This is a transcription of a homily given by Fr. Christopher Smith on the 8th Sunday after Pentecost 2019 and it is transcribed here by Tony Capobianco.
Permission to transcribe this sermon was sought and permission was graciously granted. Please offer 3 Hail Marys for Father’s intentions. Virgin Most Powerful, please guide and protect Fr. Smith.
Fr. Christopher Smith 0:04
You know, I can't even begin to imagine what it is like to be a parent nowadays. I mean it's hard in any and every age, but as you know, the world that we live in today presents unique challenges for the health, safety, and most importantly, salvation of our children. I can't even imagine what it means to toss and turn and to have sleepless nights. Not because junior has to have that diaper change and be fed every two hours, but those parents who worry about putting food on the table, worried about how that beautiful daughter will grow up or how that precious son will become a Godly man. That's why, when I see our families in church, maybe a little bleary eyed from a restless sleep on Saturday night and just trying to survive the car ride over to mass, yes I do know what happens on those car rides okay, I am immensely proud and also not a little awed by how you guys do it all. It really is absolutely amazing. So, keep up the good work.
Fr. Christopher Smith 1:42
Of course as your spiritual father, I have the joyful burden of encouraging, exhorting, and sometimes, correcting our families as we journey together to the new and eternal Jerusalem. I know it's easy to say, “Well you know, father, You've never been in my shoes so just so just save it.” So at the risk of opening myself up to criticism here, I would like to share some observations as part of our meditation at Mass today.
Fr. Christopher Smith 2:16
You know when I was younger, when I would hear about a husband and father going off the rails wandering off the ranch, it was really easy to make kind of rude comments about deadbeat dads and how a real man would never even think of doing such a thing, but as I have listened to so many Christian men over the years, particularly when they're in situations where their marriages or their families are breaking apart, there are a lot of things that I've noticed. Now, I want to preface this with, first of all, it is a fact that sometimes there's some seriously messed up narcissistic lunatics out there who just want to do whatever they can do to get what they can get. Okay, so that's a thing, it’s horrible. If you've been through it you know what it's like, but outside of that, I think that most Christian men want to be protectors and providers for their families. I mean it's impossible for a Catholic man to come into church and not see St. Joseph, who is the great example of the perfect earthly father and trying to figure out, how do I do that? What does that look like for me? But so often it's easy for our men to become paralyzed by fear. And we all know that St. John writes in his epistle, “Perfect love casts out all fear” and as much love as we may have for our wives, for our children, for our co-workers, for our friends, sometimes when things get really crazy it’s easy to lose sight of all of that and to think about the fear part. When a man feels inferior or inadequate, that he doesn't measure up to the standard he has in his head for how to be a man, a husband, and father it’s easy to begin to find solace elsewhere. Becoming a workaholic, in the arms of another woman, or at the click of a mouse on a computer, it’s all escapism in some form or another and before they realize it, their whole life can get out of control and they risk losing everything. “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Why is it that we don't understand what that Scripture verse means until we've hit rock bottom and then all of a sudden we're like, ”Yep, that's what that is all about.”
Fr. Christopher Smith 5:01
Now, some of you may feel really uncomfortable with what I'm about to say but you know that I have never been shy, so I'm going to say and it's going to go where it goes. Often when parents think about a future for their children, they want financial security and to a certain degree, well, they should want that because you need to provide for your children. If you're not, there's something wrong there. I still remember when I was a young child, my dad being laid off from work and he and my mom fretting that the last can of beans in the pantry might be our last meal before ruin and collapse. I still remember all those tears, that anxiety and from one point of view, that’s a sign of love. It's a sign that, you know, your parents actually care, but when we lose faith in Divine Providence, when we forget that our loving Father God is working all things out to our ultimate benefit, when we begin to trust only in our own efforts, we orient ourselves entirely to this world. We begin to lose sight of the true reality behind what we see and experience in the world, the spiritual realities that are all around us. When we think about college funds and lake houses and extra cars and extra curricular activities, you know none of that is bad in and of itself but when we place the priority there, we invert our priorities and when we can't provide at that standard, the men especially tend to lose their way.
Fr. Christopher Smith 7:15
St. Paul writes the Colossians, “If you were raised with Christ, seek what is above not what is on earth.” Almost every single person who is in church this afternoon has been brought to a font of regeneration. Some of you kids (were baptized) in that very font right there. We have another one coming up after Mass. Remember that you are plunged into the Paschal Mystery, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus and because of that, you are in the hands of God. We have been, each one of us, by the gift of Faith, signed, sealed, and delivered, called by name, precisely so that we can do His will and not our own. We are called to be faithful, not to be successful. Now sometimes success comes and again that's a great thing to thank God for. That’s wonderful but we remember that when our Lord Himself was most successful was not when He was riding triumphantly into Jerusalem with people waving palm branches and crying out, “Hosanna!” His most powerful moment is when in giving Himself entirely for love of us, He breathed His last and everything seemed lost. That was the most powerful moment because it was there that He ended the curse of sin and death for you and for me.
