Confirmation of the Perfect Alignment of Scripture and Faith|
Bishop Mark Pivarunas, CMRI
"And His Mother kept all of these words in her heart" (St. Luke 2: 51). The Gospel of St. Luke is often called "Mary's Gospel" for she conveyed so much to the Evangelist. Today we can derive so much from not only the four Evangelists and the epistles of the New Testament, but from the Old as well which serves as a lasting testimony to the fact that Jesus Christ was indeed God and that all He said and established cannot be refuted, even by His enemies. In these times when our faith is so challenged, we can take comfort in knowing we live by faith and it will not fail us for God is with us.
The first thing I’d like to share with you is that when we read the Gospel of St. Luke, whenever we think of St. Luke’s Gospel, especially the first chapters, we are reminded of why scripture scholars call the Gospel of St. Luke Mary’s Gospel. Because St. Luke received what he records in the Gospel from Our Blessed Mother. Where else could St. Luke had known that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and said: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women. Fear not, Mary, thou hast found grace with God, thou shall conceive in thy womb and bare a son and thou shall call his name Jesus”?
How else would St. Luke had known that Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth and Elizabeth filled with Holy Ghost said: “Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. How is it that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?”
How else would St. Luke had known Mary’s response to the praises offered by her cousin Elizabeth: “My soul doth magnify the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior", etc. Whenever we read in the Gospel of St. Luke at Christmas, about or at the birth of our Lord, the shepards were told by an angel about this thing that had come to pass, that the Messiah was born and these shepards heard the multitude of angels singing: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men of good will.”
How would St. Luke had known that but from Our Blessed Mother who heard it from the shepards who had come to adore the infant Jesus. But St. Luke tells us this, after the opportunity of reading this today, the Gospel of St. Luke, when Jesus was lost at the Temple. St. Luke explicitly says: “And His Mother kept all of these things carefully in her heart.” There is another place where St. Luke says Our Blessed Mother said this and that is when Our Lord was born, and all of these things had come to pass, where we go to the masses for the Feast of the Nativity, at the second Mass, where Mary kept in mind all these things, pondering them in her heart. St. Luke brings it up twice. So whenever we read the Gospel of St. Luke, especially thinking of the first several chapters, we see how appropriate it is to call it Mary’s Gospel because St. Luke received these from Our Blessed Mother.
Those of you who are mothers, you know when your children are born what a special event it is. There are unique things that happen at the time of your children’s birth that you’ll never forget. Our Blessed Mother not only, as a good Israelite, was not only looking for the Messiah to come, but what joy came to her heart when the angel announced that the Messiah was to come, not only that but she was to be the Mother of the Messiah, the Mother of God. What great expectations she waited at that moment. And when Jesus was born, what love and joy she held the incarnate word Jesus in her arms and laid him in a manger. When we think of these things, we are reminded of how we should also imitate Our Blessed Mother. God in his wisdom, he gives us many opportunities of grace throughout our lives, and like Our Blessed Mother, we should think about these opportunities of grace and ponder them in our hearts, meditate on them and reflect on them.
Today, we are going to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation. What are the things that are to come and take place? We will receive the Holy Ghost in a very special manner. You received the Holy Ghost at baptism, original sin was washed away and the Holy Ghost with his sanctifying grace, life of God, came into our soul and we received not only the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity but the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. Today when you are confirmed, you’re going to get an increase of those seven gifts. You’ll become soldiers for Christ. This is something that you should ponder, each and every one of you, in your hearts. What a wonderful thing it is to receive the true sacraments.
When we think of the seven sacraments, we think of God’s love for us. He knows that we are all weak, aren’t we? We have our temptations, we have our inclinations to sin, we know how cleaver the devil is and how he uses the world and everything in the world to lead us away from God. But God has provided for our weakness, he instituted the seven sacraments and what a wonderful grace to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. When you receive a sacrament worthily, you will always have an increase in sanctifying grace, God’s life in your soul, but then you receive what’s also called a sacramental grace that is peculiar to that sacrament. Those of you who are married, not only when you were married received the sacrament of matrimony and also received sanctifying grace but you also received the sacramental grace to help you to be faithful to one another and to raise your children properly. When we go to confession, we not only get sanctifying grace but also the sacramental grace to help us to overcome sin in the future. When we are dying or in the danger of death, we receive Extreme Unction, we get sanctifying grace plus the special sacramental grace to help us make that final journey to eternity. And so it is with Confirmation, you are going to receive and increase in sanctifying grace and also you are going to be given a sacramental grace to stand up for your faith and be strong in your faith. So very great grace is being given to you in this sacrament and let us ponder this in our hearts.
