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Taken from Fr. Leonard Goffine's Explanations of the Epistles and Gospels for the Sundays, Holydays throughout the Ecclesiastical Year, 1880

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REMARK. The Mass of this Sunday is always the last, even if there are more than twenty-four Sundays after Pentecost; in that case the Sundays remaining after Epiphany, which are noticed in the calendar, are inserted between the twenty-third and the Mass of the twenty-fourth Sunday.

THE Introit of the Mass consoles and incites us to confidence in God who is so benevolent towards us, and will not let us pine away in tribulation. The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction: you shall call upon me, and I will hear you: and I will bring back your captivity from all places. (Jer. xxix. ii. 12. 14.) Lord, thou hast blessed thy land: thou hast turned away the captivity of Jacob. (Ps. lxxxiv. Glory, &c.)

PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. Quicken, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful: that they, more earnestly seeking after the fruit of divine grace, may more abundantly receive the healing gifts of Thy mercy. Thro'.

EPISTLE. (Col. i. 9 — 14.) Brethren. We cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of the will of God, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding: that you may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God: strengthened with all might according to the power of his glory, in all patience and long-suffering with joy, giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light; who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins.

Quote:EXPLANATION. In this epistle St. Paul teaches us to pray for our neighbor, and to thank God especially for the light of the true, only saving faith. Let us endeavor to imitate St. Paul in his love and zeal for the salvation of souls, then we shall also one day partake of his glorious reward in heaven.

GOSPEL. (Matt. xxiv. 15 — 35.) At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation , which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth, let him understand: then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: and he that is on the house-top, let him not come down to take anything out of his house: and he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child, and that give suck, in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, or on the Sabbath. For there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be: and unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect, those days shall be shortened. Then, if any man shall say to you: Lo, here is Christ, or there: do not believe him: for there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold, I have told it to you before hand: if therefore they shall say to you: Behold, he is in the desert, go ye not out; Behold, he is in the closets, believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be moved: and then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty: and he shall send his angels with a trumpet and a great voice, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them. And from the fig-tree learn a parable: when the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors. Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.

Quote:EXPLANATION. When you shall see the abomination of desolation. The abomination of desolation of which Daniel (ix. 27.) and Christ here speak, is the desecration of the temple and the city of Jerusalem by the rebellious Jews by perpetrating the most abominable vices, injustices; and robberies, &c, but principally by the pagan Romans by putting up their idols. This destruction which was accomplished in the most fearful manner about forty years after the death of Christ, was foretold by Him according to the testimony of St. Luke. (xxi. 20.) At the same time He speaks of the end of the world and of His coming to judgment, of which the desolation of Jerusalem was a figure.

Pray, that your flight be not in the winter or on the Sabbath. Because, as St. Jerome says, the severe cold which reigns in the deserts and mountains, would prevent the people from going thither to seek security, and because it was forbidden by the law for the Jews to travel on the Sabbath.

There shall rise false Christs and false prophets. According to the testimony of the Jewish historian Josephus, who was an eye-witness of the destruction of Jerusalem, Eleazar, John, Simon, &c, were such false prophets who under the pretence of helping the Jews, brought them into still greater misfortunes; before the end of the world, it will be Antichrist with his followers, whom St. Paul calls the man of sin and the son of perdition, (ii Thess. ii. 3.) on account of his diabolical malice and cruelty. He will rise up, sit in the temple, proclaim himself God, and kill all who will not recognize him as such. His splendor, his promises, and his false miracles will be such that even the holy and just will be in danger of being seduced, but for their sake God will shorten these days of persecution.

Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. That is, where the wicked are, who have aimed at spiritual corruption, there punishment will overtake and destroy them.

This generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. By these words Christ defines the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, and says that many of His hearers would live to see it, which also happened. But when the end of the world will come, He says, not even the angels in heaven know. (Matt. xxiv. 36.) Let us endeavor to be always ready by leading a holy life, for the coming of the divine Judge, and meditate often on the words of our divine Lord: Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass. [See the account of the Destruction of Jerusalem on the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.]

PRAYER. Remove from us, O Lord, all that is calculated to rob us of Thy love. Break the bonds with which we are tied to the world, that we may not be lost with it. Give us the wings of eagles that we may soar above all worldly things by the contemplation of Thy sufferings, life and death, that we may hasten towards Thee now. and gather about Thee, that we may not become a prey to the rapacious enemy on the day of judgment. Amen.


Amen, I say to you. (Matt. xxiv. 34.)

