Thursday, October 20, 2011

Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time

Non enim cogitationes Meae cogitationes vestrae,
Neque viae vestrae viae Meae, dicit Dominus.[1]

Homily for the Twenty-Fifth Sunday of Ordered Time
18th of September, 2011 ano Domini
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor – Corpus Christi

            There is a set of three prayers, one for each of the three theological virtues, faith, hope and love. The prayer for the Act of Faith is “O my God, I firmly believe that you are one God in three divine persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I believe that your divine Son became man and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches, because in revealing them you can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Now perhaps, most of you, as you listened to this prayer, were in agreement right up until the words, “I believe these and all the truths which the holy catholic Church teaches” and had perhaps, a moment of pause. “Wait, all of them? I mean, there’s a lot of things the Church teaches. And I’m not so sure about some of them. It does seem like quite the leap of faith.
            Indeed, it is not all uncommon for us to question the means of the faith which has been handed down to us. Often times, it might feel as though the moral codes and dogmatic truths which the Church faithfully preserves belong to another time, and as such, are no longer suitable for the present age. Constantly we hear calls that the Church needs to adapt to the times, that the Church needs to catch up with the current world, the way that things are now. Yet if we take a moment to pause and reflect on what is actually being said, we are lead to ask the question, “why?” Why should the Church mimic the world? What has the world done with itself in the past century that indicates it has a better handle on what it means to be human than the Church. We’ve had the two largest atheistic governments in the history carry out the worst tragedies. Nazi Germany killed over 20 million people. Soviet Russia killed over 30 million people. The sexual revolution has seen only an increase in the number of single mothers, broken families, and over 55 million children lost through abortion. What exactly in all of this shows us that the world is ready to handle the role of moral leader? Yet this is the great temptation. That somehow the moral constraints that we’ve been taught are somehow not good, that they are not right for us to follow. Ultimately, that is what today’s first reading is about. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. What does the Lord mean by this? To understand this, we must understand the dynamic of sin. The best example of how sin works comes to us in Genesis.
            We all know the story of Adam and Eve and the original fall from grace. Yet when we examine the text carefully, we see a wonderful examination of how humanity thinks. So there is this tree in Eden, and of it the Lord had said, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.[2] The serpent comes along, and says, Did God say, “You shall not eat of any tree of the garden?” [3] Notice how the devil works. He does not try the person immediately. He wants to know what Eve thinks God has told her to do. Eve says, God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” [4] Notice that Eve has added to what the Lord actually said. God said only that they shall not eat from the tree. Eve adds on to the commandment, forbidding anyone from actually touching the tree. If we do not know what the Lord actually has said, we will be at the mercy of any and all interpretations of what it means to be Christian. How many of us here could recite the Ten Commandments?[5] How many of you could tell me in what book of the bible the two greatest commandments can be found?[6] What are the fruits of the Holy Spirit? [7] Where can the sermon on the Mount be found? [8] If we do not know the foundations for our moral life, than we find ourselves lost in the midst of turbulent times, unable to give a good reason for our faith.
            The temptation goes on. The serpent denies the claim of God, saying You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.[9] The devil does not trick us with something that is obviously bad. The devil tricks us by making us think that what is good is bad and what is bad is good. Remember the questions of baptism. Do you renounce Satan? And all of his works? And all of his false promises? These questions exist because we are so often fooled into thinking that if we just break one of God’s laws, something better will happen. Sin is very attractive. Eve looks at the fruit, and it is written that it was a delight to the eyes.[10] Eve wants to be wise. Wisdom is a good thing, right? But as the scriptures reminds us, fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.[11] We are not wise on our own accord, but only through God as it is written for even if one is perfect among the sons of men, yet without wisdom which comes from Thee [O Lord], he will be regarded as nothing.[12] Eve thus eats from the tree. She then turns to Adam. At this point, there is only Adam and Eve, and since Eve has eaten the fruit, Adam can honestly say, “well, everyone else is eating from the tree, and they seem to be having fun. Why not me?” This is the progression of sin. The first is not knowing the way of the Lord. The second is the temptation which comes from that ignorance. The third is wanting others to join in on an act that you know God does not want you to do. Because if everyone else does it, it doesn’t make you feel so bad about yourself.
The fourth step is that you try to cover it up. Notice what happens. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.[13] This is what happens when we do something wrong. We try to cover it up. The knowledge that Eve wanted, now lets her know that there is something inadequate about her. Adam realizes now that somehow, who he is, is no longer good enough. That he needs to add something to himself, so that hopefully others don’t notice what’s happened. We have a lot of people doing the same thing today. We have people running around in Brooks Brother’s fig leaves, and Gucci fig leaves. Trying to make up for what is lacking. Blessed John Paul called it our Original Shame, that who we are is no longer good enough to stand before God. “The need to hide shows that, in the depth of the shame they feel before each other as the immediate fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, a sense of fear before God has matured: a fear previously unknown.” [14]
Genesis shows us the fruit of sin as it says, they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God.[15] God asks where are you? [16] Adam says, I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. [17] Now God already knows what they’ve done. He’s God. He knows everything. But He gives them a chance to confess: Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? [18] Now begins the effects of sin. Notice who Adam blames. A lot of people think he blames Eve. But that is not what the text shows us. The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me the fruit of the tree, and I ate.[19] How many of us try to blame God for our sins? Well, God, you made me this way! You made these things! If you didn’t make sin so much fun, we wouldn’t do it! So does Adam. Adam turns to his creator and says, the woman you gave me is the cause of my sin. So God asks Eve, what is this that you have done? [20] Eve’s answer is timeless. The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.[21] The devil made me do it. Do you reject Satan? Do you reject his false promises? Do reject his false allurements?
My brothers and sisters, this is the way sin works. This is the way the serpent operates. He offers us another way, another goal, another reward. And rather than admit our mistakes, our pride gets the best of us and we try to cover them up, or try to justify what we did my saying that our way is the right way, our thoughts make more sense, that what we wanted was good. But our ways are not the ways of the Lord, our thoughts are not His thoughts. That is what our gospel is about today. The workers get upset because everyone gets the same wage regardless of work. This gospel passage though falls right in the middle of a larger conversation where Jesus is talking about eternal life. There is one reward to our works of faith, and that eternal life. Our salvation is all the grace of the Father. Notice what the parable reads, Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? [22] As Saint Paul writes, for by grace you have been saved through faith; and this not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest any man should boast.[23] So we need to begin to rethink what we want in this life.
When we look at today’s gospel, again the context in which it is written is very powerful. Right before it, Peter is asking Jesus, Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have? [24] The Lord gives the Apostles the power to judge the nations, and everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.[25] There is one goal, and that is eternal life. There is only one way to get there, and that is to be a saint. When we are tempted by the devil, he is trying to get us away from that goal. Why bother going to Church this weekend? There are other things to do. God will still be there. Indeed, God is everywhere and He wants you to be happy. Don’t worry, you’ll go next week. But remember, you know neither the day nor the hour when the Lord shall come.[26] Or when we would rather watch TV then to read the scriptures. Or when we would rather gossip about those around us rather than asking them if there is anything we can do to help. We need to be more intentional about our faith. Remember what our first reading. Seek the Lord while He may be found. Call him while He is near.[27] We need to want to be saints. Do you want to be saints? Our entire life must be focused in Christ. There is no moderation in our giving ourselves to Christ. As Saint Paul writes, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me [28] and again in our second reading, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.[29] Do want what the Lord is offering? Do you want to be saints?

