Monday, June 06, 2016

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

A homily given by St Josemaria on 17 June 1966, 
The feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

God loves us

1. God our Father has seen fit to grant us, in the heart of his Son, "infinite treasures of love," mercy and affection. If we want to find evidence that God loves us — that he not only listens to our prayers but anticipates them — we need only follow the same line of thought as St Paul: "He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things in him?" (Rom 8:32)

Grace renews a man from within and converts a sinner and rebel into a good and faithful servant. The source of all grace is God's love for us, and he has revealed this not just in words but also in deeds. It was divine love which led the second Person of the holy Trinity, the Word, the Son of God the Father, to take on our flesh, our human condition, everything except sin. And the Word, the Word of God, is the Word from which Love proceeds.

Love is revealed to us in the incarnation, the redemptive journey which Jesus Christ made on our earth, culminating in the supreme sacrifice of the cross. And on the cross it showed itself through a new sign: "One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water." (John 19:34). This water and blood of Jesus speak to us of a self-sacrifice brought to the last extreme: "It is finished" (John 19:30) — everything is achieved, for the sake of love.

Today when we consider once more the central mysteries of our faith, we are surprised to see how very human gestures are used to express the deepest truths: the love of God the Father who gives up his Son, and the Son's love which calmly leads him to Calvary. God does not approach us in power and authority. No, he "takes the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man." (Phil 2:7) Jesus is never distant or aloof. although sometimes in his preaching he seems very sad, because he is hurt by the evil men do. However, if we watch him closely, we will note immediately that his anger comes from love. It is a further invitation for us to leave infidelity and sin behind. "Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezek 18:23) These words explain Christ's whole life. They allow us to understand why he has come to us with a heart made of flesh, a heart like ours. This is a convincing proof of his love and a constant witness to the mystery of divine charity.

The great good fortune which awaits us in Heaven

2. I must confide to you something which makes me very sorry and spurs me on to action: the thought of all those people who do not yet know Christ, who do not even suspect the great good fortune which awaits us in heaven. They live like blind men looking for a joy whose real name they don't know, lost on roads which take them away from true happiness. How well one understands what Paul the Apostle must have felt that night in Troas when he had a vision in a dream: "A man of Macedonia was standing beseeching him and saying Come over to Macedonia and help us. And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on to Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them." (Acts 16:9-10)

God is calling us

Don't you also feel that God is calling us? Through the things which happen around us he is urging us to proclaim the good news of the coming of Jesus. Yet sometimes we Christians turn our calling into something very paltry. We become superficial and waste our time in dissension and jealousy. Or, worse still, some people are artificially scandalized by the way others choose to live certain aspects of the faith. Instead of doing all they can to help others, they set out to destroy and criticise. It is true that sometimes you find serious shortcomings in Christians' lives. But the important thing is not ourselves and our shortcomings. The only thing that matters is Jesus. It is Christ we must talk about. not ourselves.

These reflections have been provoked by suggestions that there is a crisis in devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus. But there is no crisis. True devotion to the sacred heart has always been and is still truly alive, full of human and supernatural meaning. It has led and still leads to conversion, self-giving, fulfilment of God's will and a loving understanding of the mysteries of the redemption.

However, we must distinguish this genuine devotion from displays of useless sentimentality, a veneer of piety devoid of doctrine. No less than you, I dislike sugary statues, figures of the sacred heart which are incapable of inspiring any trace of devotion in people who have the common sense and supernatural outlook of a Christian. But it is bad logic to turn these particular abuses — which are disappearing anyway — into some sort of doctrinal, theological problem.

If a crisis does exist

If a crisis does exist, it is a crisis in men's hearts. Men are short-sighted, selfish and narrow-minded. They fail to appreciate the great depth of Christ's love for us. Ever since the holy Church instituted today's feast, the liturgy has offered us the nourishment of true piety by including among the readings a text from St Paul. In it he proposes to us a whole program of contemplative life — knowledge and love, prayer and life — beginning with this devotion to the heart of Jesus. God himself invites us in the Apostle's words to follow this way: "May Christ dwell in your hearts through faith; may you, being rooted and grounded in love, have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." (Eph 3:17-19)

The fullness of God is revealed and given to us in Christ, in the love of Christ, in Christ's heart. For it is the heart of him in whom "the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." (Col 2:9) Were one to lose sight of this great plan of God — the overflow of love in the world through the incarnation, the redemption and Pentecost — he could not understand the refinement with which our Lord deals with us.

True devotion to the Sacred Heart

3. Let us realize all the richness hidden in the words "the sacred heart of Jesus." When we speak of a person's heart, we refer not just to his sentiments, but to the whole person in his loving dealings with others. In order to help us understand divine things, Scripture uses the expression "heart" in its full human meaning, as the summary and source, expression and ultimate basis, of one's thoughts, words and actions. A man is worth what his heart is worth...

