|Forrest Gump is No Saint.
The Sixteenth Wednesday of Ordinary Time; or, the Memorial of Saint Apollinaris, Bishop & Martyr.*
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Jeremiah 1: 1, 4-10.
• Psalm 71: 1-6, 15, 17.
• Matthew 13: 1-9.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Jerome Æmilliani, Confessor; and, the Commemoration of Saint Margaret, Virgin & Martyr.**
Lessons from the proper, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Isaiah 58: 7-11.
• [Gradual] Proverbs 5: 16.
• Matthew 19: 13-21.
The Simple Holy Day of the Holy & Glorious Prophet Elijah.***
Lessons from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• James 5: 10-20.
• Luke 4: 22-30.
2:12 PM 7/20/2016 — The parable of the sower occurs twice in the Roman Missal: once today in abbreviated form, and later when it is read along with the dialogue our Lord has with his disciples after the story is finished; and, since that dialogue is pivotal to the thoughts I typically like to share about it, I will hold off dissecting it until then.
Sufficing for the moment, it’s enough to recognize how well the lesson dovetails with what we discussed almost exactly a week ago, when I 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 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 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, approached the same subject from a different angle: that the priest—and, in fact, anyone who aspires to become a saint—needs to be cultured, educated and refined, and not appear to the world to be the proverbial "simple soul" who bumbles through life with an affected faux naïvete; or, to put it another way, Forrest Gump is no saint.
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 productive 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.
* Tradition holds that Apollinaris was consecrated a bishop by St. Peter, himself, and sent to Ravenna on the Adriatic coast during the reign of Claudius. Renowned as a healer, he was exiled, tortured, imprisoned and finally martyred sometime in the first century.
** Born into a noble Venetian family, Jerome Æmilliani left everything to become the Father of orphans and the poor, founding the Order of Somascha for the education of children. He died in the plague of 1537.
Margaret perished by the sword at Antioch in Pisidia in 257 during the persecution of Decius.
*** Observed as a Simple Holy Day, the Feast of the Prophet Elijah is one of the most popular in the Ruthenian Church, and is typically marked by the blessing of automobiles either on the feast itself or on the nearest Sunday.
† A. del Portillo, On the Priesthood, 15.