Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!

Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost—18 August A.D. 2013


“And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back,
with a loud voice glorifying God, and he fell on his face before his feet,
giving thanks: and this was a Samaritan.”[1]

Ordinary of the Mass
English Text
Latin Text

    As you might imagine, priests are always on the lookout for good sermon material.  The Sunday Epistle and Gospel readings are more or less the same each year, so it is nice to see someone approach them from a fresh perspective.  I would never take another man’s sermon and preach it as though it were my own, but I am always looking for ideas in other priests’ work.  The Internet has made this a lot easier in recent years.

    Recently, I received copies of the same sermon from three different sources.[2]  It was by a“tradition minded” priest, which probably makes him a “conservative” of the New Order.  It does a fine job of dispelling the myth that traditional Catholics are some-how guilty of the Pelagian heresy.  For those of you who read the Parish Bulletin, you know that I wrote about this heresy in the July issue.[3]  In that issue, I used a convenient but inadequate definition of this heresy, that it “held that man could earn eternal salvation through good works alone.  It is more or less the opposite of Martin Luther’s heresy of salvation through faith alone.”  What I said was correct, but our “tradition minded” priest expanded on it in a way that bears on what we heard from Saint Paul today.  (He related it to the Epistle two Sundays ago.)

    He wrote that Pelagius’ error held five points—remember that all five are errors:

    (i) that the sin of our first parents was not transmitted to their posterity; [Adam’s sin harmed only himself, not the human race, and children just born are in the same state as Adam before his fall.]   << that is to say that there is no such thing as original sin.>>

    (ii) that Christ came into the world, not to restore anything we had lost, but to set up an ideal of virtue, and so counteract the evil example of Adam;  << that is to say that Christ is nothing more than a role model.>>

    (iii) that we can, of our own natural powers, and without any internal assistance from God, [do good that is pleasing to God and thereby] merit the happiness of the Beatific Vision” (cf. Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, Archbishop Michael Sheehan, p. 456).

    (iv) the Law of Moses is just as good a guide to heaven as the Gospel.

    Finally, (v) Pelagians considered death to be natural to man and not a consequence of Adam’s sin. So even if Adam had not sinned, he would have died in any case.

    The “tradition minded” priest pointed out that not only were good works alone inadequate to salvation, but that without the Redemption won by Jesus Christ on the Cross, there was nothing that a human being could do to gain heaven — faith, good works, prayer, fasting — there was nothing that a human being could do to gain heaven!  It didn’t matter what you tried to do.

    All of this is significant when we read today’s Epistle.[4]  Saint Paul refers to the promise that was made in the Old Testament to Abraham, the Father of the Jewish nation.  “I will multiply thy seed like the stars of heaven ... and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.[5]

    God was going to found His people on the descendants of Abraham—and many of the Jewish people of Paul’s time thought that this promise had been fulfilled roughly five hundred years after Abraham, when God gave His Law to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The thinking was that all one had to do was to follow the Law and one would be saved:  Keep the Commandments, circumcise your sons, wear tassels on your cloak, keep kosher, avoid lepers, sacrifice a few animals—and you win admission to heaven—Right?  No, Wrong?

    The works of the Law kept you from making God any more angry than He already was with the human race.  But none of them repaired the radical damage done by Adam to the human race’s relationship with God.  The promise of that reparation would be fulfilled only by one “offspring” of Abraham—and Paul tells us, through his writing to the Galatians, that the one “offspring,” is that one seed, “which is Christ.”

The Law given to Moses told men and women how to keep from further offending God, but it did not give them the actual graces necessary to observe that Law faithfully.  As we saw in today’s Gospel, the Law of Moses appointed the Jewish priests of the Temple to judge when leprosy had been cured, but they were powerless to remove the original sin which was at the root of all mankind’s sickness and death.  The priests of the Temple were powerless to absolve the sins of those who had broken the Commandments of the Law.  The graces of obedience to the Law, and the power to forgive sins did not come through Moses, but came some 1400 years later through Jesus of Nazareth.  These graces, which come from God, through His divine Son, come only through His Church.

This brings us to a number of practical considerations:

    ·                No one can call a Catholic who “counts his beads,” and counts his Rosaries, a Pelagian heretic.  As I said in the Bulletin, it is hard to imagine a Pelagian—one who thinks he needs none of God’s graces—as praying at all.  And I am not at all sure how one can pray the Rosary without counting—that’s what the beads are for!

    ·                No Catholic should ever give the impression that Baptism and membership in the Church are unimportant.  A few years back the Modernist theologians raised a lot of doubt about the necessity for infants to be Baptized—they gave the idea that the construct of Limbo was unnecessary; as though all infants who die go to heaven—unwittingly, I presume, raising the crime of abortion to the dignity of a “sacrament.”  (If they’re all going to heaven anyway, it would keep them from growing up and becoming sinners who might go to hell!)

    ·                And while Catholics should strive to be at peace with everyone around them, there should never be any suggestion that the Catholic Faith is unnecessary, or no better than any other system of belief.  If there is ever any “interreligious dialogue,” it should be about purely secular things, and never suggest that the True Church needs guidance from religions merely invented by men or women, without Jesus Christ.

    ·                No Catholic should ever doubt the need for the Sacrament of Confession.  Without the graces of God, we can do nothing that is pleasing in the sight of God.  Pelagius would have rejected any need for the priesthood and the Sacraments.  Good Catholics will Confess regularly and will receive Holy Communion whenever the opportunity presents itself—daily if possible.  And, through the graces received, our prayers and our good works become meritorious in the eyes of God.

    And finally, let us close with a lesson from today’s Gospel.  Ten men were cured of leprosy.  But the Samaritan, a stranger in Israel, who returned to thank our Lord was singled out for special praise:  “Arise, go thy way; for thy faith hath made thee whole.”  Without Jesus Christ, nothing we could ever do would bring us to heaven: not faith, not good works, not prayer, not fasting.  But with Jesus Christ the things good men and women do have been made pleasing to God—we should never be without eternal gratitude.  We should never go a day without returning to God and thanking Him for all He has done for us!


[1]   Gospel: Luke xvii: 11-19.

[2]   One of the three attributes it to, where it has the title: “Confused how some Catholics can be labeled "Pelagians"?”


Dei via est íntegra
Our Lady of the Rosary, 144 North Federal Highway (US#1), Deerfield Beach, Florida 33441  954+428-2428
Authentic  Catholic Mass, Doctrine, and Moral Teaching -- Don't do without them -- 
Don't accept one without the others!