Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
11th Sunday after Pentecost—16 August AD 2009
Divinity perfects humanity

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

    Last week we spoke about the necessity of the three theological virtues—faith, hope, and charity.  In essence, we spoke a bit about the necessity of God's grace to work out our perfection in this world.  Man cannot save himself through “faith alone,” without regard to the good works he is required to do.  Nor can man save himself through his own human activities, without the freely given grace of God to perfect him and make his activities meritorious in God's sight.

    Now, quite often we receive God's graces in a completely private manner.  For example, God might grant us in increase in our Faith or our Charity, or in our ability to resist temptation, without anyone being able to see that this is going on.  Indeed, we might not even be aware of it ourselves.  But there are also visible signs of God and His grace acting on the world.  This Sunday's Mass suggests some of the ways in which God acts “visibly” or “externally.”

    The most obvious example of God's perfecting activity coming on the world is hinted at in today's epistle.  I am speaking, of course of the Incarnation.  “God”—Who is pure spirit, and Who we cannot directly perceive at all in the world—“God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that those who believe in Him may not perish, but may have life everlasting.”[1]   As the result of original sin, the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve had lost all claim on God's favor in return for anything that they could do in this world.  It is only by virtue of the Incarnation that God “humbled Himself to become partaker of our humanity, in order that [in some small way] we might become partakers of His divinity.”[2]

    And, Saint Paul, of course, tells us that our Lord was not content merely to become one of us to redeem us, but went much further to give us an understanding of the damage done by sin, and the power of God to conquer sin:  “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and was buried, and rose again that third day….”[3]   By shedding His blood for us on the Cross, Jesus Christ paid the price of redemption for the sins of all mankind.  But remember, although we are all redeemed, it is up to each and every one of us to respond to that redemption personally; accepting God's graces, believing His revealed truths, receiving Baptism and the other Sacraments, embracing Him in our prayer life, and generally living the Christian life.  God acts upon mankind, not by overpowering it, but by offering it the opportunity to cooperate with His graces.

    The Gospel helps us to understand how God makes the exterior graces of His Incarnation available to successive generations—to those of us who come centuries later and miles away.  Our Lord could and did cure the sick without any external sign.  But today we see Him curing a deaf and dumb man in a manner that can only be called “sacramental.”  “He put His fingers into the man's ears, and spitting he touched his tongue,” and spoke the words, “Be thou opened.”[4]  In the very next chapter of St. Mark's Gospel, our Lord heals a blind man by anointing his eyes with spittle and laying hands on him.[5]   Saint John describes Him healing a man born blind with a similar anointing.[6]

    It is obvious that, in the terms we learned in the Catechism, our Lord is instituting an outward sign to give grace;  a sign that brings about the reality of the thing that it symbolizes.  Likewise, the Incarnate God acts upon us through His priests to perfect our human natures by means of His grace in the Mass and Sacraments:  Two thousand years later and thousands of miles away our Lord still washes away our sins, strengthens us with His Holy Ghost, nourishes us with His body, heals the sick, unites us in matrimony, and extends His own priesthood—He does all of these things by the “outward signs” that He instituted; signs that cause His grace to act upon us in the way that it is symbolized.

    It is worth noting that, even though the Sacraments are all conferred by people on other people, their graces are still the free gift of God.  The human ministers of the Sacraments are just conduits of that grace—but the grace itself comes from our one High Priest, Jesus Christ.  They do not depend on the holiness of the priest that confers them, because they are all conferred by that one High Priest.  They don't even depend completely on the worthiness of the recipient:  Christ can baptize that sleeping baby, filling its soul with graces that it doesn't know it has.  Christ can forgive that sinner who is contrite only for selfish reasons.  Likewise He can confer the other Sacraments, because they are his free gifts, and always effective for those who (at least) don't resist them.

    So, God works in this world through human nature.  He works, first of all, through the human nature that He united to His divine nature, in the person of Jesus Christ.  He works, sacramentally, through those who confer the “outward signs” of His seven Sacraments and through the preaching of His truth.  But, let's not forget that he works through our humanity as well, even if we have never conferred any Sacrament.  He works through us in our prayers, and in our good works, and in our good example—in everything that we do for the love of God and in cooperation with His grace.

God “humbled Himself to become partaker of our humanity,
in order that we might become partakers of His divinity.”



[1]     John iii: 16.

[2]   Blessing of the water at the offertory of the Mass.

[3]   Epistle: 1 Corinthians xv.

[4]   Gospel: Mark vii: 31-37

[5]   Mark viii.

[6]   John ix: 6.


Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!