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.
"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:
- any divorce is
- divorce is good for
the "fighting parties" involved to
- it is good for the
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
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
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
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?
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
- As soon as we find
out the Mass schedule will be announced-daily Masses
will likely be postponed.
- 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!
"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.
other Sermons by Father John J. Lombardi