Sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
given by Monsignor Ignacio Barreiro
In today’s Gospel Christ gives us very precise instructions on how to be able to discern if prophet or a person who claims to have been sent by God is authentic or not. We also have a brief but very precise instruction on how to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven living in accordance with the will of Christ.
In the epistle we have a very clear introduction to these teachings of the Gospel. The Apostle makes a very well presented comparison between the situation of the Romans before their conversion and after their conversion. Before their conversion Christians were slaves to sin and to the devil. Even if apparently they were leading a life of pleasure in real terms they were leading an anguished existence because to be enslaved to the Prince of this World is against the nature that we have received from our Creator. As consequence they were ready to receive the wages of sin, which is damnation. Through their conversion they became free and open to the happiness that comes to be in union with God which it is in accordance to the nature He has given to us. To live in union with God is always a source of peace. As a matter of fact the person who is living in sin is prone to suffer a deep anguish and this distress might lead the sinner to conversion.
There are many who through history have claimed and will assert that they are teachers in doctrinal and moral matters. To discern if their claims are truthful we have to judge them by the outcome of their works. We have to establish with the assistance of grace if what they are preaching and are doing is in accordance with the constant teachings of the Church. Also we would be able to discern their authenticity through their spiritual attitudes, if we see that they are dominated by pride and self-centeredness they can never come from God. The concern to distinguish if a person is an instrument of God or a false prophet is a serious matter that has long roots in the Old Testament. There we see many cases in which the true prophets of the Lord had to combat false prophets that presented their own thoughts as if they were the word of God to obtain either prestige or financial gain. We have to be aware that false teachers will try to give to their doctrines an appearance of truth. Even the devil tempting Christ quoted scripture when he was trying to convince Jesus to jump down from the summit of the Temple. “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'”(Mt. 4-6) Later in these same Gospel Christ speaking of the end of time will warns us that, “False messiahs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if that were possible, even the elect.” (Mt. 24-24) St. Peter in his Second Letter will warn us that, “There were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will introduce destructive heresies and even deny the Master who ransomed them, bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their licentious ways, and because of them the way of truth will be reviled. In their greed they will exploit you with fabrications, but from of old their condemnation has not been idle and their destruction does not sleep.” (2 Pt. 2-1-3) Regrettably as we can see in the history of the Church in many occasions this prophetic warning has been fulfilled, many different heresies have been promoted even the denial of the divinity of Christ which happened with Arianism.
It should be clear that any doctrine which in the name of an evangelical principle leads to error is a false doctrine. We can see this in recent case. A person who in the name of the evangelical principle of mercy will propose to give communion to persons that are married and then divorced and then remarried civilly will be teaching a false doctrine. Also it should be clear that it is a deformed and false mercy to leave a person in their sins and not call them to repentance. Jesus would like us to be as “simple as doves”, and so to avoid criticism and severe judgments of our neighbors whenever we do not have a moral obligation to make this criticism; but He also wants us to be as “wise as serpents” (Mat. 10-16), so as not to let ourselves be deceived by false appearances of good which hide dangerous snares.
To enter into Heaven we have to do the will of the Lord. We have to do the general will of the Lord for all us which is to fulfill with attention all the commandments and to fulfill the particular will of God of us for each one of us. The particular will of God for each and every one of us will depend on the particular vocation that each one of us has received. First and foremost we have to live carefully in accordance with the commandments being careful in everything that we do. As an example we have to keep close control of our tongue to avoid falling into the sin of detraction which leads us to say evil things that are true about another person when we had no serious reason to do it. Second, we have to discharge with attention the particular duties that the Lord has given us. It is relatively easy to judge the actions that clearly violate the commandments, but as St. Robert Bellarmine points it is more difficult to judge the sins of omission. In particular the omissions of which we are culpable in the performance of the specific duties that the Lord has given us in our special calling. As example a priest should ask himself if has presented to his congregation the saving doctrine of Christ with clarity and precision in the homilies that he has preached without entering into any compromises with the contemporary spirit.
To call Christ with the tittle of Lord and then refuse to do His will it is a useless hypocrisy that only leads into damnation. A Christian to be saved has to live his life with total coherence. He cannot give to the Lord external signs of respect and then refuse to do His will. In the collect prayer we make a strong proclamation on our Faith in God’s Providence. Here we should also remember that conversion is never definitive, we have to struggle to remain in the good path because we are always fighting against our wounded nature and temptations. As St. Paul tells us we have to work our salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2-12) That is the reasons why we ask in the initial prayer of this Mass to be delivered of all that might be harmful and to receive from God’s hands all that will be profitable. In the context of today’s gospel through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary we pray to be protected against all the temptations that will lead us away from His holy will especially those coming from false prophets and to be able to receive from Him all the graces necessary to do His will.
May the Lord bless you and keep you.