St. Paul is warning us today (Eph 5:1-9) about sins of the flesh in thought, in word and in deed. He’s warning us not to make anything else our god but God alone. He explains, and he threatens, and in the end he encourages us to give thanks. Isn’t that interesting? Why give thanks? Because gratitude requires humility, and humility opens us up to the love of God.
Centuries before little Therese of Lisieux would teach us about spritual childhood, the statue that would become known as the Infant of Prague silently showed us that childlike littleness, innocence and confidence, and that these are the keys to heavenly dignity for which we are destined. Many look at the statue and wonder, why is He dressed like that? The purpose of this attire is to make us aware of His holiness and our reward for imitating that holiness. The vestments are priestly and they symbolize a heavenly dignity. He says, “Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” So here we see both represented … a little child clothed in royal, heavenly garb.
Septuagesima is a time for us to gradually work our way into Lent so that we can be prepared and make the most of that holy season. And at times, Lent can be really grueling – we’re hungry, we’re tired, we spend a lot of time thinking about our sins and what we deserve for our sins. But let us keep our eye on the goal – what is encouraging? What makes all this worth it?
It’s the whole reason why Christ became Man and suffered and died for us. For all eternity, He has had one goal in mind – to unite Himself to you forever. It’s been an eternity, and yet finally, here you are. Our Lord’s heart yearns to be united to ours, He burns with the desire of being loved by us. When our Lord says that “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you”, St. Lawrence Justinian interprets this to mean our Lord’s desire to unite Himself to us in Holy Communion. Our Lord will not be denied. He will go to great lengths to be with us. He will find a way to come to those who love Him.
Occasions of sin are not temptations. An occasion of sin is a noun – that is, a person place or thing, or idea – in which or by which we might be led to sin, when we might be tempted. Good things are attractive, therefore good things will be more likely to present us with temptation and are more dangerous to us in terms of temptation, not always in themselves but potentially. For example, a person is much more likely to overeat on cheeseburgers than on kale. So good things, certainly more than bad, can be occasions of sin for us. But that does not thereby make the good thing bad.
In a past sermon on Fraternal Correction – how to correct a brother who is in error or even in sin – we learned that ideally we would address an issue with the person himself unless something makes that impossible. In some cases it may be necessary to go to the proper authorities. But something that was explicit in the fraternal correction sermon was that you may not go public with the damning information unless there was immediate, certain and grave harm that would be avoided by doing so and in no other way. Nor may we share information with anyone who does not have a right to know.
This sermon picks up on some of those principles and see how they apply to the sin of gossip, a fairly common sin and to a large degree misunderstood.
Sermon referenced: (2014 – 06 – 29) Fraternal Correction Requires Charity
In Hebrew tradition, a name signifies the very essence of a thing. It’s a statement about not just who someone is, but about what they are. And what does the name Jesus signify? It means literally, “Yahweh is Savior”. It doesn’t mean that everyone in the bible with the name Yeshua is supposed to be some sort of savior. But it is certainly right that someone who is the savior would have this name.
“The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen. … For a CHILD IS BORN to us, and a son is given to us, and the government is upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father of the world to come, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:2, 6)
The Lord God, He is creator and ruler of all things. The government is upon His shoulder, the burden of command is His. We must trust Him. He cannot be wrong, he cannot make a mistake, he cannot fail. He will rule by peace and love and mercy if we will have him, or by might and justice and judgement over our eternal souls if we will not.
A child is born who can stop the hand of God, who can overthrow the power of the maker of this world and free the slaves of sin. No mere child could be so powerful unless that child was also God. And how has He stopped the hand of wrath, overturned the death sentence of the whole human race and empowered man to resist the might of the devil and his cohorts? By becoming weak, by taking on our nature. He empowered our nature by subjecting Himself to our sentence, not just of death but of misery as a frail mortal. He knows what it is to be one of us. The Eternal Word, being strong, became weak.
In the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the lesson of the last petition of the Lord’s prayer (“But deliver us from evil”) states, “This Petition with which the Son of God concludes this divine prayer embodies the substance of all the other Petitions. To show its force and importance our Lord made use of this Petition when, on the eve of His Passion, He prayed to God His Father for the salvation of mankind. I pray, He said, that thou keep them from evil. In this Petition, then, which He not only commanded us to use, but made use of Himself, He has epitomised, as it were, the meaning and spirit of all the other Petitions. For if we obtain what this Petition asks, that is, the protection of God against evil, which enables us to stand secure and safe against the machinations of the world and the devil, then, as St. Cyprian remarks, nothing more remains to be asked.”
Today we look at some practical details about the sacrament of Confession. Confession is so important that we should be intent on getting it right, and so sacred that we should be cautious to approach this sacrament with reverence. And yet it is so common that we often slip into error. In addition, many people were never taught correctly about how to go to confession.
The point of the sermon is not to make people scrupulous about if they are doing all things right in the confessional, but to help people be a little more efficient and more fruitful. That way we can be a little more analytical about sins so that we can know ourselves better and we can make better confessions.