Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Third Sunday of Lent 19 March AD 2017
Ave Maria!

“He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathers not with me, scatters.”[1]

 Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Mass Text]
[Latin Mass Text]
[Lenten Observance]

    Our Lord’s words, taken from today’s Gospel, are probably the most unsettling statement about our spiritual life. It is not possible to be neutral—one has to side either with God or against Him; with Jesus Christ or with the devil—there is no in between.  That is, I believe, what we find so impressive about Saint Paul, when we read about his “ship-wrecks,” his “perils in the wilderness,” his “escapes in a basket through a window in the wall,” and all of the other wild things we heard about back at the beginning of Lent.[2]  Paul is an ideal model for our spiritual life, for it is obvious that he has “joined up” and completely given himself over to the service of Jesus Christ.

    Now it does not seem that any of us have been called to go about the Mediterranean and getting in trouble with the authorities by preaching the Gospel.  Most of us probably think that is a good thing!  But yet, we are told that we must join with Jesus Christ in His mission on earth—“He who is not with Me is against Me.”  So what are we to do?

    The answer for most of us is that must try to live the life we have in the most perfect way.  Saint Paul himself, in today’s Epistle gives us an idea of how this is to be done:

    But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not so much as be named among you, as becometh saints; nor obscenity, nor foolish talking, nor scurrility, which is to no purpose; but rather giving of thanks:[3]

    Saint Paul is telling us that not only must we refrain from sin, but that sin has no place in our conversations—“let it not even be named by you.”  It is all together out of place for Catholics to engage in risqué conversation or to tell jokes about sinful behavior.  Sin is evil and not funny—and when we talk or laugh about sin, we are joining up with the devil—we are not gathering for Jesus Christ, but instead we are scattering.

    The moral theologians take Saint Paul’s advice one step further:  One should not even think about sin.  In another Gospel our Lord tells us:

    But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.[4]

    That is to say that one can sin merely by contemplating a bad action and taking enjoyment from the thought.

    Now, I think that most of us understand the idea that our thoughts can be sinful, but it might be useful to ask ourselves why they are sinful.

    The most obvious aspect of evil thoughts is that our wills are acting contrary to the will of God.  God tells us, for example, “Thou shalt not steal.”  So if we daydream about stealing something, we have already set our personal will against the will of God—God says “stealing is bad,” but we must think stealing is a good if we choose to run it through our minds.  We are, of course, contradicting God’s will even if we don’t actually steal anything.

    A less obvious aspect of evil thoughts it that they make us accustomed to something sinful.  If I regularly think about stealing something, it will cloud my mind to the sinfulness of actually stealing something.  It will be almost as though I were in the practice of stealing regularly—the sin will feel more comfortable.

    Similarly, the thinking of evil thoughts acts to plan the way in which I would carry out the evil action.  If I think regularly about stealing something, it is likely that I will refine a method to carry out an actual theft—What locks need to be opened?  Will I need to carry a flashlight?  Must someone be bribed?  How will I make my getaway?  A workable plan will make the sin much more likely.

    Finally, to take this full circle, the more we think about sinning, the more likely we are to discuss it with others—making our sins their sins.  “Fornication, and uncleanness, and covetousness, and obscenity, and foolish talking, and scurrility” will be named among us if we devote much of our time to thinking evil thoughts.

    Instead, we must resolve to follow Saint Paul’s example.  Whether our life is an adventure on the one hand, or very commonplace on the other hand-- we must “join up” with Jesus Christ in His mission on earth—“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathers not with me, scatters.” 


[2]   Epistle of Sexagesima Sunday: 2 Corinthians xi:19-xii:9

[3]   Today’s Epistle: Ephesians v:1-9


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