Sermon for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 21, 2011 by Fr. Stephen
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Father Perez asked me to bring it to your attention — I checked the bulletin and I didn’t see anything in it, so it is all the more important that I not fail to tell you the following:
Next Sunday, the 10 o’clock Mass will be a High Mass. A Maltese Bishop is visiting our humble chapel here And after the 10 o’clock Mass offered by Father Perez, the Bishop will have a ceremony. At the time when we have the third Mass, which is the 12:30 Mass, the Bishop is going to celebrate the Holy Sacrifice according to his rite. You know, in the Roman Catholic Church, there are churches, sister churches so to speak, because they belong to Mother Church, and these rites are valid and they are in union with the main Roman Church, which is the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church over which the Pope resides and governs by God’s grace, all of them. Not just the Roman Catholic Church, but these so-called sister churches, and I choose that word because I think that is the only time it is proper to apply the word sister churches to other denominations. Outside of Church it is not valid, there is no church outside of Church so they could not be sister churches. But within the Catholic Church these different rites, spelled r – i – t – e, not r – i – g – h – t or any other way of spelling. The r – i – t – e, it means rite, is a form of worship that has diverse forms within the Mother Church. So the Byzantine Church, which some people call the Greek Catholic Church, also the Maronites, and also the Maltese rite, or rather, I think I am wrong, I think it is called a different word, it’s called Syro-Malankara rite, which is seated in India, and I think the Bishop is working or is over the Maltese. So the rite, it is going to be a valid rite recognized by the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope. And you will have the privilege of seeing how another rite is celebrated validly in the eyes of the Church. So that third Mass will be according to the rite that the Bishop is going to offer.
After all these liturgical functions and the ceremony the Bishop will have between the 10 and the 12:30 schedule, after all these, there will be a potluck dinner. You know what potluck dinners are. You bring your food and you share with others and that will be sort of a surprise or whatever. So try to be generous and bring food, basically for yourself but you could share it with others and others share theirs. So it should be a nice day and we become probably more aware of our Catholic, which means universal, our Catholic vocation. Our faith from the beginning has been called Catholic. Even Protestants in reciting the Nicene Catholic Creed that we say here at our Mass, they say that, too, but the word Catholic in it they don’t capitalize as they should, because it refers really to us. But they give a different meaning, so disregard it. But we are the Catholic Church. The word means universal which means that our faith is from Almighty God to all people, all people Jesus died for and God is inviting all people to come to Him into the Catholic Church. So let us pray that our Catholic identity be more deeply rooted in us according to the mind and the intent of God Himself. And let it not be watered down. We don’t confuse the rites. In fact, I am asked when I was learning to do the original authentic Latin Traditional Mass we offer here on the altar, I remember that when I was learning, I was instructed that I must not mix another rite, Novus Ordo rite, or any other rite with the one that I am celebrating here. You can’t mix them. It must be pure. So with that in mind, I want to remind each one of you to deepen the truths and to cling to the truth according to the mind and the design and the desire of God Himself that we may not go left and right, but go the way Jesus calls us all, and all the Popes up until recent times, and follow that, and let us pass on to others.
That brings me to the homily today. Jesus gives us models that are very clear. Two men go into the temple where the Jews worshiped God. And mind you, Jesus chose that parable and addressed it to the Pharisees. And He is talking about the Pharisee in the gospel. So imagine there was a confrontation within Jesus and the Pharisees. And Jesus kind of warned them, “Be careful. If you follow that example, you are in trouble”. Jesus is our teacher and He said don’t call anyone else teacher. Your teacher is Himself. He said these words, “Your teacher is Jesus Christ”, which means Jesus the anointed one, chosen and powered by God, having the power of God, authority, there is no other teacher. So Jesus taught with authority and those who listened to Him they said they hadn’t heard any one like Him. Even the Pharisees said. And when the council of the Jews had a discussion about Jesus, some of the Pharisees said, “We have not heard anybody like Him”. Because Jesus is the revelation of God Himself.
Albert Einstein who was a Jew was learning his primary education in a Bavarian Catholic School. And later when he was asked, Do you believe in Jesus. He said, “How can you not see –”, Einstein, the Jew, says “How can you not see the luminous figure of Jesus emerging out of the Bible. He had a great respect for Him and he was probably the greatest mind we ever had in terms of science.
So let us be grateful that we have been baptized into the true faith, and that it has been handed on to us. As St. Paul says, “As I received it, I pass it on”, and this receiving and passing on is used and expressed by the word Tradare, tradition is coming from that root, passing over, giving over, handing over. This is what you parents are responsible for doing, making sure that your children get it. And what are we to pass on? Jesus points out by these two examples, two stark contradictory images that we must choose from. The Pharisee goes in and he says, “I thank Thee, God, that I am not like anybody else”. He thought he was praising God. He didn’t. He put himself in the place of God and he worshiped himself. He bragged about himself. He became the center of his prayer, not God. That’s offensive to God. That’s pride. That’s the trait of the devil and it comes from envy. And envy comes from fear. And we had better listen and examine ourselves if this is part of me also. Each one of us must measure ourselves according to the measure that Jesus sets up. Jesus, God is the measure, and the center, and the one we ought to compare ourselves to, and not with others.
