HOMILY FOR THE 19TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR C
TOPIC: FAITH AND VIGILANCE
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Gospel: Luke 12:32-48 (Dependence on God)
“The Great Apostasy”
- The Marian Message
a) “The hour of the great apostasy has come.” This is the alarming message of the Blessed Mother. Yet we should not be surprised anymore. We have witnessed so many Christians leaving the Church during the past decades. They have been deceived by Satan and the errors that he is spreading (letter c).
b) “The great apostasy is spreading more and more, even through the interior of the Catholic Church” (letter e). This means that errors are being taught even within the Church, denying the authentic teachings of the Magisterium.
c) What is worse, even Bishops are eerily quiet in the midst of the spread of these errors and the attacks hurled against the Pope, particularly by the Masons who have infiltrated the Church (letter f). Because of this, many are victims of this great apostasy, deceived by the devil and led astray (letter g). Many bishops, priests, religious and lay people are victims (letter h).
d) But during these times of the great apostasy, there will be a little remnant in the Catholic Church, the “little flock” who will remain faithful to Christ, to the Gospel and to its entire truth (letter i). This “little flock” is composed of those people who are united to the Pope, regularly study in the cenacle, constantly pray and sacrifice and make an act of self-offering. These are those who have consecrated their lives to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
- The Sunday Readings
a) The first reading is from the Book of Wisdom. It was written approximately a hundred years before Christ. This passage is part of the section of the book that recalls the glorious events of the Exodus, specifically the fifth plague against Egypt, when all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians were killed by the wrath of God. Only then did Pharaoh permit the Israelites to leave Egypt. This reading is an invitation for us to glorify God for His wondrous deeds for His people, and to put our full trust in Him. The past events are clear proofs that God is all-powerful and He loves us in a very special way. That is why, we have nothing to fear; we just have to trust Him totally and unconditionally.
b) The Responsorial Psalm is a song of thanksgiving by the chosen people: “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be His own.” This serves also as a reminder to us how fortunate and blessed we are that we belong to God’s chosen and beloved people. We may have a lot of difficulties and problems in life. But we are still blessed because God is on our side, and He protects and loves us as His people.
c) In the second reading, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews (not Saint Paul), gives the best exposition about faith: “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” To elucidate his point, he used the example of Abraham. He is called the father of nations because he was a man of faith.
d) The Gospel this Sunday has the long form and the short form. For a more comprehensive understanding, it is better to use the long form of the Gospel. It begins with an exhortation to trust and courage: “Do not be afraid, little flock.” He further exhorts us to be wise in our life in this world, that is, by sharing whatever resources we have with those who are poor and needy. In that way, we are able to store up heavenly treasures that last unto eternal life. Then he gives two parables that have similar lesson on being faithful and vigilant servants. The first parable is about the faithful servants who patiently wait for their master to return. The master finds them wide-awake and ready. As a reward, the master has them recline at table and dutifully serves them. It is now the image of a master serving the servants. The second parable is a comparison of the faithful and vigilant servants versus the irresponsible and abusive ones. It reminds us of the gifts and blessings God has given us, and the serious responsibility of using them properly for the welfare of others.
e) In summary, the readings are closely connected. They all talk about faith and trust in God. The first reading recalls how God has used His power to protect and save His people. It leads us to praise God and resolve to trust Him at all times. The second reading is an explanation about faith, using Abraham as the concrete example. The Gospel is invitation to trust God and cast out all fear. Our attitude should be like the servants who behave according to their conviction that the master will surely come. It is an expression of faith. Since they are behaving properly and doing their duties faithfully, the coming of the master is not a scary event, but something they look forward to, for they will surely have their reward. The message of the Blessed Mother, on the other hand, is her lament that those servants – bishops, priests and lay people – are not fulfilling their tasks faithfully. The massive apostasy (loss of faith) going on all over the world is a sad and frightening reality that has come up as a result of this infidelity and irresponsibility of God’s servants. She challenges us to be part of the “faithful remnant”.
- Some Basic Information on Faith
a) In the Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, he said: “There are three things that last: faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love.” This does not mean that the other two are not anymore important. In fact, in the order of dignity, love is the greatest; but in the order of knowledge, faith is the greatest. In faith, we come to know God. It is true that we should love God. But how can we love Him when we do not know Him? That is why faith is the greatest in the order of knowing. Without faith, we will not be able to love God. The classic Latin expression for this is: “Nil volitum nisi praecognitum”, which literally means, “Nothing is desired unless known beforehand.” In other words, we cannot love something or somebody unless we first know its good qualities that make that thing or person loveable.
b) Faith, therefore, is a very important theological virtue. It is a gift given to us by God. But it is also a virtue that we have to develop and nurture through constant prayer and study. Taking our faith for granted is already a great sin, which may even lead to the loss of faith. When this happens, it will be all the more impossible to love God.
c) There are different kinds of sins against faith: culpable ignorance, error, heresy, schism and apostasy.
Culpable Ignorance means a person does not know the true faith because he refuses to listen to the teaching or catechism.
Culpable Error means obstinate refusal to correct a wrong doctrine or erroneous teaching even if he is already being taught the right one. A person can be in error, but it could be because he did not know the correct teaching. This is not culpable error, provided that he immediately corrects himself.