THE Son of God here, and elsewhere in the gospel, confirms His word by an oath, as it were, for swearing is nothing else than to call upon God, His divine veracity, His justice, or upon His creatures in the name of God, as witness of the truth of our words. — Is swearing, then, lawful, and when? — It is lawful, when justice, or necessity or an important advantage requires it, and the cause is true and equitable. (Jer. iv. 2.) Those sin grievously, therefore, who swear to that which is false and unjust, because they call upon God as witness of falsehood and injustice, by which His eternal truthfulness and justice is desecrated; those sin who swear in a truthful cause without necessity and sufficient reason, because it is disrespectful to call upon God as witness for every trivial thing. In like manner, those sin grievously and constantly who are so accustomed to swearing as to break out into oaths, without knowing or considering whether the thing is true or false, whether they will keep their promise or not, or even if they will be able to keep it; such expose themselves to the danger of swearing falsely. "There is no one," says St. Chrysostom, "who swears often, who does not sometimes swear falsely, just as he who speaks much, sometimes says unbecoming and false things."

Therefore Christ tells those who seek perfection, not to swear at all, (Matt. v. 34.) that they might not fall into the habit of swearing and from that into perjury. He who has the habit of swearing should, therefore, take the greatest pains to eradicate it; to accomplish which it will be very useful to reflect that if we have to render an account for every idle word we speak, (Matt. xii. 36.) how much more strictly will we be judged for unnecessary false oaths! God's curse accompanies him who commits perjury, in all his ways, as proved by daily experience. He who commits perjury in court, robs himself of the merits of Christ's death and will be consumed in the fire of hell, which is represented by the crucifix and burning tapers, in presence of which the oath (in some places) is taken. If you have had the misfortune to be guilty of perjury, at once be truly sorry, weep for this terrible sin which you have committed, frankly confess it, repair the injury you may have caused by it, and chastise yourself for it by rigorous penance.
Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Taken from The Liturgical Year by Dom Prosper Guéranger  (1841-1875)

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The number of the Sundays after Pentecost may exceed twenty-four, and go up as far as twenty-eight, according as Easter is each Year, more or less near to the vernal equinox. But the Mass here given is always reserved for the last; and the intervening ones, be their number what it may, are taken from the Sundays after the Epiphany, which in that case were not used at the beginning of the year. This, however, does not apply to the Introit, Gradual, Offertory, and Communion, which, as we have already said, are repeated from the twenty-third Sunday.

We have seen how that Mass of the twenty-third Sunday was regarded by our forefathers as really the last of the Cycle. Abbot Rupert has given us the profound meaning of its several parts. According to the teaching we have already pondered over, the reconciliation of Juda was shown us as being, in time, the term intended by God: the last notes of the sacred Liturgy blended with the last scene of the world’s history, as seen and known by God. The end proposed by eternal Wisdom, in the world’s creation, and mercifully continued after the Fall by the mystery of Redemption, has now (we speak of the Church’s Year and God’s workings) been fully carried out—this end was no other than that of divine Union with Human Nature, making it one in the unity of one only body. Now that the two antagonist-people, gentile and jew, are brought together in the one same New Man in Christ Jesus their Head, the Two Testaments, which so strongly marked the distinction between the ages of time, the one called the Old, the other the New—yes, these Two Testaments fade away and give place to the glory of the Eternal Alliance.

It was here, therefore, that Mother Church formerly finished her Liturgical Year. She was delighted at what she had done during all the past months; that is, at having led her children not only to have a thorough appreciation of the divine plan, which she had developed before then in her celebrations, but moreover, and more especially, to unite them themselves by a veritable Union to their Jesus, by a real communion of views and interests and loves. On this account, she used not to revert again to the second Coming of the God-Man and the Last Judgment, two great subjects which she had proposed for her children’s reflections, at the commencement of the Purgative Life, that is, her season of Advent. It is only since a few centuries that, with a view of giving to her Year a conclusion more defined and intelligible to the Faithful of these comparatively recent times, she closes the Cycle with the prophetic description of the dread Coming of her Lord, which is to put an end to Time and open Eternity. From time immemorial, St. Luke had had the office of announcing, in Advent, the approach of the Last Judgment; the Evangelist St. Matthew was selected for this its second, and more detailed, description, on the last Sunday after Pentecost.


Dicit Dominus: Ego cogito cogitationes pacis, et non afflictionis: invocabitis me, et ego exaudiam vos: et reducam captivitatem vestram de cunctis locis.
The Lord saith: I think thoughts of peace, and not of affliction; ye shall call upon me, and I will hear you: and bring back your captive people from all places.

Ps. Benedixisti, Domine, terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob. Gloria Patri. Dicit Dominus.
Ps. Thou, O Lord, hast blessed thy land: thou hast brought back the captive children of Jacob. Glory, &c. The Lord.

The doing of good works, by the help of divine grace, prepares us to receive a still greater grace, for greater works in the future. In the Collect, let us unite with our Mother, the Church, in praying for an efficacious influence of the divine Mover upon our Wills.

