Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Third Sunday after Easter—26 April AD 2015


Ordinary of the Mass
Latin Mass Text-3rd Sunday
English Mass Text-3rd Sunday

“Live as free men, yet not using your freedom as a cloak for malice.”[1]


    In today's Gospel we read our Lord's words to His apostles shortly before His resurrection and ascension into heaven.  In a “little while” they would see Him no longer, for in about forty days He would be taken up bodily into heaven.  And then, a “little while” later they would see Him again.  The second “little while” would be each one's entire remaining lifespan.  That might seem like a “great while” to most of us—but in the eternal scheme of things a lifetime is but a fleeting moment.

    Indeed, when compared with eternity, no amount of time on earth is significant.  But yet, it does seem very significant to those of us who live out our lives.   Life can seem very long indeed particularly if we are beset with family problems, economic troubles, or physical infirmities.    Paradoxically, our years may seem to to vanish one after another, while the hours and the days are excruciatingly slow.  Life is short, but the effort of getting through it makes the days seem long.

    Saint Peter's first epistle, from which we read a brief passage this morning, speaks to the way in which a Catholic should deal with his days on earth.  The opening verse of the epistle puts some perspective on what it means to be a Catholic.  He addresses it to “men chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, consecrated by the Spirit to a life of obedience to Jesus Christ and purification with His blood.”[2]

    Today's selection from James deals with the way in which Catholics can live in a largely non-Catholic society.  As such it should be of great interest to us.  We are “strangers and pilgrims” just like the people to whom Saint James wrote nearly two thousand years ago.  In a very real sense, we Catholics live in exile during our time on earth—for if we are living as we should, we will be very different from most of those around us. 

    Saint Peter suggests, first of all , that must be on our best behavior, “refrain[ing] yourselves from carnal desires, which war against the soul.  Obviously, we shouldn’t want to do anything that would harm our own soul, but this is even more important if we are surrounded by pagans.  Make no mistake, the pagans in our society know the high standards of morality to which the Catholic Church holds us—nothing could be more embarrassing (for us and for the Church) than for us to be caught breaking those laws of morality.  The pagan considers Catholic morality not just difficult, but impossible and unnecessary.  This is why the pagan news media constantly calls for the Church to relax God’s moral law—which, of course, is not possible.  The media seeks approval for immoral behavior.  The pagan is very pleased to see one of us fall from grace, for that gives him the excuse to dismiss the entire Catholic Church as hypocritical.

    God wants all souls to be saved, but for this to be possible, all souls must become passably holy.  Very few people in the pagan world are open to learning the truths of the Catholic Faith, or even to learn why they are true.  Often the best we can do to attract someone to the Church is to provide good example.  And the very worst thing we can do is to give bad example.  When we do, we are failing to be the soldiers of Christ, which we are by virtue of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

    Saint Peter also tells us to be respectful of authority.  No one likes the foreigner who comes to town and refuses to learn the language, spits on the flag, and mocks the national culture.  Both Saint Peter (in this epistle) and Saint Paul (in Romans 13) urge obedience to authorities because they are “sent for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of the good.[3]  “For he is God' s minister: an avenger to execute wrath upon him that doth evil.”[4]

    Neither Peter nor Paul is advocating blind obedience or submission to evil.  Indeed, we are told to obey the authorities because they function in opposition to evil.  Peter and Paul are presuming that the authorities constitute a legitimate government—one in which the laws are made in accord with God’s Natural Law.  The laws may still seem onerous, but as long as they are moral, they are to be obeyed.  If it is at all morally possible, a Catholic must be a good citizen of the place in which he lives.  Sometimes this is not possible, and we must resist immoral laws just as the early Christians refused to sacrifice to the false gods or to worship the Emperor.  But even the early Christians took every opportunity to assure the authorities that they were good citizens—that they were better citizens because of their Catholic Faith.

    I should also point out that the Roman government at the time of Christ did not allow for much of any citizen participation.  We, on the other hand, live in a republic, which gives each citizen the opportunity to suggest the improvement of laws.  Not only should we vote, but we should also express our concerns to our elected officials.  If you have never written to your congressman or senator, you have no justification to complain that a law is onerous or immoral.  We are the voice of the innocent.

    All men and women are created by God with the freedom to do what they “ought”—that is to say that they are free acquire property that supports their livelihood, free to form a family, free to cooperate with others,  They may never consider themselves free to infringe the rights and freedoms of others.  Above all, God created us with the right to do the things necessary to please Him in this world, and to earn the eternal reward of happiness with him in Heaven.

    As Saint Peter wrote, we are “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, consecrated by the Spirit to a life of obedience to Jesus Christ and purification with His blood.”

“Live as free men, yet not using your freedom as a cloak for malice.”







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