“The issue is now quite clear. It is between light and darkness and every one must choose his side.” G. K. Chesterton

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sermon for the 13th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 This sermon was delivered on July 1, 2012, by Fr. Mark Lewis at St. Luke's in Bladensburg, Maryland, a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  Fr. Lewis, a former Episcopal priest, was ordained a priest of the Catholic Church on June 23, 2012, at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, DC.  This was his first sermon as a Catholic priest.

A teammate of mine from my little league days in Brunswick posted on his Facebook page recently: “A simple spelling mistake can get you in big trouble.” He said a man went on a business trip; at the end of a long day he wrote his wife an email saying, “I wish you were her.” A simple letter being left off a word; instead of writing “I wish you were here,” he wrote “I wish you were her.” It was an honest mistake.  But an honest mistake can cause disaster for a relationship.

Too often we think we are in a right relationship with God, yet we do things that are contrary to His will or the teachings of His Church.  The main reason for these honest blunders is ignorance of God’s will and Church teachings. Certainly there would be no one here who would intentionally reject God’s will or the Church’s teaching.  Instead we get our souls in danger because we have failed to learn and therefore live by God’s commands and the teachings of His Church.

We first must understand why we were created.  In our first reading this morning we are told God did not make death. He does not delight in the death of the living, and that there is no destructive poison in His creatures.  God created us for righteousness sake, to be holy as He is holy; in this state He created us for immortality. He created us for incorruption.  He made us in the image of His own eternity. God created us out of the abundance of His love. He created us to live in harmony with Him, to share in His life and to live eternally with Him. But through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience that death, a Spiritual Death. In other words, those who belong to the devil’s party will not attain to that for which they were created.  

Satan’s envy brought sin and death into the world, and he desires to take as many of us with him as he can. Satan is trying to corrupt and destroy God’s plans, and he is actively fighting against the Church. He fights the Church from the outside as well as from within. And he does this subtlety; he distorts the word of God, he plants doubt in our minds, leads us to temptation, and encourages us to act upon those temptations.

Listen to this familiar story again:  “After God planted Adam and Eve in the garden and informed them they could eat of every tree expect for the tree of knowledge, for if they did they would surely die, the evil one appeared and said ‘Did God say you shall not eat of any tree from the garden.’ Eve responded, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but 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.’’ The serpent said to the woman, ‘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.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.” 

I want us to understand this story, because the same deception is used on us today.  Satan first planted a seed of doubt in the minds of Adam and Eve, causing confusion as to exactly what God said. He then made the temptation look good, a delight to their eyes and to their appetites; he makes the evil appear desirable.  With confusion in their minds and delight in their eyes the evil one’s plan goes from a seed of doubt, to a conscious thought, to action, and thus to sin. To top it off, after eating the fruit which God said would cause death, they do not die.  The evil one confirms their doubt and their eyes delight with words like: see--nothing happened to you; it is okay to not pay attention to what God says.  But in fact they were truly dying. 

The evil one tries to convince us, it is okay to not pay attention to what God has said.  It is okay to dismiss what the church teaches. You do not need such restrictions on your life. Eat, drink, be happy, do what makes you feel good. 

So we claim to be Catholics.  But we may have been deceived into thinking: I do not follow the Church’s teaching on human sexuality; God is love, he wants me to love and be loved. I do not follow the Church’s teaching on birth control; I do not want any (more) children at this time; it is not convenient; we are trying to establish our professional careers.  I do not follow the Church’s teaching on abortion; though I would never have an abortion myself, I support the right of every woman to make her own decision. I do not follow the Church’s teaching on Sunday being obligatory; God knows my heart and he knows I love Him. I do not follow the Church’s teaching about Confession; I confess my sins to God, and I do not believe I need to confess my sins to a priest. Besides, I have not sinned, or at least not done anything too bad.  We may hold these beliefs or others like them and yet feel we are a good Catholic. The truth is we are being deceived, just as Adam and Eve were.  An honest mistake of believing in what we want to believe is righteous, as opposed to what God commands as righteous. Did God really mean you must live by the Ten Commandments, or are we just supposed to try to live by them? Is human sexuality really that important when people are starving around the world?

We are created in the image of God. He has made us for immortality.  He has made us for incorruption.  He has made us in the image of His own eternity, so that we might live eternally with Him. He has also given us His laws and the teachings of Holy Mother Church; not to just assist us, as if we can attain our ultimate goal without them, but rather as essential to attaining our ultimate goal.

We all are being deceived by the evil one at some level, some more than others. We must be willing to acknowledge our attitude of intellectual superiority, our individualism, our rebellious nature, or even our ignorance of what God wants us to know and how He wants us to live.  We need to be open to God, trusting that though we may not fully understand, we want to believe and live our lives according to God’s written word and to the teachings of His Church. 

It is only in this humbled state that we fully receive all that God has planned for us in Jesus Christ our Lord. 

So I bring this sermon to an end by encouraging you to say yes to the teachings of Holy Mother Church, for in saying yes to the Church we say yes to God.  Learning God’s will, His laws and commands; learning the teachings of the Church; and committing ourselves to live in accordance with them will help us to not be so easily deceived by the evil one.  It will lead us to our ultimate goal, or should I say God’s goal for us; righteousness here and now, holiness here and now, health and wholeness here and now, and life eternally with Him.

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