|There’s Nothing Wrong with the Gas; It’s the Engine.
In the United States:
The Memorial of Saint Kateri Tekawitha, Virgin.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Isaiah 26: 7-9, 12, 16-19.
• Psalm 102: 13-21.
• Matthew 11: 28-30.
Outside the United States:
The Fifteenth Thursday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saint Camillus de Lellis, Priest.**
Lessons as above.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Bonaventure, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church.***
Lessons from the common "In Médio…" of a Doctor, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• II Timothy 4: 1-8.
• Psalm 36: 30-31.
• Matthew 5: 13-19.
In the Ruthenian recension:
The Eighth Thursday after Pentecost; the Feast of the Holy Apostle Aquila; and, the Feast of the Holy Martyrs Cyricus & Julitta.†
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 14: 6-19.
• I Corinthians 13: 11—14: 5.
• Matthew 20: 17-28.
• Luke 10: 19-21.
Outside the Ruthenian recension:
The Eighth Thursday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Apostle Aquila.
First & third lessons as above.
9:08 AM 7/14/2016 —
Where heart is true, path lies plain; level the road he treads that wins acceptance with thee. And we, Lord, we have kept to the path thou hadst decreed for us, waiting for thee still; longing we had none but for thy greater renown. All through the night my soul has yearned for thee, to thee my heart aspires, watching for the dawn; soon thou wilt execute thy decrees on earth, and the whole world shall know how just thou art. Thou wilt busy thyself, Lord, to make peace for us; what achievement of ours but the doing of it is thine? (Isaiah 26: 7-9, 12 Knox).
That’s Msgr. Knox’s florid translation of the first few verses of today’s first lesson, which puts before us a unique feature of the Dogma of Sufficient Grace, which you’ve heard me speak about so many times; and, while it makes me sound like a broken record, it is so crucial to understanding our relationship to our Lord. Combine it with today's very brief and beautiful Gospel lesson, which is typically passed over as just a pious platitude—Oh, look how gentle and nice and meek Jesus is—and you have a veritable catechism on the Dogma of Sufficient Grace.
Just to review: what is the Dogma of Sufficient Grace? It is that certain and Divinely revealed teaching of the Church—revealed piecemeal through the Holy Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul in particular—that our Lord, through His Church, imposes no burden or requirement on us without also providing the Grace—usually through the sacraments, but in other ways as well—to meet those responsibilities successfully. A few examples: the Grace to remain faithful to one's spouse and to raise children in the Faith is given through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony; the Grace to remain faithful to the obligations of the sacramental ministry is given through the sacrament of the Holy Priesthood; the Grace to successfully resist sin in time of temptation is given to all of us through the dual sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. But, as I've pointed out many times, it's a Dogma of Sufficient Grace, not a dogma of abundant grace; it is tempered by the reality of Original Sin: neither Marriage nor the Holy Priesthood—nor any of the sacraments—has the ability to cancel and make null the concupiscence which is the consequence of Original Sin; even Baptism and Confession, which take away the sin, don't take away the desire to sin again; we all know this from the experience of our own personal struggles with sin. Which means that we do not naturally tend toward goodness; we naturally tend toward evil. That's why there's such a thing as temptation. This is what the Baltimore Catechism called our “fallen nature.”
So, the Dogma of Sufficient Grace is not a guarantee that we will be successful in our struggle against sin; it is a guarantee that, if we have properly disposed ourselves to receive Grace, we will succeed, but that's a big “if”. Grace is kind of like diesel fuel: put diesel fuel in a car with a diesel engine, and it will purr like a top and take you wherever you want to go; but, put diesel fuel in car that runs on regular gasolene, 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 able to burn it. When a marriage falls apart, when a priest deserts his ministry, when any Christian turns away from truth and abandons the Faith, it's not because the Grace to do the right thing wasn't there; it's because the Grace that was given wasn't received properly. God gives the Grace, but providing the right kind of engine to burn the fuel is our responsibility.
