Tag Archives: Sunday mass

Sunday Sermon: God didn’t make you a coward

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Saint Paul in prison, writing one of the epistles

 

As most already know who follow this website, I am a Catholic. I also serve as a Lector many weeks during Mass services, which gives me the opportunity and honor of reading to our parishioners from the Word of God.

This ‘Sunday Sermon’ series dates all the way back to 2005, and is always based on a reading or sermon from the Mass on that particular Sunday.

This morning, my New Testament reading came from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy. It is one of three known “epistles” written by Paul.

Before we get into the specific message for today, a quick vocabulary lesson.

An epistle is simply a letter or series of letters. In the New Testament, they come in the form of a book, made up of the letters from a particular apostle.

An apostle is someone who has been sent to specifically spread a message or teaching. Saint Paul, also known historically as Saul of Tarsus, was perhaps the most important apostle of the first century.

In the two decades immediately following the death of Jesus Christ, Paul underwent a personal conversion and then began to spread Jesus’ teachings throughout the Roman and Jewish world of the times.

The second letter to Timothy, a segment of which made up today’s New Testament reading, is considered by tradition to have been written just before Paul’s death, sometime in the mid-late 60’s during the first century A.D.

However, there are many scholars who now believe that it was actually the product of one of his students, writing in the decades after Paul’s death. In any event, it was certainly in keeping with his philosophy.

The letter was written to Timothy, who was one of the earliest Christian church leaders. Timothy served as the very first bishop of Ephesus, located in Egypt.

In the letter, Paul writes from prison, where the Romans are holding him for the teaching of the Gospel. He writes the following as encouragement to Timothy in the latter’s role as an early church leader:

Beloved:

I remind you, to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.

For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me, a prisoner for his sake; but bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.

Take as your norm the sound words that you heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Guard this rich trust with the help of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us.

The phrase which jumps out at me from this letter is this: “God did not give us a spirit of cowardice…”

This letter is one of three ‘pastoral epistles’ written by Paul. They are considered as such because they were written to individuals with pastoral care and responsibility over a particular church, and cover issues of Christian living, doctrine and leadership.

While these epistles are clearly written to church leadership with them in mind, they are just as relevant to all members of the church.

God does not want us to live as cowards. He did not imbue us with a “spirit of cowardice“, as Paul writes.

Paul calls on all of us to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling within each believer, the love preached by Jesus Christ himself during his life on Earth, and the self-discipline gained during our own lifetime of experiences and failures in order to help spread the Word of God.

Stop looking to others to carry a load that you have every ability to help carry yourself. You can teach your family. You can volunteer in some way at your church. You can personally set an example by regularly attending church services and participating in the sacraments.

Far too often, far too many of us point the finger at others shortfalls, be those church leaders, politicians, any of our fellow men. We are often unwilling to look in the mirror at our own sins and shortcomings.

Have the courage to not only take that hard look in the mirror at yourself, but also to actually take some positive action regarding your faith.

Even if you consider yourself a brave Christian, we all have moments or periods of life in which we falter. Whatever your present or future attitude and situation, remember, God didn’t make you a coward. Don’t act like one.

Church Matters

There are some who will tell you that they don’t believe it is important to attend formal church services, such as the Catholic Mass. They will tell you that their relationship with God is private, between them and Him, and that they talk and/or pray to Him on their own.

People who use this excuse to avoid regular church services do so for a variety of reasons. Let’s leave out the atheists and the agnostics, we already get why they don’t go to church. The people that I am most interested in addressing here are the Christians of the world who stay home on Sundays.

The church avoiders include those who believe in “something”, but feel that there are many religions around the world, who is anyone to say that theirs is the one, true church, and thus refuse to commit to any one set of beliefs, staying away from church for this reason.

The avoiders also include the obvious, the true lazy excuse-makers. They just don’t feel like getting up early on a Sunday morning, or setting aside time on their days off from work to feel obligated to give up some of that free time.

The church avoiders also include those who are angry with their church, such as Catholics who stay away because of issues such as the Church position on abortion, or gay marriage, or because of the recent explosion of priest sexual abuse scandals.

In the end, all of these people who are avoiding church, making excuses for what they feel are valid reasons or ways of thinking, are getting it wrong. In the case of the “something” believers, they are missing the Truth of Christianity. For the lazy, they are thumbing their nose at God, who asks only one hour of the 168 in your week. For the angry, they are committing the mistake of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The Truth of Christianity is found in the person and the teachings of Jesus Christ. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” is what Jesus said. You have only a couple ways to confront that statement. You call him a crazy man or a liar, or he was telling the truth.