When it comes to our Holy Faith, we’re also reminded that it is important that we don’t make any mistakes about what faith is. Faith is not an emotion, faith is not feeling. You might sometimes by chance while you’re driving you turn on the radio and you hear this protestant preacher who is really preaching up a storm with all of this emotion and yelling and screaming and fire and all his people are in the background saying: “Alleluia! Amen!” you know. They get all of this emotion and feeling, but that is NOT faith because feelings come and go and emotions change. But faith is the assent, the firm assent of the intellect to reveal truth. God has revealed to us divine revelation and he has proved to us that His is coming from him and we with the assent in our minds say: “I believe.” And I live according to that belief whether I feel fervent or great, or I feel empty, whether I feel great emotion or not, I believe and I firmly believe.
We have a good example of a strong faith in the example of the three kings, the Magi. These were men wanting to know God’s will in their life and when God manifested the birth of our Divine Savior by the star, how could they have known that? Well obviously God’s grace, we can’t do anything without God’s grace, but also we know that 300 years before the coming of Jesus, the Hebrew bible was translated into Greek. It was called the Septuaginta meaning Septuage, the Septuaginta is the Greek bible, the Old Testament in Greek. It was available even for those gentiles to read and understand. Now these Magi, they cooperated with God’s grace, they understood scripture and they knew what that star meant, and they journeyed on a long journey to Bethlehem. First arriving in Jerusalem, and then going to King Herod, and King Herod going to those learned in the Law and asked “Where is the Messiah to be born?” and they said: “In Bethlehem.” And thus it was written. And the Magi were men of faith, they came to worship and adore the newborn King of the Jews and when they arrived, what do we read in scripture? “And entering the house, they found the child with Mary, His Mother, and falling down they worshipped Him.” Outwardly, what did they see? Outwardly, they saw a humble family. A poor family, but with their faith they knew that’s the Divine Messiah, and falling down they worshipped Him. How important it is for all of us to live by faith? Not by externals, not by whatever most people are doing, not by outward appearances, but simply what God has revealed.
I’d like to share with you one thing. This is something that I thought of during this Holy season of Advent. During the season of Advent, holy Mother the Church brings to our minds the prophecies of the Old Testament about the Messiah so that we might also prepare ourselves spiritually for the birth of Christ. When we look at those prophecies, we are amazed how detailed those prophecies were. The first prophecy that comes to my mind is that he will be born in Bethlehem of Juda. That was prophesized, the exact place where the Messiah would be born, in Bethlehem.
It was also prophesized that when the Messiah would come, the second temple would still be standing. The first temple was built by Solomon and that was destroyed and the Jewish people were led into captivity. Upon their return, they begun to build a second temple and the elders saw how much smaller this temple would be and they began to weep. The prophet Isaiah said “No matter, in this temple the Messiah will come.” In that second temple, that is the temple where Mary offered the Christ child, that is where Jesus was lost in the temple for three days, it was in that temple where, during his public life, Jesus taught and preached.
It was also prophesized that when the Messiah would come, the Jews would not be governed by the tribe of Juda. Jacob, before he died, he blessed Juda and said that the scepter would not pass from him until the Messiah would come, and sure enough when you look through the Old Testament, King David was of the tribe of Juda, his son, Solomon, and so it was when the Jews came back from captivity, Zorobabel was of the Tribe of Juda. The Machabees were of the tribe of Juda. It wasn’t until 39 B.C. that the Romans put Herod in charge and thus, the scepter had passed from Juda, a fulfillment of the prophecy that the Messiah was to come.
It’s also remarkable when we think of the prophecy of Daniel. Daniel lived about 600 B.C. in that era, and he had prophesized that from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah, there would be 69 weeks. But its calculation is accurate, 69 weeks of years. When was Jerusalem begun to be rebuilt? In the year 453 B.C. Daniel had said that the public appearance of the Messiah would be 69 weeks after the beginning of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. 69 x's 7 is 483. From 453 B.C. 483 years later is 30 A.D. the exact public appearance of Our Divine Savior, 30 A.D.
It was also prophesized that at the birth of the Messiah a star would appear and Kings from the East would come and worship and it was also prophesized that many children would be put to death at His birth. Not only that, but He would have to flee into Egypt and come back from thence. This Messiah would be both God and man. For unto us a child is born and unto us a son is given. And His name shall be called Almighty God. Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and His name shall be called Emmanuel. So when we read these prophecies of detailed accounts, we are inspired and our faith is strengthened.
So clear is the Old Testament, pointing to Jesus Christ, that St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine both say: “Why is it that the Jews today as a nation, although they reject Our Lord, why is it they’re still around?” Nations and dynasties have come and gone but even in their rejection of Christ, we find something very interesting. Pagans would accuse us Catholics that the Old Testament is something that we made up, so clearly does the Old Testament point to Jesus, that Pagans could accuse us. “Ah, you made that up.” But they can’t because the Jews themselves attest to the Old Testament and yet, because of their blindness, they can’t see that it refers to Our Lord. Nevertheless, for those who are seeking the truth and you study the Old Testament, and you find the perfect fulfillment by Jesus Christ. Those prophecies wonderfully fulfilled.
