Sunday, August 23, 2015

THE STEWARDSHIP OF OUR CATHOLIC FAITH: MY HOMILY FOR THE 21ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME



Today is commitment Sunday as a part of our annual Stewardship Renewal always held in August. But I’ve decided this year not to focus so much on the stewardship of our “Time, Talent and Treasure” but rather to focus on what these are meant to support in our spiritual and moral lives as Catholics, as Roman Catholics, the stewardship of our Catholic Faith and the splendor of truth that our Catholic Church gives to us, or rather, what God gives to us through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I want to make the main point of my homily, the main point that Joshua makes in our Old Testament Reading which is a dramatic challenge to his people of his day. In the Sacred Assembly of Joshua’s time and in the presence of God in that place, Joshua boldly confronts his people who had chosen to follow the false gods and religion of his region and he boldly confronts us today in our similar Catholic context of the Mass. This is what Joshua states to them and to us with my paraphrase of his words:

If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today whom you will serve, the true God of your Catholic Faith or the false gods of secularism and its fierce individualism; the false gods of consumerism or the false religions that protest the true Catholic faith and lead souls into schism and heresy. Then Joshua declares and I paraphrase, “As for me and my household, we will serve the true Lord and God and His Holy Religion.

Topic Statement: At the very heart of Catholic Stewardship is the preservation of the true Catholic Faith in each person’s soul and life. It means serving the true Lord and God and His Holy Catholic Church, the true Church. I will not mince my words about that and neither should anyone in this sacred assembly.

1.     The image of the Sacrament of Marriage between one man and one woman and for a life time who subordinate themselves to one another becomes the image of Catholics who are subordinate, meaning holy obedience, to Jesus Christ, the head of the Church and her bridegroom. For this reason the Catholic Church would understand the civil redefinition of marriage to be an attack on the very nature of the Church described metaphorically as a Divine Marriage between Jesus the Bridegroom and His Holy Bride the Church.

A.    Our second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians is one of 13 choices brides and grooms have for the New Testament reading at their Wedding Mass or Nuptial Liturgy. Usually the bride is the one who makes these selections. In my 35 years as a priest, I think I can count on one hand the number of times this reading about wives being subordinate to their husbands has been chosen. This indicates a complete lack of understanding of this extremely important letter for today and perhaps a lack of understanding of the very nature of the Church as Christ's holy Bride! Yet, this reading is at the very core of Catholic marriage which is meant to be a sign of the marriage of Christ to His bride the Church, all baptized souls. Keep in mind that the word “soul” in Latin and many European languages is a feminine word unfortunately lost in English. The Catholic family that flows from Catholic marriage is meant to be the Church in miniature. Wives and husbands are subordinate to one another as our Catholic Church, meaning all of us, are subordinate to Christ. Our obedience to one another is not based on disrespect or pagan lusts, or domination. It is based upon the Love of God. When subordination is based upon the love of God it is never a domineering or controlling subordination that offend the dignity of the husband or wife.

B.    Saint Paul knows that in his culture, pagan men dominated their wives. He knew that infidelity was rampant in pagan culture which had so influenced even the Jews and some followers of Christ. Infidelity in marriage was a sign of infidelity to almighty God in His marital union with us deserving retribution and divine punishment. Husbands did not love their wives; they used their wives for their own personal needs and selfish pleasures. Saint Paul tells these men so corrupted by their pagan culture, like Catholics can be today, to love your wives as Christ loves the Church. Husbands should love their wives as they love their own body. This isn’t domineering or insulting or detrimental in any way when the subordination is linked to Christ and his loving actions on our behalf to save us from sin and damnation.

2.     The stewardship of our Catholic Faith is consummated at each and every Mass when our Lord gives Himself to His Bride the Church, when He gives us His most holy body, blood, soul and sacrificed for our eternal salvation.

A.    The last four Sundays and concluding this Sunday the Church has given us the “Bread of Life Discourse” from Jesus in the Gospel of Saint John. The Catholic Church’s dogma about the Real Presence Christ in the Most Holy Eucharist in large part derives from Jesus Words in these Gospel passages from Saint John.   In the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our Savior who is the Bridegroom married to His Holy and Spotless Bride which is the Church gives Himself completely to us. In fact, simply attending the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass even if one cannot receive Holy Communion due to breaking the fast, having committed a mortal sin or some other impediment, Jesus is still giving us is Sacrificed Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity for our salvation!
 Some of the Jews to whom Jesus is speaking, do not like what Jesus is saying. This kind of intimacy is too much for them. They grumble and quarrel among themselves. They simply do not believe that Jesus is God and they are offended by the imagery he uses of eating and drinking His Body and Blood as the means to eternal life.  But does Jesus adjust his teachings to please those who are quarreling and will eventually reject Him. He is not a politician who adjusts his message based upon the fickleness of his hearers. No! He does not change his teachings even if this means that the number of people following Him will be small in number. Jesus isn’t selling used cars; He isn’t selling anything. He is demanding fidelity to Him as He is the true God. If people reject Him and the Splendor of His truth—so be it—it is a sign that they wish to live as though God and true religion do not exist. They bring eternal condemnation on themselves. If we do what they did, we would bring eternal condemnation on ourselves too.

