Ordinary of the Mass
Latin Mass Text-3rd Sunday
English Mass Text-3rd Sunday
In today's collect we hear that “God
shows the light of truth to those who are in error, so that they may return to
the path of right living, rejecting whatever is opposed to and upholding
everything in accord with the name of ‘Christians.’”
Christianity is certainly a religion of
Faith--there are a number of truths that we are expected to believe, as well as
any number of falsehoods that we must reject. But Faith is only half of what we
prayed for in that collect--there is also evil to be resisted and good that must
In his epistle, Saint Peter reminded us
that we live in society.
If it is a just and functional society, those in authority will govern in
accordance with God’s laws, and will allow the citizens the liberty to do what
is necessary for their spiritual and physical wellbeing. They will “praise the
good” and work God’s “vengeance on evildoers.” Yet, the vital work of
converting the non-Catholics cannot be done by the government—even the best
governments are coercive bodies—they work largely through force or threat of
force—and conversion to the Faith must be a voluntary thing. One must come
willingly to accept the truths God has revealed –one must come willingly to
doing good and avoiding evil.
The most compelling evidence we can give
to those who have not yet accepted the Faith is our good example. Back when I
was studying to become a priest, I used to think that it was enough to preach
the truth—that truth was powerful and attractive enough to convince anyone who
would listen—boy, was I ever wrong! People tend not to think with their brains,
but more with their hearts. The most clearly worded logical argument in world
will not move them as much as the admiration they have for someone who makes a
good impression on them.
After discussing this, one of our
priests gave me a copy of a brief paper, written by the former Cardinal
Archbishop of Paris back around the time of World War II. It was written as an
instruction to the priests of his diocese during very trying times, entitled
“Priests Among Men.” The Archbishop was Emmanuel Célestin Suhard, who served
until his death in 1949. Some of you have heard me mention Suhard before, for
his work contains at least one quote that I think bears repeating now and again.
He wrote about bearing witness to the
things of God to the unbeliever. Such witness did not require miracles or even
carefully worded propaganda. He wrote:
[T]o be a witness does not consist in
engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being
a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life
would not make sense if God did not exist.
Quite likely, living in this way is
difficult for all of us—we are all tempted to make life as pleasant as possible
for ourselves—we may be careful to avoid breaking God’s laws, but yet, we center
our actions on ourselves rather than on God. This may be why the Church has us
read today’s Gospel.
We do not always have Jesus Christ
around us: Just as He ascended into heaven and no longer walked personally with
the Apostles, He is often out of sight and out of mind to most Catholics. Even
in the Blessed Sacrament, He seems distant to those of us who have not received
the gift of contemplative prayer.
But in today’s Gospel we have the
promise of a direct encounter with Jesus! “Your sorrow will be turned into
joy…. and your joy no one shall take from you.” Those who keep the Commandments
are promised a personal and everlasting encounter with Jesus in the Beatific
Vision of God in Heaven. We may sorrow in the present world, but we have the
promise of eternal joy.
This is not like any earthly promise.
It is all too common that we are disappointed by the promises made to us by
mortal men and women—but God never breaks His promises—more than simply
truthful, God is Truth—He can never deceive or be deceived.
We should look forward to union with God
with confidence and anticipation. By doing so we will be able to bring many
converts to the true faith. By focusing on the joys of Heaven rather than on
the discomforts and distractions of earth, it will be much easier
To live in such a way
That one's life would not make sense
If God did not exist!