To the heart belongs joy: "let my heart rejoice in your saving help" (Ps 12:6); repentance: "my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast" (Ps 21:15); praise of God: "my heart overflows with a goodly theme" (Ps 44:2) the decision to listen to the Lord: "my heart is ready, Lord" (Ps 56:8); loving vigilance: "I slept, but my heart was awake" (Cant 5:2); and also doubt and fear: "let not your hearts be troubled, believe in me." (John 14:1).

The heart not only feels, it knows and understands. God's law is received in the heart (Cf Ps 39:9) and remains written there (Cf Prov 7:3). Scripture also adds: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Matt 12:34)." Our Lord reproaches the scribes: "Why do you think evil in your hearts?" (Matt 9:4) And, summing up all the sins man might commit, he says: "Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander and blasphemy." (Matt 15:19)

When holy Scripture refers to the heart, it does not refer to some fleeting sentiment of joy or tears. By heart it means the personality which directs its whole being, soul and body, to what it considers its good, as Jesus himself indicated: "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." (Matt 6:21)

So when we talk about the heart of Jesus, we stress the certainty of God's love and the truth of his commitment to us. When we recommend devotion to the sacred heart, we are recommending that we should give our whole self to Jesus, to the whole Jesus — our soul, our feelings and thoughts, our words and actions, our joys.

That is what true devotion to the heart of Jesus means. It is knowing God and ourselves. It is looking at Jesus and turning to him, letting him encourage and teach and guide us. The greatest superficiality that can beset this devotion would be a lack of humanity, a failure to understand the reality of an incarnate God.

Words only get in the way.

4. Jesus on the cross, with his heart overflowing with love for men, is such an eloquent commentary on the value of people and things that words only get in the way. Men, their happiness and their life, are so important that the very Son of God gave himself to redeem and cleanse and raise them up. "Who will not love this heart so wounded?" a contemplative asks in this connection. "Who will not return love for love? Who will not embrace a heart so pure? We, who are made of flesh, will repay love with love. We will embrace our wounded one, whose hands and feet ungodly men have nailed; we will cling to his side and to his heart. Let us pray that we be worthy of linking our heart with his love and of wounding it with a lance, for it is still hard and impenitent." (St Bonaventure, Vitis mystica, 3,11 – PL 184,643)

Faith and humility

These are thoughts, affections and conversations which souls in love with Jesus have offered him from the beginning. But if we are to understand this language, if we are really to know the heart of man, Christ's heart and the love of God, we need both faith and humility. We need the faith and humility that prompted St Augustine to write: "You have made us for you, O Lord, and restless will our heart be until it rests in you." (Confessiones, 1,1,1 – PL 32,661)

An attempt to reduce everything to cramped human experience

If a man is not humble, he will try to make God his own, but not in the divine way which Christ made possible when he said: "Take, eat; this is my body." (1 Cor 11:24) The proud man tries to confine the grandeur of God within human limits. Then reason, the cold, blind reason that is so different from the mind imbued with faith and even from the well-directed mind of someone capable of enjoying and loving things, becomes irrational in a person's attempt to reduce everything to his cramped human experience. 
Thus is superhuman truth impoverished, and man's heart develops a crust that makes it insensitive to the action of the Holy Spirit. Our limited intelligence would be completely at a loss then if the merciful power of God did not break down the barriers of our wretchedness. "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezek 36:26) Only with God's help will the soul see again and be filled with joy on hearing the promises of sacred Scripture.

"I know the plans I have for you, plans for peace and not affliction," (Jer 29:11) was God's promise through Jeremiah. The liturgy applies these words to Jesus, for in him we are clearly shown that God does love us in this way. He did not come to condemn us, to accuse us of meanness and smallness. He came to save us, pardon us, excuse us, bring us peace and joy. If only we realize the wonderful way in which God deals with his children, our hearts must change. We will see opening up before us an absolutely new panorama, full of relief, depth and light.

Bringing others to Christ's love

5. But note that God does not say: "In exchange for your own heart, I will give you a will of pure spirit." No, he gives us a heart, a human heart, like Christ's. I don't have one heart for loving God and another for loving people. I love Christ and the Father and the Holy Spirit and our Lady with the same heart with which I love my parents and my friends. I shall never tire of repeating this. We must be very human, for otherwise we cannot be divine.

Human love, the love we experience on earth when it is really genuine, helps us to savour divine love. That is how we grasp the love by which we rejoice in God and which we will share in heaven when the Lord is "everything to everyone." (1 Cor 15:28) If we begin to understand God's love, we will feel impelled to become increasingly more compassionate, more generous, more dedicated.

We must give what we receive, we must teach what we learn. Very simply, without any kind of conceit, we must help others to share in the knowledge of God's love. As you go about your work, doing your job in society, each of you can and should turn your occupation into a real service. Your work should be done well, mindful of others' needs, taking advantage of all advances in technology and culture. Such work fulfils a very important function and is useful to the whole of humanity, if it is motivated by generosity, not selfishness, and directed to the welfare of all, not our own advantage, if it is filled with the christian sense of life.