B.    The model of how we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our inward and outward dispositions is the liturgy of the Heavenly Jerusalem, described in the Book of the Revelation. It is characterized by seven elements, such as kneeling, deep inclinations, prostrations; incense; sacred songs, not performing worldly or sensual music being free from concentration on oneself; praying and singing together with the Angels; a prolonged time for silence; putting Eucharistic Christ in the visible centre of the church building and our lives. Doing these actions, this practices in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the foundation of the stewardship of our true Catholic faith.

Conclusion: I thank all of you who have returned your stewardship commitment cards to us. For those who haven’t done so, please fill out the card now and place it in the collection basket. Let us understand our time, talent and treasure as a generous effort to do what Joshua says he will do: “As for me and my household, we will serve the true Lord God and His Holy Religion.”


35 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of your best!!!

J in Augusta said...

Father McDonald, you are a good and holy priest, and an example to me, as a husband and father, ever since you baptized me nearly 20 years ago. "Choose ye this day..." I love it. Keep building the Kingdom, brick by brick, until that day, when He calls you to your reward. My children pray for you every day! God bless!

Lefebvrian said...

Very good sermon, Father.

Mark Thomas said...

Dear Father McDonald,

Thank you for having posted your outstanding sermon. You are a great teacher and source of holy inspiration.

Pax.

Mark Thomas

Anonymous said...

"For this reason the Catholic Church would understand the civil redefinition of marriage to be an attack on the very nature of the Church described metaphorically as a Divine Marriage between Jesus the Bridegroom and His Holy Bride the Church."

Is this the case? How does the redefinition of civil marriage effect the metaphor?

Jdj said...

Excellent homily, Father!
Would that you could publish more of them here...

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Certainly you are capable of doing your own work, so you go and answer that and report back. We are waiting.

Anonymous said...

Once again, a non-answer. Unless you can defend your assertions, you look pretty foolish making them.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I stand by my post; you are the one who looks rediculous in raising something and slugging the answer to someone else.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Sloufing

Anonymous said...

I don't know the answer. You, having made the assertion, apparently do. Why not share your thinking?

Lefebvrian said...

Civil marriage is, in itself, meaningless. It only has meaning insofar as it is a reflection of the Sacrament of Matrimony, from which it derives its existence. When the definition of civil marriage is changed, then, that has an impact on the Sacrament of Matrimony. An attack on the civil marriage is, by definition, an attack on the Sacrament of Matrimony. Since the Sacrament of Matrimony itself is an image of the relationship between Christ and His Bride the Church, an attack on the Sacrament is an attack on the Church.

For example, where divorce is allowed in civil marriages, the teaching that Christ is always present with His Church is undermined in an obvious way. Similarly, when definitionally non-fecund unions are included within the definition of civil marriage, the teaching on the fecundity of Christ's union with His Bride the Church is undermined.

Lefebvrian said...

An attempt to redefine civil marriage also has a more fundamental detrimental effect with regard to the Church's teaching on reality. As the Church understands herself, the doctrine that she proposes for our belief is nothing more than a description of the objectively existent reality created and sustained by God. The Church's teaching on marriage is nothing other than a description of the plan for the propagation of humanity in accordance with the divinely created order.

For a civil authority to assign to itself the right to redefine marriage in a manner inconsistent with objective reality undermines the revelation that God has deigned to provide to his people and the authority that he has assigned to his Church. In reality, the civil authority does not have the ability to redefine marriage, so its attempt to do so is an affront to reality itself and the doctrinal descriptions of that reality as contained in the Deposit of the Faith.

This is no less the case when one considers civil marriage or the Sacrament of Marriage since, as discussed in my previous comment, civil marriage is meaningless without its relation to the Sacrament of Marriage from which it derives its existence. The attempt by the civil authority to redefine marriage is nothing other than its attempt to usurp the prerogatives of God, our Creator, who has established the order of reality and who has revealed that order through the Church and the Sacred Tradition.

