Sunday, July 30, 2017

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

Only A Threat, Not a Prediction?

We now come to the third group of parables in chapter thirteen of St. Matthew's Gospel, the last group in our Gospel readings. As I told you two Sundays ago, the Church wants us to read the whole chapter thirteen during these three Sundays.

Today's Gospel reading with the Second Reading has sparked heated controversies in our Church for centuries. Our Gospel reading has a parable which some theologians have not understood literally. Here is the second to the last parable in this chapter of Matthew's Gospel.

Jesus said, "Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth."

Some theologians say that when Jesus said that the wicked will be thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth, he was only giving a warning to us so that we would mend our ways and do good. That is, he did not really mean that the angels would throw the wicked into a fiery furnace, into hell. He was not predicting that they would end up there, he was only issuing a threat.

As one writer said, Jesus was like the exasperated mother warning her son, “If you don’t clean up your room right now, I’ll kill you!” She does not really mean it but hopes it will motivate her son to change. (

I have brought this topic out into the open today because more and more people think and believe that hell is only a figurative expression, it is not a reality. Their basic argument is that God is absolute love and God cannot condemn or throw people into hell to suffer forever.

Some of you listening to me now may be of this opinion that indeed hell is only the expression of Jesus to warn us so that we do not misbehave in the kingdom of God.

But our Second Reading tells us otherwise. Let us read it in full again.

St. Paul wrote to the Romans: "Brothers and sisters, we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined he also called; and those he called he also justified; and those he justified he also glorified."

St. Paul tells us that God a long time ago, even before we were born, predestined people to be glorified. To do this he called this people to himself and justified them, made them just, made them holy. Those people whom he did not predestine to be glorified are of another kind.

The mistake of these people who think that there is really no hell because God is all love, and some of them are very intelligent persons, is that they forget that those who will be thrown into the furnace of fire, into hell, are evil from the beginning of their life. They were not good human beings who turned out bad. They were bad from the very beginning of their lives.

The fish and other creatures which were thrown away from the net were useless and bad from their nature. They were not good fish which turned out to be bad. They were bad from the very beginning.

The parable of the bad seeds last Sunday helps to explain this. The seeds were the seeds of the enemy, they were not the seeds of God which turned out to be weeds later as they grew. From the beginning they were weeds but when they grew they appeared to be wheat. But their grains told the farmer they were really weeds.

Where does this lead us to? It leads us to examine ourselves. By baptism God has given us sanctifying grace but this does not mean that we are automatically saved. It means that we are to live as children of God and not behave as children of the devil.

If there are some baptized among who behave like children of the devil as killing others, raping boys and girls, cheating the citizens of their taxes, and so forth, then we pray for their conversion that they may repent and mend their ways. Because if they don't repent, this may mean that they are really children of the devil and their destination is hell, the furnace of fire where they will wail and grind their teeth.
That God predestined us to glory is clear from our Catechism. It says, “We can adore the Father because he has caused us to be reborn to his life by adopting us as his children in his only Son: by Baptism, he incorporates us into the Body of his Christ; through the anointing of his Spirit who flows from the head to the members, he makes us other "Christs." “God, indeed, who has predestined us to adoption as his sons, has conformed us to the glorious Body of Christ. So then you who have become sharers in Christ are appropriately called "Christs." “The new man, reborn and restored to his God by grace, says first of all, "Father!" because he has now begun to be a son." (2782)

Because as the Catechism has just said that we are adopted sons of God, we cannot be thrown into this fiery furnace. But this does not make us too presumptuous of our salvation. Because we might be weeds in the form of wheat.

Again in number 600 our Catechism says, “To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace.”

This subject of predestination has caused heated arguments in our Church for many centuries, even until now. In 1581, a heated argument erupted between the Jesuits, who advocated Molinism, and the Dominicans, who had a different understanding of God's foreknowledge and the nature of predestination. In 1597, Pope Clement VIII established the Congregatio de Auxiliis, a committee whose purpose was to settle this controversy. In 1607, Pope Paul V ended the quarrel by forbidding each side to accuse the other of heresy, allowing both views to exist side-by-side in the Catholic Church. 

The Molinists or followers of Fr. Molina, a Jesuit, hold that in addition to knowing everything that does or will happen, God also knows what His creatures would freely choose if placed in any circumstance. He said that grace is not intrinsically efficacious. God only knows that the person would accept the grace of God but God does not will him to do that. He only knows that that would be his choice.

On the other side were the Dominicans, followers of Fr. Banez, spiritual director of St Teresa of Avila. Fr. Banez taught that “Grace is intrinsically efficacious”, that is, God has willed to be saved those whom he predestined. (

On the other hand we have the controversy between the Catholics and the Protestants led by John Calvin and his followers. The Calvinists have been interpreted to say that God has predestined some people to heaven and others he foreordained to hell. This is the teaching of double predestination. Our Church does not teach that God ordains some people to hell. The parable of this Sunday tells us that God does not throw good people to hell. These people end up in hell because from the beginning they were bad and useless for the kingdom of God.

What can we say then? Let us thank God for the gift of grace given to us in baptism and the other sacraments. Secondly, let us pray for those among us who behave like they are children of the devil. We pray for their conversion. Their end is terrible if indeed they are children of the devil.

While preparing for this homily I viewed certain YouTube presentations of the torments in hell. Remember, the three children in Fatima were presented by our Lady with visions of hell. The pains there were extreme, to say the least. And they are eternal. While viewing these videos the thought came to me that that is what Jesus suffered for us on the cross so that we would not go there.

For Jesus hell was real. He went there. He suffered the torments there for us. If we are not going there it is because Jesus saved us from that place by his sufferings, death and resurrection.

To know this reality is the wisdom given to King Solomon in our first reading. God made him the wisest of all kings. But God has made us wiser than Solomon because we have the mind of Jesus. And this mind tells us hell is real.

Let us thank Jesus for saving us. Again let us recite a part of our Responsorial Psalm, the prayer of a person who has been found to be a good fish, not the one to be thrown into the fiery furnace. We bow our heads.

Lord, I love your commands.
I have said, O LORD, that my part is to keep your words.
The law of your mouth is to me more precious than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
Let your kindness comfort me according to your promise to your servants.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
Lord, I love your commands.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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