Sermon for the Feast of the Holy Family – January 8, 2012 by Father Stephen Galambos
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
I have chosen to follow the example of St. Alphonsus, a Doctor of the Church. You know, doctor is a Latin word and it means teacher. We heard that today in the gospel also. Jesus was soliciting to doctors, speaking and asking them questions. And His own answers were full of wisdom obviously even though they didn’t know who He was. And He, Himself, is the teacher. Jesus said, “Don’t call anyone else teacher. Your teacher is Jesus Christ”, the only teacher. And because He is supreme teacher, knowing all things, He commissioned the apostles to teach. No one else. So teachers and the teaching office is a sacred office in the Church, handing on to us God’s teachings, the teachings Jesus taught. And you and I are under obedience to listen to these teachings that come from Our Lord Jesus.
He knows what is in our hearts. And, yet, in the gospel you heard today that He advanced in wisdom and age in front of God and man. St. Thomas explains that. Jesus’ humanity was just like yours and mine. He had to learn the prayers from His mother. So, as a man, He now having assumed the nature of man, yours and mine, He was taking on to Himself things as God. He didn’t have human experiences as you and I have. So, because of that humanity He had, He could grow in the way as we know things, and in that He grew in wisdom.
But know that all our own wisdom really comes from God, and it is the Holy Spirit who guides us into that wisdom. But Jesus, because He became a man, as St. Thomas explains, He embraced also our experience, limited as it is, and yet He had everything He needed, both given to Him by His Father in all eternity being His Son, because He is the only expression of the Father Himself. As St. Paul tells us, He is the overflow of God’s glory in its’ fullness. So, whenever you see Me, Jesus said, you see the Father. And Jesus is our only teacher, and no one else unless those commissioned by Jesus and the Church are our official guides and teachers. No one else. So don’t pay attention to those who claim to be professors with many degrees but have no standing in the Church in its’ teachings and the truth of Christ.
As I said, I have followed the example of St. Alphonsus, one of the greatest teachers in the Church. His specialty is human action, our moral conduct, what we do, what we will. Not so much what we think with our intellect, but what we do with our intellect informs the will what to do. The will, that is the area of moral theology, the science of human conduct, morals. Mos Moris comes from the word meaning custom, human ways of doing things. And St. Alphonsus spoke of the malice of sin. Our culture laughs at sin, mocks sin, denies sin. Karl Menninger of Kansas, a great psychiatrist, said several decades ago that for modern man sin no longer exists. Man has lost the sense of sin.
Now imagine our Blessed Virgin Mary, who was pure and innocent, full of grace, never sinned, in this gospel Jesus reveals really who she was, a creature. So you can counter the Protestants saying that we think Mary is divine, as Jesus revealed that. Jesus telling Mary, “Did you not know?” First He said, “Why do you ask?”, and then right away He explains why she asked because she didn’t know that Jesus must be about His Father’s business, is the way the English translation gives it to us. The gospel in Latin tells us “In the things of God”. That’s God’s business, the things of God which are holy things. That’s why the translator says that “I must be in My Father’s business”. Business, meaning the things of God.
Now, Mary, innocent as she was, she had no sin, yet because she was a creature, not knowing everything as God does, as Jesus does, suffered the consequence of not knowing. And this is underlined by the very fact that Jesus Himself as man, and only as man, needed to grow in wisdom and knowledge and virtue as man. Remember this. Which highlights also that Mary also was growing in goodness herself as a creature, because she was a creature, and Jesus indirectly reveals that she is a creature, and this is the part of the gospel’s teaching of Catholics that Mary is not divine, but specially elected and favored daughter of God. If Mary suffered, and she did, remember Simeon foretold her that “your heart will be pierced with agony”, and we count seven sorrows of Our Dear Lady, and today’s experience of her having lost sight of Jesus, suffered immensely, crying for three days. She was searching herself why did this happen? How could this happen? Having the feeling, the experience of having lost Jesus, she suffered immensely.
And St. Alphonsus brings that to our own attention to consider that. Because we human beings, not only creatures, we are sinful creatures, born with sin, and our culture deceives us in so many ways, and our culture is mocking sin. And by doing that, they are really mocking God. You see, if the conscience of man, all men have consciences one way or the other, probably distorted, many have distorted consciences or lack of properly formed consciences, erroneous consciences, as the moral theologians would put it, but yet, people are bothered by the evil they do. Their conscience is not at peace, so they devise all kinds of gimmicks — there is no God, or God doesn’t care. I’m too little, it’s not important to Him, rationalizing all kinds of ways to soothe ourselves, rationalize away our guilt, our sin, which David says, “It’s constantly in front of my eyes. Lord, take away from me“.
