|Tenth Sunday After Pentecost|
by Leonard Goffine, 1871
In the Introit of the Mass pray with the Church for God's help to guard us against our enemies: When I cried out, the Lord heard my complaint against those that were coming against me: and he that was before all ages, and will be for ever, humbled them: cast thy care on the Lord, and he will feed thee. (Ps. liv.) Hear, O God, my prayer, and despise not my petition: look down upon me, and hear me. Glory, &c.
PRAYER OF THE CHURCH. O God, who chiefly manifestast Thy Almighty power in pardoning and shewing mercy, increase Thy goodness towards us: that having recourse to Thy promises, we may be partakers of Thy heavenly blessing. Through our Lord &c.
EPISTLE, (i. Cor. xii. 2 - 11.) Brethren: You know that, when you were heathens, you went to dumb idols, according as you were led. Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man, speaking by the spirit of God, saith anathema to Jesus. And no man can say the Lord Jesus, but by the Holy Ghost. Now there are diveirsities of graces, but the same spirit. And there are diversities of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but the same God who worketh all in all. And the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man unto profit. To one indeed, by the Spirit, is given the word of wisdom: and to another, the word of knowledge, according to the same spirit: to another, faith in the same spirit: to another, the grace of healing in one spirit: to another, the working of miracles: to another, prophecy: to another, the discerning of spirits: to another, divers kinds of tongues: to another, interpretation of speeches. But in all these things one and the same spirit worketh, dividing to every one according as he will.
The apostle here reminds the Corinthians converted from heathenism of the great grace they received from God in their conversion, and urges them to be grateful for it; for while heathens they cursed Jesus, but being now brought to the knowledge of the Spirit of God, they possess Christ as their Lord and Redeemer, who can be known and professed only by the enlightment of the Holy Ghost. This, as all other graces which they have received from God, is a free gift of the Holy Ghost who gives to whomsoever He pleases and who alone produces all the effect of them. These graces, the word of wisdom to impart to others and to instruct in the mysteries of the Christian religion, the gift of healing sickness, the gift of miracles and of prophecy, the gift of discerning spirits, to know if one is governed by the Spirit of God, or of the world, Satan and the flesh, the gift of tongues and others, the Holy Ghost gave, in the early times of Christianity to the faithful, especially to the pastors of the Church, for the propagation of the gospel; but these became rarer the more the faith spread and grew firmer; whereas the gifts which sanctify man, will always remain in the Church of God.
GOSPEL. (Luke xvhi. 9 -14.) At That Time: Jesus spake this parable to some who trusted in themselves as just, and despised others. Two men went up into the temple to pray: the one was a Pharisee, and the other a Publican. The Pharisee standing, prayed thus with himself: O God, I give thee thanks that I am not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, as also is this publican. I fast twice in the week: I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican standing afar off would not so much as lift up his eyes towards heaven: but struck his breast, saying: O God, be merciful to me a sinner. I say to you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other, because every one that exalteth himself, shall be humbled; and he that humbleth himself, shall be exalted.
Why did Christ make use of this parable of the Pharisee and the Publican?
To teach us never to proudly condemn or despise a man, even when he seems wrong, and to enable us to understand how easily we may be mistaken like the Pharisee who despised the Publican, whom he considered a great sinner, while, in reality, the man was justified before God on account of his repentant spirit.
What should we do before entering a Church?
"We should reflect, that we are going into the house of God, to speak to Him, and should therefore think well, what we are about to say to Him, and what we wish to ask of Him. That we may make ourselves less unworthy to be heard, we should humble ourselves as did Abraham (Gen. xviii. 27.), remembering that we are dust and ashes, and on account of our sins unworthy to appear before the eyes of God, much less to address Him, for God listens to the prayers of the humble only (Ps. ci. 18.), gives them His grace, and resists the proud. (James iv. 6.)
Was the Pharisee's prayer acceptable to God?
No, for it was no prayer, but boasting and ostentation; while he praised himself, enumerated his apparent good works, he attributed them all to himself, taking away all the honor from God, hiding his pride under the gloss of sanctity, despising others, judging them rashly, regarding them as extortioners, unjust, adulterers, and thus he sinned, instead of meriting the grace of God.
Was the Publican's prayer acceptable to God?
Yes, for though short, it was humble and contrite. He did not stand in the front of the temple, but at a distance, as if to acknowledge himself unworthy of the presence of God and communion with men. He stood with down cast eyes, thus showing that he considered himself because of his sins unworthy to look towards heaven, teaching us to regard ourselves, on account of our sins, unworthy to appear in the presence of God. He confessed himself a sinner, and struck his breast to punish, as St. Augustine says, the sins which he had committed in his heart. This is why also we during Mass several times strike our breast, for by this we acknowledge that we are miserable sinners, and that we regret our sins.
CONCERNING PRIDE AND VAIN GLORY
We should especially learn from this gospel, that God looks upon the humble, but is far from the proud (Ps.cxxxvii. 6.), and that He resists the proud and exalts the humble. The Pharisee went to the temple entirely wrapt up in himself, fancying himself replete with good works, but returned empty and hated by God; the Publican, on the contrary, appearing before God as a public but penitent sinner, returns justified. Truly an humble sinner is better in the sight of God than a proud just man!
He who glories in his own good works, or performs them to please men and to win their praise, loses their merit in the eyes of the most High, for Christ says: Take heed that you do not your justice before men, that you may be seen by them: otherwise you shall not have a reward from your Father who is in heaven. (Matt. vi. 1.)
