Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fourth Sunday of Easter—2 May A.D. 2010

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of Lights,
with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.
Of His own will He has begotten us by the word of truth....”[1]

Fête de la Raison 1793[2]

    The author of today’s epistle, Saint James, is believed to have been a blood relative of our Lord—possibly a cousin or second cousin, the child of Mary of Cleophas, who was related to Mary the Mother of Jesus.  From historical sources we know him to have been among those who observed the Nazarite vow, living a life of intense penance.[3]  It is clear from his writing that he knows Christianity to be the fulfillment of what was revealed to the Jewish Nation in the Old Testament.  He refers to Abraham and Isaac, and to the woman Rahab, in his explanation of justification in chapter two.[4]

    The passage we just read is extremely important for today’s Catholics, and indeed, for anyone living in the modern world.  Fifty years, or so, ago, his words would have been accepted as a given by all good Catholics, and by many people outside of the Church.  Very few people would have questioned the unchanging nature of God, and no Catholic would have questioned the origin of the Catholic Faith in “the Word of Truth,” whom we know to be our Lord Jesus Christ.  It was part of the perennial philosophy that God must be unchanging and all‑knowing.  It was the common belief of Christians and Jews that God had communicated some of His knowledge to mankind by public revelation through Moses and the Prophets—it was clear to all Christians that this process of divine public revelation reached its fulfillment and conclusion in the revelations of Jesus Christ to His Apostles.

    This understanding of an all-knowing and unchanging God, logically gives way to the concept of objective truth.  If God knows everything, and never changes, objective and unchanging truth must exist—at least in the mind of God.  We human beings may have difficulty determining what is true—some things may not be knowable through human investigation—and some times all of the interested parties may be wrong about what they have investigated.  But none of that difficulty or uncertainty detracts, in any way, from the reality that objective and unchanging truth exists, even if, in some cases, it is known only in the mind of God.

    But, as Saint James tells us, “Of His own will [God] has begotten us by the word of truth....”  That is to say that, even though human beings may have difficulty and be error prone in our investigations of the world around us, God has intervened through His revelations, to make sure that we know the more important aspects of His objective truth with absolute certainty.  Throughout history men and women have been able to recognize God’s existence through their investigation of the world around them, and the use of their natural human reason, as we read in the Book of Wisdom:  “by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the Creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.”[5]

    Men and women, down through history, have also done a pretty fair job of knowing the Natural Moral Law to which all of mankind must be subject in order for societies to function.  The wise thinkers among us have come to recognize that society simply cannot function if its members go around killing, and stealing, and cheating, and beating one another.  Most societies have also recognized the duties which they have toward the Creator—even if they have come to know Him through natural reason alone

    But, knowing that man’s reasoning may not always be complete and correct, God has intervened in human history so that we may know the truths He wants us to know about Him, and the way in which He wants us to behave.  In Catholic theology, we refer to “matters of Faith and Morals” which reduce simply to “what God wants us to know, and “what God wants us to do.”

    And again, since we believe that there is objective truth, at least in the mind of God, we believe that these things that He has revealed—these “matters of Faith and Morals”—are part of that objective truth.  We use the word “objective” because they are true for everyone.  They are not “subjective” for they do not depend on the wisdom or logic of any human subject—they are not matters of opinion or sentiment, for they come to us from God, who is all-knowing and unchanging, and we have received them through “His Word of truth.”

    This body of divine revelation and the concept of objective truth were the common patrimony of Western Civilization for centuries after the time of Christ.  To be sure, there were still occasional squabbles among people who held differing opinions, but even the squabble was an affirmation of the concept of “objective truth”—for two people to argue, it must be that each believes that he is in possession of the truth, and that the opponent is not.  Even if both of them are wrong, they are still contending that there is an objective truth to the matter at hand.

    But around the mid 1600s, there arose a philosophical movement that questioned, among other things, the way in which we form judgments about the world around us.  Known by the very self serving name of the “Enlightenment,” this philosophical movement drew many away from belief in God, and into an intellectual and moral relativism.  To the “philosophes” of the “Enlightenment” there was a great deal of controversy as to what exactly constituted “reality,” and as to how people could actually know this “reality.”  Most of their thinking was highly subjective, even to the point of man creating his own “truth,” or joining with others in “dialectic” or “dialogue” through which they arrived at a common (but highly impermanent) truth.

    This anarchy of subjective and changeable “truth” culminated in the French Revolution of 1789.  A woman would be enthroned as “the goddess of reason” in the cathedral of Notre Dame, and a bloodbath, henceforth known as “The Terror” (la Terreur), would ensue in the names of “liberty, equality, and fraternity” as Frenchmen were systematically deprived of all three—not to mention, of course, their heads.

    Yet, in spite of this terrible carnage, the ideas of the “Enlightenment” would hold a certain fascination for the thinkers of Western Civilization, including even some Catholics.  Less than a hundred years later, the thinking of the “philosophes” was condemned by Pope Pius IX in a “Syllabus of Errors,” published on the feast of the Immaculate Conception in 1864.[6]  Another such Syllabus preceded Pope Saint Pius X’ encyclical, Pascendi,  condemning Modernism (in 1907 and 1908, respectively).[7]   Perhaps the most frightening thing was that while the earlier Pope Pius condemned mostly state interference in matters proper to the Church, the Modernism condemned by Saint Pius X was more a matter of relativistic opinions among the Catholic clergy about matters of the Catholic Faith.  Those seeking positions within the Church were required to take an Oath Against Modernism.[8]

    But then, during the intellectual upheaval of the 1960s, when objective reality was needed more than ever, the Second Vatican Council abolished the Oath Against Modernism and issued the document Gaudium et spes, which was hailed as a “counter-syllabus” to those issued by Popes Pius IX and X.[9]  A conscious effort was to be made to approach the world through the errors of modern philosophy—the errors of the “Enlightenment,” the Revolution,  and “the Terror.”

    It should surprise no one that this “counter syllabus” ushered in a period of doctrinal and moral confusion never before seen in the Church or in Civil Society.  Abandoning the teaching of Saint James about the unchanging and unalterable “Father of Lights” and His begetting of “us by His Word of Truth” has led to the chaos prophesied by Saint Paul:

There shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own lusts they will heap up to them selves teachers, having itching ears, and will turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables (2 Timothy 4: 3-4).

    The remedy is simple:  as Catholics and as citizens we must resist Modernism in both Church and State.  There is an unchanging God—His word is objective truth, valid for all men and women.  We must categorically resist those who deny His existence, or deny the objective validity of His doctrinal and moral instructions to us through His Word.  We must not allow ourselves to have those “itching ears” which seek after those rulers “according to our own lusts.”  We must not turn away from truth to pursue “fables.”

    As Catholics and as citizens we must discipline ourselves to seek after the truly good, and to avoid what is evil even though it may be superficially attractive. 

    Where do we find the “truly good”?  We merely look to Saint James’ words today:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of Lights,
with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.
Of His own will He has begotten us by the word of truth....”


[1]   Epistle: James i: 17-21,

[2]   File:  Fête de la Raison 1793.jpg  From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3]   Hegesippus, a Jewish Christian, who lived about the middle of the second century, relates (and his narrative is highly probable) that James was called the "Just", that he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor ate animal food, that no razor touched his head, that he did not anoint himself or make use of the bath, and lastly that he was put to death by the Jews.  (Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. “James the Less”


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