Quite some years ago, President, Vice President at that time George Bush, represented the US government at the funeral of the recently deceased former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved, clearly by the behaviour at the funeral of Brezhnev widow. During the whole ceremony, she didn’t say anything at all, she stood there completely motionless, until just before they were about to close the tomb, coffin. And then this old lady did, what probably was the greatest act of civil disobedience in the history of the world.
A silly illustration, but one which is necessary for a difficult topic. Once upon a time the was a place called Flatland. And in Flatland, Mr Square was walking along one day. This is a two dimensional world, boring place. Mr Square met someone though that changed his life forever, Mr Sphere. Mr Sphere said he came from a different place called Spaceland, which was three dimensional. Mr Square had no experience of a three dimensional world what so ever. He couldn’t fathom what he was talking about in any way. But he believed him. Mr Sphere was a nice chap and he believed him.
So we’re talking about the communion of Saints today. But a silly joke first. There was a painter and decorator, called Jock. He was very dishonest, he was habituality dishonest in his work, because he thinned out his paint with turpentine. Well one day the Church was up for renovation, the parish priest offered people the chance to put in their bids. But Jock got the job, because he put in the lowest bid, because he used the cheapest paint.
There was a great British writer called G K Chesterton and he said, the difficulty I have in explaining why I am Catholic, is because there are ten thousand reasons, but all those reasons amount to one, Catholicism is true. Mr Chesterton believed in the Holy Catholic Church, I believe in the Holy Catholic Church and indeed we have reached this article of our faith today, which is I believe in the Holy Catholic Church. We are going to look at these three parts of this article of faith today. We’re going to start back to front. Church, what does church mean?
I said we were going to talk about the article of Faith, ‘I believe in the forgiveness of sins’, principally that refers to sins being forgiven, original sin, through baptism. But people sin after baptism, people need forgiveness. Jesus also came to give another type of forgiveness, the type that Zacchaeus received. Forgiveness of sins, it’s a get out of jail card for every time we commit grave sin. That’s what we’ll talk about today. Suppose one of your friends offended you, was nasty, hurt your feelings. But later on they came back and said they were sorry.
So today we want to focus on the virtue of Justice. But to make it a little bit easier for the younger ones here, a little story that highlights the main elements. There was a young price called Prince Lapio. He was making a lot of mistakes in the kingdom because he didn’t have good judgement. He used to decide cases in favour of the person who was better looking, the best dressed, who was charming.
Before we introduce a theme and we talked about virtue we mentioned that virtue is a good habit, which prepares a person, to act, to carry out other actions in accordance with right reason. To act rationally. With all moral virtues, justice, fortitude, prudence, any of these, right reason indicates to the person with regards to their actions, the right measure, the need of moderation. The virtue we focus on today is temperance, this specially measures, moderates and even teaches us to hold back the most animalistic inclinations that we have.
We’ve been studying together about virtue. Fair question though, is if we are talking about fortitude, who do we consider strong? Who do we consider courageous? The soldier who defends his country in battle, certainly. Any person who risks their life to save someone else’s life, certainly. There are also examples which are less well known, courage. Take the young lady for example, she’s pregnant. She gets pressured by family friends, boyfriend, partner, whatever, to get rid of the baby, for trivial selfish reasons. But she says no, she insists on no.
We are good people. But we all know, that just as it’s hard to become better, it’s very easy to become worse. We know that we become better by the practise of virtue, God makes us the light of the world the salt of the earth. But we become worse by the practice of vice. Over the last year and a half since I got here, I have had the occasion to talk about sin and vice. I have been very surprised at the reception with which people have accepted this topic. It takes humble people to accept humiliations.
We enter into this new set of teachings today on the four cardinal virtues. What’s the motive? It’s quite simple really. This is the overarching point. If we do not prepare the natural terrain, God will not enrich us supernaturally. If we do not have the principle natural virtues, God will not give us the supernatural virtues. Or not enrich us with supernatural virtues which as we studied last year, faith hope and charity. Problem is if we without the supernatural virtues, we’re without salvation.