“I Believe in Good Health but I Really Love Bacon“
Father Peter Fitzgibbons
November 25 – 26, 2023
Gospel: Matthew 25:31-46
Jesus said to His disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right and the goats on His left. Then the king will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit You?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, a stranger and you gave Me no welcome, naked and you gave Me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for Me.’ Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to Your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for Me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This week I barged in on a family’s Thanksgiving dinner, and I had a thought while I was there. Why don’t they make turkey parmesan? Turkey and chicken are both poultry. So, why not? I’m just thinking outside the coop. I mentioned this to the Godmother . . . she was not amused, so I won’t be asking that question again.
I was good friends with a chaplain I served with several times while in the military. You never say “goodbye” to your friends in the military; you say, “I’ll see you at the next assignment.” If you stick around long enough, eventually you will see everybody again. She was a wonderful chaplain, but she said, “I don’t understand you Catholics.” Why not? “Well, you believe in this works righteousness thing.” Now I’m probably not the most attentive student – look squirrel – but I think I would have heard of that before. We would have gone over it once or twice in seminary and tested on it. I never learned that because there is no such thing. All the good works we do flow from Whom? From God. What is God’s essence? His essence is love. He is love itself. Why did He make us? Remember your Catechism. He made us because He loves us. Love is always generative, and it produces fruit outside of itself. When we produce fruit outside of ourselves, we have proof of God’s love. Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” That love now becomes external. Keeping His commandments is fruit outside of ourselves. Our Lord wants more than just lip service. If you want to be like Christ, you must do what He did. Doing the proper works of mercy as described in the Gospel are works outside of ourselves. They are works just like God’s. They are external signs of an internal reality of possessing and being possessed by our good Lord. We produce fruits as God does.
God gives His gifts to both the good and the bad. When emergency vehicles come screaming down the highway after you call 911, do they ask if you have been naughty or nice? Do they ask if you are worthy of them risking their lives to come save you? No. Regardless, they come flying down the highway to save us. That’s how God’s love is. We produce fruit for both the good and bad. Sometimes that isn’t easy because we tend to be highly sensitive people. When somebody doesn’t thank us, we get a little upset. Sometimes people are just not nice, and it’s unpleasant to be around them. But we do these works of love because we love God, and it is He who gives us the strength to do them. Working with the sick can also be unpleasant. I walked into hospice the other day, and someone was having a procedure done. Whoa! There’s not enough Lysol in the world to cover up that smell. But we still must do our job. It’s not about us. Love is always generative. Even if there is work involved, the work itself is love as Saint Augustine reminds us.
I’m ticked off at my cousins. They called to torment me by telling me about all the delicious food they had for Thanksgiving Dinner. They had mashed turnips and carrots, which I love. It’s a New England thing. They also had stuffing like my mother made. Oh my gosh! Turkey always tastes better cold, so I always go for the fixings. The little things like the way the table is set up, the presentation, and all the other things that go into preparing Thanksgiving dinner are all fruits of love. It’s not just filling the trough as my mother would say. They are all signs of love scattered about which come from what’s in the soul. This is how God knows that we love Him because He knows us by our fruit. Some people say, “I believe in God, but I don’t go to church.” Well, I believe in good health, but I really love bacon. Others say, “Well, I love God. I go to church, and I participate in the Sacraments. God knows that I love Him.” No, He doesn’t. Well, actually He does because He’s God. But you’re kinda rewriting scripture. If you love Him, then do something about it. Love makes itself external, and this is how He knows we love Him. If you say you love someone, but you never want to be with them, do you really love them? All these good things we do, we do because we are loved by God, and we love Him. These are external acts of an internal reality, and we cannot help but do them. You can tell how much the Just in the Gospel were in love with Him because of all the things they did. They weren’t doing it for something in return. They did it because it was the right thing, and they didn’t even think about it. It was a natural kind of spiritual muscle memory because of Who they possessed and Who possessed them.
How will you apply this message to your life? ________________________________________
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