Sunday, February 3, 2008
Sermon of Fr. Gerard for Quinquagesima Sunday
In today’s Epistle, St. Paul sings the praises of charity and points out its necessity:
“We may perform all sorts of good works or have faith, we may even have sufficient grace to move mountains or give all that we have, but if we have not charity, that is supernatural charity, the love of God above all things, which abides in our souls by sanctifying grace, they will do us no good.”
True charity is that, which according to Jesus Christ, is loving God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. And it must be the spiritual basis for our edifice or else faith, hope and the other virtues will be but an empty shell. Charity must exist, especially in families, which form the basis of society. First of all, it must exist between husbands and wives.
We read in the book of Genesis that:
“In the beginning God created Adam but since there was not to be found a helper like unto himself, God said ‘it is not good for man to be alone.’ ‘Let us make a help like unto himself.’”
While St. Paul says in the Epistle to the Ephesians, which can be found in the Nuptial Mass:
“Let wives be subject to their husbands as to the Lord.” Further, he says: “Husbands love your wives as Christ also loved the Church and delivered himself up for it.” He also wrote: “Men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. Let every one of you in particular love his wife as himself and let the wife fear her husband.”
Now in the relation between husbands and wives under the Christian dispensation, it’s not like it was under the old dispensation or as was practiced among the pagans, when the wife was looked upon as property and more like a slave than anything else. In the Christian dispensation, as God said in the book of Genesis that: “She is to be a help to her husband” and the husbands are to love their wives as themselves, not treating them as a second-rate or a lower class and the wives are to respect their husbands, which is what the term fear in this sense means. Just as the one of the gifts of the Holy Ghost is the fear of the Lord, it is not a fear of a slave but is a reverential fear of offending, or fear of displeasing. Note that St. Paul does not command wives to love their husbands because it is an inseparable part of their nature to love not only their husbands but also their children. Parents must install the practice of charity into the minds and hearts of their children and not permit fighting and bickering. This may be a common occurrence, but part of the training of children is teaching them to resist the temptations of meanness, fighting and harsh or uncharitable language. Only when they grow older, will children appreciate their siblings, their brothers and sisters and regret their lack of charity towards them, by that time it may be too late because they may be living far away, or by some accident they died and so it is important that they value their siblings, that they learn from an early age the respect that they should have for their brothers and sisters.
In the Psalms, David said:
“Oh, how good and pleasant a thing is for brethren to dwell together in unity.”
This unity is the harmony born of charity. From the family this charity, which must flow from the love of God, not just humanistic type of charity based on feelings but based on the love of God. From the family, this charity will spread into society so that Catholic families will be like the leaven, which will cause the dough, which we can call the rest of society to be raised to a higher level just as if there is any disharmony in the family, hatred and lack of charity, it will spread from the family into the community and from the community into the local area and from the local area into the country and when countries are in disharmony like this and there is disorder in them, this is where we get the beginnings of wars. That is why the practice of charity is important, especially in Catholic families.
In the time of the Roman Emperors, one person wrote, I believe it was to the Emperor Traigen, and said: “These Christians have a love for one another.” Charity was the hallmark of the Christians in those early days and it should be the hallmark of Christians in our own days as well, and if it is not, then something is lacking and examinations of conscience must be made. The practices of Lent, which we are soon to embark upon must be given life by charity. If we were to do all sorts of penances and make ourselves really unbearable and uncharitable towards those that we have to deal with, that penance would be defeating its purpose. The penance is designed, or ought to be calculated, to help us to practice virtue to conquer some of our fallen inclinations, to get greater control over them, and by that means help us to practice charity in a greater extent. So that should be our care during the Holy season of Lent while we embark upon these penances, these acts of self-denial during this Holy season, we are also to keep in mind that they are not an end in themselves but only a means. They should help us to grow in the practice of virtue, especially in charity, otherwise they are not going to meet their purpose, they are failing in their reason of being.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.