dimanche, octobre 14, 2007

Sermon for 20th Sunday after Pentecost

Today, Saint Paul gives us a course of action: See therefore, brethren, how you walk circumspectly; not as unwise, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph.5:15,16) Circumspection comes from the Latin word circumspicere, which literally means to look around. So, walking circumspectly means walking with prudence and caution as someone walking in a hostile environment. And we are in a hostile environment, as Saint Paul puts it: the days are evil.
Our Lord Himself tells us in Matthew 6:34, that sufficient for the day is the evil thereof. The days are not evil in themselves, but because of the perversion of men. And we first have to deal with our own perversion, which expresses itself in the works of the flesh which Saint Paul often warns us against, especially throughout the Sundays after Pentecost. Today, it is drunkenness that he asks us to avoid.
Saint John Chrysostom explains that the excess of wine makes us irritable and cheeky and makes us swift to fail and to lose our temper. Wine in itself is good, as is all creation, but we have to use it properly. Saint John Chrysostom says that it has been given to us for joy and not for drunkenness. The book of Proverbs says: Give strong drink to them that are sad; and wine to them that are grieved in mind. And Psalm 103, also says that, wine may cheer the heart of man. So it is a good thing, given to us as a comfort and a medicine for health. Saint John Chrysostom then says, that the cause of drunkenness is not the wine, but the abuse of wine. In fact, evil is not in the creation, all is created good by God, but it is in the misuse of the creation. Saint Ignatius of Loyola puts it very well in the famous principle and foundation of his spiritual exercises: Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God Our Lord, and by this means to save his soul. And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created. From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.
Therefore, we have to use created things well in order to reach our end, which is our salvation.
This is why Saint Paul tells us to be wise. Wisdom makes us govern our life toward our end, which is God. We have to turn to the Uncreated and Eternal Wisdom in order to be wise. Be filled with the Holy Spirit, Saint Paul says again. Saint John Chrysostom explains that being filled with the Holy Spirit depends on us. We first have to remove from our soul lies, rancor, fornication, impurity and cupidity. Then, when we become good, merciful, indulgent toward others, when we avoid improper jokes, when we finally make ourselves worthy to receive the Holy Spirit, what can impede Him from rushing up into our souls?
It depends on us. The grace of God is certainly necessary, but it is given to us. Now, I have to use it well and to work on myself in order to correspond to it. My first concern should be my own sanctification, and then – and only then, the sanctification of my neighbor. But if I am not good, why should I expect my neighbor to be good? Complaining and gossiping about my neighbor will certainly not help him become better and can only make you worse. Complaining and gossiping are poison for the spiritual life and cause great damage in a community. How can I be filled with the Holy Spirit if I am accustomed to them?
Saint Paul gives us a very good way to love our neighbor. It is a very good way, but as you know, not an easy one, because it requires a lot of renouncement and humility. Be subject to one another, in the fear of Christ! As you see, it is not easy. We already have many difficulties in order to be subject to our legitimate authorities that being subject to one another seems to be repugnant to our pride. It requires a lot of humility. But Saint Paul points out something very important: in the fear of Christ! The fear of the Lord is precisely the beginning of wisdom, as the Scripture teaches. If I can keep in my mind that I will be judged according to the way I act toward my neighbor, it may help me a lot to be indulgent toward him and not judgmental. At least, the fear of Christ should restrain me from criticizing or gossiping. Then, a more perfect love will come with time. As much as we are purified of our defects and bad intentions, it gives more place for love in your heart.
It is never too late to begin this work of purification. So why don’t we start right now. May Our Lady help and assist us, so that we can be filled with the Holy Spirit. May she teach us what wisdom and prudence are, so that we do not only have an intellectual comprehension of these virtues, but we can really practice them.


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