There’s something that a priest learns shortly after he is ordained when he starts hearing confessions. He doesn’t learn anything new about what you confess. He’s spent years studying all of this. He’s just hearing this now, maybe, for the first time. But the one thing he learns that he’s a little surprised by is the love he finds in himself. When a priest is hearing confessions, he does not care what the problem is. He has a great love for every soul who comes into that confessional, and he wants nothing more than to make sure that everyone leaves that confessional in true peace in the friendship of God. It is a truly supernatural thing, this love.
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.
There’s been a lot of turmoil in the church in recent days. We’ll use two of these things – the Theodore Cardinal McCarrick scandal and the Pope Francis declaration on the Death Penalty – to look at some basic principles which should give us a certain amount of reassurance and peace in troubled times.
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.
Sermon given at 2018 parish Confirmations.
We say we trust Jesus, but what does that mean? Dictionary.com says trust is “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.” Trust is fundamental to our lives, for our lives are about love. God is Love and God is to be the center of our lives. We are made for God, therefore we are made for love. But there can be no love without trust.