31 October 2013

Sermon for Mission Sunday

The following sermon was delivered by Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS, at St. Francis de Sales Oratory a week ago Sunday. I apologize for not posting it sooner, old age sometimes makes me forgetful.

Mission Sunday 2013, 22nd Sunday after Pentecost

The whole life of man is a return journey to God. He was made by God and must go back to Him, His Father in Heaven. The end of man consists in rejoining Him and uniting himself to Him. And man finds in union with God all that he can desire.

St. Augustine said, "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in thee.”

This is the Christian vocation which we are called to accomplish. But in reality it is not so easy to realize this. As long as we live on this earth, even though we aspire to attain this union with God in our heart, we can never get rid of our body by which all of disordered passions attack and drag us down. Indeed this earthly dimension of our existence can sometimes be a strong source of temptation. Certain doctrines held that the world was a work of evil and therefore one should not commit himself to it through marriage, work or the state. But this position does not appertain to Christians. A Christian marries and has children and participates in everything.

In Today’s Gospel Jesus outlines, clearly and distinctly, the position of the Christian toward the state. By telling us to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s, Jesus teaches us to give to the State all that falls under its jurisdiction unless its orders are opposed to the law of God for in this case, it would no longer represent divine authority. But Jesus does not stop there, He says more: “Give to God what is God’s.”

But in reality it is not easy to make a clear line between spiritual and temporal authorities.

Today is Mission Sunday, which was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 for the entire world. Pope Pius XI governed the Church in one of the most disturbing and difficult times.

This pope who reigned the Church in the time of constant conflict between the Church and the State, astonished the world by canonizing St. Therese of the Child Jesus as model of sanctity in 1925 and he declared St, Therese as patroness of all missionaries and of all the missions. He presented her as a model of Holiness in an age of violence and arrogance.

The Mission of the Church is to win souls for Jesus Christ and to work to build the Church as anticipating God’s Kingdom in Heaven. St. Therese accomplished this great mission in the hidden monastery of Carmel.

She was born in 1873 in France. In 1888 at the age of 15 she entered the Carmel with the determination to become a saint.
But after several years in the Carmel she realized how small and insignificant she was. She saw the limitations of all her efforts. She remained small and very far off from the unfailing love that she wished to practice. She understood then that it was in this very littleness that she must learn to ask God’s help. She found a passage from Proverbs that struck her with particular force. “Whosoever is a little one, let him come to me”. The smallness of Therese, her limits, became in this way grounds for joy, more than discouragement. She wrote in her autobiography. “I will seek out a means of getting to Heaven by a little way—very short and very straight, a little way that is totally new. I need to try and find a lift by which I may be raised unto God, for I am too tiny to climb the steep stairway of perfection. Thine arms, then, O Jesus, are the lift which must raise me up even unto Heaven.

Even though her life was directed to the performance of duty, to the pursuit of good works, to the cultivation of all the virtues, yet she rejected all ascetic efforts which were directed not toward God but toward one's own perfection. It was on this view then that she based her extraordinary refusal to consider her daily faults important because of her lack of illusions in her view of human beings, she assigned to these things, no more significance than they deserved.

She wrote, “I have long believed that the Lord is more tender than a mother. Children are always giving us trouble, falling down, getting themselves dirty, breaking things. But all this does not shake their parents' love for them.”

In the end of her life when she was near death her physical suffering kept increasing. She died on September 30, 1897 at the young age of 24. On her death-bed, she is reported to have said, “I have reached the point of not being able to suffer any more, because all suffering is sweet to me. Her last words were, My God, I love you!

In her quest for sanctity, she believed that it was not necessary to accomplish great deeds, in order to attain holiness and to express her love of God. She wrote, "Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word and the doing of the least actions for love."

After death her mission began, as was her desire, a new phase of apostolic presence on behalf of souls in the Communion of Saints, in order to shower a rain of roses upon the world.

Her spiritual message has been welcomed throughout the world and spread by the translation of her writings into over fifty languages.

Dear faithful, let us ask to St. Therese the grace so that we can fulfill our vocation which is a total, loving union with God and each other. Amen.

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