Through your work, through the whole network of human relations, you ought to show the charity of Christ and its concrete expression in friendship, understanding, human affection and peace. Just as Christ "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38) throughout Palestine, so must you also spread peace in your family circle, in civil society, on the job, and in your cultural and leisure activities. This will be the best proof that the kingdom of God has reached your heart. As St John wrote: "We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren." (1 John 3:14)

But no one can live out this love unless he is taught in the school of the heart of Jesus. Only if we watch and contemplate the heart of Jesus will we ensure that our heart is freed from hatred and indifference. Only in this way will we know how to react as Christians to the pain and sufferings of others.

Do you remember the scene St Luke depicts when Jesus is approaching Naim? Jesus crosses paths again with a crowd of people. He could have passed by or waited until they called him. But he didn't. He took the initiative, because he was moved by a widow's sorrow. She had just lost all she had, her son.

The evangelist explains that Jesus was moved. Perhaps he even showed signs of it, as when Lazarus died. Jesus Christ was not, and is not, insensitive to the suffering that stems from love. He is pained at seeing children separated from their parents. He overcomes death so as to give life, to reunite those who love one another. But at the same time, he requires that we first admit the pre-eminence of divine love, which alone can inspire genuine christian living.

Christ knows he is surrounded by a crowd which will be awed by the miracle and will tell the story all over the countryside. But he does not act artificially, merely to make an effect. Quite simply he is touched by that woman's suffering and cannot keep from consoling her. So he goes up to her and says, "Do not weep." (Luke 7:13) It is like saying: "I don't want to see you crying; I have come on earth to bring joy and peace." And then comes the miracle, the sign of the power of Christ who is God. But first came his compassion, an evident sign of the tenderness of the heart of Christ the man.

6. If we don't learn from Jesus, we will never love. If, like some people, we were to think that to keep a clean heart, a heart worthy of God, means "not mixing it up, not contaminating it" with human affection, we would become insensitive to other people's pain and sorrow. We would he capable only of an "official charity," something dry and soulless. But ours would not be the true charity of Jesus Christ, which involves affection and human warmth. In saying this, I am not supporting the mistaken theories — pitiful excuses — which misdirect hearts away from God and lead them into occasions of sin and perdition.

On today's feast we should ask our Lord to give us a good heart, capable of having compassion for other people's pain. Only with such a heart can we realize that the true balm for the suffering and anguish in this world is love, charity. All other consolations hardly even have a temporary effect and leave behind them bitterness and despair.

If we want to help others, we must love them — I insist — with a love clothed in understanding, dedication, affection and voluntary humility. Then we will understand why our Lord summed up the whole law in that double commandment, which is really just one: love of God, and love of one's neighbour, with all our heart.

Maybe you are thinking that sometimes Christians — not just other people, you and I — forget the most elementary applications of this duty. Perhaps you bring to mind all the injustices which cry for redress, all the abuses which go uncorrected, the discrimination passed on from one generation to the next with no attempt to find permanent solutions.

I cannot propose to you a particular way to solve problems of this kind, there is no reason why I should. But, as a priest of Jesus Christ, it is my duty to remind you of what sacred Scripture says. Meditate on the scene of the judgment which Jesus himself has described: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; naked and you did not clothe me; sick and in prison and you did not visit me." (Matt 25:41-43)

A man or a society that does not react to suffering and injustice and makes no effort to alleviate them is still distant from the love of Christ's heart. While Christians enjoy the fullest freedom in finding and applying various solutions to these problems, they should be united in having one and the same desire to serve mankind. Otherwise their Christianity will not be the word and life of Jesus; it will be a fraud, a deception of God and man.

The peace Christ brings

7. But I have still a further consideration to put before you. We have to fight vigorously to do good, precisely because it is difficult for us men to resolve seriously to be just, and there is a long way to go before human relations are inspired by love and not hatred or indifference. We should also be aware that even if we achieve a reasonable distribution of wealth and a harmonious organization of society, there will still be the suffering of illness, of misunderstanding, of loneliness, of the death of loved ones, of the experience of our own limitations.

Faced with the weight of all this, a Christian can find only one genuine answer, a definitive answer: Christ on the cross, a God who suffers and dies, a God who gives us his heart opened by a lance for the love of us all. Our Lord abominates injustice and condemns those who commit it. But he respects the freedom of each individual. He permits injustice to happen because, as a result of original sin, it is part and parcel of the human condition. Yet his heart is full of love for men. Our suffering, our sadness, our anguish, our hunger and thirst for justice... he took all these tortures on himself by means of the cross.

Christian teaching on pain is not a series of facile considerations. It is, in the first place, a call to accept the suffering inseparable from all human life. I cannot hide from you the fact that there has often been pain in my life and more than once I have wanted to cry. I tell you this joyfully, because I have always preached and tried to live the truth that Christ, who is love, is to be found on the cross. At other times, I have felt a great revulsion to injustice and evil, and I have fought against the frustration of not being able to do anything — despite my desire and my effort — to remedy those unjust situations.