Paul said...

Just to be certain, word order was slightly changed:

Fr.: "civil redefinition of marriage"
Anon: "redefinition of civil marriage"

Matrimony (as with any sacrament) must be of correct matter and form to be valid.

With so-called "civil marriage", virtually anything goes, subject to the whims of people and societies' man-made laws. The Church has no role. Some civil marriages can be valid but one would have to do their homework: Church annulment, prior valid marriages, etc. Any well-formed Catholic, knowingly and willfully, embracing all "civil marriages" as valid, subverts the Catholic Church and endangers their own soul.

Anonymous said...

The relationship of Christ with the Church is, ultimately, a mystery. It is an intimate, loving, and productive relationship.

Christ and the Church are not actually married. Rather, we use the image (metaphor) of marriage to describe the relationship.

The relationship between Christ and the Church is not in any way "attacked" or damaged by the redefinition of civil marriage. That divorce is common in no way damages the relationship between Christ and the Church. This relationship cannot be harmed, since it is established and maintained by God.

When one confuses the metaphor with the reality, problems result. Reification or concretization is an error in thinking.

"Defend The Metaphor!" becomes the battle cry, when, "Defend the Mystery and Live the Faith!" should be heard from the parapets.

Lefebvrian said...

Anonymous at 10:39,

The relationship of Christ with the Church is, surely, a mystery. It is incorrect to understand that human marriage is imposed as a metaphorical description of Christ's relationship with the Church as if marriage is prior to that which it is being used to metaphorically describe. On the contrary, human marriage exists only in order to serve as a metaphor of the greater reality of Christ's relationship with His Church so that we can better comprehend the mystery that God has revealed to us.

The metaphor of that relationship is the reality of human marriage. That metaphor is illustrative of the higher reality that is the relationship between Christ and His Church. When the idea of marriage is attacked, then, the attack is one directed toward God and his relationship with the Church as such. It only secondarily affects the metaphor of human marriage, which is existent as a metaphor (in addition to being the reality that God has deemed most efficacious for the propagation of humanity).

It is surely a problem with the metaphor is confused with the reality. The reality is God. The metaphor is what he deigns to use to allow our feeble human minds to approach his reality. By deconcretizing the metaphor, one has undermined our human understanding of God as revealed to us through his Church and the Sacred Tradition.

When seen through this proper perspective, one can see that defending the Mystery and living the faith necessarily entails a defense of the metaphor. Without the metaphor, we have little or no access to the Mystery.

Anonymous said...

Very nice response, Lefebvrian.

George said...

Traditional marriage, which is that union which is solemnized(explicitly or implicitly) between a man and a woman, derives from our Divine Creator. Its end is directed toward the good, and this good itself derives from God who is Goodness and Holiness, which is manifested fully in His Divine Nature. Marriage, validly realized, is covenantal. Marriage was conceived and instituted by God from the beginning. Were not Adam and Eve married? Christ brought marriage to a full realization by instituting it as a sacrament. It is the Lord God in the person of Christ who sanctified and instituted marriage as a Holy Sacrament. What was covenantal from the beginning became also sacramental. Just as Christ brings about the sanctification of matter in the Holy Sacraments instituted by Him out of His Love, Divine Mercy, and Generosity, with His Incarnation, within a Divinely ordained marriage, He sanctified and made holy the role and privilege of motherhood.Are not the ministers in marriage the spouses themselves? Is not the matter their bodies and souls? Is not the formula the promise and vows between themselves and to God?
If one does not recognize that life begins at conception, then contraception and abortion become permissible.. If one does not recognize an accept that Marriage was instituted by God , then it can then be re-defined by man. The sacraments of the Church are the pinnacle of God's covenantal relationship with man which began with that first covenant between God and Adam and Eve.

Anonymous said...

A sign outside a Baptist Church up here in Atlanta sums up stewardship pretty well: "Give to God what is right, not what is left."

Anonymous said...

"...human marriage exists only in order to serve as a metaphor of the greater reality of Christ's relationship with His Church so that we can better comprehend the mystery that God has revealed to us."

No, marriage does not exist "only in order to serve as a metaphor..."

CCC 372 "By transmitting human life to their descendants, man and woman as spouses and parents cooperate in a unique way in the Creator's work." Marriage exists for humans to cooperate in God's work.

CCC "Two other sacraments, Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others;..." Marriage exists for each spouse to contribute to the salvation of the other.

CCC 1660 "By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children..." Marriage exists for the good of the spouses.

