Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost—13 August AD 2017
Ave Maria!


Mary, Mother of Divine Grace

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

Please pray for Alfie Evans, 15 Months old ,
another hostage of socialized medicine in Britain.


On the Necessity of Divine Grace

    It is generally agreed upon by Christian and even some non-Christian philosophers that it is possible for mankind to know that there is a God, even without the benefit of divine revelation.  The motion, and causality, and order, and beauty in the universe all seem to point to the need for a First Mover and Designer of the universe.  Through unaided human reason we may not be able to know much more about Him, but the civilizations of Western culture have usually been in general agreement that there is such a Higher Power.

    Being able to know God through natural means is, of course, good—but it sometimes leads man to a false confidence—it sometimes leads him to think that his own efforts are sufficient to secure eternal life without being dependent on God.  This mistaken idea that “if I can know God without His help, I can please Him without His help” is usually referred to as Pelagianism, after the monk Pelagius, who taught this error in the fifth century.  It might help to think of Pelagianism as something like the opposite of Protestantism:  The Protestant will say that man is brought to eternal life through “faith alone,” without regard to the good works he performs.  The Pelagian, quite the opposite, will say that man is brought to eternal life by the good works he performs, without regard to the degree of his faith.

    The truth, of course, lies somewhere in between    we must have both a strong faith and do the good works urged upon us by our Lord Jesus Christ:  Our Lord tells us that “he who does not believe shall be condemned” as well as that at judgement day those who have not fed the sick and clothed the naked will “depart into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”[1]       

    Saint Paul is telling us the same thing in today's epistle:  The various things done in the name of God, even the calling upon “Jesus [as] Lord,” have merit only if they are effected by the power of the Holy Ghost dwelling within us.[2]  Grace perfects nature.  The good things we do, the evil we endure, and even our prayers are good only if we do these things in union with God and in cooperation with His graces.

    As a consequence of original sin, man is not capable of gaining merit in the eyes of God.  Only through our redemption in the Cross of Jesus Christ are we elevated to the point where our deeds can become meritorious.  I say “can become meritorious,” because even though our Lord died for all of us, it is still required of us that as individuals we respond to the grace that God freely gives us.  Normally, that response is through personal faith, and through receiving Baptism.  Then, with the life of God dwelling in our souls, we can go on to do good and meritorious things, both material and spiritual.

    I mention this today, because even though the Church condemned Pelagianism way back in the fifth or sixth century, it seems to be re‑surfacing again in our times.  Even among Catholics at the highest level there is the misconception that a person can perfect himself by

    do[ing] good and avoid[ing] evil, be[ing] concerned for the transmission and preservation of life, refine[ing] and develop[ing] the riches of the material world, cultivat[ing] social life, seek[ing] truth, practic[ing] good and contemplat[ing] beauty.[3]

    Now, all of these things sound good, some of them even noble, but there is a missing dimension.  Never mind that prayer and penance were not mentioned—the fact is that all of these things pertain to the preservation of a person or a race, but not to its perfection.  Until these things are done for the love of God and in cooperation with the graces He freely gives us, they remain merely natural human activities, incapable of meriting eternal reward.

    Saint Paul tells us this quite clearly, just a little bit after the passage we read this morning.  “If I distribute all my goods to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, yet do not have charity, it profits me nothing.”[4]  And the “Charity” that Paul is writing about is that love of God, which we possess together with Faith and Hope, only by responding to God given grace.  “No one can say that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except in the Holy Ghost.”[5]  The grace of God is necessary for anything and everything we do to be worthwhile.

    Now, let's spend just another moment or two to think about how we are to go about retaining and even increasing the grace that God offers us.

    First of all, we must recognize that we cannot demand grace from God.  It is His to distribute as He chooses; we have no claim on it.  But the Gospel we read today about the Pharisee and the publican tells us how we must dispose ourselves if we are to receive, maintain, and increase in God's graces.  In a word, we have to be “humble.”  The person who goes around feeling that he is better than others, and even has the audacity to tell God how lucky He is to have such a wonderful follower, will never possess grace in any substantial degree.

    You might think of humility as a sort of "magnet" that attracts grace.  It is said of our Blessed Lady, that “while her chastity pleased God, it was her humility that drew Him down to earth.”[6]

    Our Lord is urging precisely the same idea on us today:  It is the humble one who acknowledges his sins and his complete dependence on God, who receives God's grace.  “There are varieties of workings, but the same God works all things in all [people]…. he who humbles himself shall be exalted.”[7]


[2]   Epistle: 1 Corinthians xii: 2-11

[6]   Dom Eugene Boylen, retreat sermon at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, Conyers, Ga.

[7]   Epistle: ibid.;   Gospel: Luke xviii:9-14


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