Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 31, 2014)

“True humility consists in not presuming on our own strength, but in trusting to obtain all things from the power of God.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 36. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

We cannot underestimate this little violet of the virtues, that is, humility. Tucked away in the shade of other, more colorful virtues is this potent little flower of deep violet hue, the color of penance. Indeed, humility presupposes a certain kind of penance already done in the soul and continuously renewed–that of recognizing our own inferiority and the supreme majesty and goodness of God.

However, the exercise of humility does not mean our violet must be moping about, drooping in recognition of the superiority of God. No, indeed, we should rejoice in the goodness of God; we ought to rejoice in our weaknesses, because God takes pity on our frailty and strengthens us by His power. Think of the lovely beauty of the penitential violet hue against a backdrop of hopeful green grass! Yes, this should be our state, like the violet: lowly and meek with humility but abiding in abundant hope, a hope that is fed and renewed and confirmed by the mercies and graces God showers upon us as life-giving dew.

Just as the violet cannot sustain itself by its own strength, so neither can we, who are born and pass away like the grass, seemingly overnight. We must, like the violet, trust upon the warmth of the sun of God’s love to enkindle the flame of holy charity in our hearts; we must look to the precious dews of God’s mercies and graces to feed and sustain the life of our soul; and we must take our place in the garden of God’s chosen people, content to be the little violets that He delights in–for God exalts the humble, and works all things for good to those who love Him and trust Him.

+Deo Gratias!+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 30, 2014)

“God with patience and mercy awaits the sinner until his death in order to have pity upon him, should he, even in this last moment, regret his evil ways and turn toward Him. For the Lord who is merciful does not rejoice in the loss of the living.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 136. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

I just now listened to a wonderful sermon of St. Alphonsus de Liguori for this Sunday, which is Laetare Sunday, on this very point. He spoke of the tender compassion which Our Lord had for those who were suffering hunger as they gathered near to him on the mount. The gospel for today relates this miracle of the loaves and fishes. But going further, he reminded the listener of the greater compassion Our Lord has for the repentant sinner doing penance.

It may actually do better if I were to post a link to this wonderful sermon so that you can hear it yourself. You will not regret it–it is a beautiful reminder of the tender mercies of God toward those who turn to Him. I will post the link at the end of this post.

So often we forget how merciful God is in this Holy Season of Lent. Our minds are focused on doing penance, on fulfilling the bodily fast, on keeping away from those things which lead us into sin or excess. But the words of the above sermon are a refreshing and uplifting reminder that God’s mercies are infinite and much greater than we can ever imagine. The beautiful stories, the often long-forgotten stories and parables which illustrate this mercy brought tears to my eyes. The parable of the lost sheep and of the prodigal son; the gospel account of Mary Magdalene weeping and washing the feet of Jesus with her tears of repentance, and His tender forgiveness of her sins…all of these illustrate the great and undeserved mercy of God towards penitent sinners.

And to think…as we do penance, as we weep for our sins, uncovering them and striving to amend our lives…God receives us back into His arms as enthusiastically and as lovingly as the father in the parable received his prodigal son, with joyous weeping, clothing us with the robe of grace and replacing the ring on the finger of our souls, signifying that our souls are once more the spouse of Jesus Christ. How He loves us, and what mercy He shows to those whose hearts are burdened with contrition and sorrow!

Let us never hesitate to fly to the feet of Christ, Who is waiting with open arms to cleanse us by His Precious Blood and clothe us with His grace, for as our Saint says, “The Lord Who is merciful does not rejoice in the loss of the living.”

 

+Deo Gratias!+

Here is the link for the sermon: http://traditionalcatholicsermons.org/index_files/

StAlphonsus_FourthSundayOfLent_OnTheTenderCompassionWhichJesusChristEntertainsTowardsSinners.mp3

 

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 29, 2014)

“If we desire knowledge, there will be most perfect knowledge, because we shall know all the natures of things and all truth–and whatever we wish, we shall know. We shall possess whatever we desire to possess, together with eternal life itself.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 152. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

Do any of you ever feel as if you could stay at the feet of your favorite teacher for days on end, just absorbing all of the new, fascinating information that teacher gives? I’m sure the disciples of Our Lord felt the same way, but in a superlative degree, when they heard Our Lord speaking and teaching. Although they often could not quite grasp the depth of the truths He was speaking, they still gathered with the crowds to listen, to absorb, to be enriched by His words, the very Word Itself speaking truth to them. We as human beings crave knowledge, and this is only natural, for in our inmost souls we long to know God as He is–this is our greatest Good, after all.

