name, “Whenever you do this, remember Me”. It is a memorial but brings Its’ efficacious grace and Its’ presence and Its’ power to us as if it were happening right now. We are transported back into time two thousand years witnessing the awesome mystery that the God man Jesus is offering for us, for the world, for the conversion of poor sinners, all those who have gone before us, or in purgatory awaiting His grace that they might benefit from every Mass. That is the same one single sacrifice of Our Lord.
Now Father has gotten a book and I was introduced to it last Sunday at Northridge where I said Mass. The decorum that the traditional Church requires of us faithful. Be properly dressed because of what we witness, who’s presence we come to. We are not going down to the beach, you know. Nor are we attending a party. We are attending the death and resurrection and the ascension of our Savior, Lord Jesus, the only Christ. And whoever does not acknowledge Him to be the Lord, the only Savior, the Son of God, is from the evil one. He is antichrist. St. John writes that in his letters of which we are witnesses whenever we read the New Testament. And there is only one name under heaven by which men are to be saved, and St. Peter says that. So does St. Paul. His name is Jesus, the Christ.
You notice every time I say the name Jesus, I bow my head, as you, the faithful also do. If you do, I hope you know that is our Catholic practice. When I was five years old, I learned the two Catholic greetings. Praised be Jesus Christ. And the answer to that, Now and forever. That is the way you and I are to call upon each other or greet each other, especially the faithful to their priests. Not, Hi, Father. That is a Protestant influence on you. That is not a Catholic greeting. We praise Jesus on our lips even in our greetings. And I learned as I heard also, the Pope who came from Poland brought that same tradition. Every time he greeted, he said, Laudetur Jesus Christus. That is how Father Perez and I greet each other. Laudetur Jesus Christus. When we pick up the phone, that is the first thing we say. Or if he spots me outside for the first time of the day, Laudetur Jesus Christus. And I say, In Aeternam. Amen. That is the true Catholic greeting. I hope you learn it and practice it and teach your children. Because Jesus is our only hope. Jesus is our only Savior. No other. And it is His death and resurrection that you come to celebrate, honor, and by the sacred mysteries of the Mass, you worship God today and until the end of the world.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.