Fr. Christopher Smith 9:01
I don't know if any of you have spent much time with the books of Maccabees in the Old Testament, they are part of those kind of adventure stories of salvation history. Lots of fun stuff in there. Remember that there is an unnamed mother in second Maccabees chapter seven. The Maronite Catholics have named her St. Shmoni. So if any of you were looking for a great girl baby name that I can baptize, Shmoni, put it on your list. It’d be great. So the unnamed woman called Shmoni by the Maronites wanted her sons to be covered in glory and success. She wanted to see her children's children to the third and fourth generation, just as the blessing that was pronounced over her at her wedding said. That’s what she wanted. And what mother doesn't want to see something like that? But when Antiochus IV Epiphanes conquers the Jews and forces them to eat pork, which was forbidden under the Levitical law, what does she do? Well, she could have said, “Honey, it is just a little bit of bacon, you're going to be fine. Don't worry about it.” Is that what she did? No. She does not urge her children to defy the law of God revealed in the Torah, even to save their lives. Those seven young men drew from her rock solid faith and refused to disobey the Lord. I mean, this poor woman saw all seven of her children die in one day. And after seeing each of his brothers die, the last one said, “Mom, they are dead, Under God's covenant of everlasting life.” She communicated to them that beyond the hair raising reality of military conquest, there was obedience to the will of God and she knew that those brave young men would be heroes and martyrs for eternity, and gain their life by losing it. That mother did not wake up on that morning expecting the day to go like that. That was not on her list of things to do. She probably just wanted to go to the store and make some bread, have a nice dinner with the family. That's not how that day turned out.
Fr. Christopher Smith 11:37
I have a question for you: are you raising your children to be martyrs? Or to be self indulgent? Because the chances are if you raise your children in the Faith, prioritizing Christ and His Church and the spiritual life above all, (then Okay, yeah, free will is a thing People can do what they want, right?) that the chances are that they will turn out to be good people and may not be called to make the ultimate sacrifice of witness to Christ by martyrdom of blood, but if they are, they will be prepared. If you invert the priorities, I’m going to tell you, don't be surprised if children raised as materialists with a purely worldly attitude towards everything are too busy with their lives to take care of you when you need it. You know, I go into care facilities and nursing homes all the time, with people who are incredibly lonely, who gave their children everything with love, except for Jesus. And then I know people who had nothing except for Jesus to give their children and they're surrounded with love in this world and the next. Take care to guard against all greed for though one may be rich, one's life does not consist of possessions. Our Lord does not condemn wealth, and using it to provide a financially comfortable and secure future for you and your children, yeah that's a good thing but as soon as a husband and father abdicates his role as the priest of his domestic church, as soon as he seeks out possessions, even for a good cause rather than the Giver Of All Good Gifts, he will be possessed not by the possessions, but by the evil one. That's when things get weird. The slithering serpent will whisper half truths in his ear, “You know, the church on Sunday? Eh it’s not as important as that soccer game.” That rubber ball gonna get you into heaven? I don't think so. Good luck with that one. I’m just letting you know in case there was any confusion about that. (The serpent also whispers other disordered priorities) Or getting Junior into the right school is more important than handing on the wisdom of the Word of God. You may do everything that you can to make sure that your child has perfect S.A.T. scores, but that’s not going to do them a bit of good if they're in hell, because you did not give them the tools for their salvation, that you will be judged and responsible for. Things fall apart because all of those disparate parts of life don't have the grace of God to hold them together and give them substance, unity, meaning, and beauty.
Fr. Christopher Smith 15:03
“Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart”, the psalmist sings. The days are given to us not as moments for profitability but as the acceptable day of salvation to do His will. Think about every time that the absolutely terrifying and horrifically monstrous creature called the alarm clock goes off, that God is giving you another day to do His will and that is a beautiful thing. He's not giving you that to fritter away doing what you want. For if we do not order our days, our nights, our hours, and our time according to the Lord of Time, then the psalmist predicts our future, “You may make an end of them in their sleep. The next morning, they're like the changing grass which at dawn springs a new but by evening wilts and fades.” God doesn't want you to wilt and fade. He wants you to live abundantly in this life and to live happily with Him in the next. Seek first the Kingdom of God and you will have all good things and the Giver Of All Good Gifts Himself.
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