God Puts the Means of Holiness in the Hands of Sinners.
The Nineteenth Saturday of Ordinary Time; or, the Saturday Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ezekiel 18: 1-10, 13, 30-32.
• Psalm 51: 12-15, 18-19.
• Matthew 19: 13-15.
When a Mass for the memorial is taken, lessons from the feria as above, or any lessons from the common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Fourth Class Feria of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday; and, the Commemoration of Saint Agapitus, Martyr.*
Lessons from the common "Salve, sancta Parens…" of the Blessed Virgin after Trinity Sunday until Advent, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ecclesiasticus 24: 23-31.
[or 24: 14-16.]
• [Gradual] Benedicta et venerábilis es…**
• Luke 11: 27-28.
When a Mass for the commemoration is taken, lessons from the common "Lætábitur…" of a Martyr not a Bishop:
• II Timothy 2: 8-10; 3: 10-12.
• Psalm 36: 24, 26.
• Matthew 10: 26-32.
9:27 AM 8/18/2018 — Yesterday’s Gospel lesson was from the beginning of chapter nineteen of Matthew, in which our Lord is questioned by the Pharisees about marriage and divorce. That lessons ends with verse twelve, with today's very brief lesson beginning with the very next verse, verse thirteen. In contrast to yesterday’s rather long lesson, today's is only three verses: children are brought to Jesus, He lays his hands on them and blesses them, the disciples try to prevent it, and our Lord rebukes them. It's a very common image for Holy Cards: our Lord sitting on a rock or something, with little children crawling all over Him; kind of a cuteness overload.
But these Gospel lessons haven't been put together by the Church over the centuries for the purpose of giving us cute themes for Holy Cards. These three extraneous verses about our Lord blessing children may seem odd in the sense that, in every other instance, when our Lord lays His hands on someone and blesses him or her, it's because that person is sick or crippled and our Lord is effecting a cure. There's nothing here to indicate that these children are suffering from any kind of malady, which may be the reason that our Lord's disciples try to shoo them away. But I tend to think that the Evangelist included these three verses here because of the Gospel lesson that immediately precedes them, in which our Lord declares that marriage is forever: the first purpose of marriage is children; without them, the whole institution of marriage makes very little sense from the Christian perspective. Pope Saint John Paul II used to talk about this a lot, and often brought into the conversation the whole question of childless couples, saying that they participate in their own way in this creative end, either by helping other families with their children, adopting unwanted children to be their own, or dedicating themselves to the service of the Church.
Separate the act of procreation from the concept of marriage, and you reduce marriage to nothing more than a public expression of romantic love. But romantic love is just an emotion, and no emotion lasts very long. So, if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why presume that a marriage continues to exist after the emotions have died? Take the question a step further: if marriage is just an expression of romantic love, then why restrict it to a man and a woman? Why not make it available to any two people who love each other? Why even restrict it to two people, for that matter? Why not three or four or five?
The teaching of Christ about marriage and family which the Church has faithfully transmitted to us is always the subject of much controversy among the secular media; but, I was encouraged by a story I saw on the Internet yesterday, in which the malicious journalist was desperately trying to find people who were going to leave the Catholic Church because of the recent explosion of attention on ancient cases of abuse by priests, and he couldn’t find any. The headline of his story was “Catholics Still Believe In Spite of Anger.” And we can understand why he’s confused: not being a person of faith himself, he can’t grasp the concept of recognizing the divine institution of the Church and the truth of the faith while at the same time acknowledging the sinful human nature of those to whom our Lord entrusted His Church. It’s not a contradiction for us; after all, we all know we are sinners, and yet here we are at daily Mass trying to do better each day.
Today is a Saturday with no saint attached, so we offer a Mass for the Mother of God, and I’ve chosen to use the Votive Mass of Our Lady, Mother of the Church. Let’s use this Mass, then, to pray for the Church, for her priests and for ourselves, that we may remain faithful to her throughout all the trials that both we and the Church must endure, taking to heart the words of the Prophet Ezekiel in our first lesson today:
Turn and be converted from all your crimes, that they may be no cause of guilt for you. Cast away from you all the crimes you have committed, and make for yourselves a new heart and a new spirit (Ez. 18: 30-31 RM3).
* St. Agapitus, when only fifteen years old, endured many cruel tortures, and was beheaded at Præneste, Italy in the year 275.
** The Gradual is non-Scriptural: "Blessed and venerable art Thou, O Virgin Mary: Who without blemish to Thy maidenhood, wert found to be the Mother of the Saviour. O Virgin, Mother of God, He Whom the whole world cannot contain, enclosed Himself in Thy womb and became Man."