Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fr. Eric's Commentary on the 7th Sunday after Pentecost

7th Sunday after Pentecost
11AM Low Mass with Fr Eric, celebrant
REMINDER : Prayerfully read and reflect on the Propers.  Do this a few days in advance of Sunday.  I try to get these out early enough with that in mind (sometimes I am unable to do so, but I try).  Don't just read my expositions on the Propers.  They are useless without the Propers.  Remember, ATTENDING MASS bears some fruit; LIVING THE MASS produces the best fruits; PRAYING THE MASS is the best way to move us towards LIVING THE MASS.  Prayer involves lifting the mind and heart to God; prayerfully read the Propers of the Mass well in advance of the Mass.
During this in-between time, the time after Pentecost, having just celebrated the Paschal (Easter) mystery in all its completion (leading to Pentecost), and heading now towards repeating the cycle when we get to Advent, we focus on living the Life of Christ in our own earthly lives.  This means that the seed of salvation given to us at Easter (and in our Baptism which unites us to Easter) must now bear fruit.  There is good fruit, and bad fruit.  This is the subject of meditation in today's liturgy.
INTROIT : Many of the Introits at Mass paint us as weak, needy people running to a merciful, powerful God for strength and protection.  Today's Introit gives us a slightly different flavor.  God is indeed portrayed as mighty and fearful, but our response is one of joy!  Note the fear of the Lord; it will be repeated in the Gradual.  Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  What is this fear of the Lord?  In a sense, it is simply living in truth.  When we fear fire, we are living in truth.  Fire burns.  That is one of its truths.  We can't pretend it doesn't burn; that is a lie, and we will pay for it, we will suffer if we live in the lie that fire doesn't burn.  God is God, plain and simple.  He calls the shots.  He is, as the Introit says, high above us, and terrible (awesome).  We either live in that truth or we will pay for it if we live in the lie that God is not God.  When we live in the truth, we are saved by doing so.  So we clap for joy!  Fire won't burn us; God won't reject us, when we let God be God.  We will not bear good fruit if we do not have fear of the Lord.
COLLECT : Good fruit comes from good seed; bad fruit from bad seed.  In the Collect, we beg God to remove from us all that is harmful and to give us all that works towards our welfare.  God arranges all things perfectly.  Our free will, though, can resist the good that He has arranged for our souls.  May God eliminate from us that evil seed that grows into resistance of God and of His gifts of grace.
EPISTLE : St Paul aks us what is the fruit of our sinfulness?  We can call them many things : shame, bitterness, divisions and so on.  But St Paul says we can really call them all one thing : death.  All our sins lead us to spiritual death; separation from God and separation from the love of our fellow men.  There is no love among the society of the damned.  God is Life itself.  To reject God, by turning to the things God created, is to turn away from Life and towards things that do not have Life in themselves.  All created good is good, but a limited, finite and dependent good.  They do not satisfy the soul, which was created for the Infinite, for God.  Only God can fulfill the soul.  We need Jesus Christ to bring us to God, for He is the God-Man that makes peace between sinful man and God.
GRADUAL/ALLELUIA : Fear of the Lord is something that has to be taught.  Human beings, by nature, even unaided, usually develop an idea about God, just by looking at the order of the universe and the realization that nothing comes from nothing.  Ancient people even showed some fear of the gods, as in earthquakes or famine, when they tried to appease the gods through sacrifice.  But all of this was a crude and sketchy idea.  The Old Testament introduced the idea that the One God demands moral righteousness from us, for He is righteous. The Old Testament God is appeased, not just by ritual correctness and animal sacrifice, but by taking care of widows and orphans, not cheating in business and so forth.   The New Testament (Christ) perfected this fear by showing us that God is Love (God sacrificed His Son) and God is most appeased when He is loved for His own sake.
GOSPEL : One of the dangers of the Christian Life is being lead astray from the Truth.  Those who lead us away from the Truth lead us to death (they are wolves who destroy the sheep).  Yet on the outside you could never tell, for they look like one of us, the sheep.  Christ teaches us to look out for the fruits.  He does not say that ALL the fruits will be bad.  In fact, heretics and false prophets are capable of producing what looks like good fruits.  Think of a few religions that pride themselves in strong family life, or extremely dedicated service, or great cohesiveness among its members.  Christ sums it up well at the end of this Gospel by saying, none of that matters if they are not totally obedient to God's will.  "Lord! Lord" and other manifestations of religiosity are not enough.  Complete submission to God is necessary.  In all deviations from the Truth, you will find self-will; self-will regarding interpreting God's truth.  They (the false prophet) are the final authority interpreting God's truth.  The safety of being totally submissive to the Papal Magisterium is that we do not become tricked into becoming followers of this man or that woman, but we remain in the Church (and to Christ who founded it) that supercedes one man, even one Pope.  Even the Holy Father is bound by Revealed Truth and the Tradition that interprets it.
A final note.  If, in the end, a strong family life, extremely dedicated service, cohesiveness as a group all lead one to betray the Faith (Christ's teaching), how good can those fruits really be?
OFFERTORY : These words are taken from the prayer of Abednego when he and Shadrach and Meshach were thrown into the fire for refusing to worship a pagan idol.  God saved them from that fire.  They preferred to sacrifice their lives rather than disobey God.  We just heard Christ tell us in the Gospel that what counts is that we "do the will of the Father."  Obedience.  Submission.  To ALL God's will.  This leads us to life, just as the three were saved from a fiery death.  The three young men lived at a time when the Temple of Jerusalem was closed and no sacrifices of animals were possible.  Their obedience to the point of death was their sacrifice (as was Christ's).  We can do the same.
SECRET : The Secret reminds us that we offer more than bread and wine at Mass.  Everything we do, everything we suffer in obedience to God's will is our sacrifice.  They are "what each one has offered."  All our collective sacrifices are gathered into one at Mass and united with Christ's.  This is the symbolism of bread and wine; many grain and grapes gathered into one loaf and one cup.  Ground grain and crushed grapes; Christ's passion.
COMMUNION : God has to bow down to us; we are in a lowly state.  God has to make haste to save us; our situation is so bad it needs prompt attention.  A very humbling prayer.
POST-COMMUNION : Our evil inclinations are bad seeds that, left unchecked, grow into bad fruit.  May the Eucharist, and the grace of His Body and Blood within us, kill those bad seeds.
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