Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Fifth Sunday after Easter—29 May A.D. 2011

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”{1}

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

    On Monday mornings, after Mass at about 9 o'clock, we recite one of the hours of the Divine Office.  That hour ends with the collect (or prayer) from the Mass of the Holy Trinity:  “All-powerful, eternal God, Thou hast given Thy children the true faith: they adore Thee in the glory of Thy Trinity and in the grandeur of Thy Unity; may the firmness of this belief strengthen us in the face of life's difficulties.”  As Catholics we believe that Jesus Christ, Himself, during His time on earth, established the Catholic Church and His priesthood, and that through them we receive both His graces and the truth of His teachings.

    We can say with confidence that we have the True Faith.  That, of course, is a wonderful thing, but we must recognize that it is not enough just to possess the Faith, but that we must also act upon It.  It is not enough to put a button on our lapel, or a medal on a chain around our neck, that says “I am a Catholic” and then feel that there is no more for us to do.  As Saint James tells us in this morning's epistle,  we must “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [o]urselves.”

    Saint James does not dispute the need for belief in God and in the things He has revealed, nor does he disparage the frequent reception of God's graces through the Sacraments—no one could do so and still call himself a Catholic—but he does place an additional emphasis on the practical points of the Catholic Faith.  Two weeks ago I read to you his words about taking care of the needs of a “brother or a sister who is naked or in want of daily food,” and that it wasn't enough just to believe without acting to relieve their necessities—remember “the devils also believe and yet tremble.”{2}

    When we have the resources and we see a need, we are doing good for Christ Himself, when we do good for the least of His brethren.{3}  This “good” can be physical—what we call the “corporal works of mercy—or this “good” can be spiritual works.  But, in any event, we are called to perform these good works whenever there is a need and we have surplus resources.

    In today's epistle, beside “aiding orphans and widow's in their tribulation,” Saint James reminds us to remain “unspotted by the world.”

    In the moral life, many can recite the Commandments and the precepts of the Church, and the laws of the State. But somehow or another there is a disconnection between the knowledge and the action. We know better, but we don't do a very good job of keeping the Lord's day, or reverencing His Holy Name. We accept the foolishness that we hear in the media, suggesting that in many cases adultery is not really adultery, that murder is not really murder, and that theft is not really theft.. We have written laws and standards of behavior, but seem to yield continuously to public opinion or the pressure of personal convenience. We are hearers but not doers.

    Saint James points specifically to sins we might commit through the power of speech, “not restraining the tongue, but deceiving one's own heart.”{4}  Elsewhere, in Chapter three, James tells us:

the tongue is indeed a little member, which boasts great things. Behold how small a fire kindles a great forest.  The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.... full of deadly poison. By it we bless God ... and by it we curse men.... Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing.{5}

anyone who has a problem with cursing or gossiping ought to have a close look at the third chapter of James' epistle.

    Our defects in the intellectual life are much like those in our moral life.  The most cherished beliefs of religious and secular life all seem to yield to convenience, or to the desire to conform to the crowd.  Truth is a casualty to the desire to “just get along,” or to be “politically correct,” as the cultural Marxists say.  It is as though truth were a completely relative thing—a personal thing, rather than something defined by objective reality. Modern man seems to have no problem with everyone having their own personal “truth”; a “truth” for him, a “truth” for me, and a “truth” for you.  Again, we have become hearers rather than doers—with very few willing to stand up before the crowd to say what is unpopular. We want to avoid conflict and are afraid to say any thing that will lead to unhappy thoughts.  We try not to think about truth being objective and unchanging in the mind of Almighty God—“the Father of Lights with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.”6

    And what about our prayer life? Do we actually pray or do we simply repeat words? With some folks it is immediately obvious—like those who say the prayers of the Rosary, sounding something like a tobacco auctioneer—or the priest who says his Mass at machine gun velocity—  as Saint Robert Bellarmine said, “ as though he has a band of robbers on his back.”7  But maybe we are all guilty of this a little bit ourselves. 

    Even public prayer ought to be meditative—we ought to mean what we say or recite; we ought to reflect on the prayers offered on our behalf, as the priest does for us at Mass. One does not have to be a learned intellectual to make both public and private prayer a true mental communication with God. If we pray without attention to meaning it is not much more beneficial than tape recording our prayers and having the machine pray them back when it is time to pray—a Western version of the Buddhist prayer wheel!

    Saint James is asking us to make a sort of examination of conscience.  Again, we should ask ourselves whether are we “doers” or merely “hearers” in our charity, in our observance of the Commandments, in our speech, and in our prayer life?

 



Notes:

7  in James Brodrick. S.J., St. Robert Bellarmine: Saint and Scholar, page 35-36.  http://www.rosarychurch.net/answers/ap032000.html


 

 

 

 


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