Saturday, April 16, 2011

Prayers & Reflections for April 16

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers

The Good Soldier's Trust and Confidence in God

He that dwelleth in the aid of the most High, shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.

He shall say to the Lord: Thou art my protector, and my refuge: my God, in him will I trust.

For he hath delivered me from the snare of the hunters: and from the sharp word.

He will overshadow thee with his shoulders: and under his wings thou shalt trust.

His truth shall compass thee with a shield: thou shalt not be afraid of the terror of the night.

Of the arrow that flieth in the day, of the business that walketh about in the dark: of invasion, or of the noonday devil.

A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand: but it shall not come nigh thee.

But thou shalt consider with thy eyes and shalt see the reward of the wicked.

Because thou, O Lord, art my hope: thou hast made the most High thy refuge.

There shall no evil come to thee: nor shall the scourge come near thy dwelling.

For he hath given his angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.

In their hands they shall bear thee up: lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Thou shalt walk upon the asp and the basilisk; and thou shalt trample under foot the lion and the dragon.

Because he hoped in me I will deliver him: I will protect him because he hath known my name.

He shall cry to me, and I will hear him: I am with him in tribulation. I will deliver him, and I will glorify him.

I will fill him with length of days; and I will show him my salvation....

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Lenten Reflection: Envy, the Sixth Capital Sin

"Let us not become desirous of vain-glory, provoking one another, envying one another." Galatians, 5:26.

In Greek history we read of a youth who so distinguished himself in the public games that his fellow citizens raised a statue in his honor in order to keep fresh' the memory of his victories. This statue so excited the spirit of envy in the heart of another young man who had been defeated in the contests, that he stole out one night under cover of darkness to destroy the sculptured figure. After hours of effort he succeeded in moving the statue from its base, but it slipped and fell, crushing the envious one to death.

Envy always has the same effect. It harms and: even destroys the one who is guilty of it. It hurts the heart and the character of the one who gives way to the feeling of spite. We hope by our ill-will to injure others. We may wound them slightly, but in doing so we kill ourselves, as did the Athenian youth.

It was a pagan, a man unenlightened by the teachings of Christ, Socrates, who taught that no evil man can harm a good man, and that all the fatal wounds to character are self-inflicted. Even the innocent may suffer from the spite of others, but the suffering will not affect their souls unless they allow the poison of envy and discontent to corrupt them.

1. Envy, the sixth capital sin, means a sadness and annoyance at another’s temporal or spiritual good, as seeming to lessen our own good. Envy means a sorrow or sadness over some blessing of body or soul which another has, with the thought that his success seems to be harmful to our own interests or excellence. It means discontent at the good fortune of another.

2. When voluntary and deliberate envy is a serious sin. 'We see the grievousness of this vice when we consider:
A. That it is directly opposed to the all-important virtue of charity, charity that weeps with them who weep, and rejoices with them who rejoice, as St. Paul commands us:

"Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep." Romans, 12:15.

Envy does the very opposite: it is glad when others are sad, and sad when others are glad. Charity turns enemies into friends; envy turns friends into enemies.

B. That envy is opposed to reason in that it grieves over something that is good, namely, the good fortune of our neighbor. It is furthermore unreasonable because it brings nothing to the person guilty of it, except misery, annoyance, and discontent.

C. That it is a sin against the Holy Ghost, an offense against the goodness of God, in so far as it draws evil out of good, while the Good God always draws good out of evil. It is a twisting and perversion of the divine plan, as we see in the very beginning of the human race:
"For God created man incorruptible and to the image of likeness He made him.
"But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world:
"And they follow him that are of his side." Wisdom, 2:23-24.

D. That it is so subtle, so crafty, so active and yet so quiet that it hides its presence even from the person guilty of it. Envy is so low and so mean that it makes its possessor unwilling to admit its presence even to himself.
3. From its effects we can see that envy is one of the most dangerous of all sins:
A. From envy proceed blindness of mind, errors in judgment, and hardness of heart. We see proofs of this in both the Old and the New Testaments:
i. We see it in the story of Joseph who, through the envy of his brothers, was sold by them and carried off into Egypt. Their father, Jacob, loved Joseph above all his sons. This they could not stand, and as the Bible tells us:

"His brethren seeing that he was loved by his father, more than all his sons, hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him." Genesis, 37:4.

ii. We see envy in all its evil ill-will in the story of Jesus before Pilate, an incident which comes forcibly to mind during this Lenten season. When the crowd asked Pilate to condemn Christ to death, he asked them:

"Do you wish that I release to you the king of the Jews?"

"For he knew that the chief priests had delivered him up out of envy.

"But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead." St. Mark, 15 :9-11.

Envy so blinded their thinking and twisted their judgment that they preferred a robber and cut-throat to the redeeming Christ.
B. From envy come sarcasm, backbiting, slander, calumny, and all the many-headed damages and injuries which arise from these sins.
i. Sarcasm is a mean and bitter taunt, a keen and cutting .remark. It tears the heart of its victim, as a vicious dog would tear the flesh of one he bites. Although every right-thinking person despises sarcasm, and rightly, we find too much of it especially in circles where we should expect to never find it - in the home, in our fellow workers, even in parish societies and affairs. Sarcasm springs from an envious heart. It betrays the sarcastic person as one guilty of this capital vice.

ii. Back-biting is just as common, and possibly more criminal. You know the type. Let's call her Mrs. A. When she talks to Mrs. B. she will always talk unkindly about Mrs. C., "bite" Mrs. C. in the back when she is not present. When Mrs. A. is with Mrs. C. she will talk about Mrs. B., "bite" her in the back. And you can wager your bottom dollar that she will talk about you when your back is turned. In this back-biting Mrs. A., reveals one symptom of an envious heart.
C. Envy causes devilish plots, cold-blooded murders, mean-minded treacheries, and public and private calamities of all kinds.
i. It was envy of God that made the evil one take form of a serpent and lead our parents into the first sin. Re-read that story:

"Now the serpent was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God had made. . .

"No," said the serpent to Eve, "you shall not die the death.

"For God knowa that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened and you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil." Genesis, 3:1-5.

ii. It was envy that provoked the first murder. Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, both made offerings to the Lord. The Lord "had respect" to the offerings of Abel, but not to those of Cain. In the heart of the latter sprang up a feeling of envy and anger. Cain invited Abel out into a field and there he slew him. (Genesis, 4:1-14).

iii. It was envy, blind unreasoning envy, that prompted a member of the Athenian assembly to vote for the banishment of Aristides the Just. According to the story, Aristides himself was present when the vote was taken. One illiterate member, who could neither read nor write. went up to Aristides, not knowing who he was, and asked him to write the name of Aristides on his shell to show that he wanted him banished. As Aristides wrote his own name on the ballot that was meant to send him into banishment, he asked the fellow If ho knew Aristides, or if he had anything against him.

"No," answered the ignorant and envious fellow, "I don't know him and I don't know anything about him, but I get tired of hearing him spoken of as Aristides the Great."
Behold the blindness and the bias and the bile of the envious.
D. Envy causes miserable repining at another's success. This we find in every walk of life, especially among those who are more or less equal, among those in the same class at school, in the same trade, in the same club, in the same profession, and in the same parish society. The good fortune of another, the election of another to some society office, the attainment of fame or fortune by someone who would he otherwise equal, causes the envious heart to feel and even to express dejection and discontent, makes him complain and grumble and even criticize.

E. Envy leads its victim to belittle the merits and accomplishment of others, again particularly of those in the same group.

"Yes," they will admit, "she is a good home-maker, but-." Inevitably there is a "but," in other words, some drawback, some point to belittle.
4. To fool and express sorrow over another's temporal or spiritual good not because we feel it harms our own interests, but for some other good reason, is not the sin of envy. Thus a person might feel sorry about another's prosperity or success entirely because he knew that this success would be harmful to the welfare of others or to the public at large. This would really be charity rather than envy. If one, for example, felt sorry when he saw a business man without principles, or a professional person who stooped to immoral practices, or a scheming politician, achieving goals beyond his deserts, it would not be envy to grieve about that success.

Furthermore, if a person is sad only because he himself does not have as much as another, and he seeks his own lawful advancement and not the harm of another, he does not commit the sin of envy. We might rather call it emulation, a striving to equal or excel another by just and lawful means. It is expressed in the spirit of big-hearted competition, which is good in every walk of life. In fact, this rightful rivalry is the spur to much of the progress in all fields of human endeavor. It is essential in the spiritual life, where we see before us almost constantly the inspiring example of the saints. Their example should inspire in us a desire to imitate, a desire to follow their cooperation with grace, their charity, their chastity, their zeal for the service of God.

5. To what ridiculous lengths envy can lead is shown in the fairy story of the shoemaker. He was not the ordinary run of cobbler. He was extra special, so much so that the fairies hired him to make their shoes. The only leather he used was cut from the skin of a snake killed the previous year. They were soft and comfortable and the fairies would wear no other kind. Wherever the fairies went they drew admiration and praise for their fine footwear.

Into the cobbler's heart came the thought that these fairy folk were getting all the attention, while he was doing the work. Envy led him into this trend of thought:
"Here I am slaving away at my last, bending over until my back is all out of shape, seldom seeing the sun, and never getting the glory for my work. It isn't fair. I know what I will do. I'll make myself a pair of the softest, shiniest shoes anyone ever wore, and then I'll strut out among the flowers and get some attention."
He put all the other pairs of shoes aside and worked day and night on his own. The fairies, from the king and queen on down, came for their shoes, but they were not ready. Gradually he lost his trade, but he cared not a bit. He was going to create a commotion. At last the shoes were finished. He put them on and started out.
"Land of mercy," cried his wife, "you are not going out in those gorgeous shoes with your leather apron on. Buy yourself a dress coat."
He bought a fine coat and was again about to start out when his wife screamed:
"Land sakes, now you need a cane."
He bought a cane and was strutting out the door when his wife burst into laughter:
"You silly man," she cried, "your top hat and new coat and cane and beautiful shoes do not hide your bent back. You are nothing but a dressed up shoemaker. Everybody will laugh at you, as I must laugh."
He took a look in the mirror and almost had to laugh at himself, as he admitted:
"What my wife says is true. I was a good shoemaker, but I make a poor fairy gentleman."
He had sense enough to admit his foolishness. He went home to his shoemaker's last, and left the bright shoes for more nimble feet.