When I speak to you about suffering, I am not just talking theory. Nor do I limit myself to other people's experience when I tell you that the remedy is to look at Christ, if when faced with suffering, you at some time feel that your soul is wavering. The scene of Calvary proclaims to everyone that afflictions have to be sanctified, that we are to live united to the cross.

If we bear our difficulties as Christians, they are turned into reparation and atonement. They give us a share in Jesus' destiny and in his life. Out of love for men he volunteered to experience the whole gamut of pain and torment. He was born, lived and died poor. He was attacked, insulted, defamed, slandered and unjustly condemned. He knew treachery and abandonment by his disciples. He experienced isolation and the bitterness of punishment and death. And now the same Christ is suffering in his members, in all of humanity spread throughout the earth, whose head and firstborn and redeemer he is.

Suffering is part of God's plans. This is the truth, however difficult it may be for us to understand it. It was difficult for Jesus Christ the man to undergo his passion: "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours be done." (Luke 22:42) In this tension of pleading and acceptance of the Father's will, Jesus goes calmly to his death, pardoning those who crucify him.

This supernatural acceptance of suffering was, precisely, the greatest of all conquests. By dying on the cross Jesus overcame death. God brings life from death. The attitude of a child of God is not one of resignation to a possibly tragic fate; it is the sense of achievement of someone who has a foretaste of victory. In the name of this victorious love of Christ, we Christians should go out into the world to be sowers of peace and joy through everything we say and do. We have to fight — a fight of peace — against evil, against injustice, against sin. Thus do we serve notice that the present condition of mankind is not definitive. Only the love of God, shown in the heart of Christ, will attain the glorious spiritual triumph of men.

8. Previously we referred to what happened at Naim. We could recall other examples, for the Gospel is full of such scenes. Each incident reveals not only the sincere gesture of a man who suffers when his friends suffer, but above all the immense charity of our Lord. Jesus' heart is the heart of God made flesh, the heart of Emmanuel, God with us.

"The Church, united to Christ, is born of a wounded heart." From this heart, opened wide, life is transmitted to us. Here we must, even if only in passing, recall the sacraments through which God works in us and makes us sharers in the redeeming strength of Christ. How can we not recall with particular gratitude the blessed Sacrament of the Eucharist, the holy sacrifice of Calvary and its constant bloodless renewal in our Mass? Jesus actually gives himself to us as food. Because he comes to us, everything is changed. Our being acquires new strength — the assistance of the Holy Spirit — which fills our soul, affects all our actions, our way of thinking and feeling. Christ's heart means peace for Christians.

The source of the self-giving which our Lord asks of us is not merely our own desire or effort, often feeble and inconstant. This life is supported primarily by the graces won for us by the loving heart of God made man. That is why we can and should keep going in our interior life as children of our Father God who is in heaven, without giving way to discouragement or depression. I like to ask people to consider how a Christian, in his ordinary daily life, in the simplest details, can put faith, hope and charity into practice. There lies the essence of the conduct of a man who relies on divine help. And in the practice of these theological virtues he will find joy, strength and peace.

These are the fruits of the peace of Christ, the peace brought to us by his sacred heart. Let us say it once again: the love of Jesus for men is an unfathomable aspect of the divine mystery, of the love of the Son for the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the bond of love between the Father and the Son, encounters in the Word a human heart.

It is impossible to speak of these central facts of our faith without feeling the limitations of our minds and the greatness of revelation. Yet even if we cannot fully grasp these truths that overawe our reason, we believe them humbly and firmly. backed by the testimony of Christ, we know they are true. We know that Love in the depths of the Trinity is poured out on men by the love in the heart of Christ.

9. Living in Christ's heart, being closely united to him means, therefore, that we become a dwelling place of God. "He who loves me, my Father will also love," (Cf John 14:21) our Lord told us. And Christ and the Father in the Holy Spirit come to the soul and make their home there (Cf John 14:23).

Even if we only give a little thought to these basic ideas, our whole attitude changes. We become hungry for God, and we make our own the words of the psalm: "My God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where no water is." (Cf Ps 62:2) And Jesus, who has encouraged this feeling of emptiness in us, comes out to meet us and says: "If anyone thirst, let him come to me and drink." (John 7:37) He offers us his heart, so that we can find there both rest and strength. If we accept his invitation, we will see that his words are true. And our hunger and thirst will increase to the point that we desire God really to inhabit our soul and never to take his light and warmth away from us.

"I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled." (Luke 12:29) We have approached the fire of the love of God. Let us allow that fire to burn our lives. Let us feed the desire to spread that divine fire throughout the world, making t known to all the people around us. They too can experience the peace of Christ and find happiness there. A Christian who lives united to Christ's heart can have no goals but these: peace in society, peace in the Church, peace in his soul, the peace of God which will reach its climax when his kingdom comes.