The laziness of true excuse-makers who are otherwise believers is perhaps the worst of them. These people know they should be in church, but they would rather sleep, or go out to breakfast, or read the paper, or watch a ballgame. Again, God’s own words as given to us in His most basic commands: “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath”. He asks you for an hour of your week. Christ suffered on the cross for hours for you. That is too much for you? Really?

For those staying away out of anger, you are only punishing yourself. Your anger should be directed at priests who committed these heinous sins, and at the bureaucrats who protected them. But your experience at Mass on Sunday is your chance to overcome these sins. Coming together as a community of believers in worship shows that, no matter what, you will not lay down, your Church cannot be laid low by men.

In his “Why Should I Go to Mass on Sunday?”, William J. Bradley says it well: “When we go to Mass we tell the world around us who we are and what we represent. Simply by going to Mass makes us all evangelists to our family, friends, neighbours and the community in which we live.”

At Mass we are encouraged by God’s words in the Bible, we are strengthened by our Lord’s gifts in the Sacrament of Eucharist, and we are uplifted by our fellow parishioners prayers. Find a schedule of Catholic Mass at your local church. Walk in and slip into a pew. Listen. Pray. I believe that you will be surprised at what God will open in your heart, mind, and soul.

Keep holy the Sabbath day

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For Catholics it is traditionally known as the Third Commandment from God (in some churches it is listed as the fourth). It is the command from God to “Keep Holy the Sabbath“, to formally set aside one period of time each week to rest from our work, and to celebrate and thank Him for all that He has given us.

For some, the sabbath observance comes on Fridays or Saturdays. For Catholics and many others, this day comes on Sunday.

For police officers, the chance to attend Mass (or to observe Shabbat in Judaism) should be something that we look forward to each week. It is our opportunity to be rested and refreshed in and with the Lord.

The work schedule of a police officer, who does the necessary work of protecting and serving the public, is such that we cannot frequently take a Saturday or Sunday completely away from the workplace.

Catholics are heartened by the fact that almost all churches now offer both a Saturday evening “Vigil Mass” along with the usual Sunday services. Thus, no Catholic officer should use work as an excuse to miss the weekly Mass obligation.

In Exodus chapter 20, Moses has climbed Mount Sinai. The people waited down below, since God had previously warned them to “set limits around the mountain to make it sacred”.

As Moses stood in the presence of God Himself, the people trembled at the experience. The mountain was enveloped by thunder and lightening. The mountain itself appeared to be smoking, and a great trumpet blast was heard from the heavens. Here in the presence of the Almighty, Moses was given the basic laws of God by which man was to live.

Among these Ten Commandments or laws was this:

“Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God. No work may be done then by either you, or your son or daughter, or your male or female slave, or your beast, or by the alien who lives with you. In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the seas and all that is in them; but on the seventh day He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.”

Genesis chapter two ends with the finale of the creation story:

  “Thus the heavens and the earth and all their array were completed. Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work He had been doing, He rested on the seventh day from all the work He had undertaken. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work He had done in creation.”

The Catholic Catechism states one’s obligation to follow these Commandments in this way:

“Since they express man’s fundamental duties towards God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them. The Ten Commandments are engraved by God in the human hearth.”

Later, specifically addressing the Third Commandment as rest on the sabbath, the Catechism states: “God’s action is the model for human action. If God “rested and was refreshed” on the seventh day, man too ought to “rest” and should let others, especially the poor, “be refreshed.”

The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money.

Jesus Christ performed many actions on, and was regularly charged by the authorities of His day with violating,the sabbath day. He then gave the law its authentic and authoritative interpretation: “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.”

Christ declared the sabbath for doing good, not harm. For saving life, rather than killing, as the Catechism explains it. Thus the work of police officers and other safety officials is fully appropriate on the sabbath.

This, however, does not release officers from making their own public sabbath observance. Police officers, fire fighters, politicians, and other public workers should, along with performing their necessary services to the people, set aside time each week to formally recognize God, and to celebrate His many gifts to their lives by joining their worship community at church or synagogue.

If you have not followed this Commandment to it’s fullest in the past, there is no time like the present. Do your work. Enjoy your football games. But set aside time for the truly important, for God.