HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
BISHOP RENE HENRY GRACIDA
“DO NOT THINK THAT I HAVE COME TO ABOLISH THE LAW
OR THE PROPHETS.
I HAVE NOT COME TO ABOLISH
BUT TO FULFILL.
I SAY TO YOU,
UNTIL HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY,
NOT THE SMALLEST LETTER OR THE SMALLEST PART OF A LETTER WILL PASS FROM THE LAW,
UNTIL ALL THINGS HAVE TAKEN PLACE.”
In the fourteen centuries between the time when the books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers were written the elaborate system of ritual law had formed the Jewish people into a law dominated society. Every aspect of life and worship was regulated by law and the Pharisees were the ritual police.
Inevitably the preaching of Jesus would begin to raise questions about the continued force of the law handed down by the prophets.
As Saint Paul put it in 2 Timothy:
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:3
It did not take long for the time Saint Paul was predicting to arrive.
Within the first century of the Christian era men and women began to interpret the Gospel of Jesus Christ in ways that promoted heresy. Practically all of the heresies that have appeared in the past two thousand years have the common denominator of antinomianism.
What is antinomianism?
ANTINOMIANISM is the heretical doctrine that holds that a person’s faith
in the divine love and/or divine mercy of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)
frees him from the obligations of law, whether natural, positive, moral, Divine , Scriptural or Ecclesiastical.
It may seem incredible that the clear teaching of Jesus regarding the relationship of what he was preaching and the law given by God to the Israelites should be in conflict given the clarity with which he taught as we heard in today’s Gospel reading.
But, as Saint Paul warned, men and women, with ears itching, have sought out teachers who present new ways in which they are excused from the observance of law. Antinomianism offers the easy way to live a nominal Christian life; one can “have one’s cake and eat it too.”
The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say about antinomianism:
The sixth session of the Ecumenical Council of Trent was occupied with this subject (ANTINOMIANISM) and published its famous decree on Justification. The fifteenth chapter of this decree is directly concerned with Antinomian heresy, and condemns it in the following terms:
“In opposition also to the cunning wits of certain men who, by good works and fair speeches, deceive the hearts of the innocent, it is to be maintained that the received grace of justification is lost not only by the infidelity, in which even faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin whatsoever, though faith be not lost; thereby defending the doctrine of the Divine law, which excludes from the King of God not only the unbelieving, but also the faithful who are fornicators, adulterers, effeminate abusers of themselves with mankind, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and all others who commit deadly sins; from which, with the help of Divine grace, they are able to refrain and on account of which they are separate from the grace of Christ” (Cap. xv, cf. also Cap. xii). Also, among the canons anathematizing (that is, imposing the most solemn form of excommunication) the various erroneous doctrines advanced by the Reformers as to the meaning and nature of justification are to be found in the following:
Canons Of the Council of Trent Concerning Justification
If anyone says that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is this confidence alone that justifies us, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that man is absolved from his sins and justified because he firmly believes that he is absolved and justified, or that no one is truly justified except him who believes himself justified, and that by this faith alone absolution and justification are effected, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that the commandments of God are, even for one that is justified and constituted in grace, impossible to observe, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that a man who is justified and however perfect is not bound to observe the commandments of God and the Church, but only to believe, as if the Gospel were a bare and absolute promise of eternal life without the condition of observing the commandments, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that Christ Jesus was given by God to men as a redeemer in whom to trust, and not also as a legislator whom to obey, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that there is no mortal sin except that of unbelief, or that grace once received is not lost through any other sin however grievous and enormous except by that of unbelief, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that he who has fallen after baptism cannot by the grace of God rise again, or that he can indeed recover again the lost justice but by faith alone without the sacrament of penance, contrary to what the holy Roman and Universal Church, instructed by Christ the Lord and His Apostles, has hitherto professed, observed and taught, let him be anathema.
If anyone says that after the reception of the grace of justification the guilt is so remitted and the debt of eternal punishment so blotted out to every repentant sinner, that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be discharged either in this world or in purgatory before the gates of heaven can be opened, let him be anathema.
If you saw the movie, BECKET, starring Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton you may recall the scene in which Becket, played by Burton, anathematizes Lord Gilbert, an English Baron who murdered a priest.
Saint Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, stood in front of the altar in Canterbury cathedral flanked by twelve priests, each holding a lighted candle, as the Archbishop pronounced the penalty of anathema and at the end of the reading of the imposition of the penalty the priests dramatically throw their candles to the floor.
The Church no longer has such a rite of imposing the penalty of anathema on anyone; the Code of Canon Law of 1983 promulgated by Saint John Paul II does not contain the word.
But even though the rite no longer exists, the reality of anathema does exist since it is so clearly expressed in the New Testament.
Take to heart what Our Lord Jesus Christ said about observing God’s law, keep the commandments and the other expressions of God’ law. Do not be misled by those cardinals and bishops who interpret Amoris Laetitia in ways that promote the very sins that the decrees of the Council of Trent name. The decrees of the Council of Trent have never been revoked.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.