When I also think of Our Divine Savior, and we think of how important it is to have such a strong faith, we think of the miracles that Jesus worked. When you come to Mass on Sundays, many times in the Gospels, we talk and we read about the miracles of Our Lord. These were publicly witnessed events. If these events never occurred, it would be absolutely impossible for the Apostles to go out and preach about these public events and try to convince the people, unless the people had seen these events. These events were of extraordinary nature; raising people from the dead, giving sight to the blind. These are not things that you can lie about, it’s either they happened or they didn’t happen. If they didn’t happen, then the Apostles would have been denounced as a bunch of liars, but they weren’t because people could verify those things. Once again, even Jews today who read the writings of their forefathers, the Pharisees, what do those Pharisees write? In their tablet, they write many things against Jesus Christ. One thing they don’t write against, one thing that they don’t say is that he never did these things. That’s an amazing thing. If Jesus never did these miracles, then the Pharisees should have attacked that: “He never did these things! Never happened!” But when you look at the writings of the Jews, they don’t say that at all, they don’t use that argument. Why? Because they couldn’t. The miracles that Jesus worked were publicly witnessed by many many people and therefore, they didn’t use that argument. So their own writings confirm the miracles that Jesus worked were actually done, a public fact.
Now I say these things because as you know, we live in difficult times, don’t we? We were talking about some of the prophecies pertaining to Jesus Christ. You know what’s amazing? What is absolutely amazing is that this modern church, after Vatican II, the things that are said is absolutely mind-boggling. As you know, Benedict XVI was cardinal Ratzinger. He had gone into so much heresy before his supposed election. It’s incredible. In one of his statements, 'cardinal' Ratzinger says: “If the Jews cannot see the Old Testament fulfilled in Christ, that is now their fault. Because scripture is obscure, it’s not clear.”
What is he saying? He is saying: “God didn’t do a good enough job. For so many thousands of years before the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God. The prophets had spoken but it wasn’t clear enough, it wasn’t good enough!” What kind of blasphemy is that? What he does is he shows his cards, that he’s a modernist. A modernist. Scripture is not clear enough, God just didn’t do a good enough job, according to Benedict XVI. And yet people think and hail him as such a conservative, such a traditionalist, it couldn’t be anything further from the truth. And as you well know, I’m sure the priests have talked about it, when it comes to the Moto Proprio he came out with, allowing a more liberal use of the Latin Mass, he makes it very clear, the Novus Ordo, the modern sacrilege, that is the official, the common expression of the Latin Rite. “That’s not going away, don’t worry about it!” “Novus Ordo is here to stay!” And then he comes up with this bogus: “They’re both of equal value: the Novus Ordo is the common expression of the mass, and the Latin Mass is the extraordinary expression.” This is all to me just absolute deception. Trying to deceive, if possible, even the elect. Those who are trying to find the truth and want the Catholic faith as it was, are going to be led astray, going back to the Novus Ordo churches where there will be men, who are not validly ordained priests, going through the outward motions of a mass in Latin, but will not be a valid mass.
So we have many things to ponder in our heart and thank God that we, by the grace of God see what is going on and how important it is that we live by faith, and that we have a strong solid faith. They can have the buildings, they can have the exterior but we have the true faith. And when Our Lord was born, let this be a consolation to all of us, where were the people of Jerusalem at the stable? They weren’t there. They didn’t even know it happened! Our Lord, when He was born, those who were called were sinful and humble, the shepherds. Men from a great distance, the Magi, had seen the star and enlightened by the grace of God, they came to find the Divine Messiah, and yet the people of Jerusalem had no clue, they were in a wonder, “What is this?” New born King of the Jews? “What are these men saying?” So it just goes to show us that it’s not a matter of numbers, when Our Lord was dying on the cross, it wasn’t a matter of numbers, just very few people were there, Our Blessed Mother, Holy women, St. John and that was it. St. Joseph of Aramethia, not very many people. And the vast majority of them, Roman soldiers executing Our Lord, the Pharisees blaspheming Him, the vast majority were watching this event taking place and this was a test of our faith. It seems like, how can this have taken place, but St. Paul had warned us about this [in 2 Thess 2: 10-12]: Before the Second Coming of Christ, there would be a great Apostasy, and that is what we are witnessing today, the great falling away of many and if we are going to persevere in these times, we need God’s grace because you know without His grace, we can’t do anything. That’s how important it is that we do our very best to pray our prayers every day and receive the sacraments fervently and be strong in our faith. Remember that faith is not a feeling, not an emotion, it’s a full assent of the intellect.
...I hope and pray that all of your persevere in the faith and that in this year of 2008, will be a year of grace for all of us to grow closer to God, to be strong in our faith, to resist the attacks and deceits of the devil, and let us, like Our Blessed Mother, ponder all these things, keeping them in our hearts.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Editor's Note: The above sermon was transcribed by Michael Grant and given at the Sunday Masses for both Our Lady of Fatima in San Diego and Our Lady of Lourdes in Fontana on January 13, 2008.