The man in today’s Gospel (18th Sunday After Pentecost – Matt 9:1-8), he has friends by whom he is brought to Jesus. By this we are to understand the importance of surrounding ourselves with friends who will bring us to Christ, friends who have faith and who will put themselves out for our own well being. In the normal course of things, saints do not become saints in isolation. They are not saints by themselves. In fact, as we saw, it was by the faith of the friends that this man was made well in body and soul. Those good friends are to be our foundation, our support – we can go out to the world, the sinful world, and convert it because of these good friends. Not only do we see the point of having these good friends, but of being good friends to others.
The goal is that we be saints. Nothing else matters, nothing else will suffice. And we are exactly the stuff of which saints are made. So get it out of your mind that saints are somehow different from you and from me. Saints are sinners that persevered – that is all. And we are all sinners. We are all made to be saints, and we can be saints.
A review of the Polonius Sermons from the past four weeks, and some final thoughts from Father on how to continue to grow in holiness.
Polonius Sermons Series
Sermons on Fraternal Correction
The “You’re not a better Catholic” Sermon
Other sermons on Fraternal Correction
So the Polonius sermons continue – as Polonius offered parting advice to his sons, so I am trying to hit on a few highlights before I have to go. Our Lord gave us some cautions so that we would beware. In Matthew 7:15 it states, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in the clothing of sheep, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” There are two ways a prophet can be false: First, having a mandate to teach, he teaches his own or some other false doctrine rather than the teachings of the one who sent him. The second way a prophet might be false is if he does not have a mandate to teach. And our Lord uses a modifier to tell us which false prophets: Those “in the clothing of sheep”. Our Lord does not warn us of those in shepherd’s clothing, but in sheep’s clothing. This would imply the second kind of false prophet, the kind without a mandate to teach, and thus susceptible to error.
Our Lord also warns about the leaven of the Pharisees. They understood that he said not that they should beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees fancied themselves the religious rock stars of the day, supposedly the holiest of the holy. And they made sure everyone else knew it. But the Lord called them out on their hypocrisy.
So continuing on with a few things I’d like to emphasize before my departure … I’m calling these the Pelonius Sermons, after Shakespeare’s character in “Hamlet”, who rather longwindedly advised his son who was leaving for school how to conduct himself when away from home – the father’s parting advice. Today we touch on some important matters concerning Sundays and Mass Attendance. Sundays are to commemorate our relationship with God, His worthiness of our honor and homage, the fittingness of our giving Him honor, the pleasure with which He receives it, the reward that He gives those who rightly honor Him. At the center of this, of course, is the Mass, the unbloody representation of Calvary. But what does the Third Commandment then forbid and enjoin? The Third Commandment forbids servile work on the Sabbath. The Third Commandment and the first precept of the church also require that we attend Mass on Sunday, and this is binding on all who have achieved the use of reason and are not excused for some legitimate reason (sickness, travel, weather, etc.). The precept of the church implies that one is to hear Mass in its entirety from the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar until the Last Blessing.
So to continue with some thoughts that I’d like to make sure get emphasized while I still have time to emphasize them … I’d like to add a common error that we can fall into as Christians, and that is to be too concerned about sin. Let’s remember that avoiding sin is not the end, the purpose, the goal of our faith. Rather, avoiding sin is a means to an end. The purpose of our faith is union with Jesus. Avoiding sin is of course necessary for this, but this is also only the beginning. It is literally the least we can do in this endeavor to be one with our Creator. It is only the first step. So let’s put together some certitudes taught to us by our faith, and then we will see what this means for avoiding sin without fear.
When a father sends his children out into the world, he wants to still be a father. He wants to give them things to cling on to, things that will keep them safe. And sadly, sometimes, it is the father that is the one that has to leave. But again, he wants to leave his children with things that he thinks are important – ideas and ideals that he hopes will serve them and keep them well in his absence. So this won’t be comprehensive today. Certainly there is more to say as the weeks roll on. But this does come from love, and comes from the heart.
The common interpretation says that this Gospel today (4th Sunday after Lent [Laetare Sunday] – John 6:1-15) is about the mercy of God, His benevolence towards man. But let’s take it in context – yesterday we had the readings about the chaste Susanna (Dan 13:1-9, 15-17, 19-30, 33-62) and the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Susanna was a holy woman falsely accused, and God, through the prophet Daniel, came to her defense. The woman caught in adultery was genuinely repentent. Yes, God is merciful … to the just and to the repentant. But what about today? Even atheists and pagans know about the story of the loaves and the fishes. But did you ever, why five loaves? Why two fishes?
From the Lesson for the 23rd Sunday of Pentecost (Phil 3:17-21; 4:1-3) – “Their end is ruin, their god is the belly, their glory is their shame, they mind the things of earth. But our citizenship is in heaven from which also we eagerly await a Savior, our Lord Jesus Christ, Who will refashion the body of our lowliness, conforming it to the body of His glory by exerting the power by which He is able also to subject all things to Himself.”
The World, material things, power, prestige, ego – they all come to nothing in the end. Their God is the belly – pleasure, comfort. Their glory is their shame – those things which they hold as dear now will be seen in the end to be empty. The problem is not the things of the earth, the problem is minding the things of Earth, because we are citizens of heaven. To be poor in spirit is the opposite of minding the things of the earth.
Taken from the Sunday Sermons of the fathers and the doctors of the church, a commentary on today’s reading (22nd Sunday after Pentecost – Matt 22:15-21):
The Pharisees sent their disciples with the Herodians. St. John Chrysostom likens the Pharisees to running water – they have only one objective in mind, one end, one goal. If they’re blocked in one place they simply go around and try again from another angle. They continue to pursue their end by any other path. Never do they consider that perhaps it is better that they break off their pursuit, that they might be wrong despite how many times Our Lord confounds them, even in spite of His just having exposed them. Still, they continue.