“What fruit had you then from those things of which you are now ashamed?”Ordinary of the Mass
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effective August 6th, AD 2006
The greatest victory of the devil in modern times has been in convincing people that he does not exist—that he is nothing more than a medieval superstition. In getting people to stop thinking of him as dangerous and loathsome, and to start thinking of him as something cute and cuddly that we should like to have around the house—a mischievous cartoon figure of a fluffy black cat with a red coat and a pitchfork. A cute character for Halloween, but not at all real, and not at all dangerous.
Only second in magnitude is the victory gained by the devil when he convinces Christians that when they avoid sin, they are giving up something very desirable. He knows that he can weaken our resolve to do good if we perceive sinful things as though they were very useful and beneficial to us. He knows that we are much less likely to keep the Commandments if we think that they are working against us, rather than for us.
Now in reality, clear human reason will tell us that God's Commandments are the natural laws of any properly ordered society. The last seven of the Commandments regulate our relationships with one another. No community or state can function if people habitually live otherwise—if they go around breaking the Commandments; lying to one another, killing one another, stealing, or committing adultery with each others' spouses. Such a society would simply deteriorate into chaos.
Likewise, no society can ignore the first three of the Commandments either. For the society which refuses to acknowledge God, and to give Him the respect which is His due, has cut itself off from the source of its own authority. It will not go on for very long before it degenerates into the same fate as the one which violates the last seven. No government formed by people can ignore “the laws of nature and nature’s God” without losing its own legitimacy.
But again, the devil has a powerful weapon at his disposal, if he can make us think we are giving up more than we are getting when we observe any or all of God's Commandments. So, he carries on a campaign of propaganda and deception in our minds. Often, to do this, he has made use of our popular literature and legends—and particularly the mass media of news and entertainment. We need to learn to be on our guard, if we are not to fall into his trap.
Simply stated, we must not glory in our sin.
It is wrong to make liars and thieves into heroes—whether we call them pirates, or highwaymen, or cowboys, or bankers, or brokers. If they are, in actuality, liars and thieves, we should not try to clothe them with an air of romantic respectability. That certainly would be unfair to those actual brokers, bankers, and cowboys who perform legitimate services for society—but, more importantly, such glorification of evil causes us to lose our own perspective.
Likewise it is wrong to create a romantic fiction around those who abuse the privilege of marriage in adultery and fornication. They are not demonstrating the “healthy passion of youth;” they are not doing something which is romantic or “filled with love.” They are simply being selfish.
In the same way, we must not lionize the gang leader, the mobster, the mercenary soldier of fortune, or the war-mongering politician. Violence has its place only in defense of justice. Those who would maim or kill for baser reasons should not be perceived as swashbuckling heroes.
And certainly, we must never make heroes out of those who would challenge God Himself—abolishing the Church and the holy works of religion, in the name of some distorted “enlightenment.” Christianity has made enormous contributions to the society in which we live—something of which we should be knowledgeable and justifiably proud. We ought never allow ourselves to back down on the basic principles of Christianity upon which our society is founded, just because history (and current events) can identify a few bad Christians; even priests and Popes.
As St. Paul tells us today, we are no longer slaves of sin. And, he uses the word “slave” quite purposefully. We must no longer allow sin to control us, or even to tempt us, making us its slave, while we enjoy the fiction that it is something beneficial to us. In itself, temptation to sin is not a sin—but it becomes one when we allow ourselves to fanaticize that the sin would somehow be admirable or beneficial to us.
Our Lord tells us something about who our heroes should be in today's Gospel: “By their fruits you will know them.” They must not be liars, thieves, adulterers, murderers, or blasphemers. On the contrary, they should be people known for the good things they have done in their lives.
We should find our heroes among the saints. Reading the accounts of their lives, and seeing the few movies that are available can be every bit as exciting—and more—than reading the novels we find on the supermarket shelves. Our heroes ought to be
The point is that we must accustom ourselves to glorying in good people and good things, rather than making artificial heroes out of unsavory characters. “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire.” We tend to model our lives after the lives of our heroes—so it is imperative that we chose the right heroes. As our Lord tells us, “by their fruits you will know them.”