Sunday, December 30, 2007

"Whose side are you on?" The Sermon of Fr. John Trough for The Octave Within the Nativity of Our Lord

I’ve met a few new faces today. I am Fr. John Trough and I’m the Pastor of a CMRI related parish in Tacoma, Washington and Fr. Gerard McKee and I basically switched places for this weekend, so it’s definitely a pleasure to see you all. To those of you who I do know, it’s a pleasure to see you all again.

Well today, my dear friends in Christ, we have a beautiful Gospel and we have two role players in our Gospel. We have Holy Simeon and then we have Holy Anna. Both of them who were advanced in years, as well as in wisdom, were awaiting the consolation of Israel and waiting for the redemption of Israel. Redeemed from whom or from what? Waiting for the redemption of mankind from the slavery to sin. Remember what we find so interesting, or I find interesting, is a little bit of irony when Simeon says as he asked that he see the Savior, the Messiah before he leaves earth by death, as he was holding the baby Jesus in his arms he told his Blessed Mother that “This child is destined for the fall and the rise of many in Israel.” And we may ask ourselves: “The fall? What is he talking about?” We know, unfortunately, that not everyone will accept the Gospel and many people, because they will not accept the Gospel, the message of Christ, will end up going to hell and those who rise and do accept the Gospel and live the Gospel message as members of this Church and then have the hope of going to heaven.

But they were awaiting the consolation of Israel and we see that Jesus is the greatest hero, this is a wonderful story, and he is our Savior who comes to rescue us from the darkness and the slavery of sin. Everyone loves a story and everyone loves a movie that has a hero in it. We see enemies, evil people, crushing innocent people or harming them and then just when it seems like the enemy is going to take the day at the very end, the hero rushes in, the big brave soul, defeats the enemy, crushes him and saves the innocent. These are very popular for us to read or to watch. The liturgy tells us the greatest story that has ever been told: the story of our redemption. This is not just a story that happened years and years ago, that story is happening here and now. It started with Adam and Eve and it will close at the end of time.

This why it is important that when we follow along at Mass, we follow along with the Missal, that we use the Missal, which Pope St. Pius X so earnestly encouraged all Catholics to read and to follow along. Why? Because the Mass unfolds this beautiful story before our eyes. It starts with Advent, we go to a time before Jesus, Our Lord and Our Savior, came. Then we go to Christmas where the Savior has arrived in the form of a little baby boy. Then we go to the season of Pentecost and that closes the story and we see that image of the last day, of the Final Judgment.

The begins with Adam and Eve, we’re all familiar with that, we may ask ourselves if Adam and Eve, after they had sinned, were given the penalty of death and that they would die and that they would lose the four natural gifts, which I will describe in just a moment, and we see how evil enters the world from there on out and it seems like the evil predominates the good. Is that how God planned it? No. We know that the original plan was that Adam and Eve, provided that they passed the test of not eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, if they were to pass that test, after this lifelong test would be over without any death, they would enter into heavenly glory. But we know, unfortunately, that’s not how it went. They decided to disobey God and listen to the temptations of the serpent, the Devil disguised as a serpent, and then they lost sanctifying grace as well as the other three natural gifts. These are very interesting. Hopefully, we can remember what they are, there are four of them and they lost these four privileges and gifts.

The first one is Impassibility. Think of how nice Adam and Eve had it. They would never die, and they would also never suffer. No flu, no colds, and my least favorite, no vomiting or nausea, that has got to be the worst. No illnesses, none, period.

They also had infused knowledge. They didn’t have to go to school, God infused into Adam and Eve all the knowledge that they needed to know, it was totally infused without any schooling on their part.

They also had no concupiscence, that means that the sins of passions, let’s go through them there are seven of them: we have pride, one of the strongest of mankind, if not the strongest, we have envy, we have anger, gluttony, lust, avarice (or the want of riches or things) and of sloth, or sloth to do what we need to do. These seven passions were completely dominated and subjected by our free will. They didn’t rebel against us and they had not temptations neither on flesh to do evil because the free will, ruled by grace, completely subjected them. But after the fall what happened? They found that these passions will fight, as St. Paul describes in his epistles, the law of the flesh fights against our free will. Women would also have to bear their children in great pain and sorrow, and then their sorrow would be turned to joy afterwards, after the baby would be born. We have men given the penalty that they would only be able to win their bread only by the sweat of brow, the earth would bring forth briers and thorns and bristles.

