Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost--17 August AD 2014

[Ordinary of the Mass]
[English Text]
[Latin Text]

Pharisee and Publican

“He that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.” [1]

    Saint Paul devoted two chapters of his First Epistle to the Corinthians to dealing with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and with their proper use.  He was particularly concerned with the gift of speaking in tongues.  This was more important in the early Church, for miraculous signs and wonders served to demonstrate the Church’s authority to preach the Gospel—when Our Lord instructed the Apostles to go “into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature” He promised that miraculous signs would accompany those whom He sent.[2]  Pope Saint Gregory the Great (who was Pope in the sixth century) explains that these miracles were necessary to the infant Church in order to get it started on its world-wide mission—he observed that by his time, the miraculous gifts were no longer necessary and had disappeared from the Church some time before.[3]

    At Pentecost, the Apostles were able to speak in their own language and be understood by people from various nations.  This gift of tongues was very useful, and we learn that on Pentecost day about three thousand souls were converted to the Faith.[4]  But when Paul visited the Corinthians he found that some of them were speaking in strange languages that no one understood.  Perhaps, this too was the working of the Holy Ghost—but perhaps not.  Paul was concerned that strange tongues would bring no converts to understand the Faith:

    [Unless] you utter by the tongue plain speech, how shall it be known what is said?”[5]

    In the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may instruct others also; than ten thousand words in a tongue.[6]

    If therefore the whole church come together into one place, and all speak with tongues, and there come in unlearned persons or infidels, will they not say that you are mad?[7]

    He that speaks in a tongue, edifies himself:[8]

    He that speaks in strange tongues pleases only himself.  Indeed, he is something like the Pharisee in today’s Gospel—a man who is very proud of himself, and likes to show off his accomplishments.  “Look at me!  I can make strange sounds, and you have no idea of what I am saying!”

    Pope Saint Gregory told us that all of these gifts of the Holy Ghost had stopped even before his time.  But that doesn’t mean that there are no modern day Pharisees who want to be seen doing odd things in church.  The so called “holiness” movement in American Protestantism had people going on all fours, barking like dogs and making believe that they had the devil up in a tree.  Even in the twenty-first century, their successors go about making animal noises, and rolling around the floor in convulsive laughter.[9]  Some, claiming to be in the act of receiving the Holy Spirit, fall over backwards—hopefully to be caught by a waiting assistant.[10]  Such foolishness is even imitated by some of the modernists of the Conciliar Church!

    As Catholics we know that the Holy Ghost dwells in the souls of all who remain in Sanctifying Grace after Baptism.  We know that in Confirmation we are strengthened by the Holy Ghost so that we may publically profess our Faith.  No barking like a dog, no oinking like a pig is required!  Indeed, all of the things I have described—laughter, noise, or physical convulsion—would interfere with any possible reverence, with any encounter with God, and with any attempt to explain the Faith to those who have shown an interest.  Indeed, as Saint Paul told the Corinthians, anyone walking into such a side-show would think the people involved were “mad”—mad as in “crazy.”  Not to mention being pharisaically proud of being crazy!

    One final word is necessary:  A word of caution.  The devil is the master of deception.  He often presents himself as an angel of light.  Those who think that they need an extra dose of the Holy Spirit might just be making themselves open to the unholy spirit, Satan himself.  Discernment of spirits is usually a difficult thing—are we moved to do something by God? Or by the devil?—it is not always easy to tell.  But you can be absolutely certain that it is far more difficult when one gets whipped up into an emotional state.  If you think you are barking at the devil—if you are falling over backwards—or if you are convulsed with laughter, such discernment becomes nearly impossible.  Emotion drives out intellect.

    All of these things are occasions of sin, insofar as they dull our ability to distinguish the spirit of evil from the spirit of good.  Equally, they are sinful in that they appeal to the Pharisee in us that would like to be seen praying.  Remember, it was the humility of the publican—the quiet prayer of one who “would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven,” asking only for mercy, that pleased God

“Every one that exalteth himself shall be humbled, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”


[1]   Gospel:  Luke xviii: 9-14

[3]   Gregory the Great, Homily 29 on the Gospel (Mark 16:15-18).

[9]   The “Toronto Blessing”

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