Sunday Sermon for August 2, 2020, the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21

In the second reading today, St. Paul asks the question: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?”  He goes on to give a number of possible conditions that could separate us from Christ, anguish, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or the sword.  He rejects all these as being possible means of separating ourselves from our Lord.  These are all earthly realities, but St. Paul also addresses the heavenly realities and the present and future situations we could encounter.  He states that none of these, nor any other creature, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

There are two things we need to look at here.  First, and most important, St. Paul speaks to us of how we can be separated from the love of our Lord.  If we love God with our whole heart, and soul, and strength, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that can separate us from the Beloved.  However, if our love for God is lukewarm or barely existent, this guarantee does not apply.

Second, when St. Paul says that no creature can separate us from the love of God in Jesus, that includes the devil.  The evil one has no power to separate us from the love of God.  All these conditions, and the temptations from the vile creature, might make us take our focus off of God and place it on our own self.  If that happens, there is a greater possibility that we could separate ourselves from the love of God.

We note here that nothing outside of us can separate us from the love of God.  However, each of us has a free will and we can use our free will to choose to adhere to God or to separate ourselves from God.  The devil will use any means available to him to try to convince us to deny the Lord, but he can only tempt us.  The choice to remain faithful or to apostatize is entirely ours.

Right now this may seem like it has no application to us.  After all, we are faithful, we go to Mass, we say our prayers, and we want to die in the state of grace.  It is good to remind ourselves that there have been more martyrs in the past 100 years than in the 1900 years previously combined.  Study after study concludes that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world.  Most of us who are reading this have not been persecuted for our faith, but that is about to change.

Someone recently pointed out to me that historically, when there is a revolution the order of destruction begins with destroying statues, then moves on to destroying church buildings, and then begins the attack on the people.  We have watched, and continue to watch, as statues of our Lord, our Lady, and the Saints are torn down, removed, or vandalized.   We have seen the beginning of the attack on church buildings.  We, the people, come next.

In the not so distant future, food, water, and shelter are going to be used as weapons against those who do not accept the new way of life being forced upon us.  The people who have preached tolerance to make us accept their errant ways will show no tolerance to anyone who does not conform to their societal norm.  There will be martyrs. 

We will be tested as most of us have never been tested before.  Our faith will no longer be a Sunday morning exercise of piety; we will need to live it every minute of every day.  This is what we should be doing anyway, but now we will need to make the choice to live it or leave it.

If we truly love our Lord with our whole heart, and soul, and strength, we have nothing to fear.  God told us through Isaiah that if we heed Him we will eat well; if we come to Him heedfully we will have life.  Jesus told us to seek first the Kingdom of God and His way of righteousness, and everything else would be given to us.

In the Gospel our Lord shows that He will accept the little bit we bring to Him and change that into something huge.  In this situation, Jesus accepted five loaves and two fish and fed 5000 men (over 10,000 counting women and children) with twelve baskets left over! 

Jesus will test us so we can prove our trust in Him and love for Him.  When we are hungry, threatened, beaten, exposed to the elements, or whatever other torture the devil and his minions can dream up, only then will our faith in and love for Jesus be proven.  Love the Lord with your whole heart and nothing will separate you from Him!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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