TEXT: 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, September 3, 2023

September 3, 2023 Father De Celles Homily

The 22nd  Sunday in Ordinary Time

September 3, 2023

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

A couple of weeks ago I took a sort of working vacation,

driving out to the Midwest for a retreat.

When I got back I realized something remarkable:

         For five days, I had largely avoided all TV and radio,

and even the internet, for the most part.

It was one of the most relaxing things about my vacation.

Doesn’t it seem that nowadays we’re constantly inundated from all directions

with new information and ideas?

Much of that information is very useful.

But much of it is useless and even destructive.

How often do we stop to think about what we’re learning from this information

and how it’s shaping who we are?

Are we shaping our minds with the merely human wisdom of this age,

         or are we renewing our minds with the Wisdom of God?

For example, how much time do you spend in front of a TV set?

And yet, since we often watch TV to relax,

think of how much “human wisdom” you, or your family,

takes in without critically evaluating the information you receive.

But most of what we see comes out of Hollywood or Madison Avenue.

Do you really want them shaping the mind of you or your children?

And think about the internet

and all the wrongheaded and even disgusting information

just a few keystrokes away.

Look at social media: Foolish, ignorant, and unprincipled people

are given a worldwide platform.

I’m a big advocate of freedom of speech, but also the freedom to listen…or not.

Or think about the news we receive.

A few years ago a survey showed that something like

         90% of news reporters don’t believe in God,

but that about 90% of Americans do—and you do!

And yet, we so often uncritically let all these human sources shape our minds.

Even the best and most impressive human wisdom is limited

–it makes mistakes, sometimes huge mistakes.

In the last century alone, the so called “wisest” people of our time worked diligently

on problems like crime, poverty, racism, starvation, violence, and war,

and yet those problems are still around, some worse than ever.

Not to mention the mess the supposed wisemen made during Covid.


Human wisdom, so called, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

The fact is, that if we form our minds and consciences

by learning solely, or even principally, from human wisdom,

we’ll inevitably wind up leading a life

full of confusion, frustration, disappointment, and even despair.

But St. Paul tells us today in his letter to the Romans,

         “Do not conform yourselves to this age

but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and pleasing and perfect.”

He “begs” us to let divine wisdom enlighten our human wisdom

so that we can begin to see and understand things as they really are.

Elsewhere, he calls this “put[ting] on the mind of Christ.”


In today’s Gospel, we find out what happens

when we use human wisdom without divinewisdom.

When Jesus tells the apostles that He has to go to Jerusalem

         to suffer and be killed, St. Peter “rebukes” Him:

         “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You.”

And Jesus turns on him and says,

“Get behind me, Satan….

                  You are thinking not as Goddoes, but as [men] do.”

Here, the word “Satan” is used as the Hebrew word for “enemy“.

Now, to some this is very shocking, especially since

just last week we read the text that comes right before this one

in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus called Peter not His “enemy”,

but the “rock” upon which He will build His Church.

How can He call Peter the rock one minute and His enemy the next?

The thing is, we believe that the promise Jesus made to Peter

means that it was Christ’s will and plan to build and protect the Church

by using the popes as a unifying source of direction and doctrine.  

But we don’t believe that everything every pope says or does is infallible dogma.

And we especially don’t believe that they can’t make mistakes

in their day to day personal life just like the rest of us.

In last week’s Gospel, Peter was teaching as a pope,

stating a central dogma of our faith that he had learned from Jesus

and that divine grace had helped him to finally understand,

         proclaiming to Jesus, “You are the Messiah.”

But in this week’s Gospel, he’s clearly not using what Jesus had taught him

or being guided by divine grace.

Instead, Peter is relying on imminently fallible human wisdom

–and he completely blows it.

And Jesus tells him, “You are thinking not as God does, but as [men] do.”

In his human wisdom, Peter looks to Jerusalem

         and sees only horrible suffering, and he just doesn’t want Jesus to go there.

But when Jesus looks to Jerusalem with the mind of God

and sees His suffering and Cross,

         He also sees the wise plan of the Father coming to fulfillment

in our redemption and in the Resurrection.


St. Peter’s problem is the exact problem we face every day of our lives:

All too often, we also don’t “thin[k] as God does, but as human beings do.”

For Peter, the issue was whether or not Christ should suffer.

