Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
for Alfie Evans, 14 Months old ,
another hostage of socialized medicine in Britain.
Works; the Spirit and the Law
must I do to possess eternal life?”
Sometimes, when we read St. Paul, it is
easy to be misled into thinking that he is telling us that since the
Redemption, we are no longer bound by law, or that what we do is unimportant
as long as we believe in Christ. For example in today's epistle, he tells
us that “the letter killeth, but the spirit quickeneth.” Modernists have
taken Saint Paul’s words out of context, and often teach that nothing is
necessary but to love one another—and they usually spell love, “L-U-V.”
Suffice it to say, this is a completely false notion.
When Saint Paul refers to “the Law,”
he is not referring to the Commandments, but rather to the elaborate ritual
prescriptions of the Law of Moses. Certainly we must keep the Ten
Commandments—we would have to keep them even if God hadn't given them to us,
because they are simply what is required to conduct an orderly society and
to properly honor our Creator. They spell out what we call the
Rather, Paul is reacting to the
distinctively Jewish observances of the Law; things like the dietary laws,
or restrictions on how far one could travel or what one could do on the
Sabbath, or how one should dress. Even more to the point, Paul is reacting
to the exaggerated practices of the Pharisees, who made a great spectacle
about keeping the outward prescriptions of the Law. For example, we know
that the Law prescribed “always keeping the word of God before one's eyes.”
We would take that figuratively, interpreting it to mean that we should
always be guided by His word, or perhaps that we should read the Bible
regularly. The Pharisees took it literally, and wore a leather container on
their foreheads; a small box containing a few words of scripture!
Now, there is nothing particularly
wrong with these external, ritual observances of God's Law. The reason why
Saint Paul speaks of them as the “dead works of the law,” or says that “the
letter of the law kills,” is that the Pharisees tended to do nothing more
than ritually observe the externals of the law, while not being motivated by
Faith, Hope, and Charity; they wore the right outfits and recited the right
prayers, but were not motivated by sincere, inward belief in God, nor by the
love of God, nor by trusting God to enable our salvation.
The lawyer mentioned in the Gospel
was looking for some external ritual that he could perform to “possess
eternal life.” And, when our Lord put the question back on him, he already
knew the answer; that he “must love the lord God with heart and soul and
strength and mind,” and that he “must love his neighbor as himself.” But
then he demonstrated that he had no idea how to put these words into
practice by saying, “But who is my neighbor.”
The lawyer was looking for some
ritual he could perform, or perhaps some prayer he could say once in the
morning and once at night in order to live forever. And, he may well have
expected that living for ever meant earthly immortality. What he didn't
have in mind was the idea of loving God and consequently the other people
God placed on earth. To the lawyer or the Pharisee, God was someone to be
placated with sacrifices and rituals; not someone to believe, and to trust,
and to love.
I would hope that you all can see
that there is a real danger that all of us might fall into same kind of
habit. How many people come to Mass, only because they perceive it as a
necessary ritual, a legal requirement for staying “out of sin,” but would
never dream of attending an extra Mass or two during the week just because
they love God?
And, its not just the marginal
Catholics that fall into this trap. How many times have you heard people
reciting the prayers of the Rosary, and sounding like a rapid-fire machine
gun going off? Hard to believe that they are meditating on “the life,
death, and resurrection of our Lord.” Wouldn't they be better off if they
just took a few more minutes to add some real devotion to what they were
doing? To actually meditate on the individual mysteries? Even if they had
to pray a few decades less?!
And certainly we are all guilty of
ignoring the needs of people. We are probably all willing to whisper a
prayer for them, but what about helping them with their physical needs?
What about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, counseling the doubtful,
instructing the ignorant, and so on? What about at least listening
patiently and assuring our neighbors that their concerns are important to
us, and that they do have friends who care about them?
Saint Paul and our Lord are in no
way against observing the Law, nor are they against observing the rituals of
our Faith—but they do insist that we do something more—that all of those
observances be grounded in genuine, internal, love and belief and trust in
God—and that, for the love of God, we love our neighbor as ourselves.