15 Oct Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Today is the Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1877
“The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.”–Matt. 22.
In the Gospel of today we are told of a marriage feast prepared by the royal father for his son. This parable manifestly has reference to heaven, for St. John in his Apocalypse expressly mentions the nuptials of the Lamb, Who is the Son of God made man, whose union with the Church triumphant is symbolically expressed in this parable of the marriage-feast. This triumphant Church in heaven is verily, and indeed the one same Church which Christ established here upon earth; in which we, if we live as her true children, have a foretaste of those pleasures and delights which we shall one day enjoy in their plenitude, forever, when invited to the marriage-feast of the Lamb in heaven. The certainty which we feel of this truth, and the sweet hope arising therefrom, may well dispose our hearts to follow the admonition of the Apostle: “If ye have arisen with Christ, seek ye the things which are above.”
Thrice happy are those children of the Church who properly appreciate the privilege they enjoy in belonging to her fold, who live so that they will one day enjoy in perfection the bliss they now participate in but partially. The subject of my sermon, then, today will be the marriage-feast in heaven which has already begun on earth in the kingdom of the one true Church.
Mary, queen of heaven, pray that the fruit of this meditation may be a clearer knowledge of how to be come true children of thy divine Son! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
To realize that we, as St. Paul asserts, behold in part the joys of heaven as if “through a glass,” and have already a foretaste of them, we need only consider what causes heaven to be heaven, and inspires the saints to sing forever the praises of the Lamb. To this our attention is directed by the different names by which heaven is designated.
Holy Scripture calls heaven paradise, that wonder of creation which God called into existence for His faithful creatures.
Of the beauty of this celestial paradise we can form no idea; but if we view even the charms of this fair earth in the light of faith, and behold in them so many marks of the power, wisdom, and goodness of God, do we not feel disposed with holy David to cry out: “The heavens declare the glory of God?” We learn from the life of St. Ignatius how powerfully his heart was moved by the sight of the firmament, brilliant with stars to do all for the greater honor and glory of God. So, too, upon beholding lovely and fragrant flowers the heart of this great servant of God was elevated to his Creator. But what words can I find to portray the spiritual beauty of the holy Catholic Church,–rather, should say, to convey some faint idea of it? How infinitely more lovely does she appear in the eyes of the children of God, in the grandeur and magnificence of her heavenly attributes, than that terrestrial paradise which our first parents found so fair. By those ever-flowing streams of grace the Holy Sacraments by the good works perpetually budding and ripening in her garden, she is indeed rendered “all fair,” and in her “there is no spot!”
According to the expression of Holy Scripture, heaven is the promised land, our true country, that home where loved ones meet to part no more. Oh, what happiness in the very thought!
Already we have a foretaste of this sweetness if we are so fortunate as to live near some holy souls, or if, after a long separation, we meet again some of God's faithful servants.
The Church, like heaven, is also our true country, and her children feel at home in her, be it in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, or Oceanica, every-where the priest's “Dominus vobiscum” falls as sweetly upon the ear as when heard from the altar in the home of our youth.
According to Holy Writ heaven is a kingdom of delight, where naught but joy can enter; so also is the Church a kingdom of delight to those who keep her commandments. Hear the call of the Apostle: “Rejoice, I say, in the Lord; and again I say, rejoice!” To those who love God everything works unto good, and is therefore a source of joy. The heart of the true Catholic has every reason to rejoice and be glad. How could he be otherwise, remembering the infinitely great grace bestowed upon him? What constant opportunities he has of acquiring merits and treasures for heaven, and multiplying them a thousand-fold! In this vale of tears, where all is transitory and fleeting, we often have troubles which almost crush the heart. Then think, O friends! of that weary road to Calvary which your suffering Saviour trod for you, and mark it well that sorrows, patiently borne, will one day change to celestial joys. Every Christian, in the state of grace, and living in union with God, can enjoy that sweetness and delight of which our Saviour speaks when He says: “My peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you!” a peace, my brethren, which the world knoweth not, and which hath not entered into the heart of its votaries to conceive. We know that eye hath not beheld the joys of heaven, nor ear listened to its ravishing strains of music, neither can the heart of man imagine the delights which God hath prepared for those who love Him.
These words apply also to the spiritual joy which is the portion of the faithful, devoted child of the Holy Church, and to the utter ignorance of the worldling in regard to those joys. Yes, the Church is a kingdom of delight, to which can truly be applied the words of St. John: “And I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride for her husband.” “And I heard a voice, saying, Behold the tabernacle of God with men, and He will dwell with them. And they shall be His people, and God himself with them shall be their God. And God will wipe away all tears from their eyes.”
