Emmitsburg Council of Churches

Saying "No" to Sin is Saying
Saying "Yes" to God

Father John J. Lombardi

In St. Matthew's Gospel, when Jesus said "no" for us--to sin, Satan, sensuality (worldliness), He was showing us the way to a right relationship with the Heavenly Father. Jesus' "no" to Satan's three temptations helps us gain courage to obey God's standards, which lead to true freedom, and not our own, which lead to "dis-grace".

But it seems today "no" is an unpopular word. Who wants to say "no" to money, "liberalized" sexuality, abusing the Sabbath, or refusing children's wanton whims-who wants to be a seeming "doom-and-gloomer"?

Amidst this we must remember when we say "no" to anything or anyone, like Jesus, we are at the same time saying "Yes" to God and His ways.

Some people today may get upset at the Roman Catholic Church for it's teachings on divorce, family life, contraception, the male priesthood, medical ethics…What is important to remember is that when the Church prohibits certain actions it is actually saying "Yes!" to God and (in some hidden fashion) "Yes" to the ways He wants for us--according to the Bible or principles stemming from it. When God forbids something-even when it is a " tough teaching"-- it is for our happiness and because He loves us.

When saying "no" regarding certain moral and faith questions there is always a positive side to things. A few instances of when we say "no" today we are also saying, "Yes!" to God.

The Holy Father recently exhorted lawyers not to blindly perpetuate a "culture of divorce". He asked them to question the divorce cases they receive, and "say no" to illegitimate ones which do not promote or preserve the good of the children or the family overall. Today, to speak out like this, is spiritual heroism, plain and simple: who in life has recently questioned-with genuine pastoral concern and nuance-the culture of divorce? Many of us have seemingly accepted the following propositions: 

  1. any divorce is "o.k."; 
  2. divorce is good for the "fighting parties" involved to "bring peace"; 
  3. it is good for the kids. 

Recent studies and books have compellingly challenged these assumptions. We also say the Church and priests should always be concerned with those who are divorced, to help them in their brokenness and minister to them no matter what; the Church should never withhold compassion in condemnation. When the Pope said some lawyers must say "no" to illicit divorce, he was, in a way, implying that lawyers are saying "yes" to preserving the family, which is an irreplaceable part of civilization itself.

When Pope John Paul or the Church disallows the ordination of women to the priesthood, --as holy and worthy as any lady might be--the Magisterium (official teaching office of the Church in the Pope and Bishops) is really saying "yes" to the Bible-that Jesus' selection of the Apostles as the first priests should not be ignored but continued. The Church is saying "Yes" to the "nuptial and mystical symbolism" of the Church as a feminine spiritual entity (ecclesia) which, according to Ephesians, ch. 5, and Church teaching, is complemented only by the priest being male (the male priest images, in Latin, altar Christ us = another Christ). The Catholic Church also promotes , as in the title of Pope John's encyclical, "The Dignity of Women" in all forms. Ordaining men to priesthood and promoting women to active ministry in the Church go together and cannot be separated.

When the Church disallows contraception - "chemicalizing" women's bodies, to consciously placing "barriers" between loving partners, or allowing multinational companies and political groups to capitalize on poor women, the Church is saying "Yes' to the gift of life, to children and family-hood; "Yes" to family planning and God's gift of fertility, and trusting in Him to provide no matter what. The Church, in saying "no" to contraceptive side-effects like marital infidelity, divorce and abortion ("prophesied" by Pope Paul VI), the Church is really saying "Yes" to sacrifice and purity in marriages and sexuality, "Yes" to the sacred bond of the "language of the body" (as Pope John Paul calls it)-- that the marital intimacy of a woman and man planned by God should be without separation, and that any other "version" is a false interpretation of sexuality. The Church also says the "contraceptive mentality" can be overcome and changed into a beautiful spiritual naturalism of total-self-giving in marriage.

When the Church says prohibits homosexual practices, unions and adoptions, the Church is really saying "Yes" to the sanctity of marriage and family life as God has designed it; she is saying "Yes" to the intrinsic dignity of sexual beings as God has planned for us, and that Catholicism is affirming God's plan for life and growth in familyhood. The Church also promotes the inherent worth of all homosexual persons and that they should never be mistreated.

In forbidding the cloning human beings, or the harvesting of body parts from fetuses ("stem cell research"), the Church is saying "Yes" to God's design for human nature, of the necessity of a real woman and man procreating life in the divinely planned marital act and not replicatable by machines or technology. The Pope recently said we should not utilize medical technology just because it is available-esp. when not referenced to God's genetic designs and human dignity goods and goals. In other words: the ends ("creating" a human being does not justify the means.

As the Evil One offers Jesus false versions of power and control-in Matthew's Gospel. Ch 4 -we, too, are offered false and dangerous versions of manipulating what God has designed and given us stewardship over. When we fail to say "No" to enticingly modernistic choices which neglect God, we are hurting-even destroying-ourselves.

The Church said "no" to the abuse of women far long before any ancient cultures did, and thus said "yes' to the uniqueness and beauty of femininity. The Church said "No" to slavery long before many other cultures did and thus said, "Yes" to God's image in oppressed peoples. During the Holocaust the Church variously said "No" to the slaughter of Jews and victimized peoples, and thus said "Yes" to human dignity no matter what religion.

It is not always easy to say "no" to sin and difficult choices. Jesus Christ-true God and true Man-shows us that even God Himself was challenged. If Satan tempted God, why do you not think he will tempt you? Jesus Christ shows us, through this Gospel, never to give in to sin, Satan and sensuality and that when we say "No" to these enemies (and they're all around us these days) we can become-and are becoming---more pure and holy, like the Virgin Mary. And when we say "no" to small sins, this can help us build strength to deny larger sins and faults-but we have to begin somewhere. In Jesus' denials of the Devil, He en-graces us to say "no" to sin and "Yes!" to God…. "At the root of all temptation lies the so-called capital sins of pride, envy, greed, wrath, lust, gluttony and laziness. More than mere attitudes, these vices replace the vision of the good with illusions of self-fulfillment, self-power and self-advancement. When we prefer only ourselves, we reject others and God." (Catechism: #538)…Deny yourself and your ways, and embrace God and His freeing ways!


  • What sins, situations or people do you have to say "No" to in your life? 
  • What is the hidden aspect of a "Yes" in those difficult choices you are not seeing now? 
  • How and when can you trust God more to give you grace to overcome current and past sins?
  • How, this holy Season of Lent, can you seek right relationship and loving union with God, the Most Blessed Trinity?

GLASS CHAPEL RENOVATION: The first or second week of March the Glass Chapel will be renovated: the glass and steel/aluminum frames will be entirely replaced. The job will take approximately one full week and cost $120,000. Our current plans: 

  1. As soon as we find out the Mass schedule will be announced-daily Masses will likely be postponed. 
  2. Weekend Mass will likely be celebrated, in simple style, in Grotto or side of parking lot for pilgrims unawares. 

We just received a generous donation of $5,000 toward the renovation, and we are very grateful. Anyone who would like to donate, please make check payable to "Grotto of Lourdes/Mt. St. Mary's" and we will be thankful!

SPIRITUAL QUOTE: "By nature, each one of us is enclosed in his own personality, but supernaturally, we are all one. We are made one body in Christ, because we are nourished by one flesh. As Christ is indivisible, we are all one in Him. Therefore, He asked His Father 'that they may all be One as We also are one.'" St. Cyril of Alexandria.

Read other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi