Sin that Keeps us from the Kingdom

THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for October 15th, 2014
Memorial of Saint Teresa of Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church

Liturgical texts here

 

 

 

Genuine freedom is an outstanding manifestation of the divine image in man. —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 34

 

TODAY, Paul moves from explaining how Christ has set us free for freedom, to being specific as to those sins that lead us, not only into slavery, but even eternal separation from God: immorality, impurity, drinking bouts, envy, etc.

I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God. (First reading)

How popular was Paul for saying these things? Paul didn’t care. As he said himself earlier in his letter to the Galatians:

Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.

Trying to “fit in” with the culture, to be on the “good side” of others, to be spoken well of—these were the great temptations and sins of the Pharisees, who liked to be liked.

You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk. (Today’s Gospel)

How often do we keep silence when we could speak so as to “keep the peace?” How often do we change the subject to avoid confrontation? How often do we avoid speaking the truth that someone needs to hear, even though they may not want to? Ah, we are all guilty of this dreaded sin of compromise, especially today when even “thinking” the wrong thing evokes the wrath of the politically correct. But let us not make light of it because souls are stake. As the Lord said to Ezekiel:

If I say to the wicked, you shall surely die — and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade the wicked from their evil conduct in order to save their lives — then they shall die for their sin, but I will hold you responsible for their blood. (Ezekiel 3:18)

It is the very same warning that Jesus gives the Pharisees in today’s Gospel:

…you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.

We have a responsiblity to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. [1]Matt 28:20 For our Lord said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will render an account for every careless word they speak.” [2]Matt 12:36

But St. Paul ends his letter to the Galatians putting everything into proper perspective: repenting of sin is not so much about avoiding judgment, but pursuing life! It’s not about impressing God, but being imprinted with the holiness of God and becoming fully human again through the power of the Holy Spirit (because sin makes us less human).

In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

St. Paul is not condemning categories of people, but inviting them to the banquet of the Lamb. Remember the Gospel this past Sunday when the King invited everyone he could find to his wedding feast? Yes, every sinner is welcome, but…

But.

The King found one man who was not wearing a wedding garment. That is, the man was attempting to enter the feast still wearing the cloak of mortal sin. [3]cf. Matt 22:11 He was trying to sit at two tables at once:

Blessed the man who follows not the counsel of the wicked nor walks in the way of sinners, nor sits in the company of the insolent… (Today’s Psalm)

A close connection is made between eternal life and obedience to God’s commandments: God’s commandments show man the path of life and they lead to it. —SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Veritatis Splendor, n. 12

This is an invitation that we have the responsiblity and joy to share with others that involves first the good news: that Mercy receives all sinners to her table—but also the truth that we must leave our sin at the door.

Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1861

 

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1. Matt 28:20
2. Matt 12:36
3. cf. Matt 22:11
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