Would that we all had sense enough to recognize envy when it shows its treacherous head. And would that we all might use the remedies to overcome this capital vice. If the Scribes and Pharisees, the principal enemies of Christ, had been honest enough with themselves they would have admitted their envy as the principal cause of their opposition to the Savior of the world. If all the envious hearts were revealed to the world what a disgusting display that would be. And if all envy were removed, how happy humanity would be.

6. What are the cures for this capital crime of the heart?
A. Ask God to give you a true spirit of love for everyone, a true, heart felt charity, especially toward those whom you envy. Try praying for those whose success makes you sad. Honestly ask God to help you see that various people have various gifts and blessings.

B. Consider the evils brought on by envy. They are all opposed to the fundamental law of Christ: Love one another. How can we love our neighbor if our minds are blinded with bias and our hearts are saddened at his success? How can we love our neighbor if we stoop to sarcasm, slander, back-biting and rash criticism? How can we love our neighbor when our hearts hatch plots to bring him harm? How can we love our neighbor with a heart that is sad when that neighbor succeeds? How can we love our neighbor when we belittle his work and efforts?

C. Consider, on the other hand, the happiness of a heart that is free of this hideous hatred. The heart free of envy is a heart at peace with itself and at peace with everyone else. It is a heart that is willing to do things for others, willing to live the law of love, even at the cost of sacrifice. It is a heart that is satisfied with its own lot in life, and never permits the good fortune of others to make it unhappy.

Consider the unhappiness of our shoemaker when his heart was envious, and his contented happiness after he had rooted envy out of his heart. Every human being can have that same blessed experience.

D. Share your joys and share your sorrows with others. Enter into the joys and sorrows of those with whom you live. Express your sympathy when they have difficulties; and express genuine congratulations, when they have success. This is something we can all develop, no matter how small the circle in which we move.

Oh, how Christ­like the person who can pay a compliment to one who has earned some merit or reward.

E. Realize that envy and pride are co-workers in evil, twin devils who destroy peace of the individual and peace of the community. Then try to develop a true sense of humility, the foundation of all true love of neighbor, the foundation of all true appreciation of the tal­ents, accomplishments, and good fortune of others.

F. Bring home to yourself with absolute conviction that money and success and fame are not everything. They are not the completely satisfying articles they appear to be at a distance. Much more valuable than these tinsel satisfactions are genuine love, true-blue friend­ship and inner contentment. The man who is satisfied with his own place in life, the man who can, at the same time, view with a smile the success of others, is a happy, yes, a successful man.
7. On November 11, 1950, a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer asked three people this question:

"What do you think is the best way to overcome jealousy?"
A. One young lady answered that the jealous and envious person must develop self-confidence, improve himself.

B. A young man said the best way is to analyze the situation, .delve down into the facts, and don't let emotions take control. He pointed out that the jealous and envious person lets his imagination and emotions run away with him.

C. A third gave this solution: Grow up; become mature, mentally and spiritually.

Our newspapers and magazines have a great deal about jealousy and envy, proving the importance of the subject.
8. Most important is this subject in the Church. Racial, social, and economic envy hamper and even halt many projects of the Church. One member of the choir envies another because she was chosen to sing a solo. Our society officers are often the object of green-eyed envy. Good work already done is torn apart, and good work to be done is never attempted, through fear of envy and its train of miserable evils.

9. Search your soul tonight. Be not blind to this hidden monster of envy. Think of the sufferings and death of our Lord, brought on by the envy of the Scribes and Pharisees. Look at the stations of the cross. See the torture to which envious hearts put the sweet and loving Savior of the world.

Then look into His loving Heart, opened to us on the cross, that Sacred Heart hrobbing with love for even His enemies, that Heart which was ever understanding and appreciative, that Divine Heart which was always glad at the good-fortune of others, that Heart which must be our Model if we ever hope to overcome the capital sin of envy, if we ever hope to be in very truth - like our Lord. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Friday, April 15, 2011

Prayers & Reflections for April 15

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Almighty and merciful God, who bestowest on mankind, both the remedies of health and the gifts of life everlasting; look mercifully upon us Thy servants, and refresh the souls which Thou madest that at the hour of their going hence they may be found worthy to be presented without stain of sin to Thee their Maker by the hands of the holy angels.

Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Gospel for Friday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 10:31-42

Jesus and the Father Are One (Continuation)
[31] The Jews took stones again to stone Him (Jesus). [32] Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone Me?" [33] The Jews answered Him, "We stone you for no good work but for blasphemy; because You, being a man, make Yourself God." [34] Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said you are gods'? [35] If He called them gods to whom the word of God came (and Scripture cannot be broken), [36] do you say of Him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'? [37] If I am not doing the works of My Father, then do not believe Me; [38] but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me and I am in the Father." [39] Again they tried to arrest Him, but He escaped from their hands.

[40] He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John at first baptized, and there He remained. [41] And many came to Him; and they said, "John did no sign, but everything that John said about this Man was true." [42] And many believed in Him there.

31-33. The Jews realize that Jesus is saying that He is God, but they interpret His words as blasphemy. He was called a blasphemer when He forgave the sins of the paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8), and He will also be accused of blasphemy when He is condemned after solemnly confessing His divinity before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26:63-65). Our Lord, then, did reveal that He was God; but His hearers rejected this revelation of the mystery of the Incarnate God, refusing to examine the proof Jesus offered them; consequently, they accuse Him, a man, of making Himself God. Faith bases itself on reasonable evidence--miracles and prophecies--for believing that Jesus is really man and really God, even though our limited minds cannot work out how this can be so. Thus, our Lord, in order to affirm His divinity once more, uses two arguments which His adversaries cannot refute--the testimony of Sacred Scripture (prophecies) and that of His own works (miracles).

34-36. On a number of occasions the Gospel has shown our Lord replying to the Jews' objections. Here He patiently uses a form of argument which they regards as decisive - the authority of Sacred Scripture. He quotes Psalm 82 in which God upbraids certain judges for acting unjustly despite His reminding them that "You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you" (Psalm 82:6). If this psalm calls the sons of Israel gods and sons of God, with how much more reason should He be called God who has been sanctified and sent by God? Christ's human nature, on being assumed by the Word, is sanctified completely and comes to the world to sanctify men. "The Fathers of the Church constantly proclaim that what was not assumed by Christ was not healed. Now Christ took a complete human nature just as it is found in us poor unfortunates, but one that was without sin, for Christ said of Himself that He was the one `whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world'" (Vatican II, "Ad Gentes", 3).

By using Sacred Scripture (cf. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 4:1, 17) Jesus teaches us that Scripture comes from God. Therefore, the Church believes and affirms that "those divinely revealed realities which are contained and presented in Sacred Scripture have been committed to writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Holy Mother Church, relying on the belief of the Apostles, holds that the books of both the Old and New Testament in their entirety, with all their parts, are sacred and canonical because, having been written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. John 20:31; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21; 3:15-16) they have God as their author and have been handed on as such to the Church. [...] Therefore, since everything asserted by the inspired authors or sacred writers must be held to be asserted by the Holy Spirit, it follows that the books of Scriptures must be acknowledged as teaching firmly, faithfully, and without error that truth which God wanted put into the sacred writings for the sake of our salvation" (Vatican II, "Dei Verbum", 11).

37-38. The works which our Lord is referring to are His miracles, through which God's power is made manifest. Jesus presents His words and His works as forming a unity, with the miracles confirming His words and His words explaining the meaning of the miracles. Therefore, when He asserts that He is the Son of God, this revelation is supported by the credentials of the miracles He works: hence, if no one can deny the fact of the miracles, it is only right for Him to accept the truth of the words.

41-42. The opposition offered by some people (cf. John 10:20, 31, 39) contrasts with the way other people accept Him and follow Him to where He goes after this. St. John the Baptist's preparatory work is still producing results: those who accepted the Baptist's message now look for Christ and they believe when they see the truth of what the Precursor said: Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (John 1:34).

Work done in the Lord's name is never useless: "Therefore, My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:58). Just as the Baptist's word and example had the effect of helping many people later to believe in Jesus, the apostolic example given by Christians will never be in vain, even though the results may not come immediately. "To sow. The sower went out... Scatter your seed, apostolic soul. The wind of grace will bear it away if the furrow where it falls is not worthy.... Sow, and be certain that the seed will take root and bear fruit" ([St] J. Escriva, "The Way", 794).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Lenten Reflection: Gluttony, the Fifth Capital Sin

"Whether you eat or drink or do anything else, do all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31)

During World War I the Battle of the Marne was fought on Sep­tember 9, 1914. The Prussian Guard of the German Army crashed through the right flank of Marshal Foch, leader of the Allied forces. The victors were wild with joy; they had pierced the French line. When Foch heard that the enemy was celebrating, he telegraphed to headquarters: "My center gives way, my right recedes; the situation is excellent. I shall attack."

These were the famous fighting words of that thoroughly Catholic and heroic leader, Foch, who had often declared before: "A battle won is a battle in which one is not able to believe oneself van­quished."

He gave orders to prepare for the attack. The fate of France and the Allied countries was at stake. Either he would save everything or lose everything. About six o'clock that evening the startled Germans, till now certain of success, saw themselves faced by a revived French Army, filling in the gap which the Germans had made in the French line, the opening they hoped would be their road to Paris. Foch had not only blocked the road to Paris, he had also cracked the morale of the best troops of Von Buelow.

At nine the next morning, September 10, 1914, the Forty-second Divi­sion swarmed into the little town of La Frere-Champenoise, where the previous day's victors were celebrating. There on the floors of the bar­racks, surrounded by countless bottles of stolen champagne, they found the officers of the Prussian Guard, dead drunk.

