Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost - 23 September AD 2012

Ordinary of the Mass
English Text
Latin Text

EPISTLE (Ephes. iv: 1- 6.) Brethren, I, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called. With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all. Who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

GOSPEL (Matt xxii: 35-46.) At that time, The Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked him, tempting him: Master, which is the great commandment of the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shaft love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets. And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ; whose son is he? They say to him: David's. He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call him Lord; saying: The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? And no man was able to answer him a word: neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.

“The Lord said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.”[1]

    This phrase of our Lord, spoken to the Pharisees, is from the Psalms of David.  Psalm 109.[2]  It is among those Psalms that are called “Messianic Psalms,” for even to the Jews of our Lord’s time it was clear that the author was referring to the expected Messias.  It speaks of strength to be given for the conquest of God’s enemies:  “rule thou in the midst of thine enemies.”  It speaks of the birth of the Messias to a woman, whom with hindsight we know to be the Blessed Virgin Mary: “from the womb before the day star I have begotten thee.”  It speaks to the fact that this descendant of King David would be both king and priest:  “The Lord hath sworn, and he will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever according to the order of Melchisedech.”

    Our Lord reminded the Pharisees of this important bit of their own sacred literature as a way of encouraging them to think about who He was.  If He were the Messias, then by Jewish prophecy, He would be someone to Whom the great Jewish King David referred to both as “Lord” and priest.  This was about as close to claiming to be the Son of God without actually saying so in exact words.  He had to make them aware of His nature slowly for there were things to be done before He exercised the priesthood of the order of Melchisedech at the Last Supper, and before His Sacrificial offering on the Cross.  Soon enough, the high priest would demand of Him:  “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou be the Christ the Son of God.”[3]  The answer, of course was in the affirmative, and for this He was awarded not worship, but the agonizing death of the Cross.

    In effect, the Scribes, Pharisees, and Chief Priests were politicians.  The held office—more by heredity than by election—and they enjoyed holding office.  They enjoyed the perks and the respect that went along with the office.  They enjoyed hearing “Hail, Rabbi!” and they enjoyed the “first place at table, and the first chairs in the synagogues” that their office brought them.[4]  Our Lord threatened all that.  Certainly, if they acknowledged Him as the Messias, Whom even King David called “Lord,” their own positions would shrink to nothingness.  They also feared that the Romans would take notice:  “all will believe in him; and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation.... it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.[5]  Yes, and expedient for the politicians who wished to remain in office.

    Quite correctly, they perceived that our Lord would reform everything.  The moral law would remain, but it would have to be observed for the honor and glory of God, and not simply “to be seen by men.”[6]  For the moment they were spared the indignity that our Lord would replace them—that He would establish His church upon the Rock who was Peter, a simple fisherman, and no “exalted” politician like themselves[7]—but even that would become painfully obvious in a few brief months, when the Apostles began teaching at the Temple and making converts to the Church, and refusing to stop:  “But Peter and the apostles answering, said: We ought to obey God, rather than men.  The God of our fathers hath raised up Jesus, whom you put to death....”[8]

    “We ought to obey God, rather than men.”  The Apostles knew that Jesus was the Son of God, and that God’s teaching was superior to any other.  Without it Judaism was incomplete, and all other religions or philosophies were based on the opinion of men.  Jesus had founded one unique Church, and it possessed the complete body of the true Faith.

    Saint Paul enlarges upon this in today’s epistle, written to the people of Ephesus from a Roman prison.  “One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God, and Father of all....”  Paul had brought the Faith to Ephesus eight or ten years earlier.  He made converts in the synagogue, as he usually did, but many of the Christians of Ephesus were former pagans.  He emphasized to them that they could not go back to Judaism or paganism.  There was only one Jesus Christ, and His teaching was absolutely consistent, so if factions developed, those factions that tried to substitute something else for the teaching of Jesus were simply wrong.  There was no room for discussion, for the truth was already known and there was no room for “dialogue” with the proponents of error.

    Paul was even more insistent with the people of Galatia: “If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”[9]   Even if Paul himself, “or an angel from heaven, [were to] preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”[10]  “Anathema” is an interesting word.  Originally the Greeks used it to denote an offering set apart and made to their gods.  Eventually, by Saint Paul’s time, it came to mean “set apart from God and from all those who practice the true Faith.  In modern English would might say “excommunicated,” or “banished” or “cursed,” or “exiled.”  Colloquially, “”let him be anathema” means “let him go to blazes!”

    Saint Paul’s words ought to be particularly important to us, for we live in an era when so many people reject the idea of “objective truth” or “objective morality”—the era of “political correctness,” in which no error and no moral failing is to be corrected—an era, indeed, in which falsity and immorality are to be celebrated, rather than corrected.

    Certainly, there is always room for courtesy.  One does not have to go out of one’s way, looking for people with other beliefs in order to insult them.  There are even times when people of differing belief can work together to get good things done in society.  But Catholics should never fear to speak the truth among people who want to hear the truth.  Catholics should never be afraid to correct those who misrepresent the teachings of the Church in public or in private.  Perhaps of greatest importance, Catholics must never be afraid to practice their Faith, and to actively oppose those who would deny us that right.

    As Saint Paul would say, support “one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace” and let anyone who would undermine that unity and peace “be anathema!”  Let him go to blazes!

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