We may ask ourselves while reading about these: “My gosh, God is being kind of harsh isn’t he?” Think about it, no he’s not. He’s actually being very kind and very merciful. What was the lesson that he wanted Adam and Eve to learn? Their job was to take care of the garden, that means giving up your self to take care of something other than yourself and then, of course, you increase and multiply. Sacrificial love, they did not learn that lesson, they failed. They ate of that tree and they did not learn to obey. And so God has given them another chance: “Okay, you didn’t learn your lesson the first time, let’s try it again. You’re going to learn to give up yourselves to love others.” It is in giving of yourself do you get back. That is the way it is with our Holy Religion. Knowing that the sentence of going to hell is laid upon us, for those who did not live in God’s favor, in God’s grace, and the gates of heaven were shut because of sin. Jesus, realizing that we could never pay this price, stands before his Heavenly Father as the second person in the Blessed Trinity, and says: “Father, I will assume their guilt, I will become man, I will pay the price that they can never ever pay.” Advent was the spirit at the time when we awaited his coming and at Christmas time he’s here.

You think of all the sins of mankind, think of our own sins, scary thought. Frightful thought, think of God’s judgment. Think of the sins of today’s age. Think of the rapid sins of impurity, people don’t marry anymore they just go ahead and live with one another. Think of that. Think of the irreligion, the religious indifference. Think of the sins, all the mortal sins since the time of Adam and Eve, the sin got to be such a feverous pitch that God caused the flood to wash away sinners and only Noah and his family survived. That’s how bad it’s been and you think that when God would come to save us, Jesus Christ Our beloved Lord and Our Savior, had every right to be very very angry with us. He could have come as a full-grown man striking us down with thunderbolts, he had every right to do it because of our sins and he will do that on the last day to those who are not on his side.

Instead, he comes as a helpless, lovable baby. He’s telling us: “I’m giving you all a chance, I love you all so much.” Who does not love a little baby? As a matter of fact, I like to hear the gurgling of little children in Church because that means that the Chapel has a future. We all act their age, we go “gaa gaa, goo goo, and goochi coo”, we love babies because they are so sweet and helpless and innocent and loving. Jesus comes that way wanting to win our hearts and show us how much he loves us. And remember that Jesus said that there are two sides. There is his side and the side of Satan. What’s so neat about this role is that it’s a great story about our hero, our Savior, Jesus Christ, Our Lord, we don’t read about him in some book and say: “well, that’s a good story”. No! This story is still happening. We are not idle bystanders, every single human being on this earth will play a role, we are role players. There is no such thing as an idle bystander in this story. All human kind is involved.

Remember what Jesus said when he was preaching his Gospel message: “He who does not gather with me scatters and he who is not with me is against me.” There are two sides you can play in this story, you can be on the good side with the good guys, with Jesus Christ, our beloved Lord and Savior as our hero and our leader or we can be on the side of darkness. It’s interesting that Jesus said he is the light of the world and this season, Christmas season, the Epiphany season, is one of light, Christ is the great light of the world, he shines into the world. We have February 2, Candlemas day, the day of candles, the celebration of light. Ephiphany, January 6, the light of the world shows himself to all mankind with the Three Kings coming to kneel at his crib.

Let us be part of this kingdom of light, as we continue our Mass, let us ask ourselves: “What side are we on? Are we going to be on the side of the good or the side of the bad? If on the side of good, you stay in this story on the good side just as long as you remain in sanctifying grace. We cross over into the state of darkness though, when we commit a mortal sin but confession will bring us back into the good side. Stay in the good side, fight for the cause of Jesus and by living your faith every single day and that way we can always be on his side.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

No comments: