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It Is Easier To Sin by False Prudence
than by Excessive Zeal

How common is for us American Catholics to confuse prudence with liberal concessions. “Yes, let us be prudent in preaching the Marian dogmas to not anger the Protestants.” Or, “Let us avoid attacking homosexuality to not lose face in society." Or yet, “We better not say anything against Judaism as a religion, or else we will be labeled as anti-semitic.”

Perhaps our capital sin is an excess of human prudence, which is another name for human respect. To help us conquer this defect, we offer a comment of Fr. Cornelius a Lapide, the great exegete of the 16th century, who teaches us to get rid of this vice.

Fr. Cornelius a Lapide, SJ

Unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus write: …
But I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first charity (Apocalypse 2:4).

St. Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus for more than 40 years, showed himself to be somewhat lax in preaching of the word of God to the Ephesians in the work for their conversion. The reason for this was that he had to face the pertinacity of both the Jews and adorers of Diana against his apostolate. Hence, moved in part by pusillanimity and moderation and in part by human prudence, he considered it more convenient to become softer so as not to disturb the life of Religion by an excessive zeal or to provoke the fury of the Gentiles against him and his flock, as happened with St. Paul, who had to face the mob shouting against him: ‘Hail the great Diana of Ephesus’ (Acts 19: 34). So, the first ardor of St. Timothy in preaching the Gospel grew weaker, and this was his sin, not mortal but venial.

This also happens with persons who have authority. They sin more often by tepidity disguised as prudence, than by imprudence under the appearance of zeal.

The counsel of Christ given through St. John to St. Timothy corrected his fault, and he returned to his first fervor. Actually he reproved the adorers of Diana so ardently that he received martyrdom by their hands in the year 109 of the Lord, on the 24th day of January, whose memory is registered in the sacred annals of the Church.

(Cornelius a Lapide ,Commentarii in Sacram Scripturam,
Ludovico Vives: 1976, vol