Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Ave Maria!


Sexagesima Sunday--23 February AD 2014


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

”My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is perfected in weakness.”[1]

Those of you that have been in the parish for a while probably remember that every year I remark that today’s Epistle could be known as “Saint Paul’s adventure story.”  After his conversion to the Faith, Paul made extensive missionary journeys about the Mediterranean, and it is not particularly surprising that he faced a number of challenges.

We have to remember that travel was far more difficult in his time than in ours—mostly by sail boats that were very much at the mercy of the seasons and the tides.  Even on land, there was no central heating, no air conditioning, no running water (hot or cold).  Laundry was done on a rock at the river—and Paul and Barnabas seem to have been unique among the Apostles in looking after their own needs, having no women in their entourage.[2]  For the sick there was no medicine beyond herbal remedies.  Paul wasn’t getting any funds from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith—he relied on the wages he could make with the work of his own hands as a tentmaker, rarely if ever accepting donations from his churches for his own use.[3]  In addition to the natural difficulties, he faced occasional persecution by Jews, Romans, and other pagans—his last journey was to Rome where he was put on trial and eventually beheaded.  (His one advantage in life was Roman citizenship, which kept him from the more brutal death by crucifixion—if you consider having your head cut off an “advantage”!)

Certainly all of this was an adventure.  But it took me a number of years as a priest to more fully understand what Saint Paul was doing.  This was far more than an Indiana Jones movie, with a swashbuckling hero.  Paul had literally joined himself to the enterprise of Jesus Christ—joined in the most fully committed way.  Paul was not simply a priest who lived in the rectory, took his pay check, read his Breviary, and showed up to offer daily Mass and to hear Confessions on Saturdays.  Even the priest who lives at a mission station in pagan Africa has greater assurances of personal well-being than Paul.  Paul was fully committed to spreading the Faith of Jesus Christ to as many people as he could contact—no matter what the personal cost.  In this, he was very much like Jesus, Himself.  Indeed, all of the Apostles seem to have lived similar lives—they had “thrown in their lot” with Jesus Christ, with no expectation that their earthly rewards would be poverty, persecution, and death.

Paul did not have the privilege of going about with Jesus in his public life.  But, quite likely, he heard the Gospel account read today from Saint Luke, who was Paul’s travelling companion for a period of time.  The parable is mentioned by all three of the synoptic Gospel writers, but we read Luke’s account this morning.[4]  Unlike the Pharisees, who “heard but did not understand,” Paul fully grasped the implications of Jesus’ story.  It was not really about seeds, but about the souls of human beings!  The seeds fallen by the wayside were really human beings with souls that would be stolen by the devil.  The seeds on the rock where souls that would wither for dryness, not being nourished with a regular reminder of the Gospels and not refreshed with the Sacraments.  The seeds among the thorns were really souls that were in danger of being distracted by the riches and cares of the world.

The great thing that appealed to Saint Paul in this was that it was possible to gather up, and, so to speak “replant” many of these souls.  Nobody would even try to recover the seeds that fell among the thorns, or the seeds eaten by the birds—but human souls were infinitely more valuable.  And, unlike seeds, human beings had intellect and will, and it might be possible to motivate them to move themselves from the thorns or the rocks to the fertile ground of the Catholic Faith.  It didn’t always work out that way, but Paul was prepared, literally, to die trying.

We should appreciate Paul’s dedication, and even seek to imitate it in whatever ways are open to us.  Most of us will not journey all over the place to preach as Paul did.  But we are quite capable of preaching by means of our good example to those around us in the world.  I have always liked the words of the late Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard of Paris:

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.[5]

You may not travel the Mediterranean, but you can influence a lot of people for the good through that kind of witness.

Saint Paul’s “adventure story” also reveals that contemplative prayer is part of his success.  Being “caught up into paradise” and “hearing secret words” describes the union of a human soul with God through prayer which seeks God in Himself—or, perhaps, to be more correct it is prayer in which man allows God to act in his soul.  Not all souls are graced with contemplative prayer, for it is a “grace,” rather than something for which we can strive through human activity.  But the spiritual writers are unanimous in suggesting that we must “meet God half way,” by approaching Him in meditative prayer and by striving to live a sinless life.

So, in today’s “adventure story,” it is proposed that each of us endeavor to imitate Saint Paul’s example.  Jesus Christ gave everything for us and for our salvation, we must likewise be generous with our efforts to live the Gospel and to spread It among those around us by living a holy life.

We must not be put off by minor inconveniences.  After all it is highly unlikely that God will ask us to endure anything approaching stoning, lashing, or shipwreck!  Although I would not be too surprised if it gets a lot more difficult to be a Catholic in this world ruled by pagans, modernists, and atheists in the years to come.

We must be assiduous in prayer and in receiving the Sacraments as often as possible.  We may never receive the grace of contemplative prayer, but we certainly will not receive it if we refuse to do our part.

We must not fear our own inadequacies—no man or woman can expect to be perfect—except, perhaps the Blessed Virgin and her Son.  But, like Saint Paul, whenever we feel inadequate to holiness, we must listen for the words of God:  ”My grace is sufficient for thee, for strength is perfected in weakness.”




[1]   Epistle:  2 Corinthians xi: 19 – xii: 9

[2]   1 Corinthians ix: 5  "άδελφήν γυναϊχα" the translation is ambiguous, “female relative” seems best.

[3]   Acts xviii: 3;   1 Thessalonians ii: 7-9.

[4]   Luke viii: 4-15  (Cf. Mark iv: 3-20, and Matthew  xiii: 3-24

[5]   Emmanuel Cardinal Suhard, Priests Among Men,” Integrity reprint, undated.  “to be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery.  It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.”


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