What Sacred Scripture says to the drunkard, could have been said to these intoxicated German officers:
"Thou shalt be one sleeping in the midst of the sea, and as a pilot fast asleep, when the rudder is lost." Proverbs, 23:34.
The capital sin of gluttony had conquered the invading army, had opened the way for their opponents to enter unopposed, had turned a cer­tain victory into a rout and complete defeat. How often this is the case on the battlefield of the human heart. Gluttony opens the way to all the enemies of the soul of man. Gluttony puts the pilot of the soul to sleep, and permits the soul's enemies to take over.

1. Gluttony, the fifth capital sin, means an excessive desire for food and drink. It is a desire to eat and drink just for the sake of eating and drink­ing. It is the sin of those "whose god is their belly." Phil. 3:19. It is not gluttonous to find pleasure in eating and drinking, because God has planted in food and drink the power to please the palate. But it is gluttony to eat and drink solely for the sensible and physical pleasure gained from it.

2. The sin of gluttony is committed in various ways:
A. By eating and drinking just for the pleasure of it; finding all or most of one's happiness in the delights of the dish and the cup.

You have met people with an over-interest in nourishment, whether solid or liquid, or both. Their supreme joy is to put their feet under a table or one foot on the rail of a bar. They will converse continually about some tasty meal or cocktail mixture, about recipes for delicious dishes, about restaurants where the food is out of this world, about sauces and salads, meats and pastries. Taste is not just one of their five senses; it dominates the other four, as well as the reasoning power that should govern them.

B. Gluttony is committed by daintiness and sqeamishness in the choice of food. We find grown-ups as well as children who continually com­plain that certain foods are not to their taste. They complain of their dislike into the ears of the cook, usually some weary mother, who has half a dozen different tastes to satisfy at each meal. Such peo­ple often rate their relatives and friends by the amount and the quality of the drinks and dinners they serve.

C. It is gluttonous to eat more than is necessary for our health or our work. To take a second and third helping just because something tastes good, when we know it is too much for us, is to be guilty of this sin. This also applies to the extra glasses of intoxicating liquor.

D. The gluttonous are over-anxious about their meals. Their principal plans refer to when and where they will get their next meal, when and where they will get their next drink or round of drinks.

E. By eating and drinking ravenously, like mere animals, without any consideration for the feelings and sensitiveness of others, with the selfish ambition of proving that he who eats the fastest gets the most.

F. Gluttony shows itself in grumbling and grouching about the laws of fast and abstinence, and by keeping carelessly or totally neglecting those regulations. For the greedy, Friday is a fearful day. They let everyone know how unhappy they are, they even sell their souls for a steak by deliberately defying the direction of Mother Church, which is in line with Christ's direction that we do penance. Such so­called Catholics are totally unmindful of the spiritual motive and rea­son for the laws of fast and abstinence. And Lent? How they hate it! Again they do not and will not remember that we fast and abstain these forty days just because our Lord ate no food for forty days, and because we want to prepare worthily for, and share more fully in, the passion and death of our Savior. Lent is a perfect time for the gluttonous to take stock and overcome their capital sin.

G. The most common form of gluttony is taking more liquor than one can stand, more drink than is good for that individual. There are different types of the greedy drinker, but with most of them drink comes before everything else.
3. Gluttony is a mortal sin in the following cases:
A. When a person makes a god of his belly to such an extent that he finds practically all his pleasure when he has a fork or glass in his hand.

B. When a person seriously injures his health by stuffing himself with food or drink. Naturally the capacity of individuals will vary, but to harm one's health in a serious maimer by what you eat or drink, how you partake of it, and by the amount, is a serious sin. It is against the Fifth Commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."

C. When a person breaks the laws of fast and abstinence for the sake of satisfying the sense of taste. If a Catholic is lawfully excused from either or both of these regulations, he need not worry. But he should do some other penance. Many violations of Lenten regu­lations are caused by gluttony.

D. When a person wastes money and even property to buy unnecessary food and drink. Usually the drunkard sins in this way. He puts over the bar money that should go over the grocer's counter. Almost as bad, he spends twenty dollars on liquor, and the next morning drops a dollar in the collection basket. Should there be here any man, par­ticularly the head of a family, who is using for drink money that should go for his family or his Church, let him realize how unjust, how selfish, how miserably mean he is to his loved ones.

E. When a man overloads his stomach, either with food or drink, to such an extent that he makes himself unfit for his work or his duties. Many a person could do more efficient and satisfactory work if he did Not eat so much and drink so much.
4. With regard to intoxicating liquor the question is often asked: "When is a person drunk?" It might be put this way also: "How can a person know when he is guilty of a serious sin through drinking?"

In answer to this important and often-asked question we point out that the two most direct and certain ways of knowing whether or not one has committed a serious sin of drinking are these:
A. Look back, and examine your state of mind and your actions while under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

B. Ask sober witnesses, frank friends, what they thought of your speech and your actions.
Excessive drinking is a sin because its immediate effect is the impairment, that is, the lessening, and in many cases the loss of reason. If the reasoning power is lessened only slightly, then the sin is venial. In this matter you cannot judge the seriousness of the sin merely by the amount of liquor consumed. It depends upon the effect which the drink has on the senses and reasoning powers. Intoxication that ends in complete loss of reason is definitely a mortal sin. What do we mean by the loss of reason? You can presume and "even be sure that a drinker has temporarily lost the use of reason when he can no longer distinguish good from bad, when he cannot carry on a sensible conversation, and cannot remember recent, simple facts, especially when he cannot remember, after the drunkenness has passed, just what he said or what he did "under the influence."

With regard to this physical angle of intoxication we recall the half ­humorous story from the moonshine era of the fellow who was lying one Sunday afternoon in the boiling sun in the middle of the dusty road, with an empty bottle by his side.

"He's drunk; lock him up," ordered the sheriff, as he leaned down over the prostrate figure.

"No, he ain't drunk," interposed a woman. "I jes' seen his fingers move."

Seriously, intoxication is to be judged not only and merely from the physical angle. One is guilty of serious sin if he does things when he is drunk which he would not have done when sober. The sin grows in serious­ness according to the injury the drunkard does to his own health, the injury he causes others, the neglect of duty or responsibility, and the scandal which may result.

The drunkard thus becomes guilty of the impurity, the cursing, the quarreling, the destruction of property, the hurting of friends and loved ones, which he causes during his drunken stupor. Today we need to emphasize the guilt of drunken driving. If you mix alcohol and gasoline you are endangering your own life and health and the life and health of others. That is definitely against the Fifth Commandment.

The second and better way to judge the extent of one's drunkenness is to ask the prudent advice and counsel of sober and reliable witnesses. Too often the person who drinks to the point of impairing his reason and cloud­ing his senses is not in a position to judge the degree of his drunkenness.

In this matter you can be sure that the fellow who drinks to excess, and the fellow who has only in mind the idea of keeping from mortal sin in this business, will sooner or later fall surely into the mortal sin of excessive drinking. Accordingly, the safest policy, both from the standpoint of morality, and from the standpoint of health, is to stop long before you even begin to get stupid. The terrific toll that the excessive tippler pays we will try to consider when we point out the evils of gluttony in general.

5. What are the remedies for this excessive desire for the pleasures of the plate and the glass? We have many helps:
A. By prayer expressing our own weakness and trust in the powerful help of God, we can win the grace to overcome gluttony in any form. Silently, if not vocally, beg Almighty God to, help you be temperate. Do this whenever you are going to a party, or about to spend an eve­ning with friends who drink. Do it sincerely and honestly. God will help you.

B. Receive the sacraments more frequently. Go to Confession and re­ceive Holy Communion more often. At the sweet moment of Communion the drinker should tell our Lord that he will not imbibe to excess before his next Communion. Work from one Holy Communion to the next.

C. Practice self-denial in other and perhaps smaller matters. Control­ling the other senses will strengthen the will to control the sense of taste. Is it not lack of will power that permits the drunkard to fall again and again? Develop that power of will by exercise.

D. Avoid the occasions of your intemperance. The man who gets drunk every time he visits a certain tavern, cannot expect to stay temperate unless he stays away from that tavern. Certain persons, certain places, certain conditions of the mind, were the occasions of exces­sive drinking in the past. Steer clear of those occasions.

E. Think of the forty days' fast of our Lord, out there in that comfort­less desert without food and drink, denying Himself the tastes of the table in order to make good for your sins. And then behold Jesus on the cross, Hi. body dripping blood. Imagine the terrible thirst. And then listen, listen, O drunkard, to His agonizing cry from the cross: "I thirst." Loss of blood causes an almost intolerable dryness. Jesus suffered it for your sins of drunkenness.

F. Open your eyes and your mind to the horrible results of excess to soul and body:
i. Excess brings on poor health and an untimely death. Too much food and too much drink shorten life. Admiral George Dewey, the hero of Manila Bay, was once complimented on his superb and rugged health at the age of seventy-five. He smiled and explained: "I at­tribute my good condition to plenty of exercise and no banquets. We eat too much. One-third of what a man eats is all he needs in order to live."

When a reporter present asked the Admiral what becomes of the other two-thirds, Dewey replied wryly: "Oh, that enables the doctor to live."

What he said about food is all the more true about drink, especially intoxicating drink. Our hospitals and asylums number by the thou­sands the moral and physical wrecks they take in, people who have ruined their health and their lives by imbibing too much.

ii. Excess in the matter of food and drink clogs the mind and dulls the intellect. After a heavy meal one does not feel like thinking even if one could. As for taking too much drink, the halting speech, the un­certain movements, and slow reactions of the drunk are proof suf­ficient that liquor has lulled his thinking faculties to sleep.

Why, it might even make a man so dull of wit that a Mason would turn Catholic. They tell the story of a Catholic chaplain making his rounds in a large hospital when they brought in on a stretcher a man who was unconscious. He had been seriously injured in an auto accident. The Sisters and nurses did not know who he was. There was nothing about his person to identify the injured man. Taking a chance, Father baptized the man conditionally and gave him the Last Sacraments.

Two weeks later the priest met the injured man going down the hallway in a wheel-chair, and told him:

"Vou were really in bad shape last week. I thought you would surely die. Are you a Catholic?"

