Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday of Advent—16 December A.D. 2012

The Mass in Latin and English
Third Sunday of Advent
Dominica Tertia Adventus

Ember Days in Advent

“Be not solicitous ... let  your petitions be made known to God.”[1]

“The good Lord will provide” is a saying that seems to have proven itself true, over and over during the time I have been a priest.  Things that seem nearly impossible, but which are in conformity with God’s will, often come to pass.  Given this admonition of Saint Paul about not being “solicitous,” I am sometimes asked why I spend so much of my time reading and talking about economics and political matters.  Would it not be better to just put things in God’s hands and spend the time in spiritual reading?  Is that not what Saint Paul is urging in today’s Epistle?  Shouldn’t we be more like the “lilies of the field”?[2]

Well, to begin with, the parable of the “lilies of the field” is an example of the hyperbole (or exaggeration) sometimes used in Semitic languages to emphasize a point.  Taken literally, the parable would urge us to go naked—which is certainly not what our Lord intended.  Nor did He intend for us to be exactly like “the birds of the air” who “neither sow, nor do they reap, nor gather into barns.”[3]  Men and women must feed and clothe and shelter themselves through their own industry.  We have the example of our Lord Himself working in the carpentry shop of Saint Joseph, or of the Apostles who were fishermen—and later they earned their living through the ministry of preaching.  Indeed, the very same Saint Paul continued in his secular occupation while engaged in his missions—he was a tent maker.[4]  He supported himself in order to be no burden on those whom he evangelized, and to feed the poor:

I have not coveted any man's silver, gold, or apparel, as You yourselves know: for such things as were needful for me and them that are with me, these hands have furnished.  I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the word of the Lord Jesus, how he said: “It is a more blessed thing to give, rather than to receive.”[5]

To the Corinthians he wrote:

What is my reward then? That preaching the gospel, I may deliver the gospel without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel.  For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.[6]

It is, then, safe to assume that when Paul told the Philippians not to be “solicitous,” and to let their “petitions be made known to God” he meant to trust that the Good Lord would provide the means by which they would take care of their necessities, and by which they would be able to give to the poor.  God provides the raw materials, but man must put those materials to use in productive ways.

Characteristically, those who pray and who place their trust in God are able to live reasonably frugal lives—they tend to require fewer of the world’s luxuries.  And, the most important petitions that should be made known to God are those petitions for the spiritual goods that will ensure our eternity with God.

But, to be perfectly honest, we all know that many people do not have the luxury of living lives of undisturbed contemplative prayer.  And the few who do so in monasteries are often dependent on the support of those who make their way in the world.

And those who must live in the world—even those who live frugally—are more likely to have hope if they have reasonable living conditions.  Modernists tend to criticize the commercial revolution of the middle ages, and the industrial revolution of modern times, saying that these events made people more materialistic and selfish, more concerned with money than with family and children, more concerned with social status than with God. 

But, consider what life was like before the commercial and industrial era:  food and clothing were far more scarce and far less varied;  some went without heat in the winter and virtually all had to live with the heat of summer;  building materials were crude and scarce, so living spaces were cramped, unsanitary, and uncomfortable;  modern medicine was non-existent, so many women died in childbirth, children often died in infancy, minor wounds were often fatal, and epidemics occasionally wiped out significant populations, generally leading to even greater scarcities.

The mother who sees her child die, and the father who cannot feed or clothe his family, or provide even simple medicines for them, are not spiritually enriched by this unavoidable frugality.  On the contrary, it is likely that they will be driven to despair.  It is likely that they will not praise God for their misery.  It is even possible that they will blame God, and even curse Him for their wretchedness.  Primitive poverty is not a way to holiness for most people.

The Catholic Popes who wrote in the industrial era recognized the need for adequate material goods and rational government.  Popes Leo XIII and Benedict XV, Popes Pius IX, X, XI and XII wrote encyclicals supporting the right to work, to make a decent living, and to preserve the fruits of one’s labor in private property.[7]  They condemned communism, socialism, and governments that intruded into the affairs proper to families or to the Church.[8]  The cried out for peace among the nations of the world, and for the human rights of people within those nations, while condemning the idea of World Government and a One World Church.[9]  They wrote about a great number of topics concerning man living in the world, looking to God for the “raw materials” for men and women to create a decent existence for themselves.

No, we must not be “solicitous” ... we must let our “petitions be made known to God.”  But at the same time, we must be concerned with the way God’s gifts are put to work for the things we need and for the things we ought to give to the poor.  As citizens in the Republic we therefore have a responsibility to understand the economic and political “goings on” around us, and to take an active role in ensuring that God’s gifts are utilized for the physical and spiritual wellbeing of our selves, and our neighbors.



[1]   Epistle:  Philippians iv: 4-7

[6]   1 Corinthians ix: 18-19.

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