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.
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
Do we properly love ourselves? Are we genuinely doing our best for our soul? How do we get to an active love of neighbor – not acting for merely physical good at the expense of our spiritual good? We must walk in the spirit so that we can truly love our neighbor, and can love ourselves as we ought, so that we are free to love God. Without discipline, none of that will ever happen
The things talked about in today’s Epistle and Gospel (Gal 5:16-24, Matt 6:24-33) can be troubling. We read, “Walk in the spirit”, and “If you are led by the spirit”. These things sound all well and good – lofty ideals, beautiful things. But we often feel sometimes like we’re the only one in the room who doesn’t understand what this means, because people just throw that out there and keep talking, like we all “get it”. Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who’s lost. So what does it mean to “Walk in the Spirit”?
Two of the three deceivers of mankind are encompassed in the word “flesh” as used by St. Paul today (Romans 8:12) – they are the world and our own actual flesh. We should use material goods as a means to an end, tools for getting us to Heaven. So why does Holy Mother church put these two readings together today in this Mass – “Be not debtors to the flesh” (Romans 8:12-17) and the “Children of Mammon” (Luke 16 1-9)? Because our Lord’s point is the same thing in the parable today – to use our material goods wisely.
‘Make friends with the mammon of iniquity’ means use your material treasures, especially your ill-gotten gains or that which is an occasion of sin, to make friends with those who will save your soul. Thus the Counsel of the Catechism of Trent holds out for our moral lesson today the church’s teaching on restitution.
It makes it a little easier to love the sinner and hate the sin if we can separate the two a little bit in our minds. Thus we can keep hatred from running away with us. Another way in which hate runs away with us is it keeps us from seeing clearly. We tend to see only negative things if hatred becomes too strong with us.
If someone posts something on the internet that we disagree with, we tend to launch out and attack it. Yet that same person could post positive things, and we’ll just skim over those and click onto the next thing. We’re only focusing on negative things. Only negative things grab our attention. We all find negative things easier than positive things. Can’t we spend a fraction of that time promoting good things, too? We have to remember while hating evil that we must also love the good.
God commands us to hate evil. We hate that which displeases God. But why should we hate what God hates? We don’t just hate what God hates because we love God. We hate evil because of what it costs.
A humble heart is the dwelling where our Lord wishes to reside. Whether we set out to slay dragons or not, as God may call us to, each of us is called to defend our own castle by prayer, penance, and avoiding the ocassions of sin. Christ will not share his house with sin or pride or the world or impurity or anything else – he must rule our hearts exclusively or he will not stay.
The devil cannot win by strength, so he attacks with cunning, and his lies are the most dangerous. For example, he would have us believe that there are so many things to be concerned with, so many enemies to fight that we must be constantly vigilant against this foe and that, as if we could win these fights if we just did the right thing, or said the right prayers, or did enough penance. We try to be in control this way. The devil wants us to fight sin and temptation on our own terms. What does it mean, then, to be focused on Christ rather than all of our temptations?
Clothing creates an environment, an atmosphere, an attitude. Because our nature is what it is, we are likely to be distracted from the beauty we ought to contemplate by the beauty we actually see. We should be dressed in such a way to draw attention to God, not ourselves.