Sermon ~ God’s Love Protects All

Outside of the Gospels, if I had to choose my favorite book of the Bible I would choose the letter of St. James.  A few years back for Bible Study we spent a great deal of time with this wonderful letter.  If you have not read it I highly recommend spending time in prayerful reading of this pastoral letter.  In fact, the Dormition Fast season is upon us so why not make this your reading for this Holy season that we are about to enter.

In the last chapter of the letter St. James writes that if anyone is sick or suffering let them call the priest, it actually says the elders and that has been translated to mean the priest.  The priest is to be called when someone is sick, it does not matter the time of the day or night, and the priest is to be called to administer the sacraments of the Church.  The Anointing of the Sick has a bad rap; I think people believe that it is the sacrament you receive when all hope is lost.  Sometimes I feel that when I come into the room to anoint someone they are looking for the guy with the sickle to see if he is standing behind me, or maybe even someone from Morill’s funeral home.  The Sacrament of the Anointing is not the Sacrament when hope is lost; the Sacrament of the Sick is the Sacrament of Hope!

One would not dream of starting a journey of any length, without proper preparation.  When you are preparing to head out on vacation, much time is spent in planning and packing all of those things that will be necessary for the journey.  We lay everything out and plan how it will be put into the suitcase so as to maximize the space we have available to us.  The same should be true when we are sick.  I will say this plain, you never know what is going to happen so it is much better to be prepared than not.  If you are sick, of body, mind, or soul, if you are going in for surgery, even if it is day surgery, or if you or your loved one is close to death, call the priest and he will begin the sacrament to you and prepare you for the journey you are about to undertake.  It does not mean you are going to die, but if you are, you should be prepared.

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus encounters two men that are possessed by a demons.  Let me pause here to say that demon possession is real and it is nothing to joke about.  The Church takes this very seriously and this should be approached with great caution.  But Jesus comes upon these men and when they see Him, the demons recognize Jesus and cry out, “What have we to do with you, Jesus, Son of God?”  It is important to say here that even the demons are under the control of God.  The power of God is so great that not even the demons can survive in His presence.  The malice of these demons is so great, but not greater than the power of God.

The demons that had possessed these two men were pure evil.  People are not evil, the actions of people might be evil but people are not evil.  We are all created in the image and likeness of God and by virtue of that we are created out of love, evil comes by virtue of the fall of humanity.  Just as humanity fell in the Garden of Paradise, the demons fell as well and for the same reason, pride.  When we think we know better than God or think we do not need God, we suffer from pride and pride is the root of all other sins.

The demons can do nothing against the power of God and so they have no choice but to flee the men and enter the herd of swine that are nearby.  After they enter the herd, the swine rush down into the sea and die.  You see, God’s love surrounded the men, even thought they were possessed, God’s love surrounded them and protected them from certain death.  As you know, swine were considered unclean and swine herding was forbidden by Jewish Law, so the beasts were sent to their death as a sign of God’s love and protection.  But the swine were also sacrificed to show that no sacrifice is too great for the love of God.

We may not realize it but God’s love and protection surround us every day no matter what we do or how bad we are, the love of God never leaves us.  We may stop loving God or even forget that He is there but God is always around and always loves us.

When we are sick or suffering, the Church is here to bring whatever aid and comfort it can bring.  The church is the place for sinners, there are no saints here.  Jesus did not call saints to follow Him He called the sinners.  Look at who he surrounded Himself with, the lowest of the low and the sinners of this world.  He came not to chastise them, He came to show them love and through that love He demonstrated where there life had come of the rails, so to speak, and then showed them, again with love, how to get their life back on track.

All this past week, Pope Francis has been in Argentina at World Youth Day.  Started by John Paul II, this is a time when the Catholic Youth of the world come together for a week of prayer and learning.  It was reported in the press that almost 3 million turned out for a liturgy on the beach.  3 Million!  He spent time speaking to the youth and to church leaders and he called for a revolution, a revolution of faith.  He told them to get out of the Churches and to bring the love of Christ to the streets, bring the Church to the people don’t wait for the people to come to the Church.

If you have followed Francis at all you know that he is an unconventional Pope.  He has turned away from many of the trappings of his office and turned towards a more simple life, or as simple as the life of the pope can be.  He has visited hospitals and prisons and while he was in Argentina he visited a home for drug addicts.  He listened as each one told their story of how drugs possessed them and how if it was not for the work of those in that home they would still be on drugs today.  A picture of this event has been circulating around, a picture of Francis, Pope of Rome, embracing a drug addict and welcoming him home.  This is what it is all about, this is what Jesus did and this is what we have to do.

The Letter of St. James tells us that we are to show no partiality in our faith; we are to welcome all and minister to all with the love of Christ.  We minster to the sick and the suffering through the sacraments of the Church and, as Jesus did, we show so much love that even the demons flee.

We need to be this hospital, we need to be a place where people can come and find rest and we need to be the place where the love of Christ shines so bright that even the demons flee!

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