Whether it be sickness, or the loss of temporal goods, or some bitter humiliation, or the death of a beloved child, the true Christian accepts all as coming from the divine hand, uniting his will with the most holy will of God, ready to sacrifice, if necessary, even life itself, and yet to say, with St. Paul, “we suffer tribulation, but are not distressed.”
Heaven is the reward offered for a holy life, and even here the zealous Catholic experiences the joy of this reward in proportion as his merits increase, and he advances in piety and fervor, walking in the way of the saints. New graces are bestowed upon him as his union with God becomes more intimate, and Christian hope sweetly whispers to his heart that heaven is near.
And God will be our portion forever in that happy home! Heaven itself would not be heaven were it not that there we will enjoy forever the presence of God. There, too, we will be with the immaculate mother of God, and the angels and saints to share forever in their joys. Those same bright spirits surround us here, and we live in the midst of many holy souls who are doing the will of God upon earth, while the saints in heaven will one day welcome the deserving ones to their blissful home.
On earth we are especially near to the sweet mother of God in this kingdom of His Church, and how often do we not experience her maternal protection! But, more than all, the saints in heaven are not nearer to the king of heaven than we, and they can hardly possess Him more fully than we do by union with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Oh, if we fully appreciated the happiness of this union with Christ in the Most Holy Sacrament, we would comprehend why the Scripture speaks of heaven as a banquet, for which the table is already prepared on earth! God is God every-where; He is present on our altars on earth as truly as in the grandeur and magnificence of his celestial throne.
To all, then, who truly live according to the spirit of the Holy Catholic Church, Christ fulfills His promise that He, with the Father and the Holy Ghost, will take up His abode in their souls.
Surely, most Holy Church, thou art heaven upon earth; and if we truly apply the graces we receive through Thee, then will we, as the Apostle assures us, live, while yet on earth, as if we shared the joys of heaven! Amen!
“But He was silent.”–Matt. 22, 12.
God would not judge the world were He not just, on account of the angels. So St. Paul assures us. A remarkable expression! The sense of these words of the Apostle is that, were not all God's ways the ways of truth, and emanations from His infinite perfection, the angels–those beings of the highest intelligence and holiness–would discover the defect.
In this world the ways of divine Providence often appear dark and mysterious; but a day will come when that which is dark will be made light, and men will perceive that God condemns no one who, by his own fault and free will, has not deserved that fearful fate. On that day Lucifer, with all the infernal host, will be forced to confess and cry out that the Lord is just, and that just are all His decrees.
His justice will fall with terrible and crushing weight upon those sinners who, although members of the true Church, have abused the grace of God, and for that reason are condemned to eternal misery. Nothing is of more frequent occurrence on this earth than for those who have transgressed to find or invent some plausible excuse; but on that dreadful day, when Christ shall come to judge the world by fire, oh, then the sinner can find no plea or excuse, but will rather cry out to the mountains to fall on him and hide him from the wrath of an angry Judge!
Let the subject of this day's meditation, then, be, how we can escape the terrible fate of the reprobate!
Mary, whose sweet office of mediatrix will on that fearful day be ended, obtain for us the grace so to live that on the day of judgment we may turn to you with love and gratitude for having secured our salvation! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory ot God!
It is natural for man to excuse himself. We, the fallen children of Eve, have learned the lesson well from our first parents, who not only sought to palliate their offense, but would fain have cast the blame upon their Lord and Maker. As it was with the world in its earliest ages, so it is today. Seldom do we find delinquents ready to acknowledge their faults, at least not in their entire magnitude; for if they do not exactly justify their evil doings, they palliate them as much as possible, and too often try to cast the blame upon others. But when Christ shall come to judge all men, that His justice may be vindicated before the whole world, there will be no room for excuses. Then he who has been an unfaithful child of the Church will not dare to break the awful silence which will reign while his evil life is being judged. When Christ shall have pronounced the awful sentence of condemnation, the wretched being will vainly call upon the mountains to fall upon him and hide his shame.
On considering the excuses most generally made for transgressions, we can readily see how there can be only silence before the Judge.
Listen to the first, it is a plea of ignorance: “I did not know.” Sinner, Christian, would that excuse avail you on the last day? Christ would say to you: “What, sinner! you say you did not know? Did I not, from no merit of your own, create you, and make you a child of the true Church? Did not your parents, your teachers and confessors continually admonish you? Have you not listened to sermons which in structed you how to avoid sin? Yet you committed it over and over again! And what of the accusations of your conscience? did not they whisper that you were doing wrong that you were outraging My adorable majesty? Did you not know that for the relapsing sinner there is no excuse? and yet how often and often you willfully fell back into sin! You advanced in age, and grew better able to discern the greatness of your offenses against Me, yet you would not give up those mortal sins! Can you deny it?” The sinner is silent!