What a comforting and motivating thought it is, then, to hear our Saint tell us that in heaven, we shall have perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, and that all shall be revealed to us. “We shall know all the natures of things and all truth–and whatever we wish, we shall know.” This makes me a little giddy just thinking about it–forever at the feet of God, forever learning, forever (as I imagine it) as a child with eyes open wide and mouth agape in wonder! What else could be desired? And the most perfect of these gifts of knowledge–knowing God, seeing Him face to face, and knowing that He has known us so intimately, has cared for us so tenderly, and now is revealing His glory to us, giving to us the very best and most priceless gift He has to offer–Himself! To be rapt in this beatific vision should be the prize we all run for, and the motivation to persevere  through all trials and temptations.

Let us, then, fix our eyes upon God now, upon the truths that we see so dimly now but still fill us with awe, as a little child looking to its Father and its Teacher, longing for the day when we shall see and understand, when all shall be revealed to us, and when we shall be drawn and bound forever to God with tender cords of love, of most perfect knowledge and bliss. This should be our desire, our goal, our prize, and our treasure always–let us pray that we may always desire heaven, desire our God, above all else, using this Holy Season of Lent to detach ourselves from the world and attach our desires to those things which shall never pass away, and which only God can give, for only He can give to us of Himself, Who is our only and greatest Good!

+Deo Gratias!+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 28, 2014)

“If a man turn to God and adhere to Him, through fear of punishment, it will be servile fear, but if it be on account of fear of committing a fault, it will be filial fear, for it becomes a child to fear offending its father.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 83. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

Oh, to have this filial fear always in our hearts! It should always be through love for and desire of the reward that we are motivated the most. What good does it do us to go about cowering for fear of being cast into hell? We certainly cannot think much of God’s beauty and goodness if we live our lives this way–no, our minds are on the pains of hell and what we shall suffer should we ‘step out of line.’ Is this the image of a life and heart surrendered to God?

No, when we live and think this way, we are still practicing self-love over love of God. Believe it or not, we are. While we should certainly fear hell and avoid those things which could lead us there, we should fear offending God much more. But, you say, sin is the very thing which offends God and will lead us into hell should we not repent of it. It is one and the same thing, with the same consequences.

Yes, but which of those fears–of offending God, and of being cast into hell–is motivated by self-love? Which is motivated by love of God? Surely we cannot say it is the latter. We fear, for our own sake, the pains and sufferings of hell. We do not fear them for God’s sake–He will never feel their pains. They are His instruments of justice and wrath. Thus, the fear of the pains of hell is driven by self-love.

But to fear offending God…this is a different story. No longer are we concerned with our own suffering which is caused by sin, but we are instead crushed under the dread of wounding Our Lord’s most gracious charity towards us. We fear offending God because we love Him and do not want to cause Him grief because of our sins and offenses, after he has loved us and forgiven us so tenderly. In this way, we have a truly filial fear of God, for as our Saint says, “it becomes a child to fear offending its father.”

Let us pray, throughout this Holy Season of Lent, to gain this filial fear and hold it always in our hearts, letting it go before us as a guard against all attachment to sin, for God is our greatest Good, and a most gracious and loving Father; to offend Him is to spurn His love and lose His graces by which we are made more like Him day by day. Let us be worthy children of such a Father and dread offending His love first and foremost before we fear the pains of hell.

+Deo Gratias!+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 27, 2014)

“The more one covets, the less one loves.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 52. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

8 words, so much truth. When we covet, we seek for that which is not rightfully ours to have, or we seek it inordinately. Therefore, how can it be love? Some will argue that in order to love, we must hold to a dream, an ideal, a person, an object so tightly that we would rather die than let it go, rather die than share it with others, rather die than let anyone else in on the joy we feel when we possess whatever is the object of our admiration. It is true that we must love God, we must cling to Him and never let go of the faith. This is true. But in doing this, do we not also seek to share it with others? Do we selfishly hold it to ourselves and use it as a leverage to count ourselves above other people? Absolutely not. This is not the kind of behavior that draws people into the love of God, but rather turns them away. Why?

Well, because when we do this, we are coveting. It is not truly love because we are only seeking to gain something for ourselves from it. We think that only we are worthy of its goodness. The fact is, when it comes to God’s love, NO-ONE is worthy of that goodness. It is a gift to us, and it should humble us rather than puff us up to know that God has chosen us, unworthy as we are, to be the recipients and the reciprocators of His great love.

Love is not boastful and it does not envy. These words are clearly spoken by St. Paul to warn us against false charity. Love is giving of itself, it is sacrifice, it is gentle and mild, it is truth. When we boast or are envious of the good of others, or we hold the good that we have solely to ourselves, we are coveting, which is the opposite of what love really is.

Let us remember this when we feel hesitant to give alms, to spend time in prayer, to give of ourselves for the good of our neighbor and the love of God. The more we give of ourselves, the less we covet, and the more we love.

