Daily Archives: 10 December 2006

2nd Sunday of Advent: COLLECT (2)

St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) beat up some Donatist heretics and dismantled their argument that all clerics ordained by a sinful bishop would be automatically stained in the same guilt. He used imagery like that of our prayer today (Ad Donatistas post collationem in CSEL 53:19.25, p. 123 my translation): “The sludge (lutum) their feet are stuck in is so thick and dense that, trying in vain to tear themselves out of it, they get their hands and head stuck in it too, and lingering in that sticky mess they get more tightly enveloped.” The Donatist argument was based in worldly, not heavenly, wisdom.

Sticky lutum is a metaphor of worldly life. Neglecting God, who speaks in the Church and our conscience, we weak sinners can convince ourselves of anything, over time: down becomes up, back is made front, black turns into white, and wrong is really right. We justify what we know, or knew, to be sinful. Once this becomes a habit, it is a vice in more than one sense of that word. Occasionally our consciences will struggle against the grip of self-deception, but quite often the proverbial “Struggle”, Novocain for the conscience, supplies permission: “I really ‘struggled’ with this, … before I did it!” If we go off the true path into the murky twisted woods, thoroughly mired in sticky error we will not escape the Enemy, the roaring lion seeking whom he might devour (1 Peter 5:8). Nor will we elude Christ the Judge, who will come through dark woods by straight paths. Advent reminds us to prepare for the coming of both the Enemy lion and the Lion of Judah who will open the seals and read forth the Book of Life (Rev 5:5). Continue reading

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2nd Sunday of Advent: SUPER OBLATA (2)

Salvation is a gift freely given by God through the merits of Christ’s Sacrifice, but salvation is not a free gift in the sense that we don’t have to do anything to obtain it. We must cooperate. Christ died “for all”. “Many” will be saved, thanks be to God. We have through Christ the free opportunity of salvation. Good works cannot merit salvation in themselves, but we are required to perform good works to merit salvation. In today’s translation I used the phrase “favorable points of merits” but never imagine God as a celestial accountant “up there” keeping books on what we do or haven’t done. Salvation is not based on a ledger’s bottom line. How God disposes all things is mysterious, though He has revealed something of His plan through the Catholic Church. Until our final judgment God alone knows what our good works merit and how they balance against our sins. In fact, the Church hazards to offer indications of only “partial” or “plenary” indulgences for works we perform. The only thing we can be sure of is that we must not become lax or presumptuous. If we want salvation, God must be appeased by our prayers, sacrifices and works, which all must be joined to Christ’s Sacrifice. At Holy Mass we join all we do and are to the Sacrifice being renewed in God’s sight by the priest. The priest raises the paten with host and then the chalice with water tinged wine. He prays: “In a spirit of humility and with a contrite heart may we be accepted by Thee, O Lord; and may this sacrifice today be of such a kind in Thy sight as to please Thee.” Place yourselves and your needs in that chalice, on that paten, to be transformed. Continue reading

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