Summary: Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance are for building up the individual and the Church

Tuesday of 3rd week in Easter

“You call yourselves Catholics, baptized in warmed-over lemon juice, not by the Holy Spirit. You are just like your faithless ancestors. They didn’t listen to their preachers and neither do you. You reject and murder everyone God sends you, and even reject Jesus, God’s Son. What a joke.”

I started this homily like that so you could feel the anger that boiled up in the throats of the Sanhedrin as they listened to St. Stephen preach his last homily. It’s the same feeling the Jews had when they listened to Jesus tell them that Moses didn’t give them bread from heaven, the manna in the desert. It’s a wrenching thing to hear someone tell you that you are a phony, that you dishonor everything you claim to stand for. It’s easy to pick up a rock and throw it at someone who has just claimed your life is a total fraud. That’s why prophets don’t qualify for select rates on life insurance.

We are all called to be prophets. I baptized two children on Saturday. When I anointed them with chrism, I called them to be prophets, priests and leaders. Each of us is called to witness to others the love of Christ, and the law of Christ.

When God made us, He built into us some laws that we ignore at our peril. They aren’t arbitrary; they are part of our nature, an essential part. We humans interpret those laws, and we pray that they come with a corresponding virtue. Prudence guides our consciences to know the difference between right and wrong. So when some jerk who pretends to be our friend says “hey, I’ve got some really good weed,” we realize that our bodies were not made to inhale smoke, no matter how good it makes us feel, and we judge it to be stupid behavior. When a buddy shows up with a limo and some liquor to take us to a dance, we use the gifts of prudence and temperance to find another mode of transportation. When we find $20 on the floor, we realize that it didn’t fall from heaven and belongs to someone else, so in justice we return it to the office so they can find the owner. And when we are tempted to run from trouble, to flee in the face of evil, fortitude steels us for a fight.

Let’s pray for these hinge virtues, these moral virtues, not just for ourselves but for the other members of our community, and our Church. And let’s especially pray for virtue for our civic leaders, so that the lives of the unborn and marginalized aren’t sacrificed on the altar of political expediency.

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