Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Third Sunday after Pentecost—15 May AD 2016
Within the Octave of the Sacred Heart

[ Ordinary of the Mass ]

[English Text - Sacred Heart of Jesus]
[Latin Text - Sacred Heart of Jesus]

[ English Text - Sunday within the Octave]
[ Latin Text - Sunday within the Octave ]

[Encyclical Miserentissimus Redemptor]
[Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus]
[Consecration of the Human Race to the Sacred Heart of Jesus]

“Be humbled under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you in the time of visitation.”[1]

    It is unlikely that our Lord could have been surprised by any of the behavior He encountered during His life here on earth.  After all He was God, in addition to being man, and had created human nature the way it is.  But, when He heard the Pharisees speaking the way they do in today's Gospel, if He wasn't exactly surprised, perhaps we could say he was "chagrinned."  Looking back from the twentieth century, we moderns might say that “Murphy's Law” was in full play—whatever could go wrong did.  He had created human nature with great latitude.  It could choose to do great good or great evil; it could choose to be understanding and compassionate, or it could be selfish and spiteful.

    Here were His Pharisees—men who had spent their lives devoted to Him; studying, keeping His law, teaching it to others, the leading men of both the temple and the community.  And what did these “pillars of the community” do when they saw Him beginning His public work of redemption?  Well, they got it about as wrong as possible.  “This man receives sinners!  He even sits down with them at table and eats with them!”[2]

    They demonstrated that they had no conception of what it was that our Lord was about on earth.  What else did they expect Him to do?  Of course He received sinners!  How else was He to communicate the need for redemption and repentance to them?  Of course He ate with them!  What better way to gain their confidence and open their minds to His instruction?  That was why our Lord was here—to bring sinners back to His Father's house—not to conduct polite conversations with Jewish theologians—not to sit down to formal dinners with the leaders of the community.  He was here, as He relates, not to fuss over the ninety‑nine sheep who remained in the meadow, but to go after the “black sheep,” the ones who were lost and had strayed from the fold.

    Now, as with all of the Gospels, there is a meaning in this for us—because to the degree that we take our Catholic Faith seriously—as we should—there is a danger that we will imitate the Pharisees instead of imitating our Lord.  If we are making an effort to keep the Catholic Faith, there is a substantial possibility that we will “look down our noses” at those who are not.

    We ought to ask ourselves just who these people are that we are looking down on.  The first group consists of those who have never been properly introduced to Catholicism.  They may even have heard about it, but they have never been given a proper understanding of it.  They have never known anyone who was a good Catholic well enough to see the beauty of the Christian way of life.  (Someone once said, “Christianity hasn't failed, it just hasn't been tried.”)

    The second group is made up of those who knew someone who was a bad Catholic, and knew him well enough to know that such a life of falsehood wasn't for them.  Perhaps they knew someone who cheated his business associates all week, and then went to Confession on Saturday and Communion on Sunday.  They didn't learn much about Catholicism, except that it wasn't for them.

    A third group might consist of people who were decent Catholics at one time, but who have been led away to Modernism—ultimately to Secular Humanism—to keeping any 4 of the 7 Commandments—to doing whatever they pleased—led to take part in every conceivable deviation from the Catholic Faith—giving up more and more of the sacred, until they just lost interest in God.  Paradoxically, many of the more religious people in this group compensated for the loss of their Faith by going off and joining Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Abundant Life, or some more mainstream Fundamentalist group.

    A fourth group can be found among those who tried to hold onto the traditional Faith, but were genuinely scandalized by the behavior of the more paranoid “Traditionalists” among them.  They were scandalized by deception and nit-picking, by a “holier-than-thou” attitude, by fellow “Catholics” who were trying to assassinate each other's character and to destroy each other's reputation, by law suits, by locks being changed and people being locked out of churches— the list goes on—but it is too depressing to recount.

    There are probably other groups of people whom the Catholic Pharisee looks down his nose at—but the thing that all of them have in common is already clear.  None of these people will ever become Catholics, and none of them will stop being sinners if we refuse to associate with them.  The only thing that will help them—short of a miracle—will be to see the good example and friendly behavior of Catholics around them.

    In this morning's Office, Pope Saint Gregory the Great reminded us that true holiness includes sympathy, while mock piety easily becomes indignant.”  He goes on to say that “the just man may rightly take a stand against sinners, but that which has its roots in pride is quite different from that which arises from zeal and discipline.”  I think Pope Gregory would not object to our continuing his statement with the idea that “one may hate sin, but must love the sinner.”[3]

    It is difficult for many to become Catholics, and good Catholics.  It is hard to overcome bad habits and temptation.  God forbid that we should make it any more difficult for any of Jesus Christ's straying sheep to return to the fold.

    “Without God nothing is strong, nothing is holy.”  Without God, we too are sinners![4]  This Mass began: “Look down upon me, O Lord, and have mercy on me.  I am alone and poor.  See my abjection and my labor, and forgive me my sins.”[5]  As St. Peter tells us, we have to “humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God—that He may exalt us in the time of visitation.”

    This whole Mass is one in which we are encouraged to see our own deficiencies, and to recognize that we are basically no better than the next man—even if it is clearly obvious that he is a sinner.  He needs the benefit of our good example, of our prayers, of our putting our Faith into action.  There are certainly worse thing for us to do than “talking to sinners and even eating with them.”  It was the way our Lord did things—it the way we should do them too!


[1]   Epistle: I Peter v: 6-11

[2]   Cf. Gospel:  Luke xv: 1-10

[3]   Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Homily 34 on the Gospel, Nos 2-3  Lesson iii at Matins

[4]   Collect of today’s Mass

[5]   Introit:  Ibid.

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