"No," replied the patient, "I am a Mason - thirty-second degree."

"Well," said Father, "you are a Catholic now."

"How so?" asked the Mason.

"I took a chance;" explained the chaplain, "while you were uncon­scious, I baptized you."

"Father, don't tell me! exclaimed the fellow, "So I am a Catholic. Serves me right for getting so drunk and then trying to drive."

iii. Excess in eating and drinking brings on lazy habits of mind and body. Tests have proven that too much food and too much liquor lessen the powers of concentration, even make a person unwilling and un­able to think, and also lessens physical energy and efficiency.

iv. Intemperance leads to excesses of the other lower appetites. Drunk­enness particularly is a companion and cause of several other capital sins:
a. Many a person, especially the young, have committed their first sin of impurity while under the influence. Don't touch liquor until you are twenty-five - if ever.

b. Some drunks get stupidly sullen and silent, expressing their anger in that way. Most of them talk a great deal, indulging in filthy lan­guage, unkind remarks, and especially in cursing and swearing. Anger is a direct result.

c. How the recording angel must weep as he marks down the sins of avarice - stealing, cheating, neglecting to pay just bil1 ~ ommitted by the man addicted to drink. He wants more money to buy more drink.

d. The capital sin of sloth is also a direct descendant of drunken­ness, making the drinker neglect the duties of his state in life.
Indeed, excess in food and drink opens the door to the enemies of the soul, even more treacherously than the drinking of the victorious Germans made it possible for their opponents to walk in and take possession.

Look to our Leader Christ during this Lent. Think of His suffering for your sins of the palate. Think of Him on the cross and His dying words: "I thirst."

Without Christ you cannot conquer intemperance; with Christ you can become temperate. Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Prayers & Reflections for April 14

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


Hear, O Lord, our humble prayers, and set Thy servants in the path of Thy salvation; that amidst all the changes and chances of this life, they may ever be sheltered by Thy help.

Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Gospel for Thursday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 8:51-59

Jesus Warns the Unbelieving Jews (Continuation)
(Jesus said to the Jews,) [51] "Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps My word, he will never see death." [52] The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon. Abraham died, as did the prophets; and You say, `If anyone keeps My word, he will never taste death.' [53] Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do You claim to be?" [54] Jesus answered, "If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say that He is your God. [55] But you have not known Him; I know Him. If I said I do not know Him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know Him and I keep His word. [56] Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see My day; he saw it and was glad." [57] The Jews then said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" [58] Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am." [59] So they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.

51-53. "He will never see death": our Lord promises eternal life to those who accept His teaching and remain faithful to it.

Sin, as the Fourth Gospel teaches, is death of the soul; and sanctifying grace, life (cf. John 1:4, 13; 3:15, 16. 36; etc.). Through grace we enter eternal life, a pledge of the Glory we shall attain beyond this earthly life and which is the true Life. Blinded by their hostility, the Jews do not want to listen to the Lord and therefore they fail to understand Him.

55. The knowledge our Lord is speaking about implies more than intellectual knowledge. The Old Testament speaks of this "knowing" in the sense of love, faithfulness, generous self-surrender. Love for God is a consequence of the certain knowledge we have of Him, and at the same time the more we love God, the better we get to know Him.

Jesus, whose holy human nature was intimately united (though not mixed) with His divinity in the one Person of the Word, continues to assert His singular and ineffable knowledge of the Father. But this accurate language of Jesus is absolutely incomprehensible to those who close themselves to faith: they even think He is blaspheming (cf. verse 59).

56. Jesus presents Himself as the fulfillment of the hopes of the Old Testament patriarchs. They had stayed faithful, eager to see the Day of Salvation. Referring to their faith, St. Paul exclaims: "These all died in faith, not having received what was promised, but having seen it and greeted it from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth" (Hebrews 11:13). The most outstanding of those patriarchs was Abraham, our father in faith (cf. Galatians 3:7), who received the promise of being father of an immense people, the chosen people from whom would be born the Messiah.

The future fulfillment of the messianic promises was a source of great joy for Abraham: "Abraham, our father, who was set apart for the future accomplishment of the Promise, and who hoped against hope, receives when his son Isaac is born the prophetic firstfruits of this joy. This joy becomes transfigured through a trial touching death, when this only son is restored to him alive, a prefiguring of the resurrection of the One who was to come: the Son of God, promised for the redeeming sacrifice. Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing the Day of Christ, the Day of Salvation: he "saw it and was glad" (Paul VI, "Gaudete In Domino", II).

Jesus moves on a plane superior to that of the patriarchs, for they only saw prophetically, from "afar", the day of Christ, that is, the actual event of the Redemption, whereas it is Christ who brings it to pass.

58. Jesus' reply to the skeptical remarks of the Jews contains a revelation of His divinity. By saying "Before Abraham was, I am" our Lord is referring to His being eternal, because He is God. Therefore, St. Augustine explains: "Acknowledge the Creator, discern the creature. He who was speaking was a descendant of Abraham, but that Abraham might be made, before Abraham He was" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 43, 17).

The Fathers recall, in connection with the words of Christ, the solemn theophany of Sinai: "I AM WHO I AM" (Ex 3:14), and also St. John's distinction in the prologue to his Gospel, between the world which "was made" and the Word which "was" from all eternity (cf. John 1:1-3). The words, "I am", used by Jesus so absolutely are the equivalent therefore, of His affirming His eternity and His divinity. Cf. note on John 8:21-24.

[The note on John 8:21-24 states:

21-24. At the outset of His public ministry, Jesus could be seen to have all the features of the promised Messiah; some people recognized Him as such and became His followers (cf. John 1:12-13; 4:42; 6:69; 7:41); but the Jewish authorities, although they were expecting the Messiah (cf. John 1:19ff), persisted in their rejection of Jesus. Hence the warning to them: He is going where they cannot follow, that is, He is going to Heaven, which is where He has come from (cf. John 6:41ff), and they will keep looking out for the Messiah foretold by the prophets; but they will not find Him because they look for Him outside of Jesus, nor can they follow Him, for they do not believe in Him. You are of the world, our Lord is saying to them, not because you are on earth but because you are living under the influence of the prince of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); you are his vassals and you do his deeds (cf. 8:44); therefore, you will die in your sin. "We are all born with sin", St. Augustine comments, "all by our living have added to what we were by nature, and have become more of this world than we then were, when we were born of our parents. Where would we be if He had not come, who had no sin at all, to loose all sin? The Jews, because they did not believe in Him, deserved to have it said to them, You will die in your sin" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 38, 6).

The salvation which Christ brings will be applied to those who believe in His divinity. Jesus declares His divinity when He says "I am He", for this __expression, which He repeats on other occasions (cf. John. 8:28; 13:19), is reserved to Yahweh in the Old Testament (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10-11), where God, in revealing His name and therefore His essence, says to Moses "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). In this profound way God says that He is the Supreme Being in a full, absolute sense, that He is dependent on no other being, that all other things depend on Him for their being and existence. Thus, when Jesus says of Himself, "I am He", He is revealing that He is God.]
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for April 13

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


O God, the author and lover of peace, to know whom is to live, to serve whom is to reign; shield Thy suppliants from all assaults, so that we who trust in Thy protection may fear no foe.

Through our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Gospel for Wednesday, 5th Week of Lent

From: John 8:31-42

Jesus Warns the Unbelieving Jews (Continuation)
[31] Jesus then said to the Jews who had believed in Him, "If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." [33] They answered Him, "We are descendants of Abraham, and have never been in bondage to any one. How is it that you say, `You will be made free'?"

[34] Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave of sin. [35] The slave does not continue in the house for ever; the son continues for ever. [36] So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. [37] I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you seek to kill Me, because My word finds no place in you. [38] I speak of what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have heard from your father."

[39] They answered Him, "Abraham is our father." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do what Abraham did, [40] but now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God; this is not what Abraham did. [41] You do what your father did." They said to Him, "We were not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God." [42] Jesus said of them, "If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded and came forth from God; I came not on My own account, but He sent Me."

30-32. Of those Jews who do believe in Him Jesus asks much more than a shallow faith resulting from superficial enthusiasm: they should be true disciples; Jesus' words should imbue their whole life. That kind of faith will bring them to know the truth and to become really free persons.

The knowledge of the truth which Christ is speaking about is not just intellectual knowledge; it is rather the maturing in the soul of the seed of divine Revelation. That Revelation's climax is to be found in Christ's teaching and it constitutes a genuine communication of supernatural life (cf. John 5:24): He who believes in Jesus, and through Him in the Father, receives the wonderful gift of eternal life. Knowing the truth is, in the last analysis, knowing Christ Himself, God become man to save us; it means realizing that the inaccessible God has become man, our Friend, our Life.

This is the only kind of knowledge which really sets us free, because it removes us from a position of alienation from God--the state of sin and therefore of slavery to the devil and to all attachments of our fallen nature--and puts us on the path of friendship with God, the path of grace, of the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the liberation we obtain is not just light which shows us the way; it is grace, which empowers us to keep to that way despite our limitations. "Jesus Christ meets the man of every age, including our own, with the same words: `You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' (John 8:32). These words contain both a fundamental requirement and a warning: the requirement of an honest relationship with regard to truth as a condition for authentic freedom, and the warning to avoid every kind of illusory freedom, every superficial unilateral freedom, every freedom that fails to enter into the whole truth about man and the world. Today also, even after two thousand years, we see Christ as the One who brings man freedom based on truth, frees man from what curtails, diminishes and as it were breaks off this freedom at its root, in man's soul, his heart and his conscience. What a stupendous confirmation of this has been given and is still being given by those who, thanks to Christ and in Christ, have reached true freedom and have manifested it even in situations of external constraint!" (John Paul II, "Redemptor Hominis", 12).

