Old Calendar: Quinquagesima Sunday
"I set before you here, this day, a blessing and a curse: a blessing for obeying the commandments of the LORD, your God, which I enjoin on you today; a curse if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD, your God, but turn aside from the way I ordain for you today, to follow other gods, whom you have not known" (Dt 11:26-28).
The first reading, from the book of Deuteronomy 11:18, 26-28, 32, shows us that external obedience to laws and commandments doesn’t take us very far. God’s word has to sink into our heart and soul, transforming our character and inner attitudes - and it’s when we let God’s grace fill our heart and soul that our outward behavior changes accordingly.In the second reading taken from St. Paul to the Romans; 3:21-25, 28, Paul’s experience of meeting Christ convinced him that the starting-point of genuine spirituality is a sense of our own weakness and the insufficiency of our own strength, coupled with an openness to God’s grace and a sense of dependence on his saving power.The Gospel reading is taken from Matthew 7:21-27. Do not be afraid to witness to Jesus before men. In fact, he says, if you deny before before others I will deny you before my Father. Hard words. When we think of giving testimony to Jesus what usually comes to our minds are Jehovah Witnesses going door to door. But you know, they actually get very few converts that way. Most come from our own family, friends, co-workers. The most effective way of testifying to Jesus is with a peer, over a cup of coffee, often in an unguarded moment, to say for example, "What has really helped me through this time is prayer, my belief in God." That's the kind of testimony that will draw someone to Jesus and his Church.And our actions speak louder than words. How we treat other people, how we spend our money and our spare time. There are 168 hours in a week, but if your friends know your most important hour is at Mass worshiping God, that is a powerful testimony. Particularly in the summer.What often keeps us back from testifying to Jesus is fear. Someone might laugh at me, make fun of me. Call me a hypocrite. Don't be afraid of that. Jesus says, what is whispered in secret will one day be shouted from the rooftops. I've been a priest almost 25 years and heard plenty of confessions; I can tell you everybody has secrets, awful ones. That includes you and me. We just haven't made the 6 o'clock news. Someday we will. Jesus assures us of that. Don't be afraid about what folks say about you, they don't know the half of it.But there is someone we should fear. He who can cast us body and soul into hell. Today we tend to downplay the doctrine of eternal punishment, but that was a constant theme of Jesus teaching. In fact the majority of references to hell are not found in St Paul or the book or Revelation, but from the lips of Jesus. And He uses scary images–everlasting flames, the worm that never dies.To fear God, his judgment is not just for so called "simple folks." A prominent doctor who performed thousands of abortions at some point realized he was killing human beings. He gave up his abortion practice, joined the human life movement and in the process went from being an atheist to a believer in God. And now he is joining the Catholic church. When asked why he is becoming a Catholic, Dr. Nathanson replied, "I do not want to spend forever in hell. I want the forgiveness of my sins and that I will have in the Catholic Church through baptism and confession."Excerpted from a homily by Fr. Phil Bloom