Sexagesima Sunday~ Placing Scandals

Sermon Xxxviii

Sowing

“And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it choked it.” — St. Luke viii. 7

We, my dear brethren, have received the seed of the Divine word, and we have kept it: we have never fallen away from the true faith as it is in Christ and His Church, and with God’s help we never shall. Our steadfastness in the faith is our greatest glory in the sight of heaven and of earth, and whatever our shortcomings may be, we are at least free from the awful crime of apostasy, and this worst of all reproaches can never be laid to our charge. The good soil that produces a hundred fold is ours; but alas! the thorny soil is ours also, and our faith though firmly rooted is often choked by the pernicious jungle growing up around us, in which we suffer ourselves to become entangled.

How many a glorious promise of supernatural faith and virtue in those around us becomes utterly blighted by the thorns of the world’s ways and temptations, because no proper care is taken to resist them and stamp them out! The thorny growths that stifle our faith and render it worthless in the sight of God are many indeed, but there is one in particular that is more destructive than all the rest beside. I need hardly name it to you, for you know it but too well — the deadly Upas-tree of intemperance — that casts its withering shade over our hearts and homes and altars! Is there a single person here this morning that does not know of more than one generous soul in whom every fruitful germ of faith and hope and charity, and every sentiment of true Christian manhood and womanhood, have not been blighted by this prevalent passion? Call the roll of your nearest friends and acquaintances, and how many will you not find absent from the ranks of Christian life, duty, and fidelity through this one vice? There is a skeleton in every closet, and the saloon-keepers have taken the flesh off its bones. This more than anything else chokes the divine seed of the word amongst us; this nullifies the power of our faith; this neutralizes the effects of the Sacraments; this scandalizes our holy religion and makes our consecrated ministry vain; for this is the evil root from whence springs the foul crop of lusts and blasphemies, and crimes and contentions, that stifle every virtue of the Christian life and weigh down the Church of the living God.

Could we but cast out this baneful blight of in temperance from amongst us, our glorious faith would appear in all its strength and beauty, and yield its hundred fold. If it were not for the gross and scandalous lives that so many so-called Catholics lead, nothing could stop the onward march of our faith. This is the one objection raised against us that we cannot satisfactorily meet.

We know very well that ours is the only true religion, and that it supplies every help that we need to enable us to overcome our passions and to lead upright lives. But the world at large knows little or nothing of our faith; it only looks at the dark side of our everyday conduct, and scornfully asks, Where is the influence of the Catholic religion on the venal politician, the low liquor-seller, the drunken reveller, the meretricious street walker, the abominable fathers and mothers who make their homes a hell upon earth, and drive their unfortunate children to destruction? And what reply can we make? We cannot deny that many who claim to profess our faith are an utter disgrace to it, and a rock of scandal to the world. They, of course, have shaken off all sense of obligation to their religion and its teachings, and have no more conception of religious duty than the cow or the horse. Theirs is a purely animal existence, they live only for the gratification of their lower nature, and we disclaim all responsibility for them. What responsibility has the . Catholic Church for those who seldom or ever darken its doors, who never approach its Sacraments, who spend their Saturday nights in the saloons, and their Sunday mornings in drunken slumber? What responsibility has the Church for the recreant rowdies who hang around the corner grog-shops, and the fallen flirts who frequent the sidewalks? They may have Catholic names, but that is the only evidence of their Catholicity. The thorns of dissipation and sensuality and sin of every kind have choked the seed of truth in their hearts, and they are outside the soul of the Church, though they may still claim to belong to its visible pale. But take our consistent Catholics, men and women who are in touch with the spirit of their faith and honestly endeavor to live up to its teachings. Are they not in very truth the salt of the earth? and does not the divine seed planted in their souls produce a hundred fold?

Five-minute Sermons for Low Masses on All Sundays of the Year
By the Priests of the Congregation of St. Paul, 1893

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