"Christ Himself links liberation particularly with knowledge of the truth; `You will know the truth and the truth will make you free' (John 8:32). This sentence testifies above all to the intimate significance of the freedom for which Christ liberates us. Liberation means man's inner transformation, which is a consequence of the knowledge of truth. The transformation is, therefore, a spiritual process, in which man matures `in true righteousness and holiness' (Ephesians 4:24). [...] Truth is important not only for the growth of human knowledge, deepening man's interior life in this way; truth has also a prophetic significance and power. It constitutes the content of testimony and it calls for testimony. We find this prophetic power of truth in the teaching of Christ. As a prophet, as a witness to truth, Christ repeatedly opposes non-truth; He does so with great forcefulness and decision and often He does not hesitate to condemn falsehood" (John Paul II, "General Audience", 21 February 1979).

St. Thomas Aquinas explains the meaning of these words of our Lord in this way: "In this passage, being made free does not refer to being freed of every type of wrong [...]; it means being freed in the proper sense of the word, in three ways: first, the truth of His teaching will free us from the error of untruth [...]; second, the truth of grace will liberate us from the slavery of sin: `the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death' (Romans 8:2); third, the truth of eternity in Christ Jesus will free us from decay (cf. Romans 8:21)" ("Commentary on St. John, in loc.").

"The truth will set you free. How great a truth is this, which opens the way to freedom and gives it meaning throughout our lives. I will sum it up for you, with the joy and certainty which flow from knowing there is a close relationship between God and His creatures. It is the knowledge that we have come from the hands of God, that the Blessed Trinity looks upon us with predilection, that we are children of so wonderful a Father. I ask my Lord to help us decide to take this truth to heart, to dwell upon it day by day; only then will we be acting as free men. Do not forget: anyone who does not realize that he is a child of God is unaware of the deepest truth about himself. When he acts he lacks the dominion and self-mastery we find in those who love our Lord above all else" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 26).

33-34. For centuries the people of Israel were ruled by other nations (Egypt, Babylon, Persia...), and now they were under the dominion of Rome. Therefore, the Jews thought that He was referring to political bondage or dominion--which in fact they had experienced but never accepted. In addition, since they belong to the people chosen by God, they regarded themselves as free of the moral errors and aberrations of Gentile nations.

They thought that true freedom was a matter of belonging to the chosen people. Our Lord replies that it is not enough to belong to the line of Abraham: true freedom consists in not being slaves of sin. Both Jews and Gentiles were subject to the slavery of original sin and personal sin (cf. Romans 5:12; 6:20 and 8:2). Only Christ, the Son of God, can liberate man from that sorry state (cf. Galatians 4:21-51); but these Jews do not understand the redemptive work which Christ is doing and which will reach its climax in His death and resurrection

"The Savior", St. Augustine comments, "is here explaining that we will not be freed from overlords, but from the devil; not from captivity of the body but from malice of soul" ("Sermon", 48).

35-36. The words slave and son are reminiscent of the two sons of Abraham: Ishmael, born of the slave woman Hagar, who would be given no part in the inheritance; and Isaac, son of the free woman Sarah, who would be the heir to God's promises (cf. Genesis 21:10-12; Galatians 4:28-31). Physical descent from Abraham is not enough for inheriting God's promises and attaining salvation: by faith and charity one must identify oneself with Jesus Christ, the true and only Son of the Father, the only one who can make us sons of God and thereby bring us true freedom (cf. Romans 8:21; Galatians 4:31). Christ gives "power to become children of God [to those] who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13). Thus, a person who identifies himself with Christ becomes a son of God and obtains the freedom proper to sons.

"Freedom finds its true meaning when it is put to the service of the truth which redeems, when it is spent seeking God's infinite Love which liberates us from all forms of slavery. Each passing day increases my yearning to proclaim to the four winds this inexhaustible treasure that belongs to Christianity: `the glorious freedom of the children of God!' (Romans 8:21). [...] Where does our freedom come from? It comes from Christ our Lord. This is the freedom with which He has ransomed us (cf. Galatians 4:31). That is why He teaches, `if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed' (John 8:36). We Christians do not have to ask anyone to tell us the true meaning of this gift, because the only freedom that can save man is Christian freedom" ([St] J. Escriva, "Friends of God", 27 and 35).

37-41. Our Lord replies to the Jew's objection: yes indeed, they are Abraham's children, but only in a natural sense, according to the flesh; this is something which does not count any more; what matters now is acceptance of Jesus as the One sent by the Father. Jesus' questioners are spiritually very far away from being true children of Abraham: Abraham rejoiced to see the Messiah (cf. John 8:56); through his faith he was reckoned righteous (cf. Romans 4:1ff), and his faith led him to act consequentially (cf. James 2:21-24); this was how he attained the joy of eternal blessedness (cf. Matthew 8:11; Luke 16:24). Although those Jews "derived from him the generation of the flesh, they had become degenerate, by not imitating the faith of him whose sons they were" (St. Augustine, "In Ioann. Evang.", 42, 1). Those who live by faith, St. Paul says, are the true sons of Abraham and like him they will be blessed by God (cf. Galatians 3:7-9). In point of fact, the people who are arguing with our Lord have not only rejected His teaching: their own deeds indicate that they have a radically different affiliation: "You do what your father did" is a veiled accusation that they are children of the devil (cf. verse 44).

The false security Jews felt on the grounds of being descended from Abraham has its parallel in a Christian who is content with being baptized and with a few religious observances, but does not live up to the requirements of faith in Christ.
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Lenten Reflection: Anger, the Fourth Capital Sin

"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart." St. Matthew, 11:29.

We all admire the camel for his strength, and especially for his ability to ~ravel over the sandy desert. But the camel does have one very bad habit. He has a deep spirit of revenge: He always wants to "pay back" those who injure or hurt him, even if it is an imaginary hurt. Camel-drivers and those who use these animals a great deal in traveling through the desert, know about this fault, and have devised a queer and interesting way of keeping themselves from getting hurt.

When a driver has in some way or other made his camel angry, he immediately runs out of sight. He chooses a place of hiding near the road on which the camel will soon pass. As the beast comes by he throws down some of his clothes, and arranges them in a heap that looks like a sleeping man. Along comes the camel. He sees and smells the heap of empty clothes, thinks it is the one who hurt him, pounces on the pile, shakes every piece. and tramples all over them. When he tires of this, he walks away. The driver comes out of hiding, mounts the revenged beast, and rides away.

Silly camel! In his blind rage he could not see or tell the difference between a real man and an empty pile of clothes. He could not realize that he was hurting no one, getting even with no one, but was merely making himself ridiculous and wearing out his energies in a useless, senseless rage.

1. What a picture of the angry human being! Anger, the fourth capital sin, is a feeling of displeasure at some real or imagined injury, with the desire to remove the offending article, or punish the offending person. It is an emotion or passion that prompts us to seek revenge. It makes us want to hurt the one who interrupts or injures us, who crosses our plans or our path.

2. Anger is sinful when this urge to satisfy a spiteful feeling is not resisted. This capital sin is opposed directly to the spirit of Christ, which is the spirit of the Gospel. Anger is an offspring of offended pride. And anger appears particularly wrong as we consider it during this Lenten season, when our Lord showed such magnificent meekness, particularly during His passion and death.

3. To be sure, there is such a thing as just anger or righteous wrath, such as that shown by our Lord Himself when He drove the sellers and moneychangers from the temple, as we read in St. Luke, 19:45. But His anger was directed against the sin and not against the sinner. In that way you can tell whether your anger is justified or not.

I recall the story of a family seated at their evening meal. Everything had gone wrong for mother and dad that day. They were tired. They were on edge. The children were noisy and fussy. They didn't want to eat this and they didn't want to eat that. They spilled a glass of milk and dropped gravy on the table. Finally the father exploded. In the silence that followed the storm. four-year-old Billy turned to his father and asked meekly:

"Are you mad, Daddy?"

"No, I'm not mad;' grumbled Daddy, "I'm just full of righteous wrath."

Billy was impressed. Then he blurted out: "I want to be full of radishes, too."

Everybody laughed. The tension was broken. Often afterwards that father remembered and realized that his so-called "righteous wrath" was just "radishes." Perhaps the wrath, the petulance and peevishness you show and try to justify, is nothing else but radishes.

4. Unjust and sinful anger shows itself in many ways:
A. In quarreling: when the views, opinions and plans of others differ from those of the angry person, he is inclined to argue and quarrel. But you will notice that he does not speak so much about the value or worth of the two opinions; he rather stoops to personalities, pointing out flaws in the character, the behavior and the education of his opponent. The cure for quarreling is to discuss calmly and intelligently and justly the merits and demerits of the topic debated.

B. In cursing: cursing and swearing are an admission of weakness. They are a betrayal of uncontrolled feelings. They also betray a lack of ability to express oneself in understandable and meaningful language. Some who curse maintain that it is an outlet for pent-up passions. The fact is that it feeds those passions. Watch the angry man and listen to his cursing. He always makes matters worse. He merely manifests his anger if he curses when he stubs his toe, or misses a traffic light, or corrects the children.

C. In hatred: there is no justification for the desire to hurt another, whether it is in revenge for a real injury or for an imagined injury. Such an angry desire to "get even" is directly opposed to the command of Christ, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," St Matthew 22:39, and to the words of the Psalmist, "Be angry and do not sin," Psalm 4 :5, which St. Paul quotes and then adds, "Do not let the sun go down upon your anger." Ephesians, 4 :26.

D. By bitter language: cutting, sharp remarks, snapping, growling answers and commands, sarcastic speech, slurring whispers - all arise from an angry heart, all betray a selfish, childish heart which is upset when it does not get what it wants. Make up your mind today that you will say nothing, if you can say nothing civil or courteous, when you are disturbed or displeased.

E. By sulking or pouting: this is related to the foregoing sign of anger. Some show their displeasure by keeping tight-lipped; they betray their miserable meanness by pouting and sulking. They twist their faces, they look daggers at the offender, they wrinkle their brows and purse their lips at those who cross their plans and desires. Next time you are angry hurry to a mirror and see how unattractive it makes you. Imagine how unattractive you are in the sight of God.