If you are bothered by sin, thank God on your knees. You have a living conscience that tells you there is something wrong. Disconnect the emergency system and you are in great trouble, because fire starts and nobody knows it and you get burned down to the grown. Our conscience is our emergency system. If it’s active, it’s turned on and properly maintained, it’s our guide to goodness that leads us to eternal life. How important it is for parents to teach their children right from wrong. Form a good conscience, because once they die, they can die at peace because their children know what’s right and what’s wrong, and they will do what’s right. If they don’t, they will know they don’t do the right and their conscience will remind them as a second teacher, as a substitute mom and dad. And we often hear in our conscience, that’s not the way my mother told me.
Conscience is good and necessary, but you must make sure that it is properly formed, because some people think nothing of masturbation or fornication, for that matter. It’s just a different form of lifestyle. What a deception, what a perverted age you and I live in, and we are hearing it day in and day out, even from Catholic traditional friends, so called. The malice of sin is around which this sermon revolves, having learned from St. Alphonsus.
What’s wrong with sin? Sin is our experience doing evil, not good, evil, the opposite of goodness. The exception of goodness, the holes in the good, because evil, theology tells us rightly, does not exist but by the virtue of some good. Evil is a lack of do good. Think of it this way. I have two arms, you have two arms. One arm is missing, that’s a physical evil, not a moral evil, it’s an evil. But I said, evil doesn’t exist. Yes, evil doesn’t exist, but it should exist, the arm should be there. In other words, evil is a do good that is missing. That’s what’s wrong with evil. What’s missing? What’s not there. I haven’t done anything. That’s the problem. You haven’t done the good things you should have done. And Jesus puts it this way. If you’ve done everything that you were told to do, say, we’re useless service because we’ve only done what we should have done, and nothing more. And that’s why if you end up at the end of your life’s journey with empty hands, God will send you back and you get to go down, because you have no fruits. All the talents I gave you and you show up with nothing. Remember the parable of Jesus of the talents? The five earned another five, the two another two, and the one buried his and he says, Oh, you are a tough Master. Here it is. And Jesus said, “You knew I was a tough Master. All the more you should have worked diligently to get back with interest what I gave you.” God gave everyone some talents, every one of us has talents, gifts from God, you and I must use to profit, to give glory to God and you yourself become glorious, a sign of God, because you share in God’s holiness and goodness. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6, “Seek and do the holiness of God, and God will give you everything else you need”, because doing God’s will is what brings man peace, perfection, holiness, God-like state, deserving the justice of God, inviting us into His Kingdom to share His glory without limit.
The malice of sin, you must not forget that, that sin is evil. Disobey your parents, you are disobeying God. Parents are put over their children representing and taking the place and the authority of God. Don’t forget that. Parents neglect their duty if they don’t exercise their authority, guiding and correcting and punishing, yes. Evil must be learned as evil, and punishment helps us. Punishment is a remedy, it’s medicine with the inducement of not staying in that state, but getting out of it and making yourself good. Punishment is necessary. Now, don’t over punish, be reasonable and don’t get your anger vented out on something that is out of proportion for the vengeance that you want to unleash for other reasons. So don’t have that in the wrong place, the wrong circumstance. Be wise, as God is wise. See clearly, as God sees. See the truth, so inquire about other details. Don’t rash judge even your children. Know why they did it. Were they hurting? Were they under pressure? Were they enticed? Were they deceived? Were they misled? Were they provoked? All those things are factors.
The malice of sin. See God is goodness. Jesus is the Incarnate goodness, holiness in flesh. That is Jesus. And there is no evil in God, there is no sin. Sin cannot enter the presence of God. It’s an offense to God, St. Alphonsus tells, a profound, callous offense to God. All sins are evil and repulsive, pushing against God. And that’s what happens with the soul. When a person chooses sin, he is rebelling against God and pushes God away by insisting on this evil that is repulsive, averts him from God. Sin turns you away from God. That’s why it’s evil, because God is goodness, and you fight against Him, you are lining up with evil, you are consorting with the devil, and those things that are forbidden by God, knowing what is right, what is good for you, what is wrong for you, protecting you, all the commandments are kindly helps from God for us. Burdensome, yes, because we choose to say, I’m tired, I’m overwhelmed, and it’s not pleasing to me. But the point is, if God is the center of life, you are going to see everything as God sees it, not as you as a little creature to be pampered all the time. Do not pamper yourself. Don’t be sorry for yourself. That’s a devilish form of deception, because that leads you to a false mentality of entitlement. I’m entitled to these things, which is based on pride, based on self-importance. Remember, God is God, you are not, nor am I. So, our life must be ordered around God, moving toward God, advancing in wisdom and goodness, as Jesus has done as a human being, giving us the example, and resisting the temptations and evil all the time.
