Vigilance Against Sin (19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, 2022-08-07)

Sermon for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
2022-08-07, St. Eugenia Catholic Church
Luke 12:32–48

+ Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Our Lord says in the Gospel: “Get yourselves purses that do not wear out, treasure that will not fail you, in heaven where no thief can reach it and no moth destroy it.” (Luke 12:33) What is the treasure that he is speaking about? Surely, our Lord is not referring to any temporal or worldly treasure: not to material possessions, sensual pleasures, or social popularity. No, Christ is speaking about the “kingdom” that the Father will give us. But as it says later in Luke’s Gospel: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21)

The treasure we have received is the grace of the Lord in its many forms: through grace, we have become children of God; we have received the Holy Spirit and thereby become a dwelling place of God; through faith, we have become incorporated into the body of Christ so that we are now his members. With grace, we have been raised to a supernatural level of existence, so that we can live the supernatural life of friendship with God, and hope to one day be perfected in heaven, where we shall see him face to face.

It is this treasure that the Lord refers to. In comparison with the life of grace, which is the beginning of the eternal life, worldly possessions are counted as nothing. As the apostle Paul says: “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8).

So also we are counselled to fix not only our mind but our heart on our Lord Jesus Christ, because it is through him that we have access to the Father. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34). We are thus called to be watchful and to eagerly await the Lord. This is in fact what it means to live in grace: As long as we are in this world, we are on our way, as it were. We have not yet reached are destination, and so the life of grace, although it brings with it great peace and joy, is always incomplete as long as we are in this world.

We must also remember that it is possible to lose grace through mortal sin. This is why the Lord counsels us to be prepared: “‘See that you are dressed for action and have your lamps lit.” What does it mean to be “dressed for action” or as it says in another translation: “to have your loins girded”. Above all to be filled with devotion for the Lord. Devotion is a promptitude to give oneself over to the service of the Lord. The mind of the devout man is always filled with praise of God’s excellence and humility because of his own lowliness. It is filled with thankfulness for the many gifts that God has given, not only the natural gifts of creation, but above all the supernatural gifts of grace.

So we should dress for action by being devout and prompt in the service of God, but Christ also counsels us to have our “lamps lit”. This is a reference to faith but more specifically to Christ himself. We may call to mind the first words of Thomas a Kempis book On the Imitation of Christ, where he quotes from the Gospel of John: “He who follows me will not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” If we want to be “truly enlightened, and delivered from all blindness of heart” we must therefore meditate on the life of Christ. Hence, not only our will should be devout and prompt to give itself to God’s service, but we must also order our mind and intellect to God in order to guard the spiritual treasures that we have received.

This attitude of watchfulness and vigilance must permeate our whole live. Every aspect of our lives should be ordered to God, “because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” This does not mean that we must actually think about the Lord all the time – indeed because of the many responsibilities and occupations of this life, this is impossible – but it does mean that we should have the habitual disposition of promptly receiving the Lord when he comes.

We must not think: “There is still much time, I have a long life ahead of me, I am still young, the Lord will not come for a long time”. The hour of the Lord can refer to our own death, when we will most certainly come face to face with the Lord and be judged on the basis of how much we have let the Holy Spirit fill us with his charity. We do not know the hour of our death. Although unlikely for most of us, our life could be over very soon. But even if we have a long and relatively burden-free life ahead of us, we should start to pray to the Lord already now, because when the time comes, we will wish that we would have started earlier and persevered in our spiritual resolutions.

Likewise, we must not think: “There is still much time, I can enjoy myself and give in to sinful activities. I can live a worldly life centered on sensual pleasures and material possessions. I will go to confession later.” To repeat the words of the Lord: “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” We should therefore not postpone repentance and confession but rather eagerly make use of the sacrament of confession if we have sinned. Especially if we have committed mortal sins, we should hurry to confession so that we can be forgiven and once again filled with God’s grace. We will also find that if we indulge ourselves in sinful and worldly behaviors, it will not be easy to return to the Lord and live a devout Christian life. For we will have created various disorders in our souls that will make it much more difficult to live the life of watchfulness.

If we find it difficult to focus on the Lord because of the many occupations of our state in life, we can turn to our Lady. Always when the Virgin Mary appears, she tells us to pray the rosary. The rosary is a secure aid in the spiritual life. It is prayed and loved by beginners as well as the most advanced saints. It is the best way into a life of prayer. With the rosary, we can turn not only to the Virgin Mary, but also to other saints, to the angels, and to each of the divine persons. We can pray for others as well as meditate on the mysteries of our Lord’s life. If we wish to be prepared for the Lord, we should start to recite the rosary daily. Many have attested to the great spiritual benefits that it brings.

Let us so turn to the Lord and ask him to fill us with his light and his grace; let us ask him to enkindle in us a true longing for his coming; and let us be vigilant so that we can receive him when he comes and receive the reward for our labor (Rom 2:6). +Amen


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