F. By violent gestures and movements of the body: notice the angry snap their fingers, shake their head, grind their teeth, shake their fist, stamp their foot, and even jump up and down like an excited monkey. If you would see the angry camel of our story trampling and biting the pile of empty clothes you would laugh at him. Much more ridiculous are the actions of an angry human being. What foolish, senseless things they do when in a rage!

The pagan philosopher Socrates tells us that when he was a boy he happened upon a man who was trying to unlock a door. The key would not work. The fellow bit the key and kicked the door in his rage. Then and there the youthful thinker made up his mind never to give way to anger. He kept his resolve. He even mixed a sense of humor with it. One day his wife, a very critical and complaining creature, broke into a storm of bitterness and cutting remarks. As Socrates walked out the door, she threw a pail of water upon him. Calmly and philosophically he remarked:
"Well, after the thunder, you can expect a shower."

G. By fighting: kicking, scratching, pinching and punching, throwing anything they can reach at the offender are some ways angry people try to "get even" with those who have crossed them.
5. How can we overcome these sudden surges of displeasure, these risings of angry passion?
A. By anticipating and avoiding the occasion of them. If you are a driver who is easily excited by traffic tie-ups or the maneuverings of other thoughtless drivers, tell yourself as you get behind the wheel that you will control your feelings, no matter what happens.

B. Keep quiet when angry. The old pagans advised saying the entire Greek alphabet before saying a word when they were angry. We have all heard the wise direction, "Count ten before you talk." Better still would be to say a few prayers, especially that powerful and most appropriate one "Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine."

C. Realize your weakness in this regard, and your inclination to be "peeved" or "put out" at the least difficulty or interference.

D. Keep ever in mind the meekness and mildness of Jesus who told us:
"Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart."
E. Examine yourself daily, and give yourself a little penance for each failure to avoid anger.
6. The contrast of anger and meekness stood out strikingly in an incident that took place during World War Two, when trains were overcrowded and
usually late. A long line was waiting to get into the diner. There was grouching and grumbling and even cursing on the part of most of those waiting. They cursed the railroad, they grumbled about the hot weather, they complained about the slow service in the diner, they even glared at those coming out to show that they had taken too much time to gulp their food. They blamed the engineer and the conductor for all the delays.

In contrast to all this angry outburst, there stood near me a gentleman who was on his way to Kansas City for an important appointment in his business. He was calm and cool, unperturbed and undisturbed by the annoyances and by the complaining.

I was trying to do the same, although I was slightly displeased at the delays. We engaged in conversation. I remarked how composed he was. He smiled and told me:
"Father, I said my morning prayers, giving this day to God. I cannot control this train. I cannot make it go faster. I cannot hurry up the diner service. I am in God's hands. If I get there too late for my appointment, I'll try to take care of it tomorrow. Meanwhile I take things as they come."
When we finally arrived in Kansas City, I could not help noticing that my friend was fresh and ready for what work he could do that day, while the impatient passengers were worn to a frazzle in mind and body. You have no doubt observed the same contrast between the angry and the meek in your home, in your work, in social life, and especially in games.

Controlling one's temper is good health, good business, and good personality. It is good Christianity; nay, it is essential Christianity.

7. Meekness, the opposite of anger, is a virtue which moderates our feelings of impatience and revenge. It is a sure mark of the true disciple of Christ, because the meekness of the Master is one of the outstanding traits of His character.

Meekness makes you more like our Lord. It gives you a peace of mind beyond all price and beyond all understanding. It helps you really to win friends and to influence people. It brings success in spiritual life as well as in your work in the world. To the meek and not to the angry will go the prize, as Christ Himself promised:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth." St. Matthew, 5:4.
8. In striving to be meek and patient our best example and most moving inspiration is that of Christ Himself.
A. You have often heard the expression used with regard to some trying person or situation: "He would try the patience of Job."

Job, as you recall, suffered one affliction after another from the Lord, who caused his flocks and herds to be carried away, his land laid waste, his children swiftly killed, and himself to be struck down with the loathsome disease of leprosy.

Job did not murmur against Almighty God. He gave expresson to his patience by declaring: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job, 1:21.

Could there possibly be any greater patience than that of Job? Yes, it was surpassed by the patience of Christ. The iron hand of suffering and persecution rested much more heavily on Christ. Job lost only his material goods; Jesus gave up the indescribable delights of heaven. Job was afflicted in his property and in his health; Jesus gave up His property to be poor, and then went on to be wounded in every part of His body, went on to be loaded with reproaches and revilings, to be treated as an outcast and to end His life on the agonizing and shameful cross. In his sufferings Job had God's consolation; Jesus, in His sufferings, was denied even that, for He cried out from the cross:
"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!"
Job is indeed a model of patience, but the meekness of our suffering Savior surpasses that of the Old Testament Saint.

B. Job did not complain or grumble. That was wonderful patience. But Christ, who bore much more suffering, not only did not complain or cry out, He not only kept no bitterness or ill-will toward His tormentors, He sought no revenge, although He could have wiped them out with a single word, but instead Jesus renders to them good for evil:
i. He heals the ear of the servant after St. Peter, with his hasty temper, had cut it off with a sword.

ii. Christ looks patiently and sorrowfully upon that same St. Peter when the apostle denied Him three times.

iii. Think of the patience Christ showed with the traitor Judas. Jesus knew that he was about to betray Him, yet He suffered the betrayer to eat at the same table with Him, and even, in the garden, to plant a kiss upon our Lord's cheek.

iv. According to many, Christ had a double purpose in His patience during the scourging and crowning with thorns. He not only wanted to give us an example of meekness, but He did not want to arouse the soldiers to greater cruelty and thus increase their guilt.

v. The patient can suffer alone. Christ did not permit His apostles to witness His agony in the garden, lest they be frightened needlessly. He was willing to suffer; He wanted to spare His apostles.

vi. Hanging on the cross, in the throes of death, He gave the perfect example of patience. He called upon His heavenly Father to forgive His tormentors. In the face of such unwavering meekness amidst suffering and torture, how can we grow fretful and peevish at the trifling trials and annoyances of daily life?

9. The meekness of the saints took its source and inspiration in this meekness of the Master.

A. One day the virtuous wife of St. Elzear, the Count of Ariano, in Italy, asked him this question: "Whence comes it that you are never vexed or never seem to be moved, no matter what is done or said to you?"

His reply was as follows: "How could I be angry with anyone, or complain of any wrong that is done me, when I think of the shame wherewith Christ was loaded for my sake? What torments did He not endure for my salvation? The mere thought of His sufferings, and of His surprising charity towards those who tortured Him to death, suffices to cover me with confusion, seeing that I suffer nothing for Him."

B. Early in the thirteenth century there lived in Italy a pious girl by the name of Zita. As her parents were poor she went to work at an early age for a wealthy family. She was an efficient, faithful and cheerful worker, always thoughtful of others. Never did she speak a harsh word to anyone. Her fellow-workers, on the other hand, were mean to her. Every mistake and misdeed they blamed on her. Then they took all the credit for the work which Zita had performed. Patient Zita merely smiled. Her conscience was clear. Every morning she rose before the others and attended Holy Mass. After some years the master and mistress of the house realized the true worth of their servant. They promoted her to the highest place in the household. She could have had her vengeance on those who had tormented her. Cheerfully and charitably she forgot everything. It was not long after her death that the Church declared her a saint, St. Zita, the patient servant girl.

10. Too many people, including some Catholics, have the mistaken idea that meekness is weakness, and that, on the contrary, anger and impatience are an indication of power and strength. The very opposite is the truth. Too many have the idea that patience is a sweet, sugary something reserved for the calm and quiet of the convent. They maintain that it will not wear well in the rough and tumble of everyday life. What a mistake!

Show me a man who can surrender to the bad humor of another; show me a man who can gently endure other people's faults, who can withstand an insulting, sneering glance, who can swallow his pride and petulance when preference is shown to another; show me the man who can give a soft answer to a harsh rebuke; show me the man who can remain unperturbed when refused something he thinks he deserves; show me the man who can show kindness to others, even when they oppose and annoy him - and I will show you a man who is modelled after the God-man, the Master, the meek and patient Savior.

Meekness may not make the headlines. Meekness may not win many of this world's medals, if any at all. Meekness may not seem as manly as fighting for one's rights and telling the world off, as we say. But meekness can win all the worthwhile battles of life. Best of all, it can win that eternal kingdom for which we are all struggling, the kingdom Christ promised when He said:
"Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth." Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)

Prayers & Reflections for April 12

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


O God, from whom are holy desires, right counsels, and just works; give to Thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be disposed to obey Thy commandments, and the fear of enemies being removed, our times, by Thy protection, may be peaceful.

Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Monday, April 11, 2011

Gospel for Tuesday, 5th Week of Lent

Frpm John 8:21-30

Jesus Warns the Unbelieving Jews
[21] Again He (Jesus) said to them, "I go away, and you will seek Me and die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come." [22] Then said the Jews, "Will He kill Himself, since He says, `Where I am going, you cannot come?'" [23] He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. [24] I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am He." [25] They said to Him, "Who are You?" Jesus said to them, "Even what I have told you from the beginning. [26] I have much to say about you and much to judge; but He who sent Me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from Him." [27] They did not understand that He spoke to them of the Father. [28] So Jesus said, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own authority but speak thus as the Father taught Me. [29] And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what is pleasing to Him." [30] As He spoke thus, many believed in Him.

21-24. At the outset of His public ministry, Jesus could be seen to have all the features of the promised Messiah; some people recognized Him as such and became His followers (cf. John 1:12-13; 4:42; 6:69; 7:41); but the Jewish authorities, although they were expecting the Messiah (cf. John 1:19ff), persisted in their rejection of Jesus. Hence the warning to them: He is going where they cannot follow, that is, He is going to Heaven, which is where He has come from (cf. John 6:41ff), and they will keep looking out for the Messiah foretold by the prophets; but they will not find Him because they look for Him outside of Jesus, nor can they follow Him, for they do not believe in Him. You are of the world, our Lord is saying to them, not because you are on earth but because you are living under the influence of the prince of this world (cf. John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11); you are his vassals and you do his deeds (cf. 8:44); therefore, you will die in your sin. "We are all born with sin", St. Augustine comments, "all by our living have added to what we were by nature, and have become more of this world than we then were, when we were born of our parents. Where would we be if He had not come, who had no sin at all, to loose all sin? The Jews, because they did not believe in Him, deserved to have it said to them, 'You will die in your sin'" ("In Ioann. Evang.", 38, 6).

