Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
23rd Sunday After Pentecost—4 November AD2007

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

    Among many modern people there is a mistaken notion that sin is not all that important.  We hear people speak of “victim-less crimes,” or say that “it doesn't matter what a public figure does privately or hidden from view,” or that “no one has the right to tell people what they may or may not do in the privacy of their own homes.”  Some of this thinking comes from a shift in philosophy:  Modernists would have us believe that there are no absolutes; that everything is relative; that man builds his own world, complete with its own morality.  The only thing said to matter is “human dignity,” and such “dignity” usually means noting other than the “right” to do whatever one pleases, with no regard for anything absolute.

    One of the causes of this relativism is a loss of contact with the One who is offended by each and every sin, Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In our times, Christ has been reduced to a few paragraphs of ancient history.  To many He is no more real than Santa Claus; and often He receives less honor than Santa on His own birthday.  To overcome this sort of secular thinking, we need to remember just who Jesus is and what He has done for us.

    At creation, God made Adam and Eve as material beings with immortal souls—sort of a composite between the angels and the creatures of the world.  But he made even their material aspect different than those earthly creatures.  By special graces our first parents were protected from hazards and difficulties experienced by material creatures.  They wanted for nothing, they were quick to learn, they suffered neither disease nor death, and they could speak to God as though they were face-to-face.  But by the sin of Adam, and by our own sins which ratify his sin, we have thrown away these special graces.  Poverty, ignorance, sickness, and death entered into our existence as the direct result of sin.

    But God who is merciful, promised a redeemer to crush the head of the serpent who brought sin into the world, and in the fullness of time He sent His only begotten Son into the world.[1]  We read about Him at work in the world in today's Gospel.  In, perhaps, the most dramatic way possible, He reverses the effects of sickness and death by raising the daughter of Jairus from the dead!  But however dramatic that may be, it is just one incident among many.  We know that He raised at least two others from the dead.  Matthew's 8th and 9th chapters (from which today's reading is taken) record an abundance of miraculous cures:  He makes a leper clean, cures the paralyzed servant of the Centurion, abates the fever of Saint Peter's mother-in-law, rescued the Apostles from a storm on the lake, cast out the devils possessing two men, cured a second paralytic at Capharnaum, dried up the 12 year hemorrhage of a woman who but touched his cloak, healed one unable to speak and two unable to see.

    Not surprisingly, these cures follow closely on our Lord's first public preaching; what we often refer to as His Sermon on the Mount.[2]  I say it is not surprising because ignorance of God and of God's Word is one of those other consequences of sin, just like suffering and death.

    Now the point of my mentioning of this to you is found in a brief passage that might seem to some people to be "stuck in" to account of all these cures worked by our Lord.  But to those that read carefully, it explains what our Lord was doing as he instructed the ignorant and cured the sick:

    He cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick; that there might be fulfilled what was spoken through Isaias the prophet, who said:  ‘He Himself took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills.’[3]

    The passage that Saint Matthew quotes comes from the Old Testament book of Isaias, chapter 53.  It is clearly a prediction of the suffering Christ, the “man of sorrows,” “acquainted with infirmity,” who has borne our infirmities and carried our sorrows,” who "shall be led as a sheep to the slaughter.”  The Prophet points out to us the disturbing fact that our Lord did not just make sickness and death somehow “go away,” but rather that He took them upon Himself.

    Perhaps, if every time we were tempted to sin we could call this to mind, it would put sin in a different light.  Sin is never victimless.  It always requires the only Son of the Father to suffer on the Cross.  You might think that, in itself, would convert all who have children of their own.  We would never wish such a thing on our own son or daughter

    But, modern Americans have relatively little appreciation of suffering.  The poor are often poor, only relatively speaking; having more than the well-to-do of earlier times and other places.  Even when we die, it is often under clean and comfortable conditions, with medication for our pains.  But think of the sufferings of Jesus Christ for our redemption:  the bloody sweat of the agony in the garden, the thorns pressed into His head, the bits of lead at the ends of the soldiers' whips, the blunt spikes driven into his hands and feet, the three hours of agony on the cross, and the eventual death due to exhaustion and asphyxiation as He is no longer able to raise Himself up to take a breath—with no clean sheets, no oxygen to inhale, and no morphine—just a spongeful of cheap wine to slake the agonizing thirst.

    “He Himself took up our infirmities, and bore the burden of our ills.”  If every time we were tempted to sin we would call that reality to mind.  Those thorns and those nails and those lashes and that cross exist solely because of our sins.  And this is not something that was over and done with 2000 years ago.  "Our Lord Jesus Christ will be in agony until the end of time," precisely because those who should love Him continue to crucify Him.[4]  They have no gratitude in them for what He has done for them, "they are enemies of the cross of Christ, their end is destruction.”[5]

    November is the month of the souls in Purgatory; a time not only for praying for the dead, but also a time for considering our own eternal end.  Perhaps in doing so it will be helpful to think of Jesus; not as a dim figure of history but as reality of the here and now; someone who loves us.  Think of the opportunity that presents itself:  Wouldn't it be better, through our actions, to console Him rather than to crucify Him?!


1. Cf.  Genesis iii: 15;  John iii: 16

2. Matthew v - vii.

3. Matthew viii: 16, 17.

4. Blaise Paschal.

5. Epistle:  Philippians iii.



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