Mary, you are Queen of Peace, because you had faith and believed that what the angel announced would in fact happen. Help us to grow in the faith, to have a firm hope and a deeper love. For that is what your Son wants of us this day, that is why he shows us his Sacred Heart.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit according to Thomas Aquinas

Rev. Fr. Joseph Bolin

All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:14)
If you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:18)

What are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and what do they do? This post proposes an interpretation of St. Thomas Aquinas's teaching on "being led by the Spirit", and of the way that the gifts of the Spirit are active in Christian life.
The Seven Gifts of the Spirit

In Isaiah 11:1-3, we read "There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord."

The last part, according to the Latin tradition, reads "the spirit of knowledge and of piety [pietas], and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord shall fill him."

From this text derives the tradition of the Church regarding the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not say much about the gifts. The main text is in numbers 1830 & 1831.

1830 The moral life of Christians is sustained by the gifts of the Holy Spirit. These are permanent dispositions which make man docile in following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

1831 The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations.

This understanding of the gifts follows the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, as he is usually understood. I would like, however, to propose a more radical interpretation of Aquinas.

Thomas Aquinas on the Gifts of Holy Spirit

Selections from the text of Aquinas himself:
Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 68, a. 1

Human virtues perfect man insofar as man is naturally moved by reason in the things that he does within or without. Higher perfections must therefore be in man, by which he is disposed to be moved by God. And these perfections are called gifts, not only because they are infused by God, but also because by them, man is disposed and made more ready to be moved by the divine inspiration, as is said in Is 50:5: “The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I turned not backward.”

Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 68, a. 2

Hence, in those things in which the impulse of reason is not sufficient, but the impulse of the Holy Spirit is necessary, then a gift is also necessary.

Now man’s reason is in two ways perfected by God: first, with a natural perfection, namely the natural light of reason; secondly, with a supernatural perfection, by the theological virtues, as was said above. And although this second perfection is greater than the first, nevertheless man possesses the first perfection in a more perfect way than he possesses the second perfection. 

For man possesses the first perfection as his full possession, while he possesses the second as an imperfect possession; for we imperfectly love and know God. Now it is manifest that everything which perfectly possesses a nature or form or power, can of itself act according to it—though not apart from God’s action, who acts interiorly in every nature and will. But that which has a nature or form or power imperfectly, cannot act of itself, if it is not moved by another. Thus the sun, which is perfectly bright, can give light of itself, while the moon, which has the nature of light only imperfectly, cannot give light unless it is illuminated [by the sun]. Again, a doctor, who perfectly knows the medical art, can act on his own; but his student, who is not yet fully instructed, cannot act on his own, but only with the guidance of his instructor.

Thus, with regard to the things that are subject to human reason, i.e., in relationship to man’s natural end, man can act by the judgment of reason. If in this action, man is nevertheless helped by God by means of a special impulse, this will pertain to God’s superabundant goodness. 

Hence according to the Philosophers, not everyone who has the acquired moral virtues, has heroic or divine virtues. But in relationship to the last supernatural end, to which reason moves us insofar as it is in in a certain manner, and imperfectly, formed by the theological virtues, the motion of reason itself is not sufficient, unless the impulse and movement of the Holy Spirit comes from above, according to Rom 8:14, 17, 

“They who are led by the Spirit of God, are sons of God,” and

 “if you are sons, then also heirs.” And in Ps 142:10 it is said,

 “Your good Spirit will lead me into the right land,” 

i.e., because no one can arrive at the inheritance of the land of the blessed, unless he is moved and led by the Holy Spirit. And therefore in order to attain that end, a man must have the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In response to the objection that the theological virtues enable us to reach out to God, believing his word, trusting in him, and loving him, St. Thomas responds: “The theological and moral virtues do not perfect man in relationship to the last end, in such a way that he does notalways need to be moved by a certain higher impulse of the Holy Spirit, for the reason just stated.” [emphasis added]

Garrgiou-Lagrange interpreting the “always” says the following:

To say that the gifts of the Holy Spirit must intervene in every meritorious act, even though it be imperfect (remissus et quantumvis remissus), would be to confound ordinary actual grace with the special inspiration to which the gifts render us docile. In the text which we have just quoted, St. Thomas means that man is not perfected to such a degree by the theological virtues that he does not always need to be inspired by the interior Master (semper not pro-semper), as we say: "I always need this hat," not however from morning until night, or from night until morning. Similarly a medical student not so well instructed that he does not always need the assistance of his master for certain operations. The need we experience is not transitory but permanent; all of which goes to show that the gifts should be not transitory inspirations, like the grace of prophecy, but permanent infused dispositions. (The Three Ages of the Interior Life, "The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit", footnote n. 33)

A text that lends support to reading the “always” as referring to every moment, however, may be found in the Secunda Secundae. St. Thomas says: "The gifts of the Holy Spirit are the principles of the intellectual and moral virtues, as was said above" (II-II 19:9 ad 4). He seems to have in mind his treatment in I-II q. 68, although in that article he does not thus articulate it. But if the gifts of the Holy Spirit are principles of the infused intellectual and moral virtues, and not just perfective and supporting of them, then the movement of the Spirit through the gifts seems to be presupposed to all the acts of the virtues, to all acts of Christian life.