The salvation which Christ brings will be applied to those who believe in His divinity. Jesus declares His divinity when He says "I am He", for this expression, which He repeats on other occasions (cf. John. 8:28; 13:19), is reserved to Yahweh in the Old Testament (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10-11), where God, in revealing His name and therefore His essence, says to Moses "I AM WHO I AM" (Exodus 3:14). In this profound way God says that He is the Supreme Being in a full, absolute sense, that He is dependent on no other being, that all other things depend on Him for their being and existence. Thus, when Jesus says of Himself, "I am He", He is revealing that He is God.

25. A little before this Jesus had spoken about His Heavenly origin and His divine nature (cf. verses 23-24); but the Jews do not want to accept this revelation; which is why they ask Him for an even more explicit statement: "Who are You?" Our Lord's reply can be understood in different ways, because the Greek text has two meanings: 1) our Lord is confirming what He has just asserted (cf. verses 23-24) and what He has been teaching throughout this visit to Jerusalem--in which case it may be translated "precisely what I am telling you" or else "in the first place what I am telling you". This is the interpretation given in the New Vulgate. 2) Jesus is indicating that He is the "Beginning", which is the word St. John also uses in the Apocalypse to designate the Word, the cause of all creation (Revelation 3:14; cf. Revelation 1:8). In this way Jesus states His divine origin. This is the interpretation given in the Vulgate. Either way, Christ is once more revealing His divinity; He is reaffirming what He said earlier, but without saying it all over again.

"Many people in our own days ask the same question: 'Who are You?' [...] Who, then, was Jesus? Our faith exults and cries out: it is He, it is He, the Son of God made man. He is the Messiah we were expecting: He is the Savior of the world, the Master of our lives: He is the Shepherd that guides men to their pastures in time, to their destinies beyond time. He is the joy of the world; He is the image of the invisible God: He is the way, the truth and the life; He is the interior friend; He is the One who knows us even from afar; He knows our thoughts; He is the One who can forgive us, console, cure, even raise from the dead; and He is the One who will return, the judge of one and all, in the fullness of His glory and our eternal happiness" (Paul VI, "General Audience", 11 December 1974).

26-27. "He who sent Me": an expression very often found in St. John's Gospel, referring to God the Father (cf. 5:37; 6:44; 7:28; 8:16).

The Jews who were listening to Jesus did not understand whom He was referring to; but St. John, in recounting this episode, explains that He meant His Father, from Whom He came.

"He spoke to them of the Father": this is the reading in most of the Greek codexes, including the more important ones. Other Greek codexes and some translations, including the Vulgate, read, "He was calling God His Father."

"What I have heard from Him": Jesus had connatural knowledge of His Father, and it is from this knowledge that He speaks to men; He knows God not through revelation or inspiration as the prophets and sacred writers did, but in an infinitely higher way: which is why He can say that no one knows the Father but the Son and He to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him (cf. Mt 11:27).

On the type of knowledge Jesus had during His life on earth, see the note on Luke 2:52.

28. Our Lord is referring to His passion and death: "`And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself'. He said this to show by what death He was to die" (John 12:32-33). Rounding out the Synoptics and the Letters of St. Paul, the Fourth Gospel presents the Cross, above all, as a royal throne on which Christ is "lifted up" and from which He offers all men the fruits of salvation (cf. John 3:14-15; cf. also Numbers 21:9ff; Wisdom 16:6).

Jesus says that when that time comes, the Jews will know who He is and His intimate union with the Father, because many of them will discover, thanks to His death and resurrection, that He is the Messiah, the Son of God (cf. Matthew 15:39; Lk 33:48). After the coming of the Holy Spirit many thousands will believe in Him (cf. Acts 2:41; 4:4).
Source: "The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries". Biblical text taken from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries made by members of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre, Spain. Published by Four Courts Press, Kill Lane, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Reprinted with permission from Four Courts Press and Scepter Publishers, the U.S. publisher.

Prayers & Reflections for April 11

The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

Occasional Prayers


O God, Who bringest wars to nought and shieldest by Thy power all who hope in Thee, overthrowing those that assail them; help Thy servants who implore Thy mercy; so that the fierce might of their enemies may be brought low and we may never cease to praise and thank Thee.

O God, who hast dominion over all realms and kings, who by striking healest, and by pardoning savest; stretch out over us Thy mercy, so that by Thy power we may enjoy peace and tranquillity and use them for our healing and amendment.

Through Our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, for ever and ever. Amen.

[Continued tomorrow]
The Armor of God
Reflections and Prayers for Wartime

by Rt. Rev. Msgr. Fulton J. Sheen
(C) 1943, P.J. Kenedy & Sons

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reflections for the 5th Week of Lent

Duties to Teachers
"It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God." St. John, 8:54.
Years ago a flying instructor in Kansas City, Missouri, went up with one of his students in a training plane. The student already had several lessons and was doing good work at the controls, so good that the instructor, seated in the cockpit, dropped off to sleep....
Adapted from Talks on the Commandments
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1948)

The Crucifixion
"It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God." St. John, 8:54.

"He was crucified." The Creed.
The story is told of a French artist who was engaged to paint a picture of the crucifixion for a famous church. As he was given plenty of time, he spent more than a year working on and off at his task....
Adapted from Talks on the Creed
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (© 1946)

Virtue in General
"He who is of God hears the words of God." St. John, 8:47.
Charles the Ninth, king of France, was interested in spiritual things. One day he asked the celebrated poet, Torquato Tasso, this question: "Who, do you think, is the happiest being?"...
Adapted from Prayers, Precepts and Virtues
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, 1949

Alter Christus - Fulget Crucis Mysterium
Ever since the first Good Friday on Calvary, Christ's holy Cross dominates the world: it is the standard of the King, round which all Christians must rally to fight His battles, the throne from which He reigns and would draw all hearts to Him, the glowing furnace whence ever radiate the mystery and the lessons of His love...
Adapted from Alter Christus, Meditations for Priests
by F.X. L'Hoir, S.J. (1958)
Meditation 16.

Why Christ Comes to Us
"Amen, amen, I say to you, if anyone keep my word, he will never see death." St. John, 8:51.
Did you ever hear of the Boiler Kid? His real name was Fred Snite. A former student at Notre Dame University, young Snite was stricken with infantile paralysis while traveling in China many years ago. The doctors said he would live about a week. But he continued to live past those projections...
Adapted from Talks on the Commandments, (1948)
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, O.F.M.

Lenten Reflection: Lust, the Third Capital Sin

"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory: for the memory thereof is immortal: because it is known both with God and with men.

"When it is present, they imitate it: and they desire it when it hath with­ drawn itself, and it triumpheth crowned forever, winning the reward of undefiled conflicts."
Wisdom, 4:1-2.

Way back in the year 303 a mother and her daughter were kneeling at an Italian grotto near Catania in Sicily, the spot where the remains of the Virgin-Martyr St. Agatha were buried. The mother's name was Eutychia, a wealthy widow, who was suffering from a hemorrhage. The daughter's name was Lucy, who was beautiful beyond words, and who had vowed her virginity to God, despite the desire of her mother to marry her to a charm­ing and accomplished young man. Both were praying that the Lord would cure the elder woman's ailment. Secretly Lucy was asking light and wis­dom that her mother might see things her way. Long and fervently they had prayed when suddenly St. Agatha appeared to Lucy and told her:
"Your faith has come to your mother's aid. The Lord Jesus Christ will through you render Syracuse illustrious because by your virginity you have prepared for Him a pleasant dwelling in your heart."
Both prayers of Lucy were answered. Her mother was healed in body and also in heart, consenting to Lucy's desire to consecrate herself entirely to the Lord, and dispose of her wealth to the poor.

Meanwhile the young man to whom she had been betrothed, in his anger and disappointment, reported to the pagan governor that Lucy was a Chris­tian and an enemy of the gods of Rome. The Roman governor called our heroine before him, and was struck with her marvelous beauty.

"If you want to save your life, worship our gods," commanded the governor. "I do not worship devils," was Lucy's firm and calm reply.

Cleverly but vainly the governor tried to shake her constancy. When he asked her how she could answer him so clearly and fearlessly she told him that it was the "spirit of the Father" in her, explaining that they who lead a chaste and holy life are the temple of the Holy Spirit. A devilish and brutish plan leaped into the mind of the pagan governor. He would place this innocent girl in a house of impurity, where her innocence would be taken from her by force. Without flinching Lucy declared:
"If you order me to suffer violence against my will, I shall not only lose my chastity but will win a double crown."
"Take her away," cried the governor, "take her away."

But the rough soldiers could not move her from the spot. Fuming and furious, and blind to the miracle, the governor ordered a fire built about her, but the flames did not harm her. Then he ordered a soldier to draw his sword and stab her. The pure blood of the virgin-martyr St. Lucy spurted over the shining whiteness of the marble floor.

In this traditional story of the martyrdom of St. Lucy there is an even greater contrast than that between her red blood and the white floor. It was the striking contrast between her snow-white purity and the bloody lust of her persecutors.

1. Lust, the third of the capital sins, means an immoderate love of fleshly pleasure. It is an unregulated and uncontrolled desire for impure satis­factions. It is a vice that creeps into every walk of life. The fact that people are married does not free them from the fetters of lust, or at least from the danger of lustful desires.

2. This sin is directly opposed to the sanctity of God, who created the human body for a holy purpose, and who makes the body of a Christian His dwelling place, as St. Lucy so firmly and clearly explained to her pagan judge.

Through the Sixth and the Ninth Commandments God has forbidden all forms of lust. The Sixth Commandment forbids all sins of impurity with another's wife or husband, which is the strict meaning of adultery, and it also forbids all other external acts of impurity with ourselves or with others. The Ninth Commandment forbids all interior sins, whether of thought or desire, which are contrary to chastity.