Excita, quæsumus Domine, tuorum fidelium voluntates, ut divine operia fructum propensius exequentes, pietatis tuæ remedia majora percipiant. Per Dominum.
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy Faithful; that, becoming more zealous as to the fruit of the divine Work, they may receive the greater remedies of thy goodness. Through, etc.

The other Collects, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

Lesson of the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle, to the Colossians. Ch. i.

Brethren: We cease not to pray for you, and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will, in all wisdom, and spiritual understanding: That you may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God: Strengthened with all might, according to the power of his glory, in all patience and longsuffering with joy, Giving thanks to God the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love, In whom we have redemption through his blood, the remission of sins.

Quote:Thanksgiving, and Prayer! There we have the epitome of our Epistle, and an eloquent conclusion of the Apostle’s course of instructions: it is also both summary and conclusion of the Year of the sacred Liturgy. The Doctor of the Gentiles has been zealous beyond measure in his fulfillment of the task assigned to him by Mother Church. Of a certainty, the fault is not his if the souls her undertook to guide, on the morrow of the descent of the Spirit of Love, have not all reached that summit of perfection which he longed we should all get up to! Those who have gone bravely forward in the path which, a year since, was opened out to them by holy Church, now, by a happy experience, know that that path most surely leads them to the life of Union, where divine charity reigns supreme! Who is there that, with anything like earnestness, has allowed his mind and heart to take an interest in the several Liturgical Seasons, which have been brought before us and been celebrated by the Church during the past twelve months, has not also felt an immense increase of light imparted to him? Now, light is that indispensable element which delivers us from the power of darkness, and translates us, by the help of God, into the kingdom of the Son of his love. The work of redemption, which this his beloved Son came down upon earth to accomplish for his Father’s glory, could not do otherwise than make progress in those who have, with more or less fervor, entered into the spirit of his Church during the whole Year, that is, from the opening of Advent, right up to these the closing days of the sacred Cycle. All of us, then, whosoever we may be, should give thanks to this Father of Lights, who hath thus made us worthy to be partakers, somewhat at least, of the lot of the Saints.

So, then, all of us, be the share of such participation what it may—yes, all of us must pray, that the excellent gift which has been put into our hearts may fervent yield itself to the still richer development, which the coming new Cycle is intended to produce within us.

The just man cannot possibly remain stationary in this world; he must either descend or ascend; and whatever may be the degree of perfection to which grace has led him, he must be ever going still higher, as long as he is left in this life. The Colossians, to whom the Apostle was writing, had fully received the Gospel: the word of truth, which had been sown in them, had produced abundant fruit in faith, hope, and love: and yet, instead of relenting, on that account, his solicitude in their regard, it is precisely for that reason that St. Paul, who had prayed for them up to then, ceases not to go on praying for them. So let us do—let us go on praying. Let us beg of God that he will again, and always, fill us with his divine Wisdom, and with the Spirit of understanding. We need all that, in order to correspond with his merciful designs. If the new Year of the Church, which is so soon to begin, find us faithful and making fresh progress, we shall be repaid with new aspects of Truth in the garden of the Spouse, and the fruits we shall produce there will be more plentiful, and far sweeter, than in any bygone Year. Therefore, let us make up our minds to walk worthy of God “with dilated hearts,” and bravely, for the eye of his approving love will be ever upon us as we toil along. Oh, yes! let us run on in that uphill path which will lead us to eternal repose in the Beatific Vision!

Liberasti nos, Domine, ex affligentibus nos: et eos, qui nos oderunt, confudisti.
Thou hast saved us, O Lord, from them that afflict us: and hast put them to shame that hate us.

℣. In Deo laudabimur tota die, et in nomine tuo confitebimur in sæcula.
℣. In God shall we glory all the day long; and, in thy name, we will give praise for ever.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Alleluia, alleluia.

℣. De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi orationem meam. Alleluia.
℣. Out of the depths I have cried unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer. Alleluia.

Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew. Ch. xxiv.

At that time: Jesus said to his disciples: When you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take any thing out of his house: And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat. And woe to them that are with child, and that give suck in those days. But pray that your flight be not in the winter, or on the sabbath. For there shall be then great tribulation, such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be. And unless those days had been shortened, no flesh should be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say to you: Lo here is Christ, or there, do not believe him. For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand. If therefore they shall say to you: Behold he is in the desert, go ye not out: Behold he is in the closets, believe it not. For as lightning cometh out of the east, and appeareth even into the west: so shall the coming of the Son of man be. Wheresoever the body shall be, there shall the eagles also be gathered together. And immediately after the tribulation of those days, the sun shall be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of heaven shall be moved: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn: and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty. And he shall send his angels with a trumpet, and a great voice: and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the farthest parts of the heavens to the utmost bounds of them. And from the fig tree learn a parable: When the branch thereof is now tender, and the leaves come forth, you know that summer is nigh. So you also, when you shall see all these things, know ye that it is nigh, even at the doors. Amen I say to you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. Heaven and earth shall pass, but my words shall not pass.

