Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany—5 February A.D. 2017


Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Saint Blaise Blessing of Throats

“But above all these things, have charity, which is the bond of perfection: and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts….”[1]

     Today’s epistle reinforces what we heard last week.  In any small to medium sized, Christ-centered group of people there ought to be mutual concern and respect of every member for every other member.  While it is not romantic, this mutual regard is quite properly called “love.”  Today’s epistle uses the word “charity,” from the Latin “caritas,” meaning a non-romantic love of God, or of humankind for the love of God, its Creator.  (Only indirectly do we develop the common English meaning of charity—of relieving the difficulties of the poor.)

    Saint Paul refers to this charity as “the bond of perfection.”  Last week we talked about the love which keeps us from sinning against those whom we love.  Today the emphasis seems more positive—not only do we refrain from sinning, but we relate to each other with “mercy, benignity (kind and gentleness), humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another….”  This charity seems to draw together all of the virtues, with each one perfecting the other.

    “Let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts,” and “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly….”  God is all love, and it is only by keeping the example of Jesus Christ firmly in our hearts that we are able to have this love for one another.  “God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son….”[2]  “We have known the charity of God, because he hath laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.”[3]  If Christ could lay down His life for us, it should be relatively easy for us to have the charity of which Saint Paul speaks—the “constant mutual charity” of which Saint Peter speaks.[4]

    “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another, in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.”  Remember that the spiritual works of mercy advocate teaching the ignorant, counseling the doubtful, and admonishing sinners.  Most of us don’t do this by singing psalms or hymns or whatever, but plain speech can be just fine.  Saint Paul came from the religious Jewish culture where people often did join in singing the Psalms—particularly as they travelled from place to place.  In their original language the Psalms were much more poetic than when we read them in English—much more likely to be sung than they are in our language.

    Perhaps the operative phrase is “singing in grace in your hearts to God.”  It is not hard to think of God’s grace as being a sort of musical thing that lifts our hearts whenever we call upon Him, either for our own needs or to exercise that “constant mutual charity” with our neighbors.  Of course, here at Holy Mass we do have occasion to join each other in psalms and hymns—something to which we should look forward, and recognize as a work of grace singing in our hearts to God.

    Among those spiritual works of mercy, we find praying for the living and the dead.  We are all part of the “communion of saints,” with a right and a duty to pray for one another and to expect their prayers in return.  God’s saints in heaven will pray for us.  God’s saints in purgatory desperately need our prayers (and one day they will become our advocates in heaven.  And, no one on earth should be without the prayers of those around him.

    Now I have mentioned that both Saint Peter and Saint Paul wrote epistles that echo this common theme:  “Charity is the bond of perfection,” and we should have a “constant mutual charity.”  There words are true for any time in history, but it is no coincidence that they both lived in times of serious Jewish and Roman persecution—Peter was crucified up-side-down, and Paul had his head cut off with a sword,  It was essential that all of the members their congregations have great respect and concern for each other.  As twenty-first century Catholics we ought to take a lesson from them.  There are many people in the world around us who hate Jesus Christ and His Church—people who want to take away our God given rights to life and property and religion.  Times may well get very difficult very soon—but they will be a little easier if we know that we have each other’s support.

    Let me ask you to do something.  During the Canon, the Church goes so far as to interrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass two times.  During the first time we pray for the living, making our own personal prayer a part of the official prayer of the Church.  At the second interruption we do the same in praying for the dead.  It would be a terrible waste if we did nothing more than wait while the priest offered his prayers—we ought to formulate the specific intention of praying for those close to us—a list of names that we recite at every Mass, perhaps varying that list when we hear about someone or something that requires our prayers in the short term..

    There is no better way to have this “constant mutual charity” than to be both at peace and at prayer with one another.  “But above all these things, have charity, which is the bond of perfection: and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts….” 

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