Now, remember, you are going to be tempted until you die. So, you and I have a lifetime journey to learn and to be successful, to be victorious over evil. No vacations for us as far as that goes. No time out. We need to be engaged, as the Holy Family was, in doing good, in quiet, humble serving one another and giving glory to God by doing so. Sometimes, as the saints tell us, if you are overwhelmed with a lot of things, say a shorter prayer but don’t use this as an excuse, and offer the suffering that comes with work, and it can be if you give it in that spirit of humility and generosity to God, it can become also a form of prayer. But don’t take me wrong. I am not belittling or taking anything away of obligation of private, individual, vocal and other forms of prayer, without which you will not save your soul. You go down. Those who don’t pray will go down. The saints tell us so. So, you fight sin, yes, by prayer, by doing your chores and fulfilling your vocation, whatever that is, wherever you are, wherever you are stationed, the obligations of your job, of your condition, of your status or of your office, whatever it may be. If it is a truck driver or a cook or what have you, by doing it right and for the intention as a Catholic for the glory of God, you are honoring Him even by your work.
See, we constantly must be on the alert. The malice of sin, sin offends Almighty God. St. Augustine says and reflects on this when he says, Because our sin offends an infinite God, not because our sin by itself has infinite power. No, that’s a wrong application of power. But because a sin offends God who is Infinite, the offense to Him is infinite. So every mortal sin is infinitely evil, not because you have some infinite access to infinite things, but because you reject Him, you oppose Him, the infinite goodness of God Himself. That’s why mortal sins are what they are called, mortal, a Latin word, Mors mortis, meaning death. Deadly sins keep you forever out of the sight of God. Do not mock sin, do not laugh at sin, don’t make jokes out of sin, because that is a form of denial. Don’t deny sin. Deny doing sin, having anything to do with it. And the best thing is in temptations to ignore it by running to Our Lord Jesus. That’s why if you come to confession to me you are going to hear me all the time saying, strike out any of those temptations and learn this little prayer. Lord Jesus, it is You that I love. Because you have that on your lips and in your heart, especially at times of temptation and you keep repeating it, keep repeating it, and the temptations of evil by itself will be disarmed indirectly and by itself will vanish. And you will have come out of the temptation victorious, not fighting it directly, because that makes you connected to it and it’s like glue, it sticks to you. Ignore it, turn to Jesus immediately and then you have not sinned, making sure you stay close to repeating that little prayer, Lord Jesus, it is You that I love. Lord Jesus, it is You that I love, and you gain virtue, holiness, goodness, victory over sin, our temptation. Then you will not be having a heart of sorrow. Yes, we shall be sorry for past sins and we should despise sins, but sinners, when they choose to sin, they despise God. What an awful crime. St. Alphonsus tells, All hells are not proportionate for punishing one mortal sin. All hell is not proportionate punishment for one mortal sin. There are not enough. That’s why they last forever. Hell is forever, as heaven is forever, and your fear of losing God, be grateful because that helps you to be wise and not sin.
As the Holy Family did lead a life of virtue, as we read in the epistle today, for all the wonderful virtues that St. Paul describes, benignity, let me remind you, humility, modesty and patience. Let us close on this one thing. Humility is something Jesus asks you to learn from Him. He says, “I am meek and humble of heart. Learn from me.” The devil has no way of fighting humility. That’s why he inflates your ego, your pride, which leads you to a spirit of entitlement. I’m entitled to these things. And that is existing on your will, on your self-will, not on God, not on the love of neighbor. Yourself is put first. All sins are centered around this vice called pride. Most of us are proud and don’t even know it. That’s why those who don’t know it have difficulty with self-denial, following Jesus, obeying the commandments, because they insist on this spirit of entitlement, I’m entitled to these things, to time out when I want a time out, to be rewarded and how much, I decide what I need. How about giving all that up by self-denial. The curiosity of the mind, the curiosity of every eye, the ears, the tongue, the gossip, all those things come from this spirit of entitlement. I’m entitled to those things. Well, you’re not. Actually, you are offending God and you are repulsive to Him.
So, examine your conscience and go back to Jesus who teaches us, “Learn from Me for I am meek and humble”. That’s why the saints tell us, the science of the saints tells us that humility is the way to heaven. If you lead a humble life, you are already on the way to sanctity. Humility, not pride, will lead you to heaven. So, Jesus may say to you, the things that you will be pleased with, “Come to Me, blessed of My Father, for I was hungry, you gave me food, for I was thirsty, you gave Me drink, when I needed company, you came to Me. Come, blessed of My Father, and enter His presence, heaven forever”. And He will say to those who rejected Jesus, “Depart from Me, you cursed, for eternal fire, because I was hungry, you gave Me no food, I needed you and you didn’t come to Me, I was in need and you turned your back on Me. Because whenever you did it to the least of My brethren, you did it to Me.” So let us grow in humility and see how we stand with God and the whole universe will become very different, and we might become good Catholics.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.