[1] From the first reading: Isaiah 55.8: For my thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.
[2] Gen 2.17
[3] Gen 3.1
[4] Gen 3.3
[5] Cf. Exodus 20.1-18; Deuteronomy 5.6-22: I. Thou shalt not have other gods besides Me II. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. III Remember to keep holy the Lord’s day. IV Honor thy mother and father. V. Thou shalt not murder. VI. Thou shalt not commit adultery. VII. Thou shalt not steal. VIII Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. IX Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife. X Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.
[6] Cf. Matthew 22.36-40; cf. Deuteronomy 6.4-7 and Leviticus 19.18
[7] Cf. Galatians 5.22-25: Charity, Joy, Peace, Benignity (Kindness), Goodness, Longanimity (Long-suffering), Mildness, Faith, Modesty, Continency, Chastity.
[8] Matthew 5-7
[9] Gen 3.4-5
[10] Gen 3.6
[11] Proverbs 1.7
[12] Wisdom 9.6
[13] Genesis 3.7
[14] Blessed Pope John Paul II. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. 27.1, p. 238. SEE ALSO “A certain fear is always part of the very essence of shame; nevertheless, original shame reveals its character in a particular way: “I was afraid, because I am naked.” We realize that something deeper is at stake here than mere bodily shame…With his shame about his own nakedness, the man seeks to cover the true origin of fear by indicating the effect so as not to name the cause…In reality, what shows itself through ‘nakedness’ is man deprived of participation in the Gift, man alienated from the Love which was the source of the original gift, the source of the fullness of good intended for the creature. This man, according to the formulas of the Church’s theological teaching, was deprived of the supernatural and preternatural gifts that were part of his ‘endowment’ before sin; in addition, he suffered damage in what belongs to nature itself, to humanity in the original fullness “of the image of God.” 27.1-2; pp. 239-240
[15] Genesis 3.8
[16] Genesis 3.9
[17] Genesis 3.10
[18] Genesis 3.11
[19] Genesis 3.12
[20] Genesis 3.13
[21] Genesis 3.13
[22] Matthew 20.15
[23] Ephesians 2.8-9
[24] Matthew 19.27
[25] Matthew 19.29
[26] Matthew 25.13
[27] Isaiah 55.6
[28] Galatians 2.20
[29] Philippians 1.21

