Summary: The world sees a phrase like "you are just, O Lord" and "sinlessness" and thinks they are a foreign tongue. But we need to turn the world on its head so they can see the need for forgiveness, and its availability.
17th Sunday after Pentecost EF
A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 4:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. Who is blessed forever and ever, Amen.
The Continuation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew 22:
But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet’? 45 If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions.
“You are just, O Lord, and your judgements are right. Deal with your servant according to your loving kindness. Blessed are the sinless in their way, those who walk in the law of the Lord.” The words of today’s Introit should give us pause, because they raise a number of difficulties for our modern minds and hearts. In a sense, they are so foreign to what our culture teaches that they could have been written in the Klingon tongue.
Read the writings of some of the philosophers of this abased culture and you will know what I mean. The so-called “new atheists” have best sellers every year. They deny the existence of God because of the existence of evil. There’s a destructive tsunami in Japan, or horrible violence in Syria, or rampant poverty and disease in Africa. Moreover, these things have been going on for centuries, even millennia. The atheists ask “if there is a God, and God is just and good, then why does He permit or cause so much evil, suffering, and death?” They then conclude that there is no God, or that if there is a God, He is neither good nor just.
The psalm verse from the Introit confuses such folks just as much as the antiphon. Many of them do not admit the existence of sin, of personal sin, of personal responsibility. If humans do evil, it is because there are too many people on earth and not enough resources, or because they were raised in a broken family, or in poverty. If there are bad decisions, it is because the system is broken. Some say there is not enough welfare; others say there is too much. Some say there is not enough freedom; others say there is too much liberty. Some follow Luther’s lead and deny that humans have truly free will. So the statement of faith, “blessed are the sinless in their way, who follow the Law of the Lord,” is meaningless to them, since there is no Lord, there is no God-given Law, and there is no personal responsibility for evil.
The Christian witness realizes, with Chesterton, that the world has been turned completely on its head. If that were true in 1913, when he lived, then it is even more true in 2013, when political leaders–even some non-Catholic religious leaders–are telling us that abortion is a right, even a sacred right, that those who believe contraception is sinful must pay for it anyway, that two men or two women have a right to marry, and even force Catholic clergy to preside. The words of Isaiah chapter 5 come instantly to mind: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! Therefore, as the tongue of fire devours the stubble, and as dry grass sinks down in the flame, so their root will be as rottenness, and their blossom go up like dust; for they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.”