Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Homily
Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, September 7, 2014
23rd Sun. in Ord. Time, Cycle A
Sacred Heart Catholic Church
 

The Five Ways: Fourth Way, Degrees of Perfection

   On this Sunday, I wish to return to the Five Ways of St. Thomas Aquinas. These are five rational proofs of the existence of God, of which, through the summer, we studied three: the proofs based on movement, cause and contingency. Today’s proof will deal with degrees of perfection. Next Sunday the universal Church will celebrate the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, for which the prayers and readings of the Sunday of Ordinary time, which would have been the 24th, will be suppressed everywhere.

   But first, two notes about parish life.

   First I wish to encourage everyone to participate in next week’s parish picnic. We’re praying for good weather. It will begin following the 10am Mass, and go into the afternoon. This will allow for easy participation, as everyone is here already; and also permit you to attend afternoon events you might have without disturbing too much of your weekend schedule. It will be an opportunity for friendship and some social life among us, some recreation for the children, and an opportunity for the various parish groups to present themselves, such as maybe the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the Knights of Columbus, or the Altar Society, the Men of the Sacred Heart, and so much more. I encourage you and strongly invite you to take some time and participate, even if it is for a short time.

   Second, I feel a need to explain what’s going on with the confirmation calendar for this year. If I give the whole story, it will make more sense. A couple years ago, Bishop Cepeda confirmed our young people. He mentioned how this time of year was so relentlessly busy just with confirmations. So I, as a courtesy, asked him what might be an easier time of year for him to visit. He said that would be the fall.

   I therefore submitted our parish’s request for a date for confirmation sometime in September or October. Eventually, a date in early September was given. But in the meantime, some restructuring went on in the Archdiocesan offices. And we all know how reasonable, organized, helpful and efficient all those bureaucratic offices are, don’t we. In the shuffle, we got a different bishop, but one who could not speak Spanish. So then they assigned Bishop Hanchon to us, who has been here before, and they gave us the date of Sept. 28.

   We therefore organized the retreat of the confirmation kids to be the day just before, Saturday, Sept. 27. Given the lack of numbers of priests, it takes quite a bit of coordinating to get a hold of a priest, especially on a Saturday.

   Now, we just got the news, for reasons I don’t know, that the date of confirmation will be postponed until Dec. 7. This type of chaos is what happens when the central offices of the Archdiocese attempt to put a bureaucratic level in where it doesn’t belong. Wasted time, wasted money, useless and expensive job positions to fill paid for by the faithful, and the inefficiency runs rampant.

   For these reasons, the confirmation retreat remains on Saturday, Sept. 28. Confirmation will be celebrated on Sunday, Dec. 7. Dec. 8 will be a Monday, and it is a holy day of obligation. I apologize for all the inconvenience. I remind the parents to bring their children to confession before the December date of Confirmation. Confessions are heard every day: please plan intelligently. I always encourage monthly confession anyway, which I repeat here only as a reminder to us all.

   That said, let us examine the proof of the existence of God based on degrees of perfection; this is the fourth of the five rational proofs St. Thomas Aquinas provides.

   We begin with an observation of fact, which all can see and no one can deny: that there are degrees in things. Any number of things can be more good, more true, more noble, and so forth. Now, something is said to be or have more of a quality meaning that it is closer to the maximum degree of that thing. If something is more hot, that is, has a higher degree of heat, that means it is closer to the highest degree possible of heat. We experience degrees even in simple things of every day: it is more or less light, more or less delicious, more or less comfortable, more or less amazing. We all can observe, and no one can deny, that there are degrees in things.

   Therefore, there must be a thing out there which enjoys the maximum degree of goodness, or truth, or nobility, or any of these other qualities. But we can also speak of “being” itself in such a way. A human has a higher degree and quality of being than an animal, because he is rational whereas animals, even if sensate, are brutes. And animals are superior to plants, because they have sense knowledge. Plants are superior to rocks, as are humans and animals, because they are alive. So if there are degrees to being itself, then there must exist the one being that has the maximum degree of being, and the cause of all other being, and even of all other perfections. This one we call God.

   And so with this fourth proof we must not think that God is then merely an abstract ruler by which we can measure the perfection or scale of being; this would only give us a concept of God, but not God himself. Rather than a mathematical, imaginary ruler by which to measure perfection, we say God is the one who enjoys, in reality and actuality, the greatest degree of being. I’ve heard atheists retort, “but there are degrees of evil; therefore your proof must imply that God is infinitely and supremely evil.” This refutation fails, for evil is not a perfection, it is a lack of the perfection of good.

   Our proofs then so far have given us a God that most certainly exists, but also one of whom we can say more: he is the unmoved mover, the first cause, the one thing necessary, and now we can also say the very perfection of all perfections. In a couple weeks we’ll see the last proof based on the intelligent order of the universe.

   May the Blessed Virgin Mary intercede for us today, that we all may be strengthened in our faith, and also that we may serve the Holy Trinity ever more worthily, whose infinite perfections fill our hearts with love and praise. Amen.
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