Ordinary Time 27, Year C-2010

From VincentWiki
Not many of you were wise by human standards (1 Cor. 1:26—NAB)

At the Mass I went to last Monday, in a church within the archdiocese of San Francisco, the homily made mention of St. Vincent de Paul being made a captive and sold as a slave in Turkey, and of his being helped in his missionary foundation by a gentleman named Louis de Marillac. Then on September 30, the memorial of St. Jerome, the priest’s introduction, at the start of the Mass in a Sacramento diocese church, sang the praises of St. Jerome’s biblical commentary, the Jerome Biblical Commentary, still in use today.

It is not only the members of the Roman Catholic clergy, of course, who have occasional lapses and show lack of accuracy regarding matters religious. A survey, released last Tuesday by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has forty-five percent of the Roman Catholics questioned not knowing that the Church teaches that the bread and wine of the Holy Eucharist is not just a symbol, but becomes the body and blood of Christ [1]. The survey also puts at more than fifty percent the number of Protestant participants who could not identify Martin Luther as the person who inspired the Protestant Reformation and further indicates that four in ten Jews did not know that Maimonides was Jewish.

Such lapses and lack of accuracy and knowledge about religion are, needless to say, lamented by faith leaders and educators. But if there is a silver lining to all this, it’s the one that I gather from “Religion a Great Mystery to Most Americans” in the World Wide Vincentian Family web site [2]. Its first sentence reads, in part, “Faith trumps factual knowledge of religion in America.”

Yes, thank God that we are justified by faith working through love, by grace, not by our knowledge or by our works (Rom. 1:17; 3:22-31; 4; 5:1-2; 9:30-32; 11:6; 2 Cor. 5:7; Gal. 2:16; 3:8-28; 5:6; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 3:9), notwithstanding the importance of knowledge that, however, occasionally puffs up (Jn. 17:3; Rom. 1:28; 15:14; 1 Cor. 1:5; 8:1; 12:8; 14:6; 2 Cor. 8:7; 11:5; Eph. 4:13; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9-10; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Tim. 2:25; Tit. 1:1-2) [3]. Thanks be to God for the assurance that the just one shall live by faith, even as one questions God all the while in the manner either of the prophet Habakkuk, complaining about the prevailing destruction, violence, strife and clamorous discord, or of Elie Wiesel, who has risen against God’s justice, protested His silence and sometimes His absence, but whose anger rises up within faith and not outside it [4].

Jesus, for his part, assures us that the smallest of faith can surprisingly bring about the greatest of accomplishments. Believers are not so much to fret about how great their faith is as to apply what they have and watch it work, their main responsibility being to trust God [5]. And this surely and precisely was the case with St. Vincent de Paul.

Assailed so violently by doubts of faith, St. Vincent at times could only express his faith by placing his hand over a piece of paper on which he had written out the Creed. Having that little faith, he applied himself to what was at hand by visiting the sick in a hospital nearby and making a huge donation to the hospital. And before he knew it, St. Vincent was firmly established in faith and in trust of Providence. He loved God with the sweat of his brows and the strength of his arms but he was not given to undisciplined enthusiasm [6]; he stirred into flame God’s gift of faith and bore his share of the hardship for the gospel with the strength that came from God. At the same time, St. Vincent did not make any claim on God’s graciousness but considered himself as a useless servant [7]. His small beginnings imperceptibly developed into great achievements [8]—much like the small and ordinary things like bread and wine become our living bread and our spiritual drink.

Oh, the mystery of faith!


[1] http://features.pewforum.org/uiz/us-religious-knowledge (accessed October 2, 2010).
[2] http://famvin.org/en/archive/religion-a-great-mystery-to-most-americans (accessed October 2, 2010).
[3] Cf. the Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, XII, 8.
[4] http://day1.org/2159-dr_thomas_lane_butts_the_superhuman_act (accessed October 2, 2010).
[5] http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/False-Teaching-Forgiveness (accessed October 2, 2010).
[6] Cf. P. Coste, XI, 40 and also the Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, XII, 11
[7] Cf. the Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission, XII, 14.
[8] Cf. Jacques Delarue, The Holiness of Vincent de Paul (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1960) 34.