Rorate Caeli

“May Thy continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend Thy Church”

Tissot, The Raising of the Son of the Widow of Nain

Sermon for the Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. Canon Aaron B. Huberfeld
Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest

May Thy continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend Thy Church.

It is always a joy to speak to you after the General Chapter of the Institute, when we priests have been filled with valuable counsels and words of encouragement from our superiors as we begin another year of priestly ministry. Those words could not be more timely, as are the divinely inspired lessons we receive from today’s Mass. 

Like you, dear faithful, all loyal priests of Christ are tempted at this moment to be discouraged, despondent, angry and ashamed.

We have all had enough of false mercy, of this criminal abuse of so holy a word. True mercy does not turn its back on sin; does not cover up sin; does not say sin is not sin. The Church today is a weeping widow! The widow of whom the Gospel speaks today is not a woman mourning the death of her husband. No, apart from Good Friday, the Church does not weep for her Divine Spouse, for He has risen and can die no more. No! Holy Mother Church today weeps for her sons, lying in the death of mortal sin! The Gentle Healer is at hand, ready to restore them to life, if only they have the humility to accept the need for healing. As the prayer of today’s Mass tells us, the true mercy of Christ cleanses and defends. To the ailing son who begs of Christ this true mercy, He whispers to him, be of good courage; thy sins are forgiven thee; be made clean – and, go and sin no more.

Of the twelve apostles, we note that one betrayed, one denied, nine slipped away, and one stood by at the Cross. That is a terrifying statistic indeed for the Church hierarchy – roughly eight percent traitors, eight percent shameful cowards, seventy-five percent careful cowards, and eight percent courageous and faithful. But remember that all the cowards returned to Christ and died the holy death of martyrs! The answer to those who seem to be standing in the sidelines is not bitterness and harsh judgment, but prayer and encouragement.

To those of you who are angry, I say, good, be angry. Know that I and countless other priests are angry right along with you, and we hunger and thirst for justice. We know the Lord is not mocked, and so we cry out, Arise, Lord, and judge Thy cause!

But let us not forget the importance of true mercy. Let us heed the words of the Apostle which we hear today: If a brother is in any fault, correct him in a spirit of gentleness, taking heed lest you also be tempted. Think about all the faithful priests you know, around the world or right here in this diocese. I am thinking right now of all my generous and zealous fellow priests in the Institute of Christ the King, and the young and cheerful faces of all our seminarians in formation. You cannot look into their eyes and honestly think that the Catholic Church is finished. Thank the bishops who are standing up for what is right, and don’t hesitate to write to others and gently remind them that you’re counting on them to do likewise.

A word to all you young men considering the priesthood: do not be afraid to answer the call! The real men are still here, and we’re waiting for you. You are joining the greatest army that marches upon this earth: the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Be thankful that He is calling you to such an honor.

Like so many other priests, I take courage in this hour when I see your faith. You continue to come to Mass, request Masses, flood the confessional line, call priests to your hospital beds, raise your children in the true Faith and teach them to believe in the priesthood of Christ, the only religion that brings salvation. And so, let us be patient with one another, encourage one another. Bear one another’s burdens, and so you shall fulfill the law of Christ. Let us do good to all men, but especially to those who are of the household of the faith. Each one shall bear his own burden – each one shall have his own dread moment before the judgment seat of Christ. But if we have sown in the spirit – if we have placed ourselves before the true mercy of Christ which cleanses and defends us, then we shall not despair of seeing the triumph of Holy Mother Church, and reap life everlasting. Amen.