Third Sunday of Advent—16 December A.D. 2012
The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus
Ember Days in Advent
“Be not solicitous ... let your petitions be made known to God.”
Lord will provide” is a saying that seems to have proven itself true, over
and over during the time I have been a priest. Things that seem nearly
impossible, but which are in conformity with God’s will, often come to
pass. Given this admonition of Saint Paul about not being “solicitous,” I
am sometimes asked why I spend so much of my time reading and talking about
economics and political matters. Would it not be better to just put things
in God’s hands and spend the time in spiritual reading? Is that not what
Saint Paul is urging in today’s Epistle? Shouldn’t we be more like the
“lilies of the field”?
begin with, the parable of the “lilies of the field” is an example of the
hyperbole (or exaggeration) sometimes used in Semitic languages to emphasize
a point. Taken literally, the parable would urge us to go naked—which is
certainly not what our Lord intended. Nor did He intend for us to be
exactly like “the birds of the air” who “neither sow, nor do they reap, nor
gather into barns.”
Men and women must feed and clothe and shelter themselves through their own
industry. We have the example of our Lord Himself working in the carpentry
shop of Saint Joseph, or of the Apostles who were fishermen—and later they
earned their living through the ministry of preaching. Indeed, the very
same Saint Paul continued in his secular occupation while engaged in his
missions—he was a tent maker.
He supported himself in order to be no burden on those whom he evangelized,
and to feed the poor:
I have not
coveted any man's silver, gold, or apparel, as You yourselves know:
for such things as were needful for me and them that are with me, these
hands have furnished. I have shewed you all things, how that so
labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the word of the
Lord Jesus, how he said: “It is a more blessed thing to give, rather
than to receive.”
Corinthians he wrote:
What is my
reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without
charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. For whereas I was free
as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.
then, safe to assume that when Paul told the Philippians not to be
“solicitous,” and to let their “petitions be made known to God” he meant to
trust that the Good Lord would provide the means by which they would take
care of their necessities, and by which they would be able to give to the
poor. God provides the raw materials, but man must put those materials to
use in productive ways.
Characteristically, those who pray and who place their trust in God are able
to live reasonably frugal lives—they tend to require fewer of the world’s
luxuries. And, the most important petitions that should be made known to
God are those petitions for the spiritual goods that will ensure our
eternity with God.
But, to be
perfectly honest, we all know that many people do not have the luxury of
living lives of undisturbed contemplative prayer. And the few who do so in
monasteries are often dependent on the support of those who make their way
in the world.
who must live in the world—even those who live frugally—are more likely to
have hope if they have reasonable living conditions.
Modernists tend to criticize the commercial revolution of the middle ages,
and the industrial revolution of modern times, saying that these events made
people more materialistic and selfish, more concerned with money than with
family and children, more concerned with social status than with God.
consider what life was like before the commercial and industrial era: food
and clothing were far more scarce and far less varied; some went without
heat in the winter and virtually all had to live with the heat of summer;
building materials were crude and scarce, so living spaces were cramped,
unsanitary, and uncomfortable; modern medicine was non-existent, so many
women died in childbirth, children often died in infancy, minor wounds were
often fatal, and epidemics occasionally wiped out significant populations,
generally leading to even greater scarcities.
who sees her child die, and the father who cannot feed or clothe his family,
or provide even simple medicines for them, are not
spiritually enriched by this unavoidable frugality. On the contrary, it is
likely that they will be driven to despair. It is likely that they will
not praise God for their misery. It is even possible that
they will blame God, and even curse Him for their wretchedness. Primitive
poverty is not a way to holiness for most people.
Catholic Popes who wrote in the industrial era recognized the need for
adequate material goods and rational government. Popes Leo XIII and
Benedict XV, Popes Pius IX, X, XI and XII wrote encyclicals supporting the
right to work, to make a decent living, and to preserve the fruits of one’s
labor in private property.
They condemned communism, socialism, and governments that intruded into the
affairs proper to families or to the Church.
The cried out for peace among the nations of the world, and for the human
rights of people within those nations, while condemning the idea of World
Government and a One World Church.
They wrote about a great number of topics concerning man living in the
world, looking to God for the “raw materials” for men and women to create a
decent existence for themselves.
must not be “solicitous” ... we must let our “petitions be made known to
God.” But at the same time, we must be concerned with the way God’s gifts
are put to work for the things we need and for the things we ought to give
to the poor. As citizens in the Republic we therefore have a responsibility
to understand the economic and political “goings on” around us, and to take
an active role in ensuring that God’s gifts are utilized for the physical
and spiritual wellbeing of our selves, and our neighbors.