Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost—21 August AD 2016


Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English

“Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice,
and all of these other things will be given you besides.”[1]


    In cooler climates the harvest season is beginning, so the Church proposes the readings in this Mass which all speak to Divine Providence.  Here in south Florida, we are a bit out of phase with the seasons as they are outside of the tropics, but yet we are not strangers to the goodness of God in His ordering of events.

    Yet, in reading these texts, it is important to understand that Saint Paul, and our Lord in Saint Matthew's Gospel, are not asking us to distinguish between material things as bad and spiritual things as good.  That, in fact, would be heresy—“Manicheanism” or “Albigensianism” or whatever—a heresy that seems to pop up repeatedly over the centuries.  In truth, the one Almighty God created everything—He created everything material, and He created everything spiritual that exists.

    What we are being asked to believe is that God created everything that exists for a reason and with a plan for its operation.  God existed before creation, and was in no way forced to create anything;  He did so of His own free will.  “Why did God make us? — He made us to show forth His glory in this world and to be happy with Him in the next.”[2]   We might think of all of creation as a crown or a beautiful ring worn by a king— it shows the importance and the dignity of the king— but it is only a symbol;  it does not make the king important or give Him dignity;  it just points him out as the one who is important and testifies to his dignity.  Without the ring or the crown, the king is still the king.

    So, too, it is with God.  We can look into the stars and see His glory;  we can look into a microscope and see something of the intricate complexity of His plan of creation;  we can look at the way He has arrayed His court with beautiful decorations like the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.  But, if all of these things were to vanish    if there were no more birds and no more lilies;  no more atoms and no more stars— God would still be God, in full possession of His infinite goodness and dignity.

    Our readings today, are telling us that we too are part of God's plan of creation;  that we too have the opportunity to contribute to this grand demonstration of God's glory.  Indeed, mankind can demonstrate God's glory in a way that is not open to the birds and the flowers and the stars    for we, among all of God's material creatures are possessed of intellect and free will.  It is those two unique qualities that Saint Paul is talking about in today's epistle.   He is telling us that our free will can take the things we do in one of two directions:  Either we can turn outward towards God (toward what he calls “walk[ing] in the Spirit”) or we can turn inwards, away from God, into ourselves (what he calls “the lusts of the flesh”).[3]  We can rejoice in the glories of God's creation and be part of it, or we can turn and try to use that same creation for nothing more than selfish personal enjoyment.

    Quite clearly, when we turn towards God, we contribute to His glorification, for we are demonstrating that even His creatures who have the free will and ability to resist Him have seen that the better path is join Him in His plan of creation.  For all of their beauty, the lilies of the field are not loveable, nor can they love; they do what they do because they can do nothing else;  they are not able to merit punishment or reward because they exercise no will at all.  Human beings are the only material creatures who can love God and be loved by Him in return.  If as the Catechism says, we “know Him, love Him, and serve Him in this world,” we will be rewarded by Him with “happiness in the next.”[4]

    There is also a secondary reason for joining God in His plan of creation:  Life is kind of like trying to put together a complex toy or unassembled piece of machinery:  things just don't work very well for those who refuse to follow the Maker's instructions.  In addition to not glorifying God, those who steal and cheat and lie and fight will have a rather uncomfortable existence here on earth.  They may think that they have something special at the moment that they take something that does not belong to them, or seem to best an opponent in a contest or a fight    but, in the long run, society just does not work if it tries to run for very long on un-Godly principles.

    Do understand what our Lord is saying today.  He speaks with “hyperbole,”  the technique of exaggerating a bit in order to make a point.  (This is fairly common in the Bible.  Another example is our Lord's injunction to put out your eye or cut off your hand if it is a source of sin for you. [5]  He is really telling us to avoid the occasion of sin—not to maim ourselves).  Our Lord is not telling us to dress like the lilies, nor is He advising that we make no more provision for our food than the birds of the air    He is telling us, however, that our efforts must be directed toward the glory of God and eternity, rather than making hopeless plans to find salvation in the goods of the world.

    Again, none of the things of the created world are evil in themselves;  they only appear evil when we put them to the wrong use, in a way not consistent with God's glorification.  We were created to be part of that glorification.  “Seek first the kingdom of God and His justice, and all of these other things will be given you besides.” — “charity, joy, peace, patience,” and all the rest.


Dei via est íntegra
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