The role of the gifts of the Holy Spirit according to this reading of Thomas Aquinas

If we follow this reading, we can explain the need for and role played by the gifts of the Holy Spirit as follows: first, we need to be constantly moved and led by God; yet because we are not merely moved passively by God, like limp dolls, but are ourselves involved in our own actions, and thus can be either open or closed, ready for or resistant to God's movement, we need the gifts to make us open and ready to receive God's movement and guidance.

We need God's movement because the divine love poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit is essentially a participation in God's own living love, just as grace is essentially a participation in God's own nature. Thus I cannot simply take my share of God's knowledge and God's love that I receive in the gifts of faith, hope, love, and run with them, as it were—i.e., simply make use on my own of these abilities by my empowered nature. If I were to do this, it would no longer be God's love present within me, but a mere parody of it; no longer a share in God's knowledge, but my own notions and whims.

This way of looking at the gifts of the Spirit would explain why St. Thomas calls them principles of the moral virtues. To have theological virtues and moral virtues without gifts would mean that I have no problem putting into practice the way I determine and choose to shape my life in accord with Christ. But I would still be living according to precisely my choice. Without an openness to “Christ who lives in me”, without an openness to being guided by God in living out divine life, my determination and readiness to carry out what seems to me to be fitting to Christian love would not be truly virtue simply speaking, but only in a limited respect. Thus the gifts are principles of the moral virtues insofar as they are virtues.

This interpretation of the gifts, which would hold the gifts to be active all the time, in making us open to the constant leading of the Holy Spirit, does not necessarily exclude an understanding of the gifts as making us ready to receive special inspirations of the Spirit, given only in times of special need or difficulty. We could understand the gifts as opening us up to all movement of the Spirit, whether (1) the movement of the Spirit involved in all activity of the children of God; (2) the special help of the Spirit when we especially need it; (3) and even in a certain way charismatic graces (though the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not necessary in order to receive charismatic graces, which can be had without charity).

Rev. Fr. Joseph Bolin

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Homily - Feast of Pentecost - Saint Augustine

