Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost—8 July AD 2007
“Thus do consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[1]

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

    One of the greatest failings of the modern era has been its loss of the sense sin, even among people who consider themselves religious.  Instead of seeing ugliness and even horror in sin, many of our age associate sin with wisdom and sophistication.  The worldly are considered wise, while the holy are taken to be naïve.  This warped perception stems from a number of modern developments.

    Perhaps the first is the loss of respect for human life.  Until the time of Abraham Lincoln, war was something waged on battlefields—a small number of soldiers wearing this color shot at a small number of soldiers wearing that color.  Modern war, on the other hand, is what General Sherman called “total war”; in which entire populations are slaughtered.  At first this seemed be done as a form of revenge on the enemy, but more and more it has become a standard tactic—we now begin wars with “shock and awe,” and bomb neighborhoods where the “bad guys” might be.

    In much the same timeframe we also saw campaigns of mass murder directed by nations at their own civilian populations.  The names of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao evoke memories of progressively larger numbers of mega-deaths (millions of deaths) inflicted on men, women, and children who refused to cooperate with their regimes.  Perhaps even more disgraceful and more hardening of the conscience is the world wide slaughter of children in the wombs of their mothers—each year more than twice the number of murders attributed to Hitler in his entire career—roughly fourteen million.[2]  We have become inured to the horror of unjust  and violent death.

    Paradoxically, scientific knowledge of God’s creation has diminished many people’s appreciation of God, even though they have come to a much more detailed knowledge of the complexity of His works.  Modern man makes the mistake of thinking that since he has mastered nature to such a degree, he no longer needs God.  Science will cure his ills, put food on his table, and keep him safe and warm at night—he is deluded into thinking that he no longer needs to pray for these things, or give thanks when he receives them.  In his pride, he ignores the first three Commandments, and little by little he rationalizes his violation of the other seven—“victimless crimes” and “necessary evils,” he calls them.

    Certainly, the invention of radio, television, and related technologies has dulled our awareness of sin.  The technology, of course is neutral, and could be used for great good, but in practice so much of it seems to glorify violence and adultery.  It is used also to control the way we think.  Rarely do we see or hear what is not considered a small elite to be “politically correct.”  Those who choose to speak the truth are not invited to the debate, they don’t get interviewed, they don’t get on the ballot, their words wind up on the cutting room floor.  The actor or the athlete who becomes known for drunken driving, drug use, or marital infidelity gets more time on the air than the truth teller—indeed many look to precisely these same actors and athletes for guidance in the way the world should be run!

    A similar sort of “political correctness” has infiltrated the Church Itself.  Many Catholics have been infected with “religious indifferentism”—the idea that all religions are good and true paths to God and eternal life—even if they permit or even encourage immoral behavior.  The idea of objective moral norms (like the Ten Commandments) revealed by God, has given way to the Hegelian or Marxist idea of “dialogue”—that right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are determined by committees of men—that true religion is determined by popular sentiment.

    This segment from the Epistle to the Romans that we read today is something of an antidote to the modern acceptance of sin.  The entire Epistle is well worth reading.  In it Saint Paul discusses the origin of sin in the fall of Adam:  “Through one man, sin has entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death has passed unto all men, for all have sinned.”[3]  And this death is overcome in only one way—by the grace of God, earned for us by our Lord’s life, death, and resurrection;  the grace which individual men and women receive through belief in what God has revealed, and by reception of the Sacrament of Baptism.  As Paul says, “all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death.”

    In the early Church, whenever it was possible, Baptism was conducted by immersion;  being dunked completely beneath the surface of the waters.  (This was considered the ideal, we know that pouring water on the person’s head was acceptable—very likely the thousands baptized in Jerusalem on Pentecost were not completely immersed, and ancient writings like The Didache speak of pouring the water as a permissible alternative to immersion.[4])  But if you imagine Baptism by complete immersion, you get a feel for the symbolism about which Saint Paul is speaking.  Being lowered into the water was much like being lowered into the grave—and then being raised up out of the water was a fine symbol of resurrection.  The death of sin gives way to the life of grace.  Thus, Paul tells us, in Baptism we both die with Christ, and join in His resurrection.

    But, believing and being baptized is not all there is to earn the life of heaven.  Unless one were to die immediately after Baptism, there is in life the possibility of losing the sanctifying graces of the Sacrament.  We know that our Lord gave His priests the power to forgive sins committed after Baptism, and if we have a proper understanding of the malice of sin, we will frequently avail ourselves of the graces of Sacramental Confession.[5]  But more than seeking forgiveness, we must be on our guard against sinning at all.  As Saint Paul says:  “Our old self has been crucified with Him, so that the body of sin may be destroyed.”[6]

    We must return to the recognition that sin is evil, ugly, and disgusting;   that it offends God, who does nothing but good for us;   that it is the source of our Lord’s suffering on the Cross, and that by sinning we crucify Him again, just as though we were members of the Sanhedrin or belonged to that cohort of Roman soldiers.

    And even if our spiritual life is so dead that God means so little to us, we ought to recognize that sin is hurtful to us and to our society—the world cannot function if very many of its citizens go about beating, stealing, murdering, and cheating on one another.

    But presumably, the fact that you are here this morning at Holy Mass suggests that your spiritual life is not that dead.  Presumably you appreciate God’s generosity, do not want to offend Him with ugliness, and do not want to add to our Lord’s suffering on the Cross.

    So by virtue of your Baptism, strengthened by the graces of Sacramental Confession and Holy Communion: “do consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”


[1]   Epistle: Romans vi: 3-11,

[3]   Romans v: 5-12.

[5]   John xx: 22-23.

[6]   Epistle, ibid.





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