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Sexagesima Sunday

February 19, 2017

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EPISTLE

2 CORINTHIANS 11. 19-33; 12. 1-9

Fratres: Libénter suffértis insipiéntes: cum sitis ipsi sapiéntes. Sustinétis enim si quis vos in servitútem rédigit, si quis dévorat, si quis áccipit, si quis extóllitur, si quis in fáciem vos cædit. Secúndum ignobilitátem dico, quasi nos infírmi fuérimus in hac parte. In quo quis audet (in insipiéntia dico) áudeo et ego. Hebræi sunt, et ego: IsraŽlíti sunt, et ego: Semen Abrahæ sunt, et ego: Minístri Christi sunt (ut minus sápiens dico) plus ego: in labóribus plúrimis, in carcéribus abundántius, in plagis supra modum, in mórtibus frequénter. A Judaéis quínquies quadragénas, una minus, accépi. Ter virgis cæsus sum, semel lapidátus sum, ter naufrágium feci, nocte et die in profúndo maris fui: in itinéribus sæpe, perículis flúminum, perículis latrónum, perículis ex génere, perículis ex géntibus, perículis in civitáte, perículis in solitúdine, perículis in mari, perículis in falsis frátribus: in labóre et ærúmna, in vigíliis multis, in fame et siti, in jejúniis multis, in frígore et nuditáte: præter illa quæ extrínsecus sunt, instántia mea quotidiána, sollicitúdo ómnium Ecclesiárum. Quis infirmátur, et ego non infírmor? quis scandalizátur, et ego non uror? Si gloriári opórtet: quæ infirmitátis meæ sunt, gloriábor. Deus et Pater Dómini nostri Jesu Christi, qui est benedíctus in sæcula, scit quod non méntior. Damásci præpósitus gentis Arétæ regis, custodiébat civitátem Damascenórum, ut me comprehénderet: et per fenéstram in sporta dimíssus sum per murum, et sic effúgi manus ejus. Si gloriári opórtet (non éxpedit quidem), véniam autem ad visiónes, et revelatiónes Dómini. Scio hóminem in Christo ante annos quatuórdecim, sive in córpore néscio, sive extra corpus néscio, Deus scit, raptum hujúsmodi usque ad tértium cælum. Et scio hujúsmodi hóminem, sive in córpore, sive extra corpus néscio, Deus scit: quóniam raptus est in paradísum, et audívit arcána verba, quæ non licet hómini loqui. Pro hujúsmodi gloriábor: pro me autem nihil gloriábor, nisi in infirmitátibus meis. Nam, et si volúero gloriári, non ero insípiens: veritátem enim dicam: parco autem, ne quis me exístimet supra id quod videt in me, aut áliquid audit ex me. Et ne magnitúdo revelatiónum extóllat me, datus est mihi stímulus carnis meæ, ángelus sátanae, qui me colaphízet. Propter quod ter Dóminum rogávi, ut discéderet a me: et dixit mihi: Súfficit tibi grátia mea: nam virtus in infirmitáte perfícitur. Libénter ígitur gloriábor in infirmitátibus meis, ut inhábitent in me virtus Christi.

Brethren: You gladly suffer the foolish: whereas yourselves are wise. For you suffer if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take from you, if a man be lifted up, if a man strike you on the face. I speak according to dishonour, as if we had been weak in this part. Wherein if any man dare (I speak foolishly), I dare also. They are Hebrews, so am I. They are Israelites, so am I. They are the seed of Abraham, so am I. They are the ministers of Christ (I speak as one less wise), I am more: in many more labours, in prisons more frequently, in stripes above measure, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times did I receive forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I was in the depth of the sea: in journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils from my own nation, in perils from the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils from false brethren: in labour and painfulness, in much watching, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; besides those things which are without, my daily instance, the solicitude for all the churches. who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized, and I am not on fire? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things that concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed for ever, knoweth that I lie not. At Damascus the governor of the nation under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes, to apprehend me: and through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and so escaped his hands. If I must glory (it is not expedient indeed) but I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ about fourteen years ago, whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not, God knoweth, such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man, whether in the body or out of the body I know not, God knoweth: that he was caught up into paradise, and heard secret words which it is not granted to man to utter. For such an one I will glory: but for myself I will glory nothing but in my infirmities. For, though I should have a mind to glory, I shall not be foolish: for I will say the truth: but I forbear, lest any man should think of me above that which he seeth in me, or anything he heareth from me. And lest the greatness of the revelations should exalt me, there was given me a sting of my flesh, an angel of Satan, to buffet me. For which thing, thrice I besought the Lord that it might depart from me. And He said to me: My grace is sufficient for thee, for power is made perfect in infimity. Gladly therefore will I glory in my infirmaties, that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