But what's the problem with diesel fuel? What's the primary reason everyone doesn't have a diesel car? Diesel fuel is expensive; it costs a good deal more than regular unleaded gasolene. When your car breaks down and needs to be repaired, there's only a handful of mechanics who can fix it for you, and there's a limited number of gas stations where you can buy diesel fuel, anyway. 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. Not abundant Grace, but Sufficient Grace. In short, we have to carry the Cross of Christ, and bear the burden of a fallen nature.
And now we reach the point where our catechism on the Dogma of Sufficient Grace is completed by today's Gospel lesson:
Come to me, all you that labour and are burdened; I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon yourselves, and learn from me; I am gentle and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt. 11: 28-30 Knox).
That was the whole lesson, short and to the point, and not at all contradicting the Dogma of Sufficient Grace; quite the contrary. When one has the humility to accept one's sinfulness—when one imitates the meekness of our Lord, Who, after all, is God; when one abandons the twisted perfectionism rooted in the sin of pride which causes us, whenever we butt heads with the requirements of the Gospel or the Church, to look for a defect in them rather than in ourselves—the result is liberation.
Yes, our Blessed Lord, through his Gospel and through the teaching of His infallible Church, places a yoke on the shoulders of mankind, but this yoke is easy to bear because it liberates us, and the burden does not weigh us down because He Himself carries the heaviest part. For those disposed to receive the Grace of Christ with a generous heart purged from the sin of pride, freedom consists in no longer being responsible ourselves for deciding what's right and what's wrong. That was the sin of Adam and Eve that we call the Original Sin: the sin of deciding for ourselves the difference between good and evil. Christ takes that decision back away from us, not to enslave us, but to free us, free us from the burden of making ourselves responsible for our own salvation. All we have to do is surrender ourselves to Him.
It is the sin of pride which causes pious souls to consider their moral transgressions and their succumbing to temptation as some kind of failure to muster enough will power; one hears it in confession all the time. Every time we try to do it ourselves we put up a barrier that filters out the Grace offered to us. The trick—if you want to call it that—to resisting sin, particularly habitual sin, is not resistance at all, but surrender … not to the sin, certainly, but to Grace. In the Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, which is used in the Ruthenian Church during Lent, and which you know I’m familiar with having celebrated it throughout most of my priesthood, the priest, during the anaphora, prays to God saying, “We have done nothing good upon the earth.” What that means is not that nothing good has been done, but what has been done that is good is done solely by God acting through us. And God acts through us only when we have the humility to get out of the way. This is what Isaiah means when he prays in our first lesson saying, “…what achievement of ours but the doing of it is thine?” or, as the Roman Missal renders it, “…for it is you who have accomplished all we have done.”
Let us pray, as we offer together this holy Sacrifice, that we will always have the humility to get out of God’s way.
* The daughter of a Mohawk warrior, St. Kateri (1656-1680) was born near modern-day Auriesville, New York, and orphaned by an epidemic of smallpox, which left her with impaired eyesight and a disfigured face. When she was baptized at twenty, she incurred hostility from her tribe, but remained faithful and moved to the new Christian colony of native Americans in Canada, where she dedicated herself to prayer, penance and the care of the sick and aged. Devoted to the Blessed Eucharist and to Christ Crucified, she was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI Oct. 21st, 2012.
** In the United States, the Memorial of Saint Camillus is perpetually transferred to July 18th.
*** For information on St. Bonaventure, cf. the homily for tomorrow, when his memorial is observed in the ordinary form.
† Aquia and his wife, Priscilla, were tentmakers and converts exiled at the time of the Emperor Claudius c. AD 50. In 52, Aquila hosted St. Paul in Corinth.
Cyricus & Julitta were martyred under Emperor Diocletian in 296. The Churches of the Ruthenian recension transfer their feast to today make way for the feast of St. Vladimir tomorrow.