Heresy is when a baptized Christian, after being warned and corrected, continues to obstinately reject one or more elements of our Christian faith contained in the Creed, and he imparts this erroneous teaching to others. All the Protestants are heretics because they do not believe in most of the sacraments, sacred Tradition, and the Blessed Mother, to name a few. All those who believe in reincarnation instead of the resurrection are also heretics. That is why we should also be careful with cremation: it should be made clear that the family still believes in the resurrection, otherwise they are in danger of losing the faith in the resurrection.
Schism is the rejection of the authority of the Pope; this usually leads to establishment of another sect, which undermines the unity of the Church. All Protestants are also schismatic. This also includes the non-Catholic Oriental Churches, which do not accept the authority of the Pope.
Apostasy is the total rejection of the true faith. A Catholic who joins another religion that does not believe that Jesus is God becomes an apostate: total loss of faith. Examples are Islam, Hinduism, Iglesia ni Manalo, Judaism, Buddhism, and the like. A Christian is already a believer; if he joins any of these religions, he is not anymore a believer. He is an apostate. However, if he decides to come back to the Church, he can be re-admitted by public profession of faith (in the presence of a priest), and there is no more need for another baptism. After all, baptism is administered only once.
Heresy, Schism and Apostasy are not only sins against faith. They also incur the penalty of excommunication latae sententiae.
d) It should be noted that the true believers of Jesus Christ have only one Lord, one baptism, and one faith. This unity binds us into one Church, one community of believers. It should be made clear that there is only one Church that was established by Jesus Christ himself, and this is the Catholic Church. There are no other churches. The others do not belong to the Catholic Church because they were established by Protestants, schismatic groups, the heretics and apostates, and non-Christian religions. They are not churches, but only sects or denominations.
- Points for Reflection
a) “Do not be afraid any longer.” Fear is a clear symptom of a weak faith. When a person is afraid, it means one of several things: either he loves his own self too much, or he trusts not in God but in someone else or something else, or he thinks God as just a remote idea and not real, or he thinks no one else will save or protect him. In all these, it is clear that there is lack of faith. Knowing that God is real, that He loves us and has the power to help, protect and save us, we have absolutely nothing to fear. Bad things may happen to anyone of us, even to good people. But in the end, these are not that bad after all. “Nakakaraos din”, we say. The worst that can happen to us is death. But if we have faith, death is not scary – it is our entry to eternal life.
b) As Christians, we often kneel when we pray – especially, during the Eucharistic Prayer, at the heart of every Mass, when Jesus becomes truly present in the Eucharist. The mere act of kneeling is really a prayer in itself.
When we kneel in front of someone, we acknowledge two things about our relationship with that person. First, we acknowledge our dependence. Kneeling says that we need the help and support of the person we are kneeling in front of. It acknowledges that person’s superiority and strength.
Second, by kneeling we express our trust. Kneeling is a position of vulnerability. In medieval times, when a knight pledged his loyalty to a king or a baron, he would kneel in front of him, and the king would lay a sword on the knight’s shoulder. This was a risky move for the knight to make. When you are kneeling, you cannot defend yourself from an attack. By kneeling in front of a powerful lord, therefore, a knight was expressing his trust in the goodness, fairness, and faithfulness of that lord.
Kneeling has never been the only posture Christians have used for prayer, but it has always been one of the most eloquent. When we pray, let us express our humility, dependence and trust in Christ, our Lord and Master, by kneeling down. And most especially, when we come forward to receive the real Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in Holy Communion, the best posture is kneeling down.
Pope Benedict XVI wrote: “To bend the knee is to bend our strength before the living God…all that we are we receive from Him…The man who learns to believe learns also to kneel, and a faith or a liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core.” (“Spirit of the Liturgy”, p. 191, 194.)
c) These parables paint a vivid picture of Christ and his Church. Christ is the master of the house, the head of a grand estate. The servants are Christ’s disciples, and the head servants, or stewards, are his specially chosen Apostles. His Church is not something vague, cold, and impersonal, but a household, a place of life and communion, work and relaxation. When the Master is away, the servants are expected to keep the household going responsibly and energetically. This is an image of the Church in this present world, waiting for the second coming of Jesus to judge the living and the dead and to bring about a new heavens and a new earth. During this period, Jesus has delegated his authority to the stewards, to the Apostles and their successors – our bishops – who are in charge of overseeing the work of all Christ’s disciples. This tells us a lot about Christ’s leadership style. He wants us to be his co-workers, friends, and real members of his household – not just mindless robots or blind slaves. And yet, Christ remains the Master. He is the creator, redeemer, and owner of the universe. The universe is not a democracy. Christ is not an elected official who we can vote out of office. No, the Lord is Lord by nature, because he is all-powerful, all wise, and all-loving. And we are his followers.
d) “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” The Lord has given us many gifts and blessings. These are not meant for purely personal consumption. They are intended for community building – for the benefit of everybody. In short, these blessings carry with them serious responsibilities. Let us learn to count our blessings. Then let us examine ourselves how well and responsibly we are using these blessings for the welfare of others. We must also remember that the more we use our blessings for others, the more they will grow and multiply. The best way to increase our blessings is to use them for others, for we become effective conduits of God’s graces.
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