GOSPEL

LUKE 8. 4-15

In illo témpore: Cum turba plúrima convenírent, et de civitátibus properárent ad Jesum, dixit per similitúdinem: Exiit, qui séminat, semináre semen suum: et dum séminat, áliud cécidit secus viam, et conculcátum est, et vólucres caeli comedérunt illud. Et áliud cécidit supra petram: et natum áruit, quia non habébat humórem. Et áliud cécidit inter spinas, et simul exórtæ spinæ suffocavérunt illud. Et áliud cécidit in terram bonam: et ortum fecit fructum céntuplum. Hæc dicens, clamábat: Qui habet aures audiéndi, áudiat. Interrogábant autem eum discípuli ejus, quæ esset hæc parábola. Quibus ipse dixit: Vobis datum est nosse mystérium regni Dei, céteris autem in parábolis: ut vidéntes non vídeant, et audiéntes non intélligant. Est autem hæc parábola: Semen est verbum Dei. Qui autem secus viam hi sunt qui áudiunt: deínde venit diábolus, et tollit verbum de corde eórum, ne credéntes salvi fiant. Nam qui supra petram: qui cum audíerint, cum gáudio suscípiunt verbum: et hi radíces non habent: qui ad tempus credunt, et in témpore tentatiónis recédunt. Quod autem in spinas cécidit: hi sunt, qui audiérunt, et a sollicitudínibus, et divítiis, et voluptátibus vitæ eúntes, suffocántur, et non réferunt fructum. Quod autem in bonam terram: hi sunt, qui in corde bono et óptimo audiéntes verbum rétinent, et fructum áfferunt in patiéntia.

At that time, when a very great multitude was gathered together and hastened out of the cities unto Jesus, He spoke by a similitude: The sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it choked it. And other some fell upon good ground: and being sprung up yielded fruit a hundredfold. Saying these things, He cried out: He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And His disciples asked Him what this parable might be. To whom He said: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables: that seeing they may not see, and hearing may not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And they by the way side are they that hear: then the devil cometh and taketh the word out of their heart, lest believing they should be saved. Now they upon the rock are they who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no roots: for they believe for a while, and in time of temptation they fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they who have heard and, going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. But that on the good ground are they who in a good and perfect heart, hearing the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.

HOMILY

by St. Jean Baptiste Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars

THE WORD OF GOD

"Blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it." —Luke xi. 28.

My dear brethren, we read in the gospel that the Redeemer of the world said such wonderful and astonishing things in His sermons to the people, that a woman in the multitude raised her voice and cried out, "Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the paps that gave thee suck;" but Jesus Christ answered immediately, "Yea rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it." Perhaps it seems to you, my brethren, that Jesus Christ teaches us that he who hears the word of God with the earnest wish to profit by it, is more pleasing to God than he who receives Him in Holy Communion. Yes, without doubt, my brethren, we have never really understood what a precious gift the word of God is. Ah, my brethren, if we rightly understood it, with what reverence and love should we not listen to it! Let us not deceive ourselves. The word of God must of necessity bear within us either good or bad fruit. The fruit will be good if we are well prepared to receive it, namely, by a real desire to profit by it and to do everything that it prescribes. It will be bad if we hear it with indifference, or perhaps with distaste and disesteem. This sacred word will enlighten us and show us how to fulfil our duties, or it will blind us and make us stiff-necked. So as to prove this more clearly to you, I will show you how great is the word of God.

