Our Moral Stance Today


“Come, Creator, Spirit, come from your bright heavenly throne, come take possession of our souls, and make them all your own. You who are called the Paraclete, best gift of God above, the living spring, the vital fire sweet christ’ning. . . .O guide our minds with your best light, with love our hearts inflame; and with your strength, which ne’er decays, confirm our mortal frame.”


St. Rabanus composed this hymn during the reign of Charlemagne. As a schoolmaster, abbot, and eventually, archbishop, he spent his life contemplating, teaching doctrine, and pursuing holiness. During a famine, he was known to feed up to 300 people a day from his house. His heart and energy were strained constantly towards heaven.


The one thing in common with all the saints is a love for Holy Scripture.


St. Rabanus memorized volumes of scripture and stayed up late in the night studying. He took to heart the words of Joshua: “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein” (1:8). In one of his commentaries, St. Rabanus offered an allegorical lesson about our Gospel today, Matthew, chapter 9, verses 1 through 8.


“Some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.”


Christ has the authority to forgive sins. This is the awesome nature of Christianity, which nothing else in the world can touch. Psychologists help us gain insight and process the sins of our past. Alcohol and drugs help us to ignore the guilt we carry. Eastern religions allow you to deny its existence, and pagan idolyters, at best, hope for mercy by sacrificing to demons. With Christ it is different. Only our God, through the institution of his priesthood, can abolish sin and its cripling impact on our soul.


“Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?”


Forgiveness and healing are one and the same. With each word spoken to a priest, joined to the prayers of absolution, our heart becomes remade. “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).


Now what? After God has forgiven our sins, what is left for us to do? Our lesson this morning lays out exactly the work that remains for us.


“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.”


Here is St. Rabanus’ commentary:


“To rise means to withdraw the soul from carnal desires. To take up thy bed, is to raise the body above earthly desires to the delights of the spirit. To go into his house is to return…to internal watchfulness of one’s self, lest it should sin again.”


Flee from carnal sins. Hunger for spiritual virtue. Cultivate inner watchfulness.


“The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God,” St. Paul preaches, “for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Cor. 2:14). St. Paul uses the phrase regularly, ‘the natural man’ (Ψυχικὸς ἄνθρωπος), to describe the carnal part of our soul. There is nothing natural about it, in the modern use of the word. Sin creeps into our hearts and perverts us. Our lifestyle becomes fleshly; our thoughts drug us to mud. We become like animals, driven by wild and selfish urges.


Carnal living is “enmity to God,” St. Paul says in his letter to the Romans (8:7-9). This is why the Church takes such a strong stance on moral issues. Marriage is between a man and woman. There are two genders: boys and girls. Dating, entertainment, the images we gaze on, drink and food: for each moral issue, Scripture and Tradition have drawn a firm boundary. Every deviation outside the Church’s boundaries is open rebellion against God. We have to be so clear about this. Everything today is up for grabs, and we are all vulnerable to the fads of the times. The steady drip of indoctrination, in our school rooms, television shows, everywhere, it is dragging people into a bottomless chasm.


Our world urges us to consume, revel, and party. The Church gives us another path — the path of asceticism — prayer, fasting, and self-denial.


It sounds strange, does it not? Yet, the path of purity is the only path to inner peace.


“To take up thy bed, is to raise the body above earthly desires to the delights of the spirit. To go into his house is to return…to internal watchfulness of one’s self, lest it should sin again.”


Holiness — a gravity pulls us in every other direction.


The commercials persuade us to put it off. Our friends think we are ridiculous. Our thoughts barrage us with temptations. The artillery and explosions in Ukraine are child play compared to the warfare in our heads. Look to the saints. They gave everything up to learn the art of inner watchfulness.


What hope do we have?


It is no wonder where St. Rabanus found his inspiration for such powerful prayers. We have no hope other than to get on our knees and start praying.


“Come, Creator, Spirit, come from your bright heavenly throne, come take possession of our souls, and make them all your own. You who are called the Paraclete, best gift of God above, the living spring, the vital fire sweet christ’ning. . . .O guide our minds with your best light, with love our hearts inflame; and with your strength, which ne’er decays, confirm our mortal frame.”















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