For us, the issues usually aren’t much different.

The wisdom of men doesn’t like crosses and suffering.

Rather, it often tells us that we should constantly

be seeking pleasure and avoiding personal pain.

So we see some of the so-called “wisest” people of this age

embracing terrible things that they think will somehow end suffering:

things like abortion, euthanasia, divorce, and contraception.

And they tell us that pleasure is the purpose of living.

And so society becomes immersed in

consumerism, materialism, sexual depravity, and escapism;

and it is driven by greed, lust, power, and selfishness.

But the wisdom of God tells us,

“Whoever wishes to come after Me

         must …take up his cross, and follow Me.”


How do we know, though, if we are thinking with human or divine wisdom?

How do we go about transforming our minds in Christ?

We begin by doing what we do when we want to know the mind of anyone:

We talk to them and spend time with them.

So to take on the mind of God, we begin by talking with Him–by praying.

And by spending time just being with God.

What a great thing it is to spend time praying before our Lord

         truly present in the Blessed Sacrament—like the Psalm says today:

         “So I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory.”

And we can do more than gaze;

         we can be with Him by receiving Him in Holy Communion also.

And when we really want to know the mind of another person,

         we also try to find out everything we can about them from other people.

So, in putting on the mind of God, we go to Scripture and Tradition,

and the teaching of the Church.

And, by the grace of God, as we begin to prayerfully let these teachings take root,

         we begin to experience the true transformation and renewal of our minds.


Some Catholics today say the Church has to change its teaching

to be more in line with the world.

You see a terrible example of this in the German Synodal Way:

They want to set aside the constant teaching of the Church–

that which is passed down from the apostles

through centuries of prayerful teaching by popes, councils, and saints,

and protected by the Holy Spirit so that

“the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

And they want to replace that with the current cultural fluff of

merely human wisdom.

Just like Peter did, they rebuke the Lord.


Now, of course, we don’t discard true human wisdom altogether.

No, God gave us a brain and intellect. Catholicism is a thinking man’s religion.

So we think and we learn and use our human reason,

but we do that enlightened by, and with the insight of,

faith in the wisdom of God.

We call this the “proper formation of conscience.”

And this does not happen overnight;

         it is a steady process, the result of a concerted effort

         to pray, to spend time with the Lord,

         and to learn all we can about the teachings of the Church.

And this must begin as early as possible: from the first moments of childhood,

at home, with the family.

It begins with daily family prayer and parents praying with their kids.

Praying before meals, before bed, and for particular needs.

Praying the family rosary and coming to Mass together every Sunday

         … so many ways to pray as a Catholic family.

And it begins by parents teaching their children about Jesus and His Church.

Do you ever just talk about Jesus at the dinner table?

Do you talk about the day’s events in the light of the Gospel and Church teaching? When you’re in the car driving home from Mass on Sunday,

         do you talk about the readings, or the homily, or about the Eucharist?


Last week, parents sent their kids back to school.

Ask yourself: Does the school you send your kids to

teach them to conform to merely human wisdom,

or does it help them transform their minds to think as God does?

Do you say, “Well, it’s a good school.” But can it be if it teaches them

to not think like God thinks?

And if you get the wrong answer to those questions, what are you doing about it?

Have you thought of changing schools or homeschooling?

Or at least making a strong concerted systematic effort at home

to counter the problem?

Do you make the effort to bring them to CCD (religious education)

         so they can spend at least an hour learning what the Church teaches

         after spending forty plus hours at school

learning so many of the errors of what the world teaches?

And do you make sure they do their CCD homework

         with the same diligence as their math homework?


Almost every moment of our lives, we learn something.

But when we learn, what do we learn?

Do we form our minds and consciences by the eternal truth of God’s mind,

         or merely the fallible opinions of men?

Do we imitate Peter as he listens to the mind of the Father and teaches,

“[Jesus is] the messiah,”

         or when he listens to his own weak human wisdom,

and gets rebuked by Christ, “Get behind me, Satan!”?


Today, as we come together to pray,

to gaze on and receive Our Lord in the Sanctuary,

and to listen to His Word,

may these words of St. Paul be seared into our minds and hearts:

                  “Do not conform yourselves to this age,

but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

that you may discern what is the will of God,

what is good and pleasing and perfect.”