I. The Coming of the Holy Ghost with the Gift of Tongues foretells the Unity of the Church throughout all peoples.
This is a solemn day for us, because of the Coming of the Holy Ghost; the fiftieth day from the Lord’s Resurrection, seven days multiplied by seven. But multiplying seven by seven we have forty-nine. One is then added: that we may be reminded of unity.
What is the meaning of the Coming of the Holy Ghost? What did it accomplish? How did He tell us of His Presence; reveal It to us? By the fact that all spoke in the tongues of every nation. There were a hundred and twenty people gathered in one room; ten times twelve. The sacred number of the Apostles was multiplied ten times. What then, did each one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended speak in one of the tongues of each of the nations: to this man one language, to this man another, dividing as it were among themselves the tongues of all the nations? No, it was not so: but each man, singly, spoke in the tongue of every nation. One and the same man spoke the tongue of every nation: the unity of the Church amid the tongues of all the nations. See here how the unity of the Catholic Church spread throughout all nations is set before us.
II. The Holy Spirit not outside the Church.
He therefore who possesses the Holy Spirit is in the Church, which speaks in the tongues of all nations. Whosoever is without this Church, has not the Holy Spirit. For this reason the Holy Spirit deigned to reveal Himself in the tongues of all nations, that each may understand, that he possesses the Holy Spirit who is nourished within the unity of the Church, which speaks in every tongue. One body, says Paul the Apostle, one body and one Spirit (Eph. iv. 4).
Attend to this, you who are our members. A body is composed of many members, and one spirit gives life to all the members. By the human spirit, by which I am myself a man, I join together all my members: I command my members to move, I direct the eye to see, the ears to hear, the tongue to speak, the hand to work, the feet to walk. The duties of each member are different, but one soul joins all together. Many things are commanded, many done, but one commands, one is obeyed. What our spirit, that is, our soul, is to our own members, this the Holy Spirit is to the members of Christ, to the Body of Christ, which is the Church.
Medieval illustration of Pentecost from the 12th-century Hortus deliciarum of Herrad of Landsberg (details)
And so, where the Apostle speaks of it as a body, let us not think of it as a dead body without life. One body, he says. But, I ask you, is this a living body? It is living. By what does it live? By one spirit. And one Spirit. Be watchful therefore, brethren, within our own body; and grieve for those who are cut off from the Church. As long as we live, while we are in our senses, let all members fulfil their duties among our own members. Should one member suffer anything, let all the members suffer with it (I Cor. xii. 26). Yet, though it may suffer, because it is in the body, it cannot die. For what does to die mean but to lose the spirit? Now if a member be cut off from the body, does the soul follow it? It can still be seen what member it is: it is a finger, a hand, an arm, an ear; besides substance, it has form; but it has no life. So is it with a man separated from the Church. Seek if he has the sacrament. You learn he has. Look for baptism. You find it. The creed? You find it. This is the outward form; but unless inwardly you live by the Spirit, in vain do you glory in the outward form.
III. Unity is put before us in the Creation, and in the Birth of Christ.
Dearly Beloved, God greatly commends unity. Let you dwell upon this, that in the beginning of creation, when God established all things, He placed the stars in the heavens and trees and all green things upon the earth. He said: Let the earth bring forth, and trees and all living things were brought forth. He said: Let the waters bring forth creeping things and flying things; and it was done. Let the earth bring forth the living creature in its kind and cattle and beasts of the earth; and it was done. Did God make the other birds from one bird? Did He make all the fish from one fish? All horses from one horse? All beasts from one beast? Did the earth not produce many things at the same time? Did it not complete many created things with numerous offspring?
Then He came to the creation of man, and He created one man; and from one man the human race. Nor did He will to create two separate beings, male and female, but one man; and from this one man He made woman (Gen. i. II). Why did He do this? Why did He begin the human race from one man, if not to commend unity to mankind? And the Lord Christ was born of one person. Virgin therefore is unity; let it hold fast to its integrity; let it preserve it uncorrupted.
IV. Christ commends to the Apostles the Unity of the Catholic Church.
The Lord commends to the Apostles the unity of the Church. He shows Himself; and they think they are seeing a spirit. They are frightened. He gives them courage, when He says to them: Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? See my hands: handle and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as you see me to have. And see how as they wondered for joy He takes food; not from necessity, but for His purpose. He eats it before them. In the face of the unbelieving He commends to them the reality of His Body; He commends the Unity of the Church.
For what does He say? Are not these the words I spoke to you, while I was with you, that all things must needs be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me? Then he opened their understanding, the Gospel says, that they might understand the scriptures. And he said to them: thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead the third day (Lk. xxiv. 44). Behold our Head. Behold our Head; but where are the members? Behold the Bridegroom; where is the Bride? Read the marriage contract; listen to the Bridegroom. You seek the Bride? Learn from Him. No one takes away from Him His Bride; no one puts another in Her place. Learn from Him. Where do you seek Christ? Amid the fabrications of men, or in the truth of the Gospels? He suffered, He rose the third day, He showed Himself to His Disciples. We now have Him; we ask where She is? Let us ask Him. It behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise again from the dead, the third day.
Lo, this is now come to pass; already we have seen Him. Tell us, O Lord; tell us Thou, Lord, lest we fall into error. And that penance and remission of sins should be preached. in his name unto all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. It began at Jerusalem, and it has reached unto us. It is there, and it is here. For it did not cease there to come to us. It has grown forth not changed places. He commended this to us immediately after His Resurrection. He passed forty days with them. About to ascend to heaven, He commended the Church to them again. The Bridegroom now about to depart entrusted His Bride to the care of His friends: not that she should love one among them, but that She might love Him as Her Spouse, and them as friends of the Bridegroom; but none of them as the Bridegroom.
They are jealous for Him, the friends of the Bridegroom; and they will not suffer her to be corrupted by a wanton love. Men hate rather when they so love. Listen to the jealous friend of the Bridegroom, when he knew, through friends, that the Bride was in a way to being corrupted. He says: I hear there are schisms among you; and in part I believe it (I Cor. xi. 18). Also, it hath been signified to me, my brethren, (you, by them that are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you, that everyone of you says, I indeed am of Paul; and I am of Apollo; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul then crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (I Cor. i. 11-13.) O friend of the Bridegroom! He refuses for himself the love of Another’s Spouse. He wills not to be loved in the place of the Bridegroom, that he may reign with the Bridegroom.
The Church therefore has been entrusted to them (the friends of the Bridegroom). And when He was about to ascend into heaven, He said so to those who thus asked Him about the end of the world: Tell us when shall these things be? And when shall be the sign of thy coming? And He said: It is not for you to know the times which the Father hath put in his own power. Hear, O disciple, what you have learned from your Master: But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you. And it has come to pass. On the fortieth day He ascended into heaven, and behold, coming upon this day, all who were present are filled with the Holy Ghost, and speak in the tongues of all nations. Once more unity is commended; by the tongues of all nations. It is commended by the Lord rising from the dead; it is confirmed this day in the Coming of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

n the 9th Century B.C., Israel was divided into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom was threatened by constant war with the Philistines. King Omri arranged a marriage between his son Ahab and Jezebel. Jezebel was the daughter of the king of Sidon in Phonecia and a priestess of Baal. She introduced worship of Baal and Asherah into Israel and brought with her an entourage of false prophets. The worship of these false gods involved sexual immorality and human sacrifice. Ahab and Jezebel also sought to move the center of worship away from Jerusalem. Jezebel also had the prophets of Israel murdered.