The second excuse is: “I could not help it. I was tempted too strongly.” Sinner, child of the Catholic Church! will this plea avail you at the judgment-seat of Christ? Far from it, for there you will be reminded of the numberless graces by which you could have resisted temptation, and fulfilled the most holy will of God! You will be forced to recall the many inspirations of the Holy Ghost by which a loving Redeemer sought to touch your heart and strengthen your will!
How, then, can you excuse yourself? Then will be placed before you the constant admonitions given you by your teachers, parents and confessor. You will be reminded of the power of prayer, which was within your reach, even as a child to ask and obtain grace to resist temptations. You will be reminded that, when you fell, there was the Sacrament of Penance, wherein you could obtain forgiveness and grace to amend!
If you consider that Lucifer and his rebellious angels committed but one sin, and received no grace to confess or repent, and then reflect on the numberless sins you have committed in the course of your life, in thought, word and deed, for which God has vouchfsafed you both time and means of repentance, what excuse can you put forward? Cast but one glance at all the heathens, who for centuries have lived without the pale of the Church, not having had even for one single time the privilege of going to confession–a grace which you have despised and trampled upon, keeping away from the Sacraments perhaps for years, or approaching them in such dispositions as to bring additional guilt upon your soul! What plea can you find, O sinner, when the terrible voice of the Judge addresses you thus? “Was I not ever present in your Churches, where you, as a child of My Church, might have sought Me, to beg for the grace which it would have been My joy to enrich you with?” O sinner, you will not dare to utter a word!
Another favorite excuse is: “No one helped me.” Do you think that will avail you with Christ? He will remind you of the guides in the way of virtue with whom you were blessed–your parents, teachers and the priests of His Church, who warned you and were ever ready to help you. He will remind you that He was always ready to enter your heart, and strengthen you with His sacred body and blood. He will tell you that you might have visited Him in His tabernacles, and drawn spiritual strength from the sweetness of His presence; but that you passed His abode unheeded, allowing months and even years to pass without receiving Him in Holy Communion, or approaching the holy table, merely through habit! O sinner, how terrible will be that silence in which you will stand before the Judge!
It is frequently urged: “I was forced to do so.” What will such an excuse avail you then? You are free, and neither man nor devil has power to make you commit sin, if you call upon God and firmly resist.
“No one advised me, and I saw others commit the same sin, while I was too young to know its evil.” That excuse may pass in this life, but not in the next. Christ would say: “Had you not the warnings and threats of divine faith? They were often repeated to you, and you knew that a judgment awaited you after death, and that, if death surprised you while in a state of mortal sin, you would be lost forever!
If it had been a question of earthly danger, what care you would have taken! Had you been walking along a precipice, how cautiously you would have proceeded! If a dangerous illness had overtaken you, what efforts you would have made for the restoration of your health! If your temporal possessions were lost or injured, how solicitous you would have been for their recovery!
And what of the excuse of youth,–too young? Did you not persist in your evil habits long after youth had passed? The evil examples of others–will that have any value? If that led you away, had you not models of holiness in all the saints, whom you might have imitated? Above all, was God not ready to bestow sufficient grace upon you for salvation, even at your last breath? But you despised His mercy; you must accept the rigors of His justice!
And the wretched sinner, the lost and miserable child of the Catholic Church, will be silent before his Judge; but for all eternity his cries of despair will resound through the terrible abyss of hell! Amen!
“Many are called, but few are chosen.”–Matt. 22, 14.
Our holy mother, the Church, has uttered many threats to the children of men, warning them of the certainty of a final judgment. But among them all there is none more powerful than that by which the Gospel of today is concluded. These terrible words: Many are called, but few are chosen,” serve to remind the Christian of the constant danger in which he lives, of not being one of the chosen few.
Christ speaks of those who are lost as by far the greater number, when He utters this threat through His Church!
Therefore, those who are in earnest about their salvation will ask with the Apostles, when they heard the fearful prediction that one of them would betray our Lord: “Is it I, O Lord?” No one knoweth. Christ does not return a direct answer, but each one can examine his own heart, and discover within himself whether he bears any of the marks of the elect. Let us, then, today, carefully consider what are those marks and characteristics of elect.
Mary, mother of celestial hope, cast over us the mantle of thy maternal protection, that we may live so as to be among the chosen few! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater honor and glory of God!