CCC 1604 "Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man." Marriage exists as an example of God's love to the world.

CCC 1652 ""By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory." Procreation and education of children

Lefebvrian said...

Anonymous, read my post more carefully before attempting to start an argument, please. I argue for a living, and I'm not interested in wasting my time with an amateur like yourself.

Anonymous said...

I read it and stand by the correction offered by the Catechism.

Metaphors are abstractions. They are not the concrete realities to which they refer. It is in concretizing the metaphor that the error occurs.

Jesus is not a Bridegroom. He is described or pictured as such in the marriage metaphor.

The Church is not a Bride. It is described as such in the marriage metaphor.

The metaphor has great value, but the metaphor is not the reality it describes.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I think you are on thin ground sacramentally speaking. Jesus is the Bread of Life and all that it means to be bread when one understands how it is made and what it does when broken and shared--but then applied to the crucified and Risen Lord. To denigrate bread and then make it into something else, for example a steak wants to be called bread, denigrates the basis of the sacramental reality.

Thus Christ is the Bridegroom and the Church is his bride is helpful in its authentic reality when we know from our Catholic teaching what true sacramental marriage is when based upon the ultimate model for it, Christ the Bridegroom's relationship to His Bride, one of love, sacrifice and forming a Christian Family by begetting children born of adoption through water and the Holy Spirit.

Redefining marriage, even civilly doe violence to the metaphor and undercuts the Church's teaching.

Thomist said...

"[Holy Matrimony] was instituted in the New Law in so far as it represents the mystery of Christ's union with the Church, and in this respect it is a sacrament of the New Law."

St. Thomas, here, acknowledges that the reality of Christ's union with the Church exists prior to the institution of marriage. For St. Thomas, then, marriage is a metaphor for that pre-existing reality that is the relationship of Christ with His Church.

Marriage, being a representation of that eternal reality can still have other purposes and effects. As the Church teaches, the purpose of marriage is the begetting of children. And a secondary purpose is the sanctification of the spouses.

The metaphor of marriage is plainly one given by God to represent to us his love for his bride the Church. To redefine the terms of that metaphor, as Fr. McDonald says, does violence to the Church's teaching since, even in the civil sphere, the marriage draws its worth from the Sacrament of Matrimony.

Anonymous said...

Christ is spoken of or described as the bridegroom, and the Church is spoken of or described as the bride. The marriage imagery, which speaks to the relationship of Christ and the Church, is a metaphor for the relationship. It is not a description of the actual relationship.

The relationship of Christ and the Church is more, far more, than can be contained in or communicated by the metaphor of a marriage. We could choose a different metaphor if it was as helpful as the marriage metaphor in communicating the mystery of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

I know of no one who is denigrating bread. (Are we talking sourdough, Parker House rolls, pumpernickel, or naan? They are all bread, though in widely varying forms.) And even if I did, this would in no way effect the sacramental presence of Christ under the signs of bread and wine.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

When the metaphor (which in the case of both Bread and marriage is weakened by civil society which then impact believers) then other things are called into question too.

The same sex marriage if marriage is understood in a pluralistic way, not as God intended, would open up in the mind of the person the possibility of women priests, because the spousal connection is now unisex in some cases. This of course would bastardize not only the priesthood as a sacramental sign of the masculine Risen Christ who is High Priest (not Priestess) but also as the Bridegroom which is a sacramental sign of Jesus acting in the person of the priest during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and other sacraments.

There were some in the Church in the 1970's that wanted something else other than bread as the West understands it use in Africa which uses something different made out of some kind of root paste. It isn't bread, but some in the Church wanted to call it that and allow it for the Eucharist. Other radical priests in this country in the 70's also used pizza and coke for the Mass with young people as it was thought to be more relevant. Of course the Mass was invalid as it would be with a female priestess.

Anonymous said...

All language is analogical. Being such, it changes over time. It is impossible to say "The meaning of words cannot change." "Awful" once meant the same as awesome, "meat" once referred to all solid foods, including veggies, and "girl" once meant a young person of either sex.

It is incorrect to say, "Changing the meaning of words is an attack on the Church."
You can choose to see it that way, for polemical reasons, but that's your own perception, not, I suspect, the Church's.

You have invested a great deal in the immutability of the metaphor, which is not the reality. It's a misappropriation of energy and effort, since you are fighting an unwinnable battle.

To preserve marriage, strengthen marriage. Don't attempt to stem the normal course of the development of language.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

None of your mixing of apples and oranges(or metaphors) is pertinent to this discussion concerning either bread or the sacramental spousal relationship of Christ and the Church!

