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

1 comment:

  1. Love reading and re-reading your sermons! Thanks for taking the trouble to post these. Such rich food for thought and meditation. You bring us closer to God!