The Gospel will Dash Souls to Pieces. So, Pray for the Gift of Faith.
Sunday Gospel Reflection for 12/18/2022
USCCB Sunday Mass Readings
One of the most beautiful and expressive modern works written on the purpose and mission of the incarnation of Jesus Christ is by the great Venerable Fulton J. Sheen, titled Life of Christ. Our first reading today, like many of them during the Advent season, is from the book of the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah is often referred to as the fifth gospel because much of the prophecies in the text have been applied to the coming of Jesus Christ.
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people,
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Regarding the messengers of prophecies, Fulton Sheen explains, “In such cases there would be no objective historical way of testing the messenger. We would have only his word for it, and of course he could be wrong.”
Sheen makes a striking point regarding revelation in general that is uncomfortable for many Catholics. The existential philosopher Sören Kierkegaard refers to it as “the leap of faith.” The problem though is that many atheists will suggest this to be blind faith. It is no such thing from the Catholic perspective. The Catholic has what is referred to as preambles of faith. Preambles of faith can differ from Catholic to Catholic. It can be the historicity surrounding Sacred Scripture or Tradition. It can be philosophical arguments for the existence of God. Or it can be simply the moving witness of devotion from another Christian. In any regard, there must come the point when the faithful must take the word of revelation—an assent to things not self-evident.
One of the problems is that the prevailing philosophy of the modern Western world is materialism mixed with relativism. The tenets of said modern philosophy are that the only things that are real are the things my five senses can observe, and yet, I determine the truth of those things, not the object of the thing that informs me. It is a philosophy void of metaphysics except for the emotionalism of the determinate—the individual person.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, understood the problem facing Christianity moving forward in the 21st century. In the 1988 Erasmus lectures, Ratzinger asserts, “The debate about modern exegesis is not at its core a debate among historians, but among philosophers.”
And this gets to the point made by Ven. Fulton Sheen because it is a matter that cannot be settled by historical analysis. I assert such a statement as a man with a degree in history. I have had many debates in the past with nonbelievers surrounding the archaeology & historicity of the bible; however, if the person with whom we are dialoguing with has philosophical views already rejecting the existence of God, then the revelation of the gospel becomes the stone everyone who falls on will be dashed to pieces. (Lk. 20:18).
So, what can we do as missionary disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ when proclaiming the gospel? Did not our Lord Jesus pray for Peter and the others to strengthen their faith because Satan demanded to sift them like wheat? (Lk. 22:31)
We cannot forget the power of prayer! And the gift of grace that can soften hardened hearts!
St. Paul writes to the Romans, “15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. 16 That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says on the matter of the necessity of faith for salvation:
We here speak of that faith, by force of which we yield our entire assent to whatever has been divinely delivered. And that this faith is necessary to obtaining salvation, no man can reasonably doubt, particularly as it is written, that without faith it is impossible to please God.
And through both Scripture and Tradition, the Catholic Church teaches that faith is a gift from God.
CCC 2220: “For Christians a special gratitude is due to those from whom they have received the gift of faith, the grace of Baptism, and life in the Church.”
So, dare we hope “that all men are saved?” The irony is that many who cling to such a concept fail their shared participation of being little christs by not praying for conversions. They fail at calling men and women alike to repent of their sins, and to believe the good news of Jesus Christ.
The gospel reading for today gives us the revelation given to Joseph—the Good News of Our Lord!!:
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
St. Thomas Aquinas explains, “Thus, mission as regards the one to whom it is sent implies two things, the indwelling of grace, and a certain renewal by grace. Thus the invisible mission is sent to all in whom are to be found these two conditions.”
The first mission of the Church—evangelization, the calling of the nations, is a grace given freely, which must be continued to be given by those who receive it for the salvation of souls. Let us pray for the people in our lives whose hearts are hardened from the good news as we approach this Christmas. Let us pray for them to receive the gift of faith and be renewed by God’s grace.
 Fulton J. Sheen, The Life of Christ (New York: Image Books, 2008), 2.
 Matthew J. Ramage, Jesus Interpreted: Benedict XVI, Bart Ehrman, and the Historical Truth of the Gospels (Washington D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2017), 9.
 Ro 4:15–16, ESV-CE.
 Catholic Church, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, trans. Theodore Alois Buckley (London: George Routledge and Co., 1852), 11.
 Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 536.
 Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, trans. Fathers of the English Dominican Province (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, n.d.).
Yes, I must confess that I am more preoccupied with the state of my own soul. I easily forget to pray for others’s hearts to be softened; for grace to be extended to them; to accept that grace willingly.
Exactly, I totally agree! Well said!!!