Ahab’s reign thus far had been a time of peace and prosperity in Israel. Ahab established peace with Judah. Elijah warns Ahab that God plan to punish Israel for their sins of idolatry with a drought so severe that not even dew will fall.

There was a terrible drought for three years. Elijah approaches King Ahab who was seeking to arrest him. King Ahab calls Elijah “a disturber of Israel”. Elijah answers that Ahab is responsible for what has befallen Israel because of his idolatry. Elijah promises him that the Lord will provide rain if Ahab he turned away the worship of false gods. 

To prove that the Lord is the true God Elijah challenged Ahab to assemble the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah to a contest on Mount Carmel. 

Elijah implored the people of Israel "How long will you straddle the issue? If the LORD is God, follow him; if Baal, follow him." The people, however, did not answer him. (1 King 18, 21)

Elijah then challenged the false prophets to a contest. Two altars were prepared with wood and two young bulls. Elijah challenged them to call on their gods and Elijah would call on the name of the Lord. The God who answered with fire was God. Everyone agreed 

The false prophets called on their god for hours, hopped around the altar, cut themselves, but Baal was silent. Elijah mocked them: "Call louder, for he is a god and may be meditating, or may have retired, or may be on a journey. Perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened." 

Before Elijah began his prayer he told the people to drench his sacrifice three times with water. Elijah then called on the name of the Lord and the holocaust was consumed. Seeing this, all the people fell prostrate and said, "The LORD is God! The LORD is God!"

Elijah then had the prophets of Baal executed and rain began to fall. The miracle failed to inspire the people of Israel to overthrow Jezebel who wants revenge. Jezebel vows to have Elijah killed, but Elijah was able to escape.

Hermits lived on Mount Carmel since the 12th century near the Cave of Elijah. They dedicated a chapel to the Blessed Virgin Mary and became known as the “Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” Pope Honorius approved the rule given by Saint Albert Patriarch of Jerusalem for this new order. The Carmelite Constitution of 1281 claimed that both Jewish and Christian hermits had lived holy and penitent lives there since the time of Elijah.

A Carmelite branch for women began in 1492 by the General of the Order Blessed John Soreth. In 1562, St. Theresa of Avila founded a monastery in Avila Spain from which she led a reform of the order aided by St. John of the Cross.

In 1254, St. Simon Stock was elected Superior-General of the Carmelite Order in London. As a young man he took a pilgrimage to the Holy Land where he joined the hermits on Mount Carmel. He then returned to Europe and founded Carmelite communities in University towns such as Cambridge, Oxford, Paris, and Bologna. St. Simon helped to change the Carmelites from a hermit order to one of mendicant friars.

Like the other mendicant orders, the Franciscans and Dominicans, the Carmelites were under attack as being too radical. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Simon on July 16, 1251. As he gave him a brown scapular she said 

"Receive, my beloved son, this scapular of thy Order; it is the special sign of my favor, which I have obtained for thee and for thy children of Mount Carmel. He who dies clothed with this habit shall be preserved from eternal fire. It is the badge of salvation, a shield in time of danger, and a pledge of special peace and protection." 

A scapular consists of two pieces of cloth, one worn on the chest, and the other on the back, which were connected by straps or strings passing over the shoulders. Over the years the Church has encouraged all Catholics to wear a scapular that is usually worn under one’s clothing. Pope John Paul II revealed that he wore one. There is an investiture ceremony that should be done by a priest.

One of the conditions of Our Lady for the fulfillment of the promises associated the scapular (the Sabbatine privilege) is to observe chastity according to one’s state of life. That will be different for a married person than someone who is single.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel is an antidote for the culture of death today. On Mount Carmel Elijah called the people of Israel to abandon the worship of false gods and the associated sexual immorality and human sacrifice associated with it. 

In many ways the United States and Europe are like Israel in the times of Elijah. Compared to former times we live in an age of peace and prosperity, but many abandoned the worship of the true God and follow false gods of materialism, pleasure, absolute personal autonomy.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel calls us to stop straddling the issue of who is the real God. We cannot have one foot in the culture of death that tolerates the killing of unborn children by abortion and other attacks on life, chastity and the family and be a true Christian. 

Please join me in praying the following to Our Lady of Mount Carmel for an end to the culture of death in the United States and throughout the world:

O most beautiful flower of Mount Carmel, fruitful vine, splendor of Heaven, blessed Mother of the Son of God, Immaculate Virgin, assist me in this my necessity. Oh, Star of the Sea, help me and show me herein that you are my Mother. O Holy Mary, Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, I humbly beseech you from the bottom of my heart to succor me in this necessity; there are none that can withstand your power. O show me herein that you are my Mother. Our Lady, Queen and beauty of Carmel, pray for me and obtain my requests. Sweet Mother, I place this cause into your hands.

Author : Fr. Peter West