God’s Will For Us and the Unchastity that Sabotages It, 21st Friday (I), September 1, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Friday of the 21st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
September 1, 2017
1 Thes 4:1-8, Ps 97, Mt 25:1-13

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • St. Paul reminds us in his first Letter to the Thessalonians today of our call to holiness, which is a call to the perfection of Christ like love. The opposite of that call, he says immediately thereafter, is “porneia,” the Greek work for all sexual sins, which turns us from unselfish self-givers in the image of Christ to takers or consumers of others, from those who sacrifice for the good of others, to those who sacrifice others for their own pleasure. Saint John Paul II taught in his theology of the body that unchastity totally changes the intentionality of a human being from a lover to a luster, and this is a point on which in our culture we need to remember: we cannot be saints and sexually immoral at the same time, it’s one or the other. The devil tries to corrupt our having been made in the image and likeness of God by corrupting our love, our receiving God’s love, our loving him back and our loving others. That’s why St. Paul later in the passage tells us that we need to behave differently from the Gentiles who don’t know God, that we should never take advantage of or exploit a brother or a sister, that we should take spouses not in lust but in “holiness and honor.” God calls us, he stresses,  “not to impurity but to holiness,” and whoever disregards this disregards God himself.
  • For this to happen, we need, to hate porneia, to despise unchastity, out of love for God, ourselves and others. In the responsorial psalm today, it says, “The Lord loves those who hate evil.” If we love evil, we can’t receive God’s unconditional love to the extent he wants to give it to us, because we block ourselves to it through the sinful worship of some idol. There are many false prophets today in the Church who basically want to baptize porneia, to pretend as if it’s not that important, and who treat sexual immorality as at most venial sins if not treating sexual immorality as quasi-sacramental. We see it in the way that many treat divorce and remarriage, as if a second union while the first spouse remains living is somehow not adulterous as Jesus himself clearly calls it. We see it in the way that many relate to sex outside of marriage, saying “everyone does it,” and pretend as if those who think it’s a serious sin are the ones with a problem. We see it in the way people think that the use of pornography or masturbation are totally morally unproblematic and have little or nothing to do with God’s plans for us. And we see it today in a particularly aggressive way in the treatment of same-sex sexual activity, where even some bishops, priests, religious and teachers of the faith want to downplay the evil of same-sex sexual activity, ignore or change Church teaching. Fr. James Martin, SJ, is now getting a lot of attention for his latest book and many interviews trying to build a bridge between the Church and gay and lesbian Catholics. He makes some important points in the book about making sure we genuinely welcome everyone with love, but he totally and intentionally ducks the point of using the communication skills God has given him to evangelize gays and lesbians about why the Church’s teachings on sexuality are part of the good news and the truth that will set them free. He says that that’s a point of disagreement and he wants to focus on what can unite, but honestly that’s a cop out. If there’s anyone who can teach the truth accurately and persuasively on this matter it would be he, and his failure to do so is a sign of a lack of love, because, as St. Paul reminds us, no one can fulfill God’s will of sanctification by living a double life in which unrepented sexual sin, in which porneia, reigns. It’s like a doctor resigning himself to allowing a teenager to continue cutting herself, or not saying anything to a chain smoker, even if the chain smoker doesn’t want to hear it. If we’re trying to please God and help bring others to him, we can’t fail to mention the call to holiness and the hatred and rejection of porneia that is part of responding to that call.
  • But there’s another aspect of the call to holiness, to the perfection of charity, that chastity makes possible. It’s not just not committing sins of porneia, but it’s through coming aflame with agape, with philia, and with a chaste eros that leads us to see and reverence the good, true and beautiful in others and not let fallen eros corrupt our love. We learn that from Christ. In the Opening Prayer today, we asked God the Father to clothe us in the virtues of Christ his Son and set us aflame with his love.” Christ shows us chaste love and how it sets us aflame with love. He wants to give us that gift and help transform us so that his mystical body can give witness to the beauty of chaste love. The Parable of the Ten Virgins from today’s Gospel helps to illustrate this point. We’re called, with the wise bridesmaids, to have such a longing for Christ the Bridegroom that we’re vigilant for his coming at all times. When our hearts are full of the oil of love for him that can’t get extinguished, then we’re far less vulnerable to the temptations to reject him for an attractive Barabbas in disguise. The thought of “wise virgins” reminds us of what Saint John Paul II called “the virginal meaning of the body,” that we are first meant to give ourselves body and soul to God, as we hope to do in heaven. When we remember this purpose of the body, then we can hold ourselves and others in holiness and honor. This Parable points us to the truth that there are some things we can’t borrow, like others’ faith, hope and love, like others’ chastity. But while we’re burning, we can strengthen our flame by surrounding ourselves by those who are models of chaste love, who really love with a fire that flows from chastity, rather than who don’t love at all and think that continence means the same thing as chaste love. At the end of today’s Gospel, there’s an important dialogue. When the unwise virgins knock on the door asking for admittance, the Bridegroom doesn’t say, “Sorry, you were late. Too bad.” Rather, he says, “Amen, I never knew you.” It’s through chaste love that we get to know him. Our love feeds our knowledge that in turn feeds our love in a spiral that leads us through love to his eternal kingdom. The one who loves Jesus, as he says multiple times during the Last Supper, is the one who keeps his commandments, including the sixth in all its forms. And this is something that we need to know and live and help our culture come to know and live.
  • The wedding banquet to which today’s Gospel alludes is fulfilled on earth here at Mass, which is the consummation of the union between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church. It’s here where we receive what Jesus said to St. Margaret Mary in the revelation of his Sacred Heart, as the “Sacrament of Love.” This is where our chaste and passionate Lord loves us and transforms us to love others as chastely and as passionately as he has loved us first.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 1 THES 4:1-8

Brothers and sisters,
we earnestly ask and exhort you in the Lord Jesus that,
as you received from us
how you should conduct yourselves to please God–
and as you are conducting yourselves–
you do so even more.
For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.

This is the will of God, your holiness:
that you refrain from immorality,
that each of you know how to acquire a wife for himself
in holiness and honor, not in lustful passion
as do the Gentiles who do not know God;
not to take advantage of or exploit a brother or sister in this matter,
for the Lord is an avenger in all these things,
as we told you before and solemnly affirmed.
For God did not call us to impurity but to holiness.
Therefore, whoever disregards this,
disregards not a human being but God,
who also gives his Holy Spirit to you.

Responsorial Psalm PS 97:1 AND 2B, 5-6, 10, 11-12

R. (12a) Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many isles be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The mountains melt like wax before the LORD,
before the LORD of all the earth.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
The LORD loves those who hate evil;
he guards the lives of his faithful ones;
from the hand of the wicked he delivers them.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!
Light dawns for the just;
and gladness, for the upright of heart.
Be glad in the LORD, you just,
and give thanks to his holy name.
R. Rejoice in the Lord, you just!

Alleluia LK 21:36

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Be vigilant at all time and pray,
that you may have the strength to stand before the Son of Man.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 25:1-13

Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins
who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
Five of them were foolish and five were wise.
The foolish ones, when taking their lamps,
brought no oil with them,
but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed,
they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
At midnight, there was a cry,
‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’
Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.
The foolish ones said to the wise,
‘Give us some of your oil,
for our lamps are going out.’
But the wise ones replied,
‘No, for there may not be enough for us and you.
Go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’
While they went off to buy it,
the bridegroom came
and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him.
Then the door was locked.
Afterwards the other virgins came and said,
‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us!’
But he said in reply,
‘Amen, I say to you, I do not know you.’
Therefore, stay awake,
for you know neither the day nor the hour.”