Quote:Several times, during Advent, we meditated on the circumstances which are to accompany the Last Coming of Christ our Lord; and in a few days, the same great teachings will be again brought before us, filling our souls with a salutary fear. May we, then, be permitted, on this last Sunday of our Liturgical Year, to address ourselves in a prayer of desire and praise to our adorable Lord and King, the solemn honor whose Judgment is to be the consummation of his work, and the signal of his triumph.

Oh Jesus! who then art to come to deliver thy Church and avenge that God who has so long borne every sort of insult from his creature man, that day of thy coming will indeed be terrible to the sinner! He will then understand how the Lord hath made all things for himself, all, even the ungodly who, on the evil day, is to show forth the divine justice. The whole world, fighting on his side against the wicked shall then, at last, be avenged for that slavery of sin, which had been forced upon it. Vainly will the wicked cry out to the rocks to fall upon them and hide them from the face of him who then be seated on his throne: the abyss will refuse to engulf them: in obedience to him who holds the keys of death and hell, it will give forth, to a man, its wretched victims and set them at the foot of the dread tribunal. O Jesus, how magnificent will not thy power then appear! The heavenly hosts will also be standing around thee, forming thy brilliant court and assembling thy elect from the four quarters of the earth.

For we also, we thy redeemed, who had become thy members by becoming the members of thy beloved Church—we are to be there on that day, and our place, O ineffable mystery! is to be the one thou hast reserved for thy Bride, it is to be thy own throne, where seated, we shall judge the very angels. Even now, all those blessed of the Father, all those elect, whose youth, like that of the eagle, has been so often renewed by their receiving thy precious Blood—have they not had their eyes fitted to gaze, and without being dazzled, on the Sun of Justice, when he shall appear in the heavens? The tediousness of their long exile has given such keenness to their hunger that nothing will have power to stay their flight, once the sacred prey of thy divine Body shall be shown them! What hindrance could be strong enough to check the impetuosity of the love which will bring them all together to the banquet of the eternal Pasch? The trumpet of the Archangel, which will ring through the graves of the just, is to be a summons calling them not to death, but to life—to the sight of the old enemy’s destruction—to a redemption, which is to include their very bodies—to the unimpeded passover to the true Land of promise—in a word, to the Pasch, and this tie, quite real, and for all, and forever. What will not be the joy of that true Day of the Lord!—what joy for them that have, by faith, lived in Christ and loved him without seeing him! Identifying themselves with thee, O Jesus, notwithstanding the weakness of the flesh, they have continued here below thy life of suffering and humiliation: what a triumph when, delivered forever from sin and vested in their immortal bodies, they shall be borne aloft before thy face, that they may forever be with thee!

But their chiefest joy on that great Day will be to assist at the glorification of their most dear Lord by the manifestation of the power which was given to him over all flesh. It is to be then, O Emmanuel! that, crushing the heads of kings and making thine enemies thy footstool, thou wilt be shown as the one Ruler of all nations. It is to be then that heaven and earth and hell will bow their knee before that Son of Man who heretofore appeared on earth as a slave, and was judged and condemned and put to death between two thieves; it is to be then, dear Jesus, that thou wilt judge the unjust judges, to whom, even in the midst of all the humiliations they put on thee, thou didst foretell this thy Coming on the clouds of heaven. And when, after the irrevocable sentence has been passed, the wicked shall go to everlasting torments and the just to life eternal, thy Apostle tells us that having conquered thine enemies and been proclaimed undisputed King, thou wilt consign to thy eternal Father this thy Kingdom won over death; it will be the perfect homage of thee, the Head, and of all thy faithful members. God will thus be all in all. It will be the perfect accomplishment of that sublime prayer thou taughtest mankind to make, which they daily offer up to the Father who is in heaven, and say to him: Hallowed be thy name! Thy Kingdom come! Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven! O blissfully peaceful Day, when blasphemy is to cease, and when this poor earth of ours, cleansed by fire from the filth of sin, shall be turned into a new paradise! Where, then, is the Christian, who would not thrill with emotion at the thought of that last of all the Days of time, which is to usher in beautiful Eternity? Who would not despise the agonies of his own last hour, when he reflects that those sufferings have really only one meaning in them—that is, as the Gospel words it, that the Son of Man is nigh even at the very doors!

