Below is Fr. Perrone’s homily from Sunday, February 5th, 2017. It is a bit belated. Audio is unavailable for this homily. Check back soon for the February 12th homily. Hopefully, we will have audio again soon. Please pardon any formatting problems.
When we hear the words God put into the mouth of Holy Isaiah concerning charity for our needy brethren–the acts of kindness we know as the Corporal Works of Mercy–we’re touched by the consideration God has for them. It’s an appealing message of wholehearted and unaffected goodness, a warm response to human needs which befits people of rational mind and good will. And when we recall that our Lord will judge us on the basis on whether or not we will have practiced charity in these very ways, we’re doubly motivated to do our neighbor good–for Christ’s sake.
There’s been considerable emphasis laid upon this aspect of the Christian faith in modern times when the Church has been summoned to show its care towards the poor, the sick, and the less fortunate, especially in view of her emphatic commitment to evangelization, that is, of giving witness to Christ to those who do not share our Catholic faith. The Catholic Church in her long history has given ample proof, to any who care to take notice, of her dedication to the works of Christian charity. For some, perhaps for many, there is no greater verification of the truth of the Catholic faith than her agelong and impressive record of charitable works. Rational arguments in favor of the truth of the Church’s teachings are important and necessary since God did reveal many truths which require our full assent and agreement, but often people are little disposed to rational argument–perhaps because weak minds are but little bent on intellectual discipline. One thing remains convincing where the efforts at rational defense of the faith may fail: this is the witness of a genuine, personal, unaffected and selfless love for our neighbor. This was how it has been since the beginning of the Church when pagans observed the conduct of Christians, “See how they love one another.” Love often carries beyond the reaches of the mind.
Yet we should not remain entire dependant upon indispensable form of giving witness to the world, as if it were all sufficient. There’s a danger to which many have fallen in modern times of failing to convert men’s minds to the truth of Catholicism in order to bring men into the Catholic Church. It is not enough merely to do the good works of mercy. It is also important, essential, that souls be saved by acceptance of the Creed and the sanctifying reception of the sacraments. In other words, we need to speak the truth of Catholicism to the world, the word of God, and not merely stand silent by, content to allow others to remain as they were, unconverted. Catholics today seem to have acquired a kind of corporate ‘inferiority complex’ with regard to the public expression of their faith, lacking both a conviction of its truth and an accompanying zeal for the conversion of men to the Catholic faith. God works toward the needy is not all. We need to be reminded that the Church does not exist primarily for the temporal, earthly, welfare of mankind, but for its eternal welfare. It is the eternal fate of people that matters for the Church, and not merely whether or not they have food, shelter, clothing, or social freedom.
Our Lord instructed His disciples warning them that should salt lose its savor it would be entirely worthless. In another metaphor He pointed out that a light which hides itself is of no utility. These figures are meant for us to realize the duty we have to be thoroughly, genuinely Catholic Christians ourselves and to expose the light of our doctrine and good works so that the Catholic faith may be evident as the one and only saving way of salvation for mankind. This leaves no room for a half-hearted, lukewarm allegiance to the Church. We have been made the privileged partakers of a divine work: bringing others into the Church for their salvation. Saint Paul testified to the truth of our faith speaking “not with persuasive words of wisdom” but with ‘divine power.’ It is, in other words, not by special training in argumentation, in rhetorical skill, that converts are made to Christ but by the simple truth of the faith and the convincing witness of holy living that owes more to sanctifying grace than to our feeble efforts of disputation. Granted there are some who are well skilled in this, but success in converting people to Catholicism is the work of God’s grace and not of mere human effort.
There has been a deplorable de-emphasis on making converts to the Church nowadays and a settling for mere humanitarian goals–an accommodation to the world by dialogue with non- believers, a satisfaction of meeting them “where they are” and leaving them there. The result of this has been insecurity of the truth of the faith in many Catholics and a falling off of conversions, resulting in a loss, I fear, of salvation both for the hesitant believers and for the unconverted as well. Our Lord gave His Church a commission to go to all the world, teach His doctrine, and to baptize–conversion, in a word. In all ages–except ours–Catholics have undertaken the work of evangelizing people, converting them from their former ways of believing and living, to the Catholic Church. It’s hard to understand the modern apology many make for possessing Christ’s truth! Are they ashamed of Christ? Is the Catholic Church not the only Church He founded? If it is not, we have no business being part in it. But if it is His dear spouse, His “bride” (in the language of Saint Paul), then we have the duty to speak of her, defend her, and propagate her for the glory of God and for the eternal welfare of men’s souls.
Let us not be accused of faintheartedness or cowardice in giving witness to our faith and defending it. Our Lord warned that should we fail to give witness to Him before men, He will fail to claim us at the Judgment. Eternity is at stake if we do not uphold the truth. May the Holy Spirit give us His wisdom and fortitude to be bearers of the message of truth for the salvation of mankind.