So as to impress upon you the exalted worth of the word of God, I will specify that the entire extension and progress of the Catholic religion is the work of the word, joined with. grace which is always with it. Yes, my brethren, we can even say that, excepting the death of Christ on Mount Calvary, and Baptism, our holy religion gives us nothing that can be compared to the word. How many persons are there not in heaven who never received the Sacrament of Penance? How many others who have never received the Blessed Sacrament? How many there are in heaven who neither received Confirmation nor Extreme Unction? As far as instruction in the word of God is concerned, it is as hard for us, when we have arrived at the age when instruction is necessary for us, to get to heaven without instruction, as it is without Baptism. We shall find out at the day of judgment that the greater number of Christians who are lost were damned because they did not know their own religion.

Let us ask the souls of the lost Christians why they are in hell. They will all avow that the cause of their damnation was either that they would not hear the word of God or that they despised it. But, you may ask, what effect has the sacred word upon us? I say that it resembles that pillar of fire which guided the Jews when they were in the desert, which stood still when the people should stand still, and moved on when they were to move on, so that the people had only to follow it faithfully, to be sure of not taking the wrong road on their way. Yes, my brethren, it does the same in regard to us. It is a bright torch, which enlightens us, and guides us in all our thoughts, undertakings, and actions. It enlightens our faith, fortifies our hope, inflames our love of God and our neighbor. It describes to us the majesty of God, the blessed end for which we were created, the goodness of God, His love for us, the value of our soul, the sublime reward which is promised to us. At the same time, it depicts for us the gravity of sin, the sorrow which it occasions God, the misery into which it will plunge us in the next life. It brings us face to face with the judgment which threatens sinners, and we shudder at the awful picture which it conjures up. Yes, my brethren, this word determines us to believe all the most mysterious truths of our holy religion, without indulging in subtile inquiries, for it confirms our faith.

Tell me, are we not all of the same opinion, that after a sermon our hearts are touched and full of good resolutions, while those who despise the word of God reject and despise all those means of salvation which God has given us? Tell me, my brethren, of what did the patriarchs and the prophets, Jesus Christ Himself and His apostles, as well as all their holy followers, avail themselves to strengthen and spread our holy religion, if it was not the word of God? For instance, what did Jonas do when the Lord sent him to Nineve? None other but announce the word of God, by telling them that within forty days the place would be destroyed! Was it not this sacred word which changed the hearts of the inhabitants of this large city, who, from being great sinners, became great penitents? What did St. John the Baptist do to make the Messiah, the Redeemer of the world, known? Did he not preach the word of God? What did Jesus Christ Himself do when He passed through the cities and places where He was always surrounded by a crowd of people, who followed Him as far as the desert-what other means did He make use of but this sacred word, to instruct the people in that religion which He was going to found? Tell me, my brethren, what made all the great ones of this world forsake their possessions, their parents, and all their comforts? Was it not because they had heard the word of God, which opened the eyes of their soul, and showed them the short duration and the perishableness of all created things, and persuaded them to acquire eternal goods, as, for example, a St. Anthony, a St. Francis, a St. Ignatius ?

Tell me, who can make children understand to honor their father and their mother, and to consider them, indeed, the representatives of Almighty God? The instruction which they receive in Sundayschool from those who have charge of their soul, whereby the great reward which they may expect if they are good, obedient children is impressed upon them. What kind of children are those who despise their parents? Alas, my brethren, how many wicked, ignorant children are there not, who, in consequence of their ignorance, are unchaste and disorderly, and who often bring their parents with sorrow to the grave! What causes a neighbor to be kind to his neighbor, if it is not the instruction which he heard where it was made clear to him how pleasing to God is the love of our neighbor? Or, at another time, when he heard the terrible condition of the sinner described who falls into the hands of the living God? Listen for a moment, and I will give you a proof of this, which will convince you.

