Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost - 19 August AD 2012

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

“For if the ministration of condemnation be glory,
much more the ministration of justice aboundeth in glory.”[1]

    Looking back over past years’ sermons, I found that I had almost always preached about the Gospel.[2]  The Good Samaritan seems to be such a good role model for Catholics.  I thought for a change I should say a few words about today’s Epistle, but while meditating on it I was distracted by the thought that I had recently encountered a Good Samaritan or two;  just last Sunday, a week ago today.  So before we move on to the Letter to the Corinthians, I will describe what I saw, and suggest to you that it is possible in our time to be every bit as good as the Samaritan in our parable.

    Last Sunday I was going north on I-95 to offer the evening Mass in Palm Beach Gardens.  All of a sudden the traffic dropped from 65 miles per hour to a slow crawl.  People were crowding over to the right, which didn’t seem right, for the two left lanes were wide open.  Very quickly it became obvious that people were getting to the left in order to park on the side of the road!  A car with severe damage front and back was laying on its side at the very edge of the right of way, half in and half out of a drainage ditch filled with water.  By the time I got there, there were two men trying to break a window with a long black rod.  Eventually they were successful, and about the time they got the door open, an ambulance arrived with the paramedics.  I quickly gave the man absolution and got out of the way as the paramedics prepared to extricate him.

    What struck me most about all of this was that the volunteer rescuers were standing in water up to their knees to reach the trapped man.  One had taken his shoes off (which is not something I would want to do in the muddy waters of an unknown drainage ditch).  I can only guess about the other.  One had shorts on; the other long pants.

    Now, obviously a pair of shoes or wool trousers are nothing in comparison with a human life, but I had to wonder how many people would see the inconvenience and just fade back into the crowd.  Just standing in the tall grass closer to the road got my feet wet, and many of the people seemed more interested in taking pictures with their cell phones than helping.  But the rescuers seemed oblivious to their discomfort.  Perhaps the shoes and the trousers were the modern day equivalent of the two dinarii left by the Samaritan with the inn keeper.  I tell you this story to show that it is possible in the modern world to be very much like the one commended for his neighborliness by our Lord Himself.  And, please note that our Lord’s Gospel never goes out of date.

 

    The Epistle is, in some way, related to the Gospel.  Saint Paul is discussing the difference between the Old Testament covenant of God with His people, and the newer one made through Jesus Christ.  The Jews were rightly proud of their covenant with God.  In Psalm 147 they even sung about it:  “He has not done this for any other people;  His ordinances He has not made known to them.”[3]  But, in retrospect, we know that the Mosaic Law was a series of condemnations—a list of things you could not do (or not not do) without getting in trouble with God.

    Paul speaks of the old law as being “designed to pass away.”  To be sure, parts of it belong to the Natural Moral Law, and simply cannot  “pass away”—no society of people can exist  if people beat, kill, steal, and cheat one another—those “thou-shalt-nots” will always be with us.  But the ritual prescriptions have all been superseded:  the animal sacrifices, circumcision, the kosher food laws, the tassels and phylacteries, and so on.  More importantly, the new covenant is a  Law of the Spirit.  Love of God and love of neighbor were not new concepts to the Jews, but in Christ they replaced the offering of goats and heifers, and concerns about eating meat and dairy in the same meal.  Henceforth the Sabbath would be “made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.”[4]  There would no longer be any discussions about whether or not it was lawful to pick up a long black iron tool to free the man trapped in his car on the Sabbath, as there might have been before the time of Christ![5]

    Also, the New Covenant would not be so closely tied to any one location as the Old Covenant was tied to Jerusalem.  The animal sacrifices of the Jews could only be offered at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Even Jews who lived at a great distance would have to return there with regularity.  The Sacrifice of the New Covenant—the renewal of the Sacrifice of the Cross, the “clean oblation” prophesied by the prophet Malachias, would be offered any and every where about the globe:  “from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.[6]  And not only the Sacrifice, but all of the Sacraments instituted by our Lord would be freely available.

    The Law of the Old Covenant was restrictive and condemnatory—the Law of the New Covenant is generous and just.  But were good for those to whom they were revealed.  But the “ministration of death ... now is made void”—the old Law has been superseded—man lives a more holy and fulfilled life, and God is more abundantly glorified.

 

“For if the ministration of condemnation be glory,
much more the ministration of justice aboundeth in glory.”


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