Preacher’s Sketchbook: Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 19, 2012

Each week, a Dominican member of the Province of St. Joseph’s Preaching Advisory board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.


Pope John Paul II, Wednesday Audience 2004

The believer’s life is often subjected to tension and disputes, sometimes also rejection and even persecution. The conduct of the righteous person is troubling, for it conveys tones of reproof to the arrogant and the perverse. The ungodly described in the Book of Wisdom recognize this without mincing their words: “He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange”.  The faithful know that being consistent creates ostracism and even provokes contempt and hostility in a society that often chooses to live under the banner of personal prestige, ostentatious success, wealth, unbridled enjoyment. They are not alone, however, and preserve a surprising interior peace in their hearts because, as the marvellous “antiphon” that opens the Psalm says, “the Lord is light and salvation… the stronghold of life” (cf. Ps 27,1 [26]) of the just. He continuously repeats: “Whom shall I fear?”, “Of whom shall I be afraid?”, “My heart shall not fear”, “Yet I will trust” (cf. Ps 27,1 Ps 27,3).  It almost seems as though we were hearing the voice of St Paul proclaiming: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rm 8,31). But inner calm, strength of soul and peace are gifts obtained by seeking shelter in the temple, that is, by recourse to personal and communal prayer.

Catechism of the Council of Trent

The totality of Christian practice does not consist in abundance of words nor in skill of debating nor in the search from praise and glory but in true and voluntary humility. There are those whom a greater wisdom raises up but also separates from the society of other people. The more they know, the more they dislike the virtue of harmony. Wisdom itself warns them with the word of God: “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace among us.”(Mc 9,49) Thus it is necessary to have the salt of wisdom to preserve the love of neighbor and to offset weaknesses. If they turn from zeal for wisdom and from concern for their neighbor to disagreement, they have salt without peace-not a gift of virtue but a cause for condemnation. The more they know, the worse they fail. The Apostle James condemns them with these words: “If you are jealous and have contentions in your hearts, do not boast and be liars against the truth. This wisdom did not come down from on high. Rather, it is earthly, animal, diabolical. Inconstancy and every wicked deed accompany jealousy and contention. The wisdom which comes from on high is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, modest, persuasive, agreeable to good things, full of mercy and good fruits. It does not judge and is without rivalry.”

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, II-II, Q45, a 6.

It belongs to wisdom, as a gift, not only to contemplate Divine things, but also to regulate human acts. Now the first thing, to be effected in this direction of human acts is the removal of evils opposed to wisdom: wherefore fear is said to be “the beginning of wisdom,” because it makes us shun evil, while the last thing is like an end, whereby all things are reduced to their right order; and it is this that constitutes peace. Hence James said with reason that “the wisdom that is from above” (and this is the gift of the Holy Ghost) “first indeed is chaste,” because it avoids the corruption of sin, and “then peaceable,” wherein lies the ultimate effect of wisdom, for which reason peace is numbered among the beatitudes. As to the things that follow, they declare in becoming order the means whereby wisdom leads to peace. For when a man, by chastity, avoids the corruption of sin, the first thing he has to do is, as far as he can, to be moderate in all things, and in this respect wisdom is said to be modest. Secondly, in those matters in which he is not sufficient by himself, he should be guided by the advice of others, and as to this we are told further that wisdom is “easy to be persuaded.” These two are conditions required that man may be at peace with himself. But in order that man may be at peace with others it is furthermore required, first that he should not be opposed to their good; this is what is meant by “consenting to the good.” Secondly, that he should bring to his neighbor’s deficiencies, sympathy in his heart, and succor in his actions, and this is denoted by the words “full of mercy and good fruits.” Thirdly, he should strive in all charity to correct the sins of others, and this is indicated by the words “judging without dissimulation,” lest he should purpose to sate his hatred under cover of correction.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2737

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” If we ask with a divided heart, we are “adulterers”; God cannot answer us, for he desires our well-being, our life. “Or do you suppose that it is in vain that the scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit which he has made to dwell in us?'” That our God is “jealous” for us is the sign of how true his love is. If we enter into the desire of his Spirit, we shall be heard.Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer.  God wills that our desire should be exercised in prayer, that we may be able to receive what he is prepared to give.

St. Bede the Venerable

By which, He either simply shews that those who would become greater must receive the poor of Christ in honor of Him, or He would persuade them to be in malice children, to keep simplicity without arrogance, charity without envy, devotedness without anger. Again, by taking the child into His arms, He implies that the lowly are worthy of his embrace and love.  He adds also, “In My name,” that they might, with the fixed purpose of reason, follow for His name’s sake that mould of virtue to which the child keeps, with nature for his guide. And because He taught that He Himself was received in children, lest it should be thought that there was nothing in Him but what was seen, He added, “And whosoever shall receive Me, receiveth not Me, but Him that sent Me.;” thus wishing that we should believe Him to be of the same nature and of equal greatness with His Father.

Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis

is it not true that the proud man is urged and commanded by the teaching of Christ to strive for humility, the source of true glory? “Whoever, therefore, humbles himself. . . he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” From that same teaching we learn prudence of the spirit, and thereby we avoid prudence of the flesh; we learn justice, by which we give to every man his due; fortitude, which prepares us to endure all things and with steadfast heart suffer all things for the sake of God and eternal happiness; and, last of all, temperance through which we cherish even poverty borne out of love for God, nay, we even glory in the cross itself, unmindful of its shame. In fine, Christian teaching not only bestows on the intellect the light by which it attains truth, but from it our will draws that ardor by which we are raised up to God and joined with Him in the practice of virtue.



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