Anonymous said...

At some point you may learn how a metaphor functions and how language is analogical and always changing.

metaphor - a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity

Note: "that is does not literally denote"

Christ is not a bridegroom and the Church is not a bride. Christ and the Church are spoken of in these terms, metaphorically.

Calvin of Hippo said...

So, Anonymous, just how far would you like to take this metaphor thing? Is the Eucharist merely a metaphor for Christ's spiritual presence among us as in protestantism? Is "resurrection" simply a metaphor for the existential renewal of the disciples after Jesus' crucifixion and our spiritual/existential renewal through some "word/event" encounter with Jesus of Nazareth in our current lives? Was Jesus simply speaking metaphorically at the Last Supper? When he spoke of "coming again again in glory," was he merely speaking metaphorically about some self-renewal in us and about the wonderful humanist utopia that progressivists drool over? How about signs and symbols? Is the Cross merely a symbol...or is it a true sign...the same for the Eucharist. So, why don't you flesh out, if you will, your argument.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thank you Calvin. I use the word metaphor (as does the Church) in place of simile. Similes use the for "like" for example,Jesus is like a bridegroom, the Church is like a Holy Bride, Jesus is like Bread or Jesus is like a sheep gate", Jesus is like a good Shepherd, whereas metaphors brings the meaning of the description to an ultimate apex. Jesus is the Bridegroom, the Church is His Holy Bride, Jesus is the Bread of Life, Jesus is the sheep gate and so on, Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

The metaphor elevates these terms but the terms have to be properly understood within the context in which the Scripture uses them or Jesus uses them. Marriage is a case in point as is bread, wine, sheep gate good shepherd, bride and groom.

For an ill-informed person (which will happen in just a few years with our young who will be immersed in gender ideologies and same sex marriage images) the terms bride, groom and marriage are corrupted by politically correct ideologies and thus can be used by the same people to corrupt the Church and her doctrines and dogmas.

Anonymous doesn't get it because he or she is immersed in his or her ideologies that are not Catholic.

Calvin of Hippo said...

Thank you, Fr., MacDonald. Christ's relationship to the Church is a Mystery. The fact that we must use metaphor and analogy to approach an understanding of this Mystery in no way diminishes the reality beneath the language. Theologically speaking, the language of Holy Scripture has substantive meaning beyond the mere words. Need we get into a discussion regarding universalism vs nominalsm? I hope not.

Anonymous said...

Calvin - I am not "taking" the metaphor thing anywhere. I'm trying to help Fr. Mac understand what a metaphor is - and what it is not.

Metaphors and similes have a similar function.

A simile expresses a resemblance between things of different kinds. A metaphor is a figure of speech in which an expression is used to refer to something that it does not literally denote in order to suggest a similarity.

The "marriage" metaphor (Jesus is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride) expresses a similarity between the relationship of a husband and wife and the relationship between Christ and the Church.

Were this similarity expressed in the form of a simile, it might read "The relationship between Jesus and the Church is LIKE the relationship between a husband and a wife." Or, "The relationship between Jesus and the Church is AS wonderful as the relationship between a wife and her husband."

Scripture is replete with such comparisons.

"And again He said, 'To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.'"

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field."

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a large net thrown into the sea that gathered all kinds of fish."

"That is why every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings both new and old things out of his treasure chest."

In these cases, Fr. Mac would not suggest that the kingdom of heaven is actually yeast, or actually a buried treasure, or actually a net, or actually a wise provisioner.

But when it comes to the marriage metaphor, he wants to believe that Jesus is actually a bridegroom and the Church is actually a bride. This is am example of reification; he is regarding something abstract as a material thing.

Resurrection is clearly not a metaphor for Christ's spiritual presence among us. We know this because the Church teaches us that Jesus actually(literally) rose bodily from the dead.

The Church does not - and cannot - teach us that Jesus actually (literally) is a bridegroom or that heaven is actually (literally) a net, or yeast, or a buried treasure.

You are correct when you say, "The fact that we must use metaphor and analogy to approach an understanding of this Mystery in no way diminishes the reality beneath the language." The problem Fr. Mac must face is that he incorrectly elevates the abstract metaphor to the level of concrete reality.

Calvin of Hippo said...

Anonymous, you need not instruct an English major in definitions . However, my point is that there is a substantive relationship

between the metaphor and the reality, with which you obviously agree, so we have no argument.

Anonymous said...

Cal - No, you and I have no argument. However, Fr. Mac needs significant assistance in understanding his errors.