Sermon for Pentecost – June 12, 2011 by Fr. Stephen
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Beloved Faithful of Christ,
Father John Hardon, a very well-noted catechist, now deceased, I had the opportunity to speak with him and talk with him on one occasion visiting our Holy Apostles’ Seminary in Connecticut. He has written several books, theology, even a Catholic dictionary, a very wise man. He said that by the turn of the century –now we are really 11 years into it — he said for Catholics to keep themselves from this world and hope to be saved, they will have to be heroes of the faith. They will have to be martyrs in the best sense of the word. They have to be witnesses. You know, the word martyr is a Greek word which means witness to Christ. By the end of the century, which he is talking about our century now, 11 years into it, only those will be Catholics worthy of the name who will be heroes for the faith. For today, unless you are resisting the onslaught, the daily attacks on your soul, you will not be saved.
St. Alphonso says that unless you have a special grace, which only the Blessed Virgin Mary can intercede and grant it to us from Almighty God, you will not be able to resist any temptations. You cannot not sin. Today is the feast of the Holy Ghost, the fire of love. We must call upon the Holy Ghost, yes, daily, because He is member of the God head, the Blessed Trinity. And, unless you have that fire, that zeal that burns in your heart loving God above everything else, yes, including your own self, unless you love God more than yourself, you won’t be saved. That is what Jesus said. Unless you love Me more than any one else, your family, your father, your mother, your children, your wife or your spouse or your sweetheart, unless you love Me more than them, you are not worthy of Me.
Dear friends, these words are challenging myself and you. We must be Catholics worthy of the name. We’re parading ourselves off and we are traditional Catholics, we’re better than all the other ones. You know, this is pride. In humility we must thank God that we have the faith, that we are given and we can hear the faith that our priests, our faithful priests and those faithful bishops who do give us the real meat, the real Catholic faith, and we pray to God that we hold on to our tradition. Yes, thank God and beg God on our knees that I remain faithful, not so much traditional, but faithful. Tradition in the general sense of the word, will not save you unless you keep the tradition, unless you act according to the tradition, which is to preserve the heart of the faith fired by the Holy Ghost.
Dear friends, our times are hard and difficult. The devil is in our living room. Yes. The devil is in our living room, in our bedroom, in our study hall in our schools. To the internet more souls are lost today than by any other means in previous history. Unless you are a hero, you will succumb. Unless you fight with your teeth and nails, you will lose your soul.
Wives need to attend to their chores, raising their children, being faithful to the husband who is tired and needs your love and support and encouragement. Wives need to be heroes, the center from which God’s love radiates to address the home for children who need correction, children who need being watched, whom they associate with. Husbands coming home that they may hear not gripes and not disarray, unclean clothes, unironed shirts piled up. Heroes, dear friends.
St. Francis de Sales said, Today and ever we don’t need lay people becoming pseudo nuns or priests, spending hours and hours as if they were in cloister in churches, because sanctity is achieved by doing God’s will where God has placed you. Whether a working place in an office, whether a truck driver, whatever you do, you can sanctify yourself by doing conscientiously the work that God expects you to do. Priests cannot build buildings, nuns cannot build bridges. Food service, nursing and all those other things that lay people are called on to do are falling down because we have warped values. You, yourself, probably know how services have gone down in the past couple of decades. People don’t want to do what they are expected to do. Yes, priests are not preaching as they are expected to do. That’s why you are here. Bishops do not teach as they are expected to do. And I could go on and on.
Wherever you are, my dear friends, please do pray. Yes, pray vocally, pray with your family, pray privately, but make sure that your chores are also going to be followed, conscientiously taken care of. Let me not confuse anyone. Good Catholics put God first. Yes, they give everything with their prayer. I start everything with an Act of Contrition, before I begin my prayers, because I need God’s mercy. If you notice, you look at the text of our wonderful holy Mass, every step of the way the priest ascends the altar, he is begging God for mercy in different form or shape. The Kyrie is an ancient remnant of litany that in the early Church, the people with the priest and deacons were reciting, pleading for God’s mercy, Kyrie, Christe, Christ, the Lord, have mercy on us. The Mass still has that. And they are to remind us that we are coming on our knees to Almighty God. And, dear friends, let me underline this, maybe write a separate page for that. Do not sin because you think you are entitled to it.