In order that we may learn to despise vain glory, these teachings should be well borne in mind. We should consider, that, it will happen to the seeker after vain glory, as to the man who made many toilsome journeys on land and sea in order to heap up wealth, and had no sooner acquired it than he was shipwrecked and lost all. Thus the ambitious man avariciously seeking glory and honor, will find, when dying that the merit which he might have had for his good works, is now lost to him, because he did not labor for the honor of God. To prevent such an evil, strive at the commencement of every good work which you undertake to turn your heart by a good intention to God.
But that you may plainly recognize the vice of pride, which generally keeps itself concealed, and that you may avoid it, know that pride is an inordinate love of ostentation, and an immoderate desire to surpass others in honor and praise. The proud man goes beyond himself, so to speak, makes himself out far more than he really is, and, like the Pharisee, despises others; the humble man, on the contrary, has a low estimate of himself, looks upon himself as nothing and, like the Publican, despises no one but himself, and thus is pleasing in the sight of God.
ASPIRATION. O God, who dost regard the prayers of the humble, but dost despise and throw away the proud, I earnestly beseech Thee to give me an humble heart, that I may imitate the humility of Thy only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and by so doing become less unworthy to be exalted with Him in heaven.
INSTRUCTION ON GRACE
In the epistle of this day the Apostle St. Paul speaks of the different gifts of the Holy Ghost which He distributes as He pleases. The extraordinary graces which the apostle mentions, are not necessary for salvation. But the Church teaches, that the grace of God, of the Holy Ghost, is necessary for salvation, because without it we could neither properly believe, nor faithfully keep the commandments of God. For the holy religion of Jesus teaches us, and experience confirms it, that since the fall of our first parents we are weak and miserable, and by ourselves, of our own strength, we cannot know or perform the good necessary for our salvation. We need a higher aid, a higher assistance, and this aid, this assistance is called grace.
What, then, is grace?
Grace is an inward, supernatural gift which God from pure goodness, and in consideration of Christ's merits, grants us to enable us to work out our salvation.
Grace is a gift, that is, a present, a favor, a benefit. It is an inward and supernatural gift; an inward gift, because it is bestowed upon man's soul in distinction from external gifts and benefits of God, as: food, clothes, health, the preaching of God's word; it is a supernatural gift, because by supernatural is meant that which is above nature. In creating our souls God gives us a certain degree of light which enables us to think, reflect, judge, to acquire more or less knowledge: this is called natural light. In the same way He gives our souls the power in some measure to overcome our sensual vicious inclination; this power is called natural power (virtue). To this natural light and power must be added a higher light and a higher power, if man would be sanctified and saved. This higher light and higher power is grace. It is therefore called a supernatural gift, because it surpasses the natural power of man, and produces in his understanding and in his will wholesome effects, which man could not produce without it. For example, divine faith, divine love is a supernatural gift or grace of God, because man of his own power could never receive as certain God's revelations and His incomprehensible mysteries with so great joy and so firm conviction, and could never love God above all things and for His own sake, unless God assisted him by His grace.
God grants us grace also through pure benevolence without our assistance, without our having any right to it; He grants it without cost, and to whom He pleases; but He gives it in consideration of the infinite merits of Christ Jesus, in consideration of Christ's bloody death on the cross, and of the infinite price of the redemption He accomplished on the cross, for us. Finally, grace is a gift of God, by which to work out our salvation, that is, it is only by the grace of God that we can perform meritorious works to aid us in reaching heaven; without grace it is impossible for us to perform any good action, even to have a good thought by which to gain heaven.
From this it follows, that with the grace of God we can accomplish all things necessary for our salvation, can fulfil all the commandmends of God, but without grace can do nothing meritorious; also that grace is given to all, so that the wicked perish, not because they could not, but because they would not be good, and that we can resist grace, and therefore by our own fault perish.
How is grace divided?
It is of two kinds, the actual and the sanctifying grace.
The actual grace is God's assistance which we always need to accomplish a good work, to avoid sin which we are in danger of committing, or that grace which urges us on to good, assisting us in accomplishing it; for God it is, says the Apostle Paul (Phil. ii. 13.), who worketh in you both to will and to accomplish. If a good work is to be done by us, God must enlighten our mind, that we may properly know the good and distinguish it from evil; He must rouse our will and urge it on to do the known good and to avoid the evil; He must also uphold our will and increase our strength that what we wish to do, we may really accomplish. This actual grace is, therefore, necessary to the just, that they may always remain in sanctifying grace, and accomplish good works; it is necessary to the sinner, that he may reach the state of sanctifying grace. What is sanctifying grace?
It is the great benefit which God bestows upon us, when He sanctifies and justifies us; in other words: Sanctifying grace is the love of God, given to us by the Holy Ghost, which love dwells in us and whose temple we become, or it is the advent and residence of God in our hearts, as promised in the words of Jesus: If any one keep my word, I will come to him and abide in him (John xiv. 24.); and: If any one love me, my Father will love him, and we will come to him and will make our abode with him. (John xiv. 23.)
He who possesses sanctifying grace, possesses the greatest treasure that a man can possess on earth. For what can be more precious than to be beautiful in the sight of God, acceptable to Him, and united with Him! He who possesses this grace, carries within himself the supernatural image of God, he is a child of God, a friend of God, and has a right to the inheritance of heaven.
How is this sanctifying grace lost? It is lost by every mortal sin, and can only be regained by a complete return to God, by true repentance and amendment. The loss of sanctifying grace, which is given to every one in baptism, is a far greater injury than the loss of all earthly possessions, greater than the loss of honor, greater even than the loss of life. How terrible, then, is mortal sin which deprives us of this treasure!