O sweet Jesus, detach us, every Year, more and more from this world, whose fashion passeth away, with its vain toils, its false glories, and its lying pleasures. It was thine own foretelling that, as in the days of Noe and Sodom, men will go on with their feasting and business and amusements, without giving any more thought to thy approaching Coming than their forefathers heeded the threat of the Deluge, or of the fire which came upon them and destroyed them. Let these men go on with their merry-making and their sending gifts one to the other, as thine Apocalypse expresses it, because, so they will have it, Christ and his Church are then to be worn-out ideas! While they are tyrannizing over thy holy City in a thousand varied ways, and persecuting her as no past period had ever done, they little think that all this is an announcement of the Eternal Nuptials, which are nigh at hand. All these trials were the fresh jewels which the Bride was to have on her before all her beauty was complete; and the blood of her last Martyrs was to incarnadine her already splendid robes with all the richness of royal crimson. As for us, we lend an ear to the echoes of our home above; and from the throne of our God, we hear going forth the voice heard by thy beloved Prophet of Patmos: Give praise unto our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, little and great! Alleluia! For the Lord our God the almighty hath reigned! Let us be glad and rejoice, and give glory unto him; for the Marriage of the Lamb is come, and his Wife hath prepared herself! Yet a little while till the number of our brethren be made up, and then, with the Spirit and the Bride, we will say to thee, in all the ardor of our souls that have long thirsted after thee: Come, Lord Jesus! Come, and perfect us in love, by Union eternal, unto the glory of the Father, and of thyself the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, forever and ever!

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine: Domine, exaudi orationem meam: de profundis clamavi ad te, Domine.
Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my prayer: out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord!

In the Secret, let us ask of God that on the approach of the Last Judgment, he turn all hearts towards himself, and vouchsafe to make our earthly desires give place to the desire for, and relish of, heavenly things.

Propitius esto, Domine, supplicationibus nostris: et populi tui oblationibus precibusque susceptis, omnium nostrum ad te corda converte; ut a terrenis cupiditatibus liberati, ad cœlestia desideria transeamus. Per Dominum.
Mercifully hear our supplications, O Lord: and, having received the offerings and prayers of thy people, turn the hearts of us all unto thee; that, being freed from earthly desires, we may come to desire heavenly things. Through, etc.

The other Secrets, as in the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost.

May the divine Sacrament, as is the Church’s petition in the Postcommunion, fully cure, by its virtue, whatsoever there may remain faulty in our souls, at this close of the Year!

Amen dico vobis, quidquid orantes petitis, credite quia acciepietis, et fiet vobis.
Amen I say unto you,—all things whatsoever ye ask for when ye pray, believe that ye shall receive, and it shall be done unto you.

Concede nobis, quæsumus Domine, ut per hæc sacramenta, quæ sumpsimus, quidquid in nostra mente vitiosum est, ipsorum medicationis dono curetur. Per Dominum.
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that whatsoever be faulty in our souls, may be cured by the virtue of the mysteries we have received. Through, etc.

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Fr. Hewko's Sermons for the Last Sunday after Pentecost



2018 - Two Masses


2020 - Two Masses



Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost. – On Blasphemy
by St. Alphonsus Liguori

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When, therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation.” MATT. xxiv. 15.

ALL sins are hateful in the sight of God; but the sin of blasphemy ought more properly to be called an abomination to the Lord. Every mortal sin, as the Apostle says, dishonours God. ”By transgression of the law, thou dishonourest God.” (Rom. ii. 23.) Other sins dishonour God indirectly by the violation of his law; but blasphemy dishonours him directly by the profanation of his most holy name. Hence St. Chrysostom teaches, that no sin exasperates the Lord so much as the sin of blasphemy against his adorable name. ”Nihil ita exacerbat Deum, sicut quando nomen ejus blasphematur.” Dearly beloved Christians, allow me, then, this day, to show you, first, the great enormity of the sin of blasphemy; and secondly, the great rigour with which God punishes it.

First Point. On the great enormity of the sin of blasphemy.

1. What is blasphemy? It is the uttering of language injurious to God; it is, according to the definition of theologians, “contumeliosa in Deum locutio;” or, contumely against God. God! whom does man assail when he blasphemes? He directly attacks the Lord. “He hath strengthened himself against the Almighty.” (Job. xv. 25.) Are you not afraid, blasphemer, says St. Ephrem, that fire will come down from heaven and devour you? or that the earth shall open and swallow you up ”Non metuis ne forte ignis de coelo descendat et devoret te, qui sic os adversus omnipotentem aperis? Neque vereris, ne terra te ab- sorbeat?” (Paren. 3.) The devil, says St. Gregory Nazianzen, trembles at the name of Jesus: and we are not afraid to profane it. ”Domones ad Christi nomen exhorrescunt, nos vero nomen adeo venerandum contumelia afficere nou veremur.” (Orat. xx.) The vindictive assail a man who is their own equal; but, by their blasphemies blasphemers appear to seek revenge against God, who does or permits what is displeasing to them. There is a great difference between an act of contempt towards the portrait of a king, and an insult offered to his person. Man is the image of God; but the blasphemer offends God himself. ”He who blasphemes” says St. Athanasius, ”acts against the very Deity itself.” The man who violates the law is guilty of a crime; but he who attacks the person of his sovereign commits an act of treason; therefore he receives no mercy, but is chastised with the utmost severity. What, then, shall we say of the man who blasphemes and insults the majesty of God?”If,” says the high-priest Heli, “one man shall sin against another, God may be appeased in his behalf; but if a man shall sin against the Lord, who shall pray for him?”(1 Kings ii. 25.) The sin of blasphemy, then, is so enormous, that the saints themselves appear not to have courage to pray for a blasphemer.

