On Sunday, July 8, 2018, Fr. Perrone delivered this homily at the 9:30 a.m. Mass. With the choir and school on summer break, it was a low Mass in the extraordinary form for the 7th Sunday after Pentecost.
The good tree produces good fruit — which is to say what comes before makes a qualitative determination in what comes after. We may take this adage in application to the many things in life, but concerning the Church it has a special significance.
The holy Church of Christ has produced out of abundance of the graces it has in its store, an astounding number of holy people, those whom we call saints — those canonized and not-canonized. If you have made yourselves acquainted with the biographies of the saints, you are aware — as too many nowadays are not — that the Church has a very lengthy roster of recognized saints, much greater than is generally known. The efficient cause of this holiness is none other than Christ Himself, the all-holy One who is the Head of the Church, who attaches Himself to His members who draw their life’s blood from Him: the premier example of the holy tree producing its own holy fruits. And so we profess that the Church herself is holy, the beloved spouse of the Lord, who was wedded to Christ as a bride who, in the words of Saint Paul, is holy, immaculate (spotless), without so much as a wrinkle. If, in addition to so many holy lives of the saints, we add to this “cloud of witnesses,” the profuse accomplishments of the Church in good works for the spiritual and material well-being of humanity, we have a convincing visible proof that the Church is Christ’s very own.
We cannot help but be aware that there is also some evident bad fruit that has sprung from Christian men and women. This sad and also-visible fruit has been a source of scandal to some who have been discouraged by it and who have wondered whether the Church can rightly be called essentially holy in consideration of so much manifest unholiness. A parable our Lord told about the farmer sowing the seeds helps us to understand this anomaly. When the field had been inspected after the maturing of the crops, it was noticed that there were weeds among the wheat. The verdict was pronounced that this was the work not of the farmer but of the evil one, which is to say that the weeds had their seeds deliberately sown by another. The bad fruit which has sprung up among so much good fruit must not be attributed to the Church which is essentially holy, otherwise that evil would have to be attributed to God Himself, which is surely a lie and a blasphemy. God’s work can be identified by its good fruits, what we call the fruits of the Holy Spirit. The weeds similarly are manifestly identified as the work of the evil one — they do not remain undetected for long, for when they mature they are visible.
I’d like our people to be “cunning as serpents but innocent as doves,” that is to say, fully aware of what is happening in our time in the Church but unaffected by it. We are seeing a great deal of bad fruit coming from wolves in disguise as sheep (to borrow the metaphor from this gospel). That this is treachery and an outrage to God and an immense handicap for many Catholics can’t be denied. How different the Church would be today if her “prophets (that is, the clergy) were feeding their flocks with the nourishing food of pure doctrine, if they were giving edifying example of holy living, and if they were leading the people in holy offices and rites of the Church which sanctify her members.
While there has never been a time in the Church when both the good and bad have not had to co-exist, yet we seem to be heavily burdened today with so much evil, confusion, scandal, sacrilege, and ignorance as to be discouraging. But what is really happening is that the good and bad crops are both maturing. It must be getting nearer the harvest time — for there has indeed been appointed such a time when all must come to a conclusion. If we see things with this perspective, we will have some of the wisdom of the saints who, sometimes living in very evil times much like our own — or even worse — have managed to live with an inner sanctity unaffected by the contaminants around them, or else actually stimulated to a greater sanctity by the opposing forces around them. Our Epistle reading mentions that there is the “fruit unto sanctification” which belongs to God’s servants. The availability of this good fruit is why we cannot despair over so many bad reports about what’s happening in the Church, and in the wide-world, but we should make these signals for an ever more resolute adherence to Christian truth, to the Commandments, and to the means of preserving and increasing grace in our souls — especially through our devout participation in Holy Mass.
Although there’s a need for a head-on opposition to error and iniquity by those whose duty it is to fight on the front lines, the maintenance of which requires (to return to the metaphor) frequent inspection and “weeding.” How the Church will survive this dark time in her history is known only to God, but it is manifest that each man will be held accountable not for the larger welfare of the Church, but for his own personal conduct. So, rather than look about and lament what may be there, one needs to look within and be always attentive to the movements of sin within. In saying this, I don’t mean to dissuade efforts to conform the exterior order of things to justice, but rather to remind you that the speck in one’s eye must first be removed before assisting anyone else to see rightly.
I believe that the traditional Mass has all the elements needed for making saintly people: repairing and nourishing the soul. We are fortunate here to be able to draw from this great source of grace what’s needed in this very upsetting time. God wills our sanctification, and the Mass, if it is anything profitable to us (as it surely is to God’s exterior glory), it is the outpouring of the transforming grace needed to form holy men and holy women.
As often happens, the Collect of the Mass summarizes my message: “O God, whose providence fails not in its designs, we humbly entreat You to put from us all that might be harmful, and give us all that will be profitable, through Christ our Lord.”