You and I are not owed anything by God or anyone. We owe everything to God and to others. Catholics who cut corners even here, and not few, are looking at, What do I get. And they go on sinning. If we go to confession and in the back of our minds — St. Alphonsus points out, the greatest moralist of the Church, a Doctor of the Church, equal to St. Thomas Aquinas, in dogma, he was immortal. He said, If you go to confession, dear brother or sister, and in the back of your mind you have a quiet hidden reservation, Well, the priest is going to give me absolution and on Monday or Tuesday I’ll go back to my sins, your confession is invalid. You have no true penance. You have not made the pivotal point of turning. Unless you turn around and face and move and act and achieve progress in the right direction to Our Lord, you have fallen back. You are playing games with the sacraments for which Jesus shed His blood. And you are looking upon confession as a cheap grace. You know what? There is no cheap grace. For this to realize and to awaken to the coming of the Holy Ghost in our hearts daily, daily, we must experience a Pentecost, because, as Jesus said, the Holy Ghost will teach you and guide you to all the truths. I have many things to tell you but you are not ready for Me. The apostles had no clue what Jesus was teaching them. They did not understand it. They contradicted Our Lord. They tried to dissuade him from going to the cross. They had no clue what God’s revelation was to bring upon them. And when the Holy Spirit came, everything fit together as a mosaic and the whole picture was revealed to them, and they were bold, filled with joy and heroic courage to proclaim to a hostile world Jesus the risen One.
Under heaven there is only one name, Peter says, and His Name is Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth. A man, born of a virgin by the power of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is called the vivifier, the life giver. We say it in the Creed, Dominum et vivificantem, as we confess to Him, which means life giver. He is life giver when Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. It was the power of the Holy Ghost that quickened Mary to give birth, and conceive and give birth to a child from God. He was there at the beginning hovering over the waters. Read the first lines of Genesis in the First Book of the Bible, The spirit of God hovered over the water engendering life. Life, the blades of grass, the surrounding wonderful foliage is all sustained by the power of God. Even Thales, the pagan Greek philosopher, said the whole universe is filled with God. How right he was though he was just a pagan. He had a good sense of wisdom.
Dear friends, are we listening? Do we have the eyes of faith? Two things Jesus is telling us very clearly in the gospel. He says, obedience. If you love Me, you will obey My word, My teachings, My doctrine. And toward the end, He said, faith. These are the two things that God expects of us and nothing more. But if you have those two, you have everything and you fulfill the law. That is what Jesus said. Love God and neighbor, you have fulfilled the law. Everything else falls in to those supreme commandments. Obedience and faith. Make sure, beloved faithful, that you know your faith. Come to the Catechism classes, have your Bible read daily in your family, have a young person read it out loud before a meal at least once a day. Be familiar with your faith. Know your faith and practice it. Put it on the track that you may earn graces and merits, because at the end when your hands are filled with sin or nothing in it, you will not enter into heaven. The Father is looking at each one of you and wishes to see His own Son in you. And that’s why Jesus said the Father loves you as much as He loves Me. He is talking to the apostles because He formed them. He said, The words I have spoken to you cleansed you, elevated you, brought you into the family of God because the Holy Ghost is indwelling in the hearts with the Father and the Son. Isn’t that what Jesus said? If you love Me, you will keep My word, and the Father will come to you and love you. You know what? There is no greater joy that I find on this planet. Fulfilling and doing God’s Will fills you with joy that does not match anything, and that is the one Jesus talks about, lasts forever.
The joy of knowing that God approves you because you do His will, there is nothing comparable. That is the peace Jesus is talking about and wishes to give to every one of us. Faith in Him and the Father and the Holy Ghost and obedience to His teachings, but, likewise, that you know your faith. And if you neglect to know your faith, and you neglect to impart it to your children or help even your spouses and grandparents, you are sliding back. Faith and obedience, those are the hearts of the gospel that Jesus is bringing to us today. And we cannot do it unless we are vivified, encouraged, and, yes, consoled by the Holy Ghost, because that is what He does. If you seek God, God will console you. He will bring you joy that you have not tasted. And that joy will make your heart full and glad. That’s what Jesus said. I want to bring you joy, fullness, the fullness of joy, the fullness of life, which is eternal. It will never subside, never decrease, never warp, and always straight, clear as light and there we find God living in the light of lights. What a wonderful call each one of us has to come to God, because you and I, as St. Augustine says, were created for God because, restless as we are, our peace will come only when we rest in God.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.