2. Some sacrilegious tongues blaspheme the God who preserves their existence! ”Tu Deo benefacienti tibi,” says St. Chrysostom, ”et tui curam agenti maledicis.” O God! you stand with one foot at the gate of hell; and if God, in his mercy, did not preserve your life you should be damned for ever: and, instead of thanking him for his goodness, you, at the very time that he bestows his favours upon you, blaspheme his holy name. ”If,” says the Lord, ”my enemy hath reviled me, I would verily have borne with it. (Ps. liv. 13.) Had you treated me with contumely and insult at the time that I chastised you, I would be more willing to bear with your impiety; but you revile me at the time that I confer my favours upon you. diabolical tongue! exclaims St. Bernardine of Sienna, what could have induced you to blaspheme your God, who has created you, and redeemed you with his blood? “0 lingua diabolica, quid, potest te inducere ad blasphemandum Deus tuum qui te plasmavit, qui te pretioso sanguine redemit?” (Serm. xxxiii.) Some expressly blaspheme the name of Jesus Christ of that God who died on a cross for the love of them. God! if we were not subject to death, we should be glad to die for Jesus Christ, in order to make some little return of gratitude to a God who gave his life for us. I say, a little return of gratitude; for there is no comparison between the death of a miserable creature, and the death of a God. But instead of loving and blessing this God, you, as St. Augustine says, revile and curse him. ”Christ was scourged by the lash of the Jews; but he is not less scourged by the blasphemies of false Christians.” (S. Aug. in Joan.) Some have blasphemed and insulted the Virgin Mary, that good mother, who loves us so tenderly, and prays continually for us. Some of these blasphemers have received a horrible chastisement from God. Surius relates, in the 7th August, that a certain impious Christian blasphemed the blessed Virgin, and pierced her image with a dagger. As soon as he went out of the church to which the image belonged, he was struck by a thunderbolt, and reduced to ashes. The infamous Nestorious blasphemed, and induced others to blaspheme, most holy Mary, by asserting that she was not the mother of God. But, before death, his impious tongue was eaten away by worms, and he died in despair.

3. “Who is this who speaketh blasphemies?” (Luke v. 21.) He is a Christian who has received the holy sacrament of baptism, in which his tongue has been in a certain manner consecrated to God. A learned author says, that on the tongue of all who are baptized is placed blessed salt, ”that the tongues of Christians may be made, as it were, sacred, and may be accustomed to bless God.” (Clericat. torn. 1. Dec. Tract. 52.) And the blasphemer afterwards makes his tongue, as St. Bernardine says, a sword to pierce the heart of God. “Lingua blasphemantis efficitur quasi gladius cor Dei penetrans.” (Tom. 4. serm. xxxiii.) Hence the saint adds that no sin contains in itself so much malice as the sin of blasphemy. ”Nullum est peccatum quod habet in se tantem iniquitatem sicut blasphemia.” St. Chrysostom says, that ”there is no sin worse than blasphemy; for in it is the accumulation of all evils, and every punishment.” St. Jerome teaches the same doctrine. ”Nothing,” says the holy doctor, ”is more horrible than blasphemy; for every sin, compared with blasphemy, is small.” (In Isa. cxviii.) And here it is necessary to observe, that blasphemies against the saints, against holy things or holidays such as the sacraments, the Mass, Easter Sunday, Christmas Day, Holy Saturday are of the same species as blasphemies against God; for St. Thomas teaches, that, as the honour paid to the saints, to holy things, and holidays, is referred to God, so an insult offered to the saints is injurious to God, who is the foundation of sanctity. ”Sicut Deus, in sanctis suis laudatur,” as we read in the 150th Psalm, “laudate Dominum in sanctis ejus, ita et blasphemia in sanctos in Deum redundat.” (S. Thorn, qu. 13, a 1 3, a 1, ad 2.) The saint adds, that blasphemy is one of the greatest of the sins against religion. (Ibid. a. 3.)

