Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

Sexagesima Sunday—4 February A.D. 2018
Ave Maria!

Paul the Apostle - El Grecco
Paul the Apostle - El Grecco

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

Please pray for Alfie Evans, 20 Months old.
Socialized medicine in Britain cannot diagnose his problem, refuses to let him go elsewhere,
and now wants to take him off life-support.

 On Free Will

    Today our Lord describes the various kinds of people for us.[1]  Those who do not hear the word of God;  those who hear it but quickly loose the faith;  those who persevere in faith but who give themselves over to the temptations of the world;  and those who persevere both in the faith and in the keeping of God's commandments.

    Obviously it is our Lord's wish—and ought to be our wish as well—that we fall into this last class:  We hope to be among “the seed that falls on good ground,”  among those who “with a good and perfect heart hear the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit in patience.”

    And, toward that end, there is an important point for us to remember.  While the story is correct as far as it goes, it is only a parable, or a metaphor.  There is one very important difference between the people who inhabit this earth and the seed sown by the sower of this parable:  The seeds of the parable are incapable of doing anything about their condition.  Those sown on bad ground obviously stay where they fall, and likewise those that fall on good ground.  People are different, not just in that we can change location when we wish, but it that we have “free will.”

    If we don't know much about Christ, we can make up our minds to learn more.  We have the ability to decide whether God is more or less important in our lives.  We have the capacity to resist temptation or to give ourselves over to it.  We have the ability to make a reasonably holy life yet even more holy, or to drift away from God and become less holy.  This “free will” is obviously a two-edged sword.  It can work for or against us.

    Now, sometimes, people ask: “Why did God make us this way?  with the ability to choose evil instead of good?”  The answer lies in that Catechism question that we learned years ago:  “Why did God make us?  God made us to show forth His glory in this world.”[2]  If God made us like robots—machines that could only follow His pre-programmed instructions—the things we did would not be particularly glorious; nor would they merit very much of His love.

    Let me give you an example:  You may be very pleased with your clothes washing machine.  Every Monday for years it has done your laundry.  But even this faithful service doesn't cause you to feel any affection for the machine, or to feel at all indebted to it.  It is just doing what it is built to do.  But, let's say that one Monday morning you're not feeling well, and your youngest son—who is usually not good for much of anything—he gets up, and seeing that you are ill, gathers all the laundry and does it for you; and dries and irons and folds and all of the other things that need to be done.  In this second case, the feeling is different:  You are grateful for the help, and you feel appreciated, and you feel, perhaps, affection or pride (that the kid finally did something around the house).  The difference, of course, is that your son has free will, and could have gone off and ignored your needs, but freely chose to help you when you needed it.

    And we find that if people regularly help each other in this way, they develop a “relationship”—they like each other; they get along; they will go out of their way for each other.  Obviously no such “relationship” is possible with a machine.

    So God created us with this free will; so that we could relate to one another, of course, but more importantly so that we could relate to God, and so that God could even relate to us.  Without free will there would be no “evil” in the proper sense of the word, but there would also be no real good.

    Incidentally, that is why the Church has us make our first Confession about the time we make our first Communion—the maturity of reason that allows a child to merit grace for his good actions also makes him responsible for his bad actions; his sins.

    Now, often enough we hear people claiming that their free will is too much of a burden—that there are too many things forbidden to them in this world that just cry out, tempting them to do evil.  I think, perhaps, the best answer to that is contained in Epistle that we read today.  Saint Paul was probably a man about 50 years old when he wrote the lines we read today; and he was probably not much younger than 40 when he did any of the things he tells us about in this adventure story.  He also seems to have had a physical problem, although we aren't exactly sure what his “sting in the flesh” was.  Certainly, he would have been tempted just to stay home somewhere and not risk any more shipwrecks or escapes through windows in w

    But «God's grace was sufficient for him;  God's power was made perfect in Paul's weakness.»[3]

    And the same is true for us.  If a middle aged Paul could endure hunger and thirst, and beatings and stonings, then we ought to be at least able to keep the Commandments.  And if we find that we are unable to do so, it is probably because we have not made our lives enough of an “adventure for Christ.”  Perhaps we need to take on a little bit more difficulty in order for us to rise above the level of mundane sinfulness.  If we make ourselves like Paul—at least in our enthusiasm for the Faith and for its spread far and wide—then we too will be able to «glory in our infirmities, that the power of Christ may dwell in us.»[4]

    God has given us free will that we may love Him and that He may love us.  His grace is sufficient for us.  His power is made perfect in us.



[1]   Gospel:  Luke viii: 4-15

[3]   Cf. Epistle: 2 Corinthians xi:19 – xii:9

[4]   Ibid.



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