+Deo Gratias!+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 26, 2014)

“That Christ did indeed die for us is so hard to conceive that scarcely is our mind able to grasp it….So great is God’s favor and love in our regard that He has done more for us than we are able to understand.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 124. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

Some days, I kneel before the Crucifix, gazing upon Our Lord’s passion and death memorialized forever in this sculpted artwork, yet I cannot feel sorrow. That God Himself should die for me…it is too much. My mind draws a blank where there should be springing tears of contrition, of tender love, of fervent resolutions never to crucify Him again. But some days I simply kneel there and cannot feel anything. It is in these times that I wonder at the power of God’s grace to make me understand what Christ’s Passion really means. I cannot grasp it on my own–it takes the gifts of the Holy Ghost to effect in me that knowledge and understanding, ever so little as we are capable of comprehending, that will lead me to sorrow, humility and contrition.

And some days, when I feel this way and ask Our Lady and the Holy Ghost for the graces to pray well, to think and meditate well upon this most holy mystery, it is as if a switch has gone off in my mind. I suddenly see, I suddenly understand. I can see and hear the agonies Our Lord suffered; I can place myself at the foot of the Cross and beg Our Lady to let me mingle tears with her, and at the feet of my patroness Mary Magdalene, who never left the foot of the cross, and ask her to obtain for me the grace of ever remaining at the feet of Jesus. I can ask of St. Cecilia the grace to follow her, she who followed Our Lord in the pains of death in perfect obedience to God’s will, the grace of martyrdom.

And on Fridays, when we make our stations of the Cross, that switch goes off again as we linger on each agony that Our Lord suffered and beg of Jesus the grace to never offend Him again.

Our Lord’s Passion and Death are so powerful a means of sanctification, if we only take the time and ask the grace to meditate on them well. It is no wonder that the Stations are the most heavily indulgenced devotion! Let us make a special effort this Lent, that blessed season which Holy Mother Church gives us to weep for our sins and look to Our Lord on the Holy Cross, to meditate on His Passion and His Crucifixion–that most Holy Sacrifice of Calvary which is renewed in an unbloody manner at every Holy Mass–and beg of Him the grace to have our hearts nailed to His feet, ever to remain there, never to quit Him again.

+We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee;

Because by Thy Holy Cross, Thou hast redeemed the world.+

Sermon in a Sentence: St. Thomas Aquinas (March 25, 2014)

“Not every friendship is praiseworthy and virtuous, as in the case of friendship based on pleasure or utility.” –From “Sermon in a Sentence: A Treasury of Quotations on the Spiritual Life; Vol. 5: St. Thomas Aquinas,” pg. 92. Selected and Arranged by John P. McClernon.

+J.M.J.+

This strikes me hard, in particular, because I know I have these types of ‘friendships’, those that are not really friendships at all, but are based on a common activity, like a job or a class, or a need, a utility. We cannot call those people friends if they do not possess the most vital characteristic of any human being–possession of the true faith. By vital, I mean that this is the element that gives them life, vitality. It is what gives the life of grace to the soul. How can one’s soul be alive in grace unless they hold to the true faith? And how can a live person be friends with a dead person? “What fellowship hath light with darkness” (2 Cor. 6:14, DRA)? They simply cannot work. These so-called ‘friendships’ cannot be called by the name of friend. That name, that sweet name of ‘friend’, has been so profaned so that we do not know the difference anymore between who is our friend and who is not. We are always wary because we do not know who to trust. Those who call themselves our friends are often times only using us for whatever material goods or social esteem they can get from us. And if we have nothing to offer? Well…you can say goodbye to many of those so-called friends.

No, the measure of a true friend lies in their ability to be a brother to you–truly a brother in the faith, and not a brother according to the world. They must comfort you, weep with you, rejoice with you, and be willing to help you at any time, through hardships and prosperity, through joys and sorrows. They cannot be a ‘fair-weather’ friend, taking what they can get during the good times but betraying you and leaving you all alone in the bad times.

And what’s more–we must also be a friend to them. Scripture tells us that when we find a good friend, we should treasure him more than all the silver and gold in the world! (Sirach 6:14-17) And how else do we treasure a true friend than by being one to him? If true friends were so rare in Scriptural times, how much more so are they today? If you find a true friend, do not let him slip away by treating him with indifference and a lack of charity! We must reserve this precious title for him, this title of ‘friend’, and use it only for those who truly deserve it, not for those who are simply along for the ride at our place of work, school, or our neighborhood.

Let us pray during this holy season of Lent for a true friend if we do not have one, and for the grace to treasure our true friends should we have them, and thank God for this most precious gift of friendship!

+Deo Gratias!+