4. Thus, from the works of St. Jerome we may infer, that blasphemy is more grievous than theft, than adultery, or murder. All other sins, says St. Bernardine proceeds from frailty or ignorance; but the sin of blasphemy proceeds from malice. ”Omnia alia peccata vindentur procedere partim ex fragilitate, partim ex ignorantia, sed peccatum blasphemia procedit ex propria malitia.” (Cic. serm. xxx.) For it proceeds from a bad will, and from a certain hatred conceived against God. Hence the blasphemer renders himself like the damned, who, as St. Thomas says, do not now blaspheme with the mouth for they have no body, but with the heart, cursing the divine justice which punishes them. ”The detestation of the divine justice is in them an interior blasphemy of the heart.” (S. Thom. 2, 2, qu. 13, a. 4.) The saint adds, that we may believe that as the saints in heaven, after the resurrection shall praise God with the tongue, so the reprobates in hell shall also blaspheme him with the tongue. ”Et credibile est quod post resurrectionem erit in eis etiam vocalis blasphemiæ sicut in sanctis vocalis laus Dei.” Justly, then, has a learned author called blasphemy the language of hell; because, as God speaks by the mouth of the saints so the devil speaks by the mouth of blasphemers. ”Blasphemia est peccatum diabolicum, loquela infernalis: sicut enim Spiritus Sanctus loquitur per bonos ita et diabolus per blasphemos.” (Mansi. Discors, 7, num. 2.) When St. Peter denied Christ in the Palace of Pilate, and swore that he did not know him, the Jews said, that his language showed that he was a disciple of Jesus, because he spoke the language of his Master. ”Surely,” they said, “thou also art one of them; for even thy speech doth discover thee.” (Matt. xxvi. 73.) Thus we may say to every blasphemer: You are from hell; you are a true disciple of Lucifer; for you speak the language of the damned. St. Antonine writes, that the entire occupation of the damned in hell consists in blaspheming and cursing God. ”Non aliud apus inferno exercent nisi blasphemare Deum et maledicere.” (Part 2, tit. 7, cap. iii.) In proof of this doctrine the saint adduces the following text of the Apocalypse: ”And they gnawed their tongues for pain: and they blasphemed the God of heaven.” (Apoc. xvi. 10, 11.) The holy doctor afterwards adds, that he who indulges in the vice of blasphemy, already belongs to the number of the damned, because he practises their art. ”Qui ergo hoc vitio detinetur ostendit se pertinere ad statum damnatorum, ex quo exercet artem eorum.” (Ibid.)

5. To the malice of blasphemy is added the malice of scandal, which generally accompanies blasphemy; for this sin is ordinarily committed externally and in presence of others. St. Paul reproved the Jews, because by their sins they caused the Gentiles to blaspheme our God, and to laugh at his law. “For the name of God, through you, is blasphemed by the Gentiles.” (Rom. ii. 24.) But how much more criminal are Christians, who, by their blasphemies, induce other Christians to imitate their example! How does it happen, that in certain provinces blasphemies are never, or at least very seldom, heard, and that in other places this horrible vice is so prevalent, that the Lord may say of them: ”My name is continually blasphemed all the day long.” (Isa. Iii, 5.) In the squares, houses, cities, villas, nothing is heard but blasphemies. How does this happen? Some of the inhabitants learn to blaspheme from others: children from their parents, servants from their masters, the young from the old. In some families particularly the vice of blasphemy seems to be transmitted as an inheritance. The father is a blasphemer; hence, the sons and nephews blaspheme: to this inheritance their descendants succeed. O accursed father! Instead of instructing your children to bless the name of God, you teach them to blaspheme him and his saint. ”But I reprove them when they blaspheme in my presence.” Of what use are these reproofs, when with your own mouth you give them bad example. For God’s sake, for God’s sake, O fathers of families, never blaspheme; but be particularly on your guard never to blaspheme in presence of your children. This is a crime which God can no longer bear in you. And whenever you hear any of your children utter a blasphemy, reprove them severely, and, in obedience to the advice of St. Chrysostom, strike him on the mouth, and you shall thus sanctify your hand. ”Contere os ipsius, manum tuam percussione sanctificat.” (Hom. i. ad pop.) Certain fathers unmercifully beat a child for the neglect of some temporal business; but if he blaspheme the saints, they either laugh at his blasphemies, or listen to them in silence. St. Gregory relates (Dial. 4., cap. xvii.), that a child of five years, the son of a Roman noble man, was in the habit of profaning the name of God. The father neglected to correct him; but he one day saw his son pursued by certain black men. The child ran to embrace his father; but they, who were so many devils, killed him in the father‟s arms, and carried him with them to hell.

Second Point. On the great rigour with which God punishes the sin of blasphemy.

