(Continuing on human respect with part 2 of the sermon by Rev. FERREOL GIRARDEY, C.SS.R., Imprimatur 1915. Emphases mine.)
It is the sacred duty of every true Christian to give to God absolute preference over every creature and, for God’s sake, to be ready to sacrifice at once every temporal interest, every human friendship, when these clash with his duty towards his Creator. The Catholic who is swayed by human respect, deliberates between God and a certain individual; he places in the scales God and this individual, and he prefers the individual to God Himself! Like the Jews, he cries out : “Not Jesus, but Barabbas!” He prefers his temporal interests, his pleasures, the gratification- of his base passions, his boon companions to his Creator, to the Lord of heaven and earth, to his greatest Benefactor, to his best Friend, to his most loving Father! He calls himself a Christian, a Catholic, pretends to believe in and serve God, and dreads only a wretched man’s displeasure or raillery; he pretends to worship God, and yet he dreads a wicked, unprincipled, contemptible man more than God Himself! He is less afraid of committing sin, of losing his soul, of being cast into hell for all eternity, than of forfeiting some worldly interest, or of being ridiculed by those whose opinions and sayings he should despise! Is not such a criminal preference a practical apostasy in one who calls himself a Christian, a Catholic?
We can understand the motive that induces a soldier to desert to the enemy, that urges a son, a daughter to forsake the paternal mansion. But that a Catholic should betray His God, his Church, his soul to the world on account of the censure of an ignoble man or set of men, is practically nothing less than an infamous apostasy ! God is your greatest Benefactor. What more could He do for you that He has not done, either in the order of nature, or in the order of grace? God created you in preference to numberless other men He could have created, had He so wished. He gave you your life, your body, its five senses and their use, and an immortal soul with its faculties. He has given you health and strength, as well as countless other benefits. He watches over you with truly paternal care, preserves you from many dangers, and makes all creatures, both animate and inanimate, your servants. “And if these things be little, I will add far greater things unto thee ” (2 Kings 12. 8). In the order of Grace He has done far greater things for you. For your sake “God did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up” to insults, torments, and death (Rom. 8. 32). For you God the Son” emptied Himself,” assuming our human nature, “taking the form of a slave.” For you He was born in humility, poverty and suffering; for you He led a life of obscurity, toil and hardship; -and, finally, after a laborious ministry beset with constant opposition and persecution, He died a most infamous death on the cross, after under going in His body the most excruciating torments, enduring inconceivable sorrow in His soul, and forfeiting His honor by being reckoned as an impostor and numbered among the vilest criminals. For your benefit Jesus instituted His Church and her sacraments, those inexhaustible fountains of grace and salvation, which apply His merits to the souls of men, purify and beautify them, and render them worthy of eternal glory. “And if these things be little, I shall add far greater things unto thee.” Not content with doing all this for you, God called you to the true faith by baptism; through His loving dispensation, you were educated by your good parents in the knowledge and practice of your faith, and removed from evil influences; you have been many a time cleansed from your sins in the sacrament of penance in the blood of the Immaculate Lamb, and made partakers of the Bread of Angels in the Holy Eucharist. Truly God “hath not done in like manner to every nation” (Ps. 147. 9). Verily it is easier to count the grains of sand on the sea-shore and the drops of water in the ocean, than the benefits He has lavished on you. He has, moreover, designed to confer on you still greater favors in heaven, where He has reserved for those who love and serve Him faithfully a perfect and endless reward, saying to you as to Abraham : “I am thy reward exceedingly great” (Gen. 15. i). What more could God do for you? But what does he say, who yields to human respect? “O God, I know all this; but I rather give Thee up; I give up the honorable and inappreciable privilege of being Thy child. I prefer to belong to the world. I rather please such and such companions than to obey Thee.” He then cries out : “Not this one, but Barabbas ! “Be astonished at this, ye heavens ! My people have done two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living water, and have dug to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. . . . Pass over to the isles of Cathin, and see; and send into Cedar, and consider diligently, and see if there hath been anything like this” ( Jer. 2. 12, 13, 10).
You now, as it were, put Jesus Christ to shame, by turning your back on Him ; but soon you shall hear from His lips these terrible words : “You have been ashamed of Me and of My words, and I will be ashamed of you, and I will disown you, when I come in my Majesty as your Judge” (Luke 9. 26).
On the other hand, how admirable was the conduct of Tobias ! “When all went to the golden calves which Jeroboam, king of Israel, had made, Tobias alone fled the company of all and went to Jerusalem” (Tob. I. 5, 6). How admirable also was the conduct of the Israelites in Egypt. Anxious to escape the danger of falling there into idolatry through human respect, they said : “Let us go (into the desert) and sacrifice to our God”(Exod. 5. 8). How edifying the conduct of the early Christians in overcoming human respect! Rather than yield to human respect, they shunned all unnecessary intercourse with pagans and heretics, and were ready to undergo confiscation, imprisonment, torments and death, rather than yield to human respect! And those who had had the misfortune to apostatize, in order to escape the loss of their goods and fearful torments and a cruel death, or who, only when overcome by torments, had apostatized, were all subjected to long and rigorous penances before being re-admitted into the Church and to Holy Communion ! And you, with out being exposed to torments or to any real danger or serious disadvantage, are so weak as to apostatize practically, in order to please men who are undeserving of esteem and confidence, men who are the agents of Satan!