23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fr. Joseph Levine; September 6, 2020
Readings: Ez 33:7-9; Ps 95:1-2,6-9; Rm 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20

You are just, O Lord, and your judgment is right; treat your servant in accord with your merciful love.

What are we doing here today?

We are not gathered to argue about practical matters, we are gathered to agree in the faith that we profess. That means we must believe what we say, as the Church has always understood it, not as modernism would reinterpret it or as we would have it. That also means that we must think about what we say, not just parrot the words. Then, agreeing in Christ, we will be heard.

We are here for the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. This is the prayer of the Church that God always hears because it is the prayer of Christ himself. This is the prayer that makes possible the love that does no wrong to neighbor and fulfills the law of God.

The Mass is the place where, united by the authority of his priesthood, we most truly and perfectly gather in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here Christ is always present in His Church. “He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, ‘the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross’, but especially under the Eucharistic species.” (Vatican II, SC 7)

We are engaged it a truly public action, so let’s compare it with some other public actions that have been set before outer eyes these past months.

What is a public protest? Basically, it is a way of appearing before the public authority and making a demand for justice. “Give us justice!” Is the cry of the protester. Whether he is right or wrong about where justice lies is another question.

In any case, such a protest implicitly recognizes the legitimacy of the public authority and complains only that the authority is failing in its fundamental duty of establishing justice.

It is something else altogether when there is a public demand that the authority itself be overturned. That ceases to be a protest and becomes an insurrection, even if it uses peaceful means, as Mahatma Gandhi used to free India from British rule.

When we gather for the Mass, we are doing something quite different. This is a public act that takes place in the presence of the supreme public authority of all the universe and the source of all true authority, that is God. This is a public action that takes place in the presence of all the angels and saints in heaven. This is a public action not in the United States of America, but in the Kingdom of God.

We are not gathered here to protest or to demand justice.

Quite the opposite. We are here to honor and proclaim the supreme authority of God, the Most Holy Trinity, the Creator of all.

We are also here to leave aside the insurrection of sin, to surrender ourselves to God, and to beg his mercy, for ourselves and all the world.

We are here to offer sacrifice to God, the supreme and perfect sacrifice, the only pleasing sacrifice that truly honors him and gives him his due, the sacrifice of his Son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This is the sacrifice that justifies men in the presence of God.

This is much better and more powerful than all the protests and insurrections in the world. This is the one thing that is most truly essential.

The Mass is not a source of division, but rather it is the source of peace, the peace of Christ. Nevertheless, by the same token the Mass will eventually expose very false peace and the divisions of those who oppose God.

The Mass is feared by every tyrant in the world, of whatever type, because it is also a protest before the supreme judge of all against all human injustice. (cf. Ez 9:4; Lk 18:1-8) The powerful of this world will either submit themselves to Christ, in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, or they will eventually try to suppress or to subvert the Mass for their own purposes.

Nevertheless, since this public action is a protest before God against all human injustice, it means that if we come here stained with injustice then we call down judgment on ourselves.

Further, since this action belongs to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of this world, we must not bring our worldly mentality into the Church in order to bring the Mass in line with our desires, rather we must let our way of thinking be transformed by the Mass. The Mass does not belong to this world of time, but to the world of eternity; the Mass, then, must not be marked by the passing fashions of the age, but be governed by the light of sacred Tradition, which connects us with the saints who lived for and now live in eternity.

If someone thinks that the Mass, rightly celebrated, is boring, that is a judgment on that person, not on the Mass. If someone comes to Mass and thinks that not enough was done to please him and to make him feel ‘welcome’, once again, he has it backwards. A person should come to Mass in order to please God.

In the words of the Letter to the Hebrews: You have approached Mt. Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and countless angels in festal gathering, and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven, and God the judge of all, and the spirits of the just made perfect. (Heb 12:22-24)


Fr. Joseph Levine graduated from Thomas Aquinas College and after a long journey was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of Baker, Oregon. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles on the Columbia River.

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