6. “Woe to the sinful nation… they have blasphemed the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa. i. 4.) Woe to blasphemers, eternal woe to them: for, according to Tobias, they shall be condemned. ”They shall be condemned that blaspheme thee.” (Job xiii. 16.) The Lord has said by the mouth of Job, “Thou imitatest the tongue of blasphemers; thy own mouth shall condemn, and not I.” (Job xv. 5, 6.) In pronouncing the sentence of their condemnation, God will say: It is not I that condemn you to hell; it is your own mouth, with which you have dared to revile me and .my saints, that condemns you. Poor miserable blasphemers! They shall continue to blaspheme in hell for their greater torment: their very blasphemies in hell shall always remind them that they are damned for ever in punishment of their blasphemies on earth.

7. But blasphemers are punished not only in hell, but even on this earth. In the Old Law they were stoned by the people. “And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, dying let him die; all the multitude shall stone him.” (Lev. xxiv. 76.) In the New Law they were condemned to death by the Emperor Justinian. St. Louis, King of France, ordered them to be punished by perforating their tongue, and by branding their forehead with a red hot iron; and when they afterwards relapsed into blasphemy, he ordained that they should die on the scaffold. (Homo Bon. de cas. res. p. 2, c. i.) Another author says, that the law renders blasphemers (as being infamous) incapable of giving testimony. (Navarr. cons. 11, de offic. ord.) By the constitution of Gregory the Fourteenth, they were deprived of Christian burial. In the Authentica ut non luxur hom., it is said that blasphemies bring on famine, earthquakes, and pestilence. ”Propter blasphemias, et fames, et terræmotus et pestilentia fiunt.” You, O blasphemer, complain that though you labour and submit to fatigue, you are always in poverty. You say: ”I know not why I am always in misery: some malediction must have fallen on my family.” No; the blasphemies which you utter are the cause of your wretchedness, and make you always an object of God’s malediction.

8. O! how many melancholy examples could I mention of blasphemers who have died a bad death. Father Segneri relates, (Tom. 1, Rag. 8,) that, in Gascony, two men who had blasphemed the blood of Jesus Christ, were soon after killed in a quarrel, and torn to pieces by dogs. In Mexico, a blasphemer being once reproved, answered: ”I will hereafter blaspheme more than I have hitherto done.” During the night he found his tongue sowed under the palate, and died in that miserable state without giving the least sign of repentance. Dresselius relates, that a certain person was struck blind in the very act of blaspheming. Another, in uttering a blasphemy against St. Anthony, was seized by a flame which issued from the image of the saint, and was burnt alive. In his book against blasphemy, Sarnelli relates, that in Constantinople, a man called Simon Tornaco, who had blasphemed God, began like a mad dog to lacerate his own flesh, and died in his madness. Canta- pratensis states (cap. xlviii.), that a person who had been guilty of blasphemy, had his eyes distorted, and that falling on the ground he bellowed like an ox, and continued to roar aloud until he expired. In the Gallician Mercury (lib. x.) we read that a man named Michael, who had been condemned to be hanged, when he felt the pain of the halter, burst out into blasphemies, and died instantly. After death his head fell from the body, and the tongue remained hanging out from the neck, as black as coal. I abstain from fatiguing you with other terrible examples: you can find a great many of them in the work of Father Sarnelli against blasphemy.

9. But to conclude. Tell me, blasphemers, if there be any of you present, what benefit do you derive from your accursed blasphemies? You do not receive pleasure from them. Bellarmine says, that blasphemy is a sin which produces no pleasure. You derive no profit from them; for, as I have already said, your blasphemies are the cause of your poverty and wretchedness. You derive no honour from them; your fellow- blasphemers have a horror of your blasphemies, and call you a mouth of hell. Tell me, then, why you blaspheme. “Father, the habit which I have contracted is the cause of my blasphemies.” But can this habit excuse you before God? If a son beat his father, and say to him: ”My father, have compassion on me: for I have contracted a habit of beating you :” would the father take pity on him? You say that you blaspheme through the anger caused by your children, your wife, or your master. Your wife or your master put you into a passion, and you take revenge on the saints. What injury have the saints done to you? They intercede before God in your behalf, and you blaspheme them. But”the devil tempts me at that time.” If the devil tempts you, follow the example of a certain young man, who, when tempted to blaspheme, went for advice to the Abbot Pemene. The abbot told him, that as often as the devil tempted him to commit this sin, his answer should be: Why should I blaspheme that God who has created me, and bestowed so many benefits upon me? I will forever praise and bless him. The young man followed the advice, and Satan ceased to tempt him. When you are excited to anger, can you speak nothing but blasphemies? Say on such occasions:  “Accursed sin, I hate thee: Lord, assist me: Mary, obtain for me the gift of patience.” And if you have hitherto contracted the abominable habit of blaspheming, renew every morning, as soon as you rise, the resolution of doing violence to yourself to abstain from all blasphemies during the day: and then say three Aves to most holy Mary, that she may obtain for you the grace to resist every temptation by which you shall be assailed.