Tuesday of the 23rd Sunday

Quia in ipso inhabitat omnis
plenitude divinitatis corporaliter
Tuesday of the Twenty-Third Sunday of Ordered Time (September 6th, 2011)
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

In our first reading today, Paul writes, see to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to the tradition of men, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of God corporeally.[1] So often today, people will try to speak of God without speaking of the Christ, as if one can be conceived without the other. This however is not possible. Christ Jesus is the logos,[2] the rationale of all creation, the one in whom all things were created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.[3] There is no other saving God besides Christ. We see this woven throughout the gospels, especially in John. There it is written that Jesus is the gate of the sheep [4] and again it is written that I am the way, the truth and the life. No man cometh unto the Father but by me.[5] In the Acts of the Apostles, it is written that there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven give among men by which we must be saved.[6] In Paul’s letter to the Galatians, it is written that man is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ.[7] In the first letter of the Beloved Apostle, it is written that no one who denies the Son has the Father. He who confesses the Son has the Father also.[8] Thus, we cannot separate the Christ from the Father. If one tries to speak of God without speaking of the Christ, then they speak not of the one God, but of a lie. “For the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.” [9] Where the Father is, there too is the Son, who is made manifest by the Spirit. For the Son came to give glory to the Father, as is our Lord affirmed when he said, I honor my Father [10] and the Father gives honor to the Son, as Jesus said, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies, of whom you say that He is your God.[11] To give affirmation of the Son is the glory of the Holy Spirit, as is written by the Apostle, no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit [12] and again but when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness to me.[13] So then there are three persons but one God. And this unity of divinity dwells among us in the Blessed Sacrament, wherein is contained the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
And this most Blessed Sacrament is entrusted to the successors of the Apostles, the bishops of the Catholic Church. These apostles are the ones spoken of in today’s gospel. There unity in the sacrament is affirmed, for it was the teaching of the Eucharist in the sixth chapter of John that lead many disciples to cease in their following of Christ. When asked if they, the Apostles wanted to leave, Peter, prince of the Apostles, replied, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.[14] So now there is unity, founded in Christ, blessed and made present in the Most Holy Eucharist founded in one Church. Thus, we can say there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of us all, who is above all, and through all, and in all.[15] May God be praised and exalted above all forever. Amen.

[1] Colossians 2.8-9
[2] Cf. John 1.1-3
[3] Colossians 1.16
[4] John 10.7
[5] John 14.6
[6] Acts 4.12
[7] Galatians 2.16
[8] I John 2.23
[9] Athanasian Creed §§15-16
[10] John 8.49
[11] John 8.54
[12] I Corinthians 12.3
[13] John 15.26
[14] John 6.68-69
[15] Ephesians 4.4-6

Homily for the Twenty-Third Sunday of ordered Time

Si te audierit,
Lucratus eris fratrem tuum[1]

September 4th, 2011
Corpus Christi Parish
Rev. Mr. Michael Taylor

Amen I say to you, whosoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven: and whatever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.[2]

Today’s readings are difficult readings for us to hear. They are difficult because they remind us that God’s justice exists and his justice demands that unrepentant sinners will be punished. These are difficult matters and require much prayer and contemplation. But as we listen to the prophet Ezekiel today, listen as he says, [if] you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked from his way, the wicked shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death,[3] one thing seems clear to me. We must be more intentional about our faith. We need to be more intentional about what we’re about. We need to be more intentional about where we’re going. We need to be more intentional about the people we spend time with. We need to be more intentional about who we are. That is ultimately what today’s gospel is about.
We, as Christians need to begin to rethink our associations, and those with whom we keep company. Are those people around us seeking holiness? If it ever could be said of our culture that it fostered virtue, that time has surely passed. Indeed, we are all too careless in our associations, counting as close friends those who seek after other gods, are lost in all sorts of immortality, and care not for the ways of the Lord. It is as God accuses the psalmist when He says, What right have you to recite my statutes, or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline, and you cast my words behind you. If you see a thief, you are a friend of his; and you keep company with adulterers. You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; and slander your own mother’s son.[4] If we surround ourselves with those who do not care for God, and are content with the pleasures of this world, should we be surprised that we lack fervor of faith or that our own spiritual life has faded? This is not to say that we avoid sinners. No, for as Paul noted I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber– not to even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the Church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’.[5]
What does this mean? Who are we to judge our brethren? Does not the Lord say, judge not lest you be judged? [6] Does not the Apostle James say Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge? [7] Even Paul himself writes in the same letter, But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. [8]
Yet there is a difference to be noted here. Here we can speak of judgment as corrective and judgment as condemnatory. It is why the Church can speak of those sins and evils that will lead a soul to hell but she cannot tell you one person who is there, for it is not for the faithful to condemn anyone. Too often, we do not judge for the sake of offering correction. We judge so that we might feel better about ourselves. Of this our Lord Jesus has warned, You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. [9] Yet for the person who refuses to change his ways, and will not acknowledge his sin, then it is better for him to be removed from the community, rather than by his sin pollute the bond of the faithful. For sin is corrosive, and it destroys the unity of a community. Our Lord has given us the path which offers right correction. Of this He said, If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.[10] Too often, when someone wrongs us, we prefer to talk about our injury, which may indeed be a just complaint, to everyone else except the offending party. This is not just, this is gossip. It does nothing to repair the wrong, for the person who is guilty of the offense is most likely unaware that they have wronged you. However, if they hear about your anger from someone else, instead of being self-reflective, and considering their culpability, they will react in anger, this time that their name has been slandered without them first being given a recourse to address the wrong. If someone wrongs you, go and speak to them first, and do so in charity, so that you might gain grace from God. Remember that it is required of you that if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the alter and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.[11] Remember that as Christians we offer nothing less than ourselves before the altar of God.
Our Lord goes on further: But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.[12] This is so that no judgment may be left to the testimony of two interested parties, but rather, a third party (the two or three witnesses) may gather and give an objective reckoning of the situation. In doing so, a brother in faith who has done wrong may be assured that it is not a personal vendetta that is the motivation of the one addressing the wrong. That being said, it is important that the witnesses be people of faith, for it is written by loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.[13] If the witnesses have not the fear of the Lord before their eyes, they will become partial to one side, and will render further injustice and iniquity, for again it is not good to be partial to a wicked man, or to deprive a righteous man of justice.[14]
