Ordinary of the Mass
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Sometimes the language of the Scriptures can be difficult for us
to deal with. The older translations tend to be very literal renderings of the
Latin Vulgate, or of the Greek originals. The translators were concerned with
strict accuracy—nothing could be imagined to be more serious than the
falsification of the sacred texts, even if done accidentally.
This passage in today's Gospel is an example of the difficulties
we have with such literal renderings. Some texts speak of the Holy Ghost coming
to "convince" the world of sin, others say “convict” the world of sin. It might
do well to understand the phrase as to “prove the world wrong,” or to
“demonstrate the errors of the world” in connection with sin, and justice, and
To prove the world wrong in connection with sin—particularly the
sin of unbelief: “I will convict the world of sin, because they do not believe
in me.” And, isn't that the essential sin of the world. When we lie, or cheat,
or steal, aren't we guilty of not believing in our Lord—aren't we contradicting
His word; denying His divinity and His authority over us? Would we sin if we
had perfect faith?
Can we not trace every evil that modern men commit to a lack of
Faith in God? Would men rape, and plunder, and start wars if they were
constantly thinking about the glory of God, and the homage which they owe Him?
Don't our troubles stem from the state of infidelity which has taken over and
replaced Christendom. Perhaps “infidelity” is too kind a word—perhaps
“paganism” is more accurate.
Our Lord tells us that the Holy Ghost will demonstrate our errors
in connection with justice. “I will convict the world of Justice, because I go
to the Father, and you will see me no more.” In one sense, He is taking the
Jews to task for their lack of justice—for their bringing Him before the Roman
governor and having Him put to death. He would go to the Father and prove that
He was right in all that He said; in all that angered them enough to commit such
a travesty of justice.
But, likewise, He is holding us accountable for our lack of
justice—that even though He suffered and died, bearing the weight of our sins on
His shoulders, we show Him very little gratitude. We make no big sacrifices in
our lives—and, often we don't even make any little ones. We have Prayer, and
the Mass, and the Sacraments, and His enduring presence in the Blessed
Sacrament—but we take even these for granted, making use of them more because we
have to, than because we want to. When was the last time we attended a weekday
Mass, or made a visit to the Blessed Sacrament? How often do we feel free to
pass an entire day without lifting our minds in prayer?
Finally, our Lord speaks of demonstrating our errors concerning
judgment. “I will convict the world of judgment because the prince of this
world has already been judged.” We fail to see the devil, even though he is
everywhere and always around us. We glory in our possessions, in the
developments of our society, and our technology, even when they are
counterproductive, and even positively insulting to the will of God. We
rejoice, in what we call “freedom,” being unable to exercise judgment, and to
see that we are celebrating our slavery.
But, if today's Gospel seems to condemn us, it also proposes the
remedy. Even if we are quite justly convicted of sin and justice and judgment,
we now have an Advocate. Our Lord has gone to the Father—and has sent us the
Holy Ghost—the “Spirit of Truth, who will teach us all the truth.”
And this ought to be a constant goal for Catholics: to know the
truth—to practice the truth—and to spread the truth among our associates. Our
Lord tells us that He is Truth incarnate—so living a life of truth is like being
in constant communion with our Lord. As St. James tells us, “Of His own will He
has begotten us by the word of truth, that we might be the first-fruits of His
We have the Mass, the Sacraments, and the enduring presence of
Truth Himself in the Blessed Sacrament. We have the ability to do good works,
and the ability to call down our Advocate by our own regular prayers.
By these things only we may escape conviction. And these things
we must do, and be glad in doing them,
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.”
No shadow of alteration, only perfect Truth!