Holy Scripture assures us that no one knoweth whether he is worthy of love or hatred; and the Church, through the Council of Trent, teaches as a dogma, that no one, without a particular revelation, can possess certainty of his salvation. St. Paul, speaking of himself, says: “But I chastise my body, lest perhaps when I have preached to others, I myself should be come a castaway;” and in another place he tells us that his conscience does not reproach him, but that “it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God, before whom even the angels are not pure;” and he admonishes all: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
But to a very few of the saints has been granted, by revelation, a previous assurance of salvation, and the uncertainty of their election has caused many who are now among the most glorious of the celestial host, as St. Bernard, to tremble lest they might not be saved. Nevertheless, my brethren, Christ has given us certain signs and tokens from which we may form some idea of our spiritual state, and how it will be with us on the day of final judgment. I will direct your attention to those virtues so highly extolled by our Lord and Saviour, that He called their possessors blessed.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” If any one tries to detach his affections from the empty honors of this world, and to prevent his heart from being taken up with its perishable goods,–if he never commits an act of duty or piety for the sake of temporal gain, he will certainly be rewarded eternally!
Are you really detached from the goods and possessions of this world? Do you sincerely try to cultivate this poverty of spirit? Let your own conscience answer; and if it tell you yes, oh, then indeed it is well with you; for you have the words of Christ Himself, that “of such is the kingdom of heaven!”
“Blessed are the meek.” Thus speaketh our Lord. Have you the right to claim any part of this benediction? Look into your hearts and find the answer there! Do you cultivate a meek and gentle spirit, carefully shunning everything that would wound the feelings of your neighbor? Then you possess one of the marks of election; for Christ Himself has pronounced you blessed.
“Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.” The soul that, for pure love of Jesus, continually mourns for having offended Him, and also for all the sins by which God is continually offended, has every reason to hope for salvation. Of such souls it has been said that “they sow in tears, but in joy gather up the harvest of their merits.”
“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice; for they shall be filled.” Happy indeed is the Christian whose daily walk is in the way of penance, whose earnest desire is to know and love God, and to do His holy will in all things, who praises Him in His justice as well as in His mercy. Yes, he may indeed look forward to a happy eternity; for only in heaven will he find what Christ has promised. He possesses one of the signs of election.
“Blessed are the clean of heart.” Yes, blessed indeed are those who are free from the least willful sin against the angelic virtue of purity! They can, even on earth, anticipate the joys of heaven; for to them our divine Lord has promised the bliss of beholding Him in a blissful eternity. ” Blessed are the clean of heart; for they shall see God.”
“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy.” Precious to the most sacred Heart of our Lord are those of His children who are compassionate and merciful to their suffering fellow-creatures. They possess one of the surest marks of election, since to them will be addressed those words of benediction: “Come, ye blessed of My Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world.”
This applies also to those who, with true zeal for souls and ardent love of God, assist their neighbor in his spiritual necessities. Whoever saves the soul of his neighbor works efficaciously for his own salvation; whoever is zealous in his efforts to bring our separated brethren into the bosom of the Holy Catholic Church, and does all in his power for the sanctification and salvation of souls, may, with loving confidence, feel sure that the Lord will not cast him off on the day of judgment, when those souls, restored to grace through his prayers and good works, enter bright and glorified into the kingdom of eternal happiness. The Lord will never be unmindful of what is done for Him, especially in the way of saving souls, whose redemption was purchased by His precious blood!
“Blessed are the peace-makers; for they shall be called the children of God.” Well is it for you, dear Christians, if your hearts are free from bitterness and rancor, if you love your neighbor, if you forgive him as you hope to be forgiven, if you strive to banish envy from your hearts, and seek occasion to heal the dissensions of those around you. Then may you hope to enjoy the bliss of heaven; for God has called you His “children,” and a father is ever anxious to gather his children to his home!
“Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake.” So Christ testifies. Yes; He not only promises to you a bright crown in the kingdom of eternal joy, but a reward beyond measure in that celestial home. “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for justice sake; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Can we doubt that a member of the Holy Catholic Church, who is zealous in promoting the interests of religion, and ready to give up every thing, riches, honors, even life itself, for Christ; who hates the enemy of salvation, and strives to destroy his kingdom on earth, will one day participate, as a child of the Church triumphant, in the glorious victory of Christ over death and hell?
In general, my brethren, if you can truly say with St. Peter to our Saviour: “Lord, Thou who knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee;” if your heart is firmly united to the Heart of Jesus, and imbedded in it, so to speak, like a shell in the rock, surely you possess the mark of predilection.
A certain test of this, however, is the love and devotion you have towards Jesus, ever present in the adorable Sacrament of the altar, and the fervor you manifest in receiving Him frequently in Holy Communion. “Whosoever eateth this bread will abide in Me and I in him,” and he will have life everlasting. These are the words of Christ Himself, our Creator and Redeemer, Who will one day appear to us as the Judge of the living and the dead! Amen! (2)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff