Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

Introit   (Psalm 118 : 137, 124) Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right; deal with Thy servant according to Thy mercy. Psalm. Blessed are the undefiled in the way: who walk in the law of the Lord. ℣. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. — Thou art just …

Collect  Grant, we beseech Thee, O Lord, that Thy people may shun all the wiles of the devil: and with pure mind follow Thee, the only God. Through our Lord Jesus Christ …

Epistle (Ephesians 4:1-6) Brethren: I, a prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the vocation in which you are called. With all humility and mildness, with patience, supporting one another in charity, careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. One body and one spirit, as you are called in one hope of your calling. One Lord, one faith, one baptism. One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all, who is blessed for ever and ever. Amen.

Gradual   (Psalm 32:12, 6) Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord: the people whom He hath chosen for His inheritance. By the word of the Lord the heavens were established; and all the power of them by the spirit of his mouth. Alleluia, alleluia. (Ps. 101:2.) O Lord, hear my prayer; and let my cry come to Thee. Alleluia.

Gospel (Matthew 22:34-46) At that time, the Pharisees came to Jesus, and one of them, a doctor of the law, asked Him, tempting Him: Master, which is the great commandment of the law? Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments depends the whole law and the prophets. And the Pharisees being gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying: What think you of Christ? whose son is He? They said to Him: David’s. He said to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son? And no man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.

Offertory   (Daniel 9 : 4, 17– 19) I, Daniel, prayed to my God, saying: Hear, O Lord, the prayers of Thy servant; show Thy face upon Thy sanctuary, and favourably look down upon this people upon whom Thy Name is invoked, O God.

Secret  We humbly entreat Thy Majesty, O Lord: that these holy Mysteries which we celebrate, may set us free from both past and future sins. Through our Lord …

Communion (Psalm 75:12-13) Vow ye, and pay to the Lord your God, all you that round about Him bring presents: to Him that is terrible, even to Him who taketh away the spirit of princes; to the terrible with all the kings of the earth.

Postcommunion By Thy sanctifying Gifts, O almighty God, may our vices be healed and eternal remedies made available to us. Through our Lord …


Fundamentals of the Faith: Part XII 

Although we are fallen, yet, by grace, we can use our free will to co-operate with God (Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, 246). The human will does not remain only passive. If I have tripped and gone straight down onto the ground, I may need a hand to get up. But this does not mean that I cannot cooperate with the man who lifts me. Further, the entirety of the teaching of the Lord as recorded in the Gospels and as interpreted in the Epistles, in Acts, and in the Apocalypse, speak as if we have to decide to be good – even to be perfect. That is, speaking of people of the age of reason, we have to become collaborators with God. Of course, how we cooperate depends upon our personal circumstances. And we know that we can do nothing without grace. Yet, as St John Henry pointed out, the way the Lord taught us clearly does require us to act, to have faith, to hope, and to love.

In a word, just because we cannot do anything without grace, it does not follow that we can do nothing with grace. It is quite untrue. Grace does not override our human wills and turn us into robots, or puppets moving as the hand of God directs. The opposite is true: grace restores to us our power of will, our power of choice, the ability to love. We know that these extraordinary faculties do not come from ourselves – we could never create them, or give will power to a block of wood. But it by no means that once they are present in us, by the grace of God, we cannot and should not use them. As the Council of Trent taught, if any one said that our free will “cannot dissent if it wishes, but that like some inanimate thing, it does nothing whatever, and only remains passive, let him be anathema.”

Let us be clear: there is a logical error in the heretical teachings in either direction: either attributing too much or too little to us and our free will. The logical error can show in several ways, but one way is to say that since we can do nothing without grace, then we can never do anything. That is like saying that since a car cannot go without petrol, then it can never go at all. Even a child can see that to say that a car cannot go without petrol implies that it can indeed go if it has petrol. If, however, a person said that because we can do nothing without grace, and grace is the free gift of God, then all praise belongs to God, we could agree. But that is quite another proposition from saying that humanity is always passive. This is the error of Luther: “in the things pertaining unto God, which are above us and not put under us, man has no free-will at all. But he is in reality as clay in the hand of the potter. He is placed under the mere power of God, passively and not actively.” (see his Commentary on Genesis, III.V.7).

Fr Ott points out that Luther’s teaching the “irreformable corruption of human nature” led to an over-reaction in the other direction: the doctrine of Rationalism went so far in the other direction that it expressed “an unbounded confidence in man’s capacity to think, will and act in virtue of his own inner power,” and so “rejected the doctrines of Revelation and Grace.” (Ott, p. 224) Truly, once we have begun to err, accepting error in any direction, we find it impossible not to err further and further, just as two parallel lines will remain in tandem, but let one diverge by even one degree, and in the long run there will be vast space between them. It gives me no pleasure to be polemical, but charity demands, I think, that I point out that the correct teaching of the faith is organic: the entirety must be kept whole and integrally. We reject one thing because we cannot see the sense in it, and before we know it, we are lost.

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