23rd Sunday After Pentecost—4 November AD2007
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
many modern people there is a mistaken notion that sin is not all that
important. We hear people speak of “victim-less crimes,” or say that
“it doesn't matter what a public figure does privately or hidden from view,”
or that “no one has the right to tell people what they may or may not do in
the privacy of their own homes.” Some of this thinking comes from a
shift in philosophy: Modernists would have us believe that there are no
absolutes; that everything is relative; that man builds his own world, complete
with its own morality. The only thing said to matter is “human
dignity,” and such “dignity” usually means noting other than the
“right” to do whatever one pleases, with no regard for anything absolute.
of the causes of this relativism is a loss of contact with the One who is
offended by each and every sin, Our Lord Jesus Christ. In our times,
Christ has been reduced to a few paragraphs of ancient history. To many He
is no more real than Santa Claus; and often He receives less honor than Santa on
His own birthday. To overcome this sort of secular thinking, we need to
remember just who Jesus is and what He has done for us.
creation, God made Adam and Eve as material beings with immortal souls—sort of
a composite between the angels and the creatures of the world. But he made
even their material aspect different than those earthly creatures. By
special graces our first parents were protected from hazards and difficulties
experienced by material creatures. They wanted for nothing, they were
quick to learn, they suffered neither disease nor death, and they could speak to
God as though they were face-to-face. But by the sin of Adam, and by our
own sins which ratify his sin, we have thrown away these special graces.
Poverty, ignorance, sickness, and death entered into our existence as the direct
result of sin.
God who is merciful, promised a redeemer to crush the head of the serpent who
brought sin into the world, and in the fullness of time He sent His only
begotten Son into the world. We read about Him at work in the world in
today's Gospel. In, perhaps, the most dramatic way possible, He reverses
the effects of sickness and death by raising the daughter of Jairus from the
dead! But however dramatic that may be, it is just one incident among
many. We know that He raised at least two others from the dead.
Matthew's 8th and 9th chapters (from which today's reading is taken) record an
abundance of miraculous cures: He makes a leper clean, cures the paralyzed
servant of the Centurion, abates the fever of Saint Peter's mother-in-law,
rescued the Apostles from a storm on the lake, cast out the devils possessing
two men, cured a second paralytic at Capharnaum, dried up the 12 year hemorrhage
of a woman who but touched his cloak, healed one unable to speak and two unable
surprisingly, these cures follow closely on our Lord's first public preaching;
what we often refer to as His Sermon on the Mount. I say it is not
surprising because ignorance of God and of God's Word is one of those other
consequences of sin, just like suffering and death.
the point of my mentioning of this to you is found in a brief passage that might
seem to some people to be "stuck in" to account of all these cures
worked by our Lord. But to those that read carefully, it explains what our
Lord was doing as he instructed the ignorant and cured the sick:
cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick; that there might
be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaias the prophet, who said: ‘He
Himself took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills.’
passage that Saint Matthew quotes comes from the Old Testament book of Isaias,
chapter 53. It is clearly a prediction of the suffering Christ, the “man
of sorrows,” “acquainted with infirmity,” who has borne our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,” who "shall be led as a sheep to the
slaughter.” The Prophet points out to us the disturbing fact that our
Lord did not just make sickness and death somehow “go away,” but rather that
He took them upon Himself.
if every time we were tempted to sin we could call this to mind, it would put
sin in a different light. Sin is never victimless. It always
requires the only Son of the Father to suffer on the Cross. You might
think that, in itself, would convert all who have children of their own.
We would never wish such a thing on our own son or daughter
modern Americans have relatively little appreciation of suffering. The
poor are often poor, only relatively speaking; having more than the well-to-do
of earlier times and other places. Even when we die, it is often under
clean and comfortable conditions, with medication for our pains. But think
of the sufferings of Jesus Christ for our redemption: the bloody sweat of
the agony in the garden, the thorns pressed into His head, the bits of lead at
the ends of the soldiers' whips, the blunt spikes driven into his hands and
feet, the three hours of agony on the cross, and the eventual death due to
exhaustion and asphyxiation as He is no longer able to raise Himself up to take
a breath—with no clean sheets, no oxygen to inhale, and no morphine—just a
spongeful of cheap wine to slake the agonizing thirst.
Himself took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills.” If
every time we were tempted to sin we would call that reality to mind.
Those thorns and those nails and those lashes and that cross exist solely
because of our sins. And this is not something that was over and done with
2000 years ago. "Our Lord Jesus Christ will be in agony until the end
of time," precisely because those who should love Him continue to crucify
Him. They have no gratitude in them for what He has done for them,
"they are enemies of the cross of Christ, their end is destruction.”
is the month of the souls in Purgatory; a time not only for praying for the
dead, but also a time for considering our own eternal end. Perhaps in
doing so it will be helpful to think of Jesus; not as a dim figure of history
but as reality of the here and now; someone who loves us. Think of the
opportunity that presents itself: Wouldn't it be better, through our
actions, to console Him rather than to crucify Him?!
Cf. Genesis iii: 15; John iii: 16
Matthew v - vii.
Matthew viii: 16, 17.
Epistle: Philippians iii.