It is related that a French army officer happened to be stationed in a place where a mission was being held by a certain Father Bridaine. Curious to hear the priest who had such a great reputation and whom he did not know, he entered the church, where Father Bridaine was just depicting in awful colors the state of a soul steeped in sin, the blindness of the sinner who remains in his sins, and pointing out how easy it was to give up a sinful life by means of a general confession. The soldier was so touched at this, his remorse of conscience was so great, or, rather, it was so unbearable, that he made the resolution at that moment to make a general confession. He waited for the missionary at the steps of the pulpit, and told him that he desired to confess the sins of his whole life. Father Bridaine treated him with the greatest kindness. "Father," said the officer, "I will do all that you will tell me to do. I have the greatest desire to save my soul." He made his confession with the greatest piety and contrition which could be expected of a converted sinner. He admitted, indeed, that it seemed to him as if a heavy burden was taken off his conscience each time he accused himself of a sin. His confession ended, he left Father Bridaine, and wept tears of bitter repentance. The people were astonished to see this soldier shedding so many tears, and they asked him the cause of his trouble. "Ah, my friends, how sweet it is for me to shed tears of love and gratitude, I who have lived so long at enmity with God! Oh, how blind is man who does not love God and who lives at enmity with Him, while God loves him so tenderly!" The soldier sought Father Bridaine in the Sacristy, and declared, in the presence of the other missionaries, that he had never in his whole life experienced such unalloyed happiness as he did at that moment when he was in the state of grace: "My Fathers, I do not think that my sovereign, whom I have served for thirty-six years, can be as happy as I am. I do not believe, in spite of all the pleasures which surround his throne, that he can enjoy the contentment that I do after having laid down the dreadful burden of my sins by repentance, and having made the firm resolution to do penance for them. I would not exchange my happiness for all the wealth and the pleasures of this world." With these words he pressed Father Bridaine's hand, and begged him to pray to God for him that he might have the grace to be a true penitent all his life long.

Now, my brethren, what was the cause of this soldier's conversion? None other than the word of God, which he understood, and which found his heart docile to the call of grace. Ah, how many Christians would be converted if they were so happy as to listen to the word of God with a good intention! What good thoughts and good resolutions would be awakened in their hearts! How many good works for heaven would be accomplished! He who is not moved by the word of God is lost, unless a miracle should happen, which very seldom does. O my God! who could believe that any one could display such indifference at the thought of such endless misery! Meanwhile, before we proceed any further, we will examine into the condition of most of this congregation. You know that sin reigns in your hearts; and you know that, so long as this sin reigns there, you can expect nothing else but an eternity of misery. O my God, this thought alone should frighten us almost to death! Ah, God saw beforehand how few would profit by this word of life, when He spoke the following parable in the gospel:

"The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed some fell by the wayside, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock, and withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns choked it. And finally, some fell upon good ground, and yielded fruit a hundred fold."

You see, my brethren, that Jesus Christ shows us that, of all the people who hear the word of God, only a fourth part derive profit from it. It would be a good thing if, among every four persons, there should be one to profit by it. Oh, that the number of good Christians was greater than it is! The apostles were astonished at this parable, and they asked Him to explain it to them. Jesus Christ then explained it to them:

The heart of man is like unto a field, which brings forth fruit according as it is either well or badly cultivated. The seed, Jesus Christ said to them, is the word of God. It falls by the wayside, when those that hear it do not change their lives, or make the sacrifices which God asks of them, so that they might become good and pleasing to Him. They will not forsake the company or the places where they have so often offended God; others, again, are restrained by a false fear of man, which causes them to waver in all the good resolutions which they formed when they heard the word of God. The seed which fell among thorns are those who hear the word of God with joy; but it produces no good results in them: they hear it gladly, but they are not willing to do what it commands. The seed which fell upon the rock are those who have a hard and stubborn heart, who hear the word of God to find fault with it and to abuse it. Finally, the seed which falls on good ground are those who ardently desire to hear it, and who embrace every opportunity which God gives them to profit by it as much as possible, and only in these hearts does it yield abundant fruit. And these fruits are: To retrench their worldly life, and to practise all those virtues which a Christian should so as to please God and to save their soul. You see from the words of Jesus Christ how few persons there are who derive any benefit from the word of God, as, among four parts, only one part yielded fruit.

Now, my brethren, you wish to be that fourth part. Listen, then, with great desire to the word of God; put aside all sin, the world with its pleasures, your inordinate desires and passions; form good solid resolutions, and put them in practice at the first and every opportunity offered afterward, and rest assured you will bear fruit a hundred fold. Amen.

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