And he, the Pharisee was encouraged by looking at the Publican, a poor sinner. You know, Publicans were tax collectors, they called them Publicans because they dealt with the public, had to enforce the law of Rome, and they were hard handed and demanded sometimes more than they should have and put in their pockets. So they were thieves in a sense. And everybody knew about it and nobody could do anything about it, they just accepted that but they had a stigma, these Publicans, these tax collectors. They were cheats and also they committed one sin after the other and all those sins, so they were shunned. So, one of these Publicans goes to the temple and Jesus said he wouldn’t dare even to raise his sight. He kept looking down and he kept beating his breast in the presence of the Almighty, the Temple of the Lord, because he compared himself with the Lord and he failed miserably. And his conscience accused him.
That’s why true penitents come to confession. Their conscience, if they have a good one, accuses them. They do not recount their virtues in the confessional. They recount their failures, their sins, truly, sincerely, and with a true sorrow as this Publican did, begging humbly, mercy from Almighty God. And Jesus said, “That man went away justified”. Justified means made just by the Almighty. Because he recognized his role in the presence of God, he was humbled, he was truly penitent. He felt the misery of his sins and he begged God for mercy. That is the spirit of penance every one of us should have. We ought to measure ourselves if we do to what extent, because there are variations. St. Paul talks about gifts. Every one of us has gifts. Every one of us has gifts that God gave us. St. Paul said, Unto a profit we must use those gifts for God’s glory so that at the end of our journey we have something to show because God will ask us, “What have you done with the things I gave you?”,
Whether it is children, whether it is talents, whatever talents you have, some people are more practical in their talents, doing practical things, some people are good cooks, some people are charitable sharing their goods with others. Everyone has some gifts, and you and I must use those gifts for God’s glory, not for my own popularity to be accepted and to be paraded in front of others, but for God’s glory. Because if you notice the two persons in the gospel relates to God, one very poorly, he is ignoring God, he is praising himself, he worships himself. Whereas, the other one, the sinner, knows his place and was sorry for what he has done on the earth, he was humbled, made equal with the earth. Hubris is the root for the word for humble, he was equal with dirt and he knew it. He was humble. And Jesus said, “Who exalts himself will be humbled, and who humble himself shall be exalted”. That’s what justification does, the sinner who is repentant and begs God for His mercy humbly, not mixed with pride looking for excuses or rationalization, oh, boy, we have many of. We rationalize. Jeremiah the prophet says, “The human heart is full of trickery“. Who can figure it out. You say one thing and the very next sentence, the very next morning we contradict it. Our hearts are treacherous. We think we’re humble, when actually, it’s coded for hidden pride.
So whenever you examine your conscience and I also must do the same, measure yourselves not with others as the Pharisee did, but with God. We may be better than many other people out there. That doesn’t matter. God is looking at you and he wants you measured with him. How do you fair? God has given you talents. Have you used them? Because justice is what you are seeking and we justify ourselves, often like the Pharisee. I am doing these things, Father. Those are excuses, rationalizations, not looking at my sins, but I could appear better and cover up my faults, my sins. So the truth that is in the gospel, and Jesus is talking to each one of us today, you know the word of God is alive, the apostles said, living word of God. And if we live according to Jesus’ words, we give honor to Him because we recognize His authority over ourselves by reading the gospel, which I hope you do daily, so your children may learn from you the words, and see the example that you show. What do you do? How do you pass on the truth of your faith and mine? That’s a gift we all have to some degree and must pass it on and earn more graces rather than squander in all kinds of distractions, fooling ourselves we are good Catholics and often it is just a show.
Saints are exceptions. And, yet, every one of us, God expects every one of us, don’t kid yourself, you are called to be holy. You may say, Father, I don’t have the makeup. You make yourself holy by being humble, working and exterminating those things that you hate within yourselves or you are a slave of, because, unless you do become humble, Jesus said, “Unless you become as humble as a little child, you will not get into heaven”. And humility is the first and the most basic trait and vehicle of holiness. Every saint tells us humility, when we acknowledge our shortcomings, we are not to judge others, we don’t fear our being small, but accept ourselves and try to increase, not cover up, but increase in grace, by obedience and love for God, love for neighbor. The truth will set us free. We must embrace it, fight for it and make ourselves more truthful. Don’t lie, don’t lie to your parents, don’t lie to your children, don’t lie to yourself. That’s a cover up. Using false pretenses to hide the evil that is lurking and many of us are slaves of, God is not fooled and, yet, because He loves you, He wants you to be with Him. Jesus said, “Learn of Me because I am humble and meek”. Don’t compare yourself with anyone else, greater or lesser than you are. If you get confused, look at Jesus and teach your children to look at Jesus, read the gospel before the main meal, at least for two minutes, let the children see you, pass over to them the truth, by practicing it. Don’t let your children come to you, Father, you said this but you do this, so you don’t have to be ashamed. Do what you expect your children to do and if you fail, admit it, both to yourself and maybe to your children and to God in the confessional. And God will wait for your growth because He is calling you to Himself. Grow holy, the Lord says, because I am holy. Jesus is our only measure. Humility is power, divine power working in the soul. It is not weakness, humility is not being a doormat, humility is truth as I Am, not more, not less. Humility does not excuse us from exercising and using the gifts God gave us. Humility is not a scapegoat, it is power, divine power in the soul working if you and I embrace it. And without it, St. Therese, the doctor of the church says, “One rung missing from the ladder of humility will not allow you to go to heaven”, and humility is so easy. All we have to do is to look at our sins and begin to walk toward Jesus humbly, seeking His mercy sincerely, and not saying, Oh, I can go sin, I am going to go to confession in a couple of days anyway. Humility is God’s mercy. He loved you when He died for you and me and still does.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.