The Gasoline of Grace, Part Two.
The Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Samuel 7: 4-17.
• Psalm 89: 4-5, 27-30.
• Mark 4: 1-20.
…or, from the proper:
• Ephesians 3: 8-12.
• Psalm 37: 3-6, 30-31.
• John 15: 9-17.
…or, any lessons from the common of Pastors for a Bishop, or the common of Doctors of the Church.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Timothy, Bishop & Martyr.**
Lessons from the common "Státuit…" for a Martyr Bishop, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• James 1: 12-18.
• Psalm 88: 21-23.
• Luke 14: 26-33.
9:05 AM 1/24/2018 — The parable of the sower occurs twice in the Roman Missal: once today, when it is read along with the dialogue our Lord has with his disciples after the story is finished, and once more in a more in abbreviated form; and, we’ve dissected it before a couple of times.
Sufficing for the moment, it’s enough to recognize how well the lesson dovetails with what we discussed back in the middle of Advent, when we compared the workings of Grace in us to a diesel engine: put diesel fuel in a car with a diesel engine, and the result is a very powerful and fuel-efficient car; but, put diesel fuel in car that runs on regular gasoline, and it's not going anywhere, and not because there's anything wrong with the fuel, but because you put it in a car that wasn't designed to burn that type of fuel. But, there are drawbacks to owning a diesel car: the fuel is expensive, it isn’t always easily available and, when something goes wrong with your car, only a handful of mechanics know how to fix it. It's inconvenient, just like Grace: we have to struggle, we have to resist, we have to pray, we have to train ourselves to do the right thing every day; and, nine times out of ten, success comes after repeated failures and only after we've made a considerable sacrifice; and, this was how I chose to present to you certain aspects of the Dogma of Sufficient Grace. When we find ourselves struggling with sin, particularly habitual sin, it isn’t the fault of the fuel,—it isn’t because God has withheld His Grace from us—it’s because we have failed to provide the proper engine, we have failed to provide the proper receptacle for His Grace.
The parable of the sower makes the same point: notice that the seed in each of our Lord’s examples is all the same. The seed that falls on rocky ground, the seed that falls on the path, the seed strewn among thorns, and the seed that falls on rich soil is all the same seed. What makes the difference in each case is the soil, not the seed, and highlights the fact that Grace is not something that is simply superimposed on human nature. A holy person is not some kind of two-dimensional prude who has submerged what makes him human; he is someone who has allowed God’s Grace to penetrate, enrich and perfect who he is. Saint Alvaro del Portillo, speaking to priests, once said:
That is why the Church requires its saints to be heroic in practicing not only the theological virtues but also the moral or human ones; and it is why people who are truly united to God through the theological virtues of faith, hope and love also perfect themselves humanly: they are refined in their relationships with others; they are loyal, affable, well-mannered, generous, sincere, precisely because they have placed all their perfections in God.***
Saint Pius X, in speaking to priests, used to say the same thing: that priests—and, in fact, all Christians—need to be cultured, educated and refined, and not appear to the world to be fanatical “holy rollers” with no other interests; and, the proverbial "simple soul" who bumbles through life with an affected faux naïvete is useless to God.
Which is all just another way of saying that Grace builds upon nature. Grace perfects us not by enveloping and covering up everything else we are, but by sanctifying what we are. A crude, uncultured, ill-mannered person who confesses his or her sins and receives Holy Communion worthily is nothing more than a crude, uncultured and ill-mannered person in the State of Grace; Holy Communion doesn’t cure the human imperfections. But a refined person in the State of Grace, who has not cast aside the human virtues in a misguided attempt to make way for Grace, is more pleasing to God because he has allowed Grace to perfect in a supernatural way that which was always tending to perfection in the human order. He has provided the proper engine to burn the fuel given to him in the most efficient manner; he has provided the good seed given to him in Grace with good soil.
Christ, remember, became a Man in all things but sin. Whenever we make an effort to be sincere, loyal, hard-working, compassionate, even-tempered, we are imitating Christ, the perfect Model for our behavior. We thereby make ourselves into good soil into which the supernatural virtues can take root. We should often contemplate the Master and observe in Him the fullness of everything human. We have in Jesus both our human and divine ideal.
* Born in Thorens, Savoy, St. Francis (1567-1622) was Bishop of Geneva, where he fought Calvanism vigorously. With St. Jane de Chantel, he founded the Order of the Visitation. He wrote the classic Introduction to the Devout Life. He died in Lyons and was canonized in 1665. In 1877, Pope Bl. Pius IX proclaimed him a Doctor of the Church and patron saint of journalists and other writers.
** The best known disciple of St. Paul, who wrote to him two epistles, Timothy was Bishop of Ephesus. He was stoned to death by pagans in the year 97.
*** St. A. del Portillo, On the Priesthood, 15.