We sin against this Ninth Commandment when we purposely and knowingly cause or keep impure thoughts or desires. This applies not only when we have an impure thought and desire to carry out some impurity, but also when we take pleasure in a thought and do not desire its accomplishment, and even when we are conscious of such thoughts or desires and wilfully neglect or refuse to put them away.

3. Every sin of lust is a mortal sin, when committed with sufficient knowledge and with full consent of the will. Some sins of lust are more grievous than others, because they are more unnatural, more hateful and more condemnable. Impurity is a capital sin:
A. Because God has forbidden impurity of all kinds by His Sixth and Ninth Commandments as well as by frequent, direct condemnation of lust through the pages of Sacred Scripture.

B. Because God has punished in terrible and dreadful ways the sin of impurity. Read the story of­
i. The deluge that covered the earth in Genesis, 7:11.

ii. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis, 19:24.

iii. And the death of 24,000 Israelites in Numbers, 25:9.
C. Because it reduces man to the level of a selfish, unthinking beast, putting the lower brute passions above the higher part of man.

D. Because it is considered by all men as a most shameful sin. The very fact that the lustful seek darkness and secrecy is a proof of the shame and disgrace that attaches to this vice.
4. Rightly can we call impurity a capital sin, when we consider its dread­ful and certain consequences:

A. Unlike almost all other sins, which affect only one or the other power, such as the mind, the will, or some of the senses, lust ruins man's entire being, body and soul, and becomes the one constant thought and brutish aim of his existence.

B. Lust drives a man to every other kind of sin in order to satisfy his immoderate craving for sexual pleasure. It causes lying, slanders, stealing, murder, marital unfaithfulness, and disregard for lawful authority. Every day the news brings you proof, glaring, positive proof that lust is the source of a host of other sins.

C. Impurity ruins the dignity of the human being. Whoever does not look at the sexual appetite through the eyes of God's law, sinks to the level of a brute. And whoever gives himself to the practice of unnatural impurities such as homozexuality, sinks lower than the brute. Lust makes man a slave. It weakens will power and destroys health.

D. Impurity undermines human society by poisoning the very source of life, namely, marriage and the family. These are built, as society is built, on moral purity and strength. When impurity becomes nationwide, it destroys, as it did so terribly and so decisively ancient Rome.

E. Impurity causes the loss of more souls than any other kind of sin.
i. It is the easiest to commit, especially in our age of unlimited freedom and license.

ii. It is the hardest to abandon, because it affects the entire crea­ture - his body and his soul.

iii. It blinds the intellect. The mind that is impure cannot concen­trate and cannot think clearly, because impurity is constantly present and over-powering.

iv. It hardens the heart. The urge to immoderate sexual satisfac­tion becomes so strong that the normal, healthy emotions of the heart are smothered.

v. It creates a distaste for religion, a disgust for prayer, a weak­ening and final loss of faith, and impenitence at the last. Just as lust causes many to leave the Church, so it causes many to stay out of the Church. We recall the incident of the last cen­tury that took place in the parlor of Chateaubriand, the famous French author. His guests for the most part were unbelieving scientists, authors and painters. They spoke of religion only to say that it was impossible for an educated man of modern times to be a believer. Chateaubriand stood up and spoke:

"Gentlemen, place your hands upon your hearts. Would you not become believers, if you could live pure lives?"

In our day many would have to answer "Yes" to that question. They would become believers, if they could lead pure lives; rather, if they wanted to lead pure lives. Ask those who leave the Church, and if they are honest, most will declare that at bottom their stumbling-block was impurity.

vi. Lust causes some of the most loathsome, painful diseases, and has caused more deaths than all the wars of history. Look at the social and sexual diseases so common in our country today, sapping the strength of our manhood, destroying the health of families, causing untold misery and expense. Unfortunately this disastrous result of impurity is the only one considered by some individuals. It is not a sufficient deterrent to lust. Speak­ing of the impure man Job declares:
"His bones shall be filled with the vices of his youth, and they shall sleep with him in the dust." Job, 20:11.
5. Lust shows itself in various ways:
A. It is lust purposely and knowingly to cause or to keep impure pictures in the mind.

B. It is lust to read impure, sexy books and magazines or to watch such shows on TV.

C. It is lust knowingly to attend movies that are morally objectionable.

D. It is lust to hear and repeat sexy stories, and talk of sexual things for the pleasure of it.

E. It is lust to touch oneself impurely, or to cause impure feelings in oneself by reading, or by looking at impure pictures.

F. It is lust to touch another sexually, or to arouse impure feelings in oneself or in another by prolonged, passionate kissing, by touching another's body in improper places, or by impure conversation, con­duct, or dress. Too many have the mistaken idea that the only serious sin of lust is going the limit.

G. It is lust to use any artificial and unnatural method of birth control.
6. There is only one way to overcome this capital sin of lust, and that is to develop the opposite virtue of chastity. Chastity is that virtue which keeps us pure in body and soul before God and man.

It is a virtue that makes men like to angels. It is even called "the angelic virtue." It gives a soul great power with God: it keeps the mind clear; it warms the heart; it strengthens the will; it provides a fertile field and nourishment for all the other virtues. It even works miracles, as we saw in the story of St. Lucy, whom the soldiers could not budge physically when they were commanded to take her to a place of sin. Purity has a positive influence over human beings, even drawing the admiration of the impure. It gives a deep and lasting interior peace, and fills the heart with true love for God and man.

7. Such a necessary, excellent, and beautiful virtue is certainly worth striving for. What are the means? You have heard them time and again from the Church, but perhaps in this serious time of Lent when we see our Lord suffering in body and soul for the impurities of the world, when we see Him stripped and beaten and bleeding, when we behold Him nailed to a tree for the lusts of men, perhaps at this time we will consider more seriously not only the wickedness of lust, but the wonderful beauty of purity.
A. The first step to purity is to really want to be pure. If we really want to be chaste over half the battle is won. The trouble is that many want to eat their cake and have it in this matter. They want to be pure and impure at the same time. Make your choice, a deter­mined choice.

B. Avoid the occasions. Avoid as you would a contagious disease those places, people, situations, which led you into sin in the past, or which tempted you severely, or which you have heard are usually the cause of sin.

They tell the story that Gene Tunney, the former heavyweight champion boxer of the world was being tendered a party by some New York admirers. The hall was filled. After the banquet they put on a floor show, a feature of which was a number of scantily dressed girls. At once Tunney, the champion, rose, reached for his hat, and declared for all to hear:
"Gentlemen, I did not come to be insulted. These things are against all decorum and decency, and I will not be a part of them. You will have to excuse me. Good-night."
He left the hall. Soon others followed and in a short time there was no one left to watch the shady show. Tunney never showed himself more of a champion than when he left this occasion of sin and delivered a telling blow for chastity.

C. Have a humble attitude in the matter, realizing that without God's grace you cannot be chaste. Realize and repeat the words of Wisdom:
"And as I knew that I could not otherwise be continent, except God gave it, and this also was a point of wisdom, to know whose gift it was." Wisdom, 8:21.
D. Along with this humble attitude, have confidence in God. With God's help you can count on victory. Never forget the words of St. Paul:
"God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength but with the temptation you may be able to bear it."1 Corinthians, 10:13.
E. The soul who wishes to be pure must pray. God will give His help to those who ask it. It would be revealing to know how little, if at all, impure people pray. Here's a suggestion: have some short prayer for purity which you will say frequently and regularly. For example:
"Immaculate Heart of Mary, make my body pure and my soul holy."

A prayer to the Infant Christ, to St. Anthony, or to your patron or favorite saint, should be ever in your heart and often on your lips. Say that prayer often in your untempted moments, so that when temptation comes, your favorite appeal to God will rise at once from your heart and you will get the help you need. All too often we
throwaway our best weapon, prayer, just when we need it the most, that is, when we are tempted. A crucifix, a holy picture, your Rosary will be priceless reminders and helps in this regard.

Regular habits of prayer are helpful and necessary. Morning and evening prayers need not be lengthy, but they do need to be regular and fervent. If the couple who practice birth control would kneel down and pray together each evening, they would soon abandon their lustful practice.

If those keeping company would say a prayer to­gether, they would not fall into sin so easily. If individuals would pray at those times and places when they know they often commit personal sins, solitary sins, they would soon overcome the habit. An excellent practice, used by thousands with effect, is that of saying three Hail Marys every day for the virtue of purity. Try it.

F. Another essential for purity is penance or self-denial. People who never deny themselves things which are lawful, can never develop the will power to say "No" to what is unlawful, especially when it is prompted by the powerful passion of lust. What penance are you doing during this Lent? If you are lax in penance, you are having trouble in being pure. Think of what the great saints did to remain pure. St. Paul did hard manual labor to overcome temptations to impurity; St. Jerome cut his breast with a stone and studied the difficult language of Hebrew; St. Anthony of the desert worked the soil and lived on bread and water; St. Benedict rolled himself naked in a thorny bush; St. Bernard jumped into an icy pond; St. Francis of Assisi toiled and prayed, and threw himself into a thorn bush. If saints went to such lengths to preserve holy purity, how can you expect to be pure unless you practice some penance?

G. Keep busy, first with the duties of your state in life, your job, your school work. Have something definite to do in your free time. On dates and in the company of others plan what you will do. It makes social life more interesting and more safe.

H. Receive the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion as fre­quently as possible. You cannot approach the table of the Lord fre­quently and remain impure. Either you will give up Communion or you will give up your sins of sex.

I. Choose the best, the healthful, the wholesome in the matter of read­ing, recreation, companions, sports and social activities. Drop the book and drop the companion who cause you impure temptations.
8. With the inspiring example of St. Lucy before you, an example that has been repeated throughout the centuries, an example which you will find all around you, if you look closely and wisely, with her example and the help and protection of God, you can make yourself worthy of the praise of the Book of Wisdom:
"O how beautiful is the chaste generation with glory." Amen.
Adapted from Lent and the Capital Sins
by Fr. Arthur Tonne, OFM (©1952)