Sunday Sermon for September 9, 2018, the Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Is 35:4-7a; Jas 2:1-5; Mk 7:31-37
There is an ancient Chinese curse that has often been repeated: May you live to see interesting times. Well, it appears this curse has befallen us. However, as Christian people, we know that all things work together for good for those who believe and we also know that God brings good out of evil.
The present situation in the Church is horrible and distressing to many people, as one would expect. However, we need to look beyond the filth, the lies, the cover-ups, the malice, and so on and keep our focus on the Lord. As things unravel we are going to find ourselves in the most blessed circumstances any Christian person has ever been in. At the same time, we are going to be sorely tempted against faith, hope, and charity. This is going to produce some of the greatest Saints the world has ever seen.
What am I talking about? I am talking about the crucifixion of the Church. The Church is the Mystical Person of Jesus Christ and, therefore, like the historical Person of Jesus Christ, She must be crucified and then rise from the dead. We have an opportunity not only to be at Calvary near the Cross like our Blessed Lady, St. John and St. Mary Magdalene; we have the opportunity to be on the Cross with Jesus.
This might strike terror into the hearts of some, but the Prophet Isaiah tells us in the first reading today to say to those whose hearts are frightened: “Be strong, fear not! Here is your God, He comes with vindication.” We are soon to witness events no one ever would have dreamed of, some terrible and some glorious. The enemies of the Church, who have infiltrated into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within, are going to take down everyone and everything they can. But remember our Lord’s words to St. Paul: “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.”
Our Lord has given this time over to His Mother, so we simply need to stay close to Her. In order to assist Her, we need to pray and fast because the kind of thing we are dealing with can only be removed in that manner. We also need to help and support one another. We are already seeing throngs of people walking away from the Church. One can understand their plight: they have not been taught the Faith and now they scandalized. The temptations the world provides will undermine the little bit of faith they had. There are many whom the devil sees as ripe for picking.
This will put us in the blessed position St. James teaches us about in the second reading. He tells us to show no partiality as we adhere to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. Today there are people from every social status and walk of life who populate the Church. Sadly, we often show partiality and discrimination, at least in our minds, when we deal with these people. The days are coming when those who remain faithful will be in the trenches together. Social status, profession, wealth, background, and any other factor we might consider today will not matter to anyone. We will all be in it together and we will all need to help and support one another in the faith.
When all is said and done, the Church is going to be filled with the very virtues that were being purified during the troubled times: faith, hope, and charity. Indeed, God is going to change everything. Can you imagine going to Mass with people who are truly in love with the Lord? No longer will there be going through the motions or coming to Mass only because we have to. No, we will be at Mass because we want to be with the Lord.
At that point, having been crucified with Christ, we will have deep insight into the mystery of the Mass. Our Lord’s sacrifice continues at every Mass: His crucifixion, death, resurrection, and glorification. At present many of us are like the people who stood at a distance from the Cross and beat their breasts. Then we will be united with our Lord on His Cross.
We have to prepare ourselves with prayer and never trust in our own strength or ability. When our Lord speaks the word we hear in today’s Gospel, Ephphatha, a Greek word meaning “be opened,” He will open our hearts to receive a torrent of grace that will allow us to know, love, and serve Him in a way we have never experienced. This is reason for hope and no reason to run away. The crucifixion is not an end in itself, it leads to the resurrection and the glory. Remain faithful, be strong, fear not!
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.