Finally, our Lord gives what at first seems a harsh sentence, but as shall be seen is actually a sentence of mercy. Jesus concludes by stating, If he [the offending brother] refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.[15] What then shall we say? Why should Jesus wish to cast away someone from the Church? The answer to this is found in Paul. Note that Jesus first says to bring them to the Church. This is because, as Paul affirms, I am writing these instructions to you so may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.[16] If a person will not listen to the truth, then as the Beloved Disciple writes, he who says ‘I know Him’ but disobeys His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.[17] Thus only those who admit that they have sinned can begin to be justified, and it for this reason why a person may be excommunicated, so that in the horror they experience at being cut off, they might repent and come back with a humble and contrite heart. Paul affirms this when he writes, by rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith, among them Hymenae’us and Alexander, whom I have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.[18] Yet this action is always done by the bishop, for note what Paul says to the Church in Corinth concerning the man guilty of fornication, let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though I am absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in this day of the Lord Jesus.[19]
My brothers and sisters, our culture is not well, and we say nothing. There is suffering and there is evil, and we remain silent. What are we doing? Where do we want to go? Is there something better? We speak of love, of love being grand, but then we say nothing as our children continue to live together out of wedlock. We indulge ourselves too greatly. How is it that two people living outside of marriage is anything other than sin? Oh sure, we can say that we love each other. But if there is no commitment, then what I’m really saying is that I love you now, as long as it’s convenient. I love you as long as things don’t get difficult. I love you as long things don’t change. I love you as long as it fits within my five year plan. And my brothers and sisters that is not love at all. It is lust. It is selfishness. It is the worst form of narcissism for it is a narcissism which does not even recognize itself. And lust hollows out the human soul. It prevents us from being able to understand what it means when God says I love you for being you. There is sin and it poisons our very soul. It destroys our ability to love and to be loved.
We know the scripture which says that God is love.[20] But if sin destroys our ability to be with loved, what does this say about our relationship with God, who is love? Notice what our Lord says in today’s gospel, where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.[21] Our Lord does not say in them nor does he say that he contains them, but that he stands in the midst of them. Sin destroys that relationship. We know that Jesus comes into our world to remove sin. Now read what the Beloved Apostle says, if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and his word is not in us [22] and again, everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.[23] Love without rules is not love at all, but rather it’s opposite, apathy. It is the statement that I do not really care what happens to you or what you do to me.
But there is a better way. There is the way that cares for the neighbor as much as one cares for themselves. It is the way in which we journey together towards salvation, rather than just worrying about getting to heaven by ourselves. It is the way which leadeth unto life as a holy people, rather than just believing that it is my personal happiness that is of utmost importance. This way requires us to look after one another, to care enough about our brethren in faith to speak of hard truths when they are necessary. We hear often of the corporal works of mercy and they are indeed good, and even necessary. Yet there are the spiritual works of mercy as well. They are to counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish the sinner, comfort the sorrowful, to forgive all injuries, bear all wrongs patiently and to pray for the living and the dead. Let us thus work to help our brethren out, so that they too might share in the joy of our happiness.

[1] Matthew 18.15b: “If he [your brother] shall hear you, you shall gain your brother.” [Taken from the gospel for the Sunday]
[2] Matthew 18.18
[3] Ezekiel 33.8
[4] Psalm 50(49).16-20
[5] I Cor 5.9-13; SEE also Dt. 13.6; Dt 17.7; Dt 22.24
[6] Mt 7.1
[7] Jam 4.11
[8] I Cor 4.3-4
[9] Mt 7.5
[10] Mt 18.15
[11] Mt 5.23-24
[12] Mt 18.16
[13] Prov 16.6
[14] Prov 18.5
[15] Mt 18.17-18
[16] I Tm 3.14-15
[17] I Jn 2.4
[18] I Tm 1.20
[19] I Cor 5.2-5
[20] I Jn 4.8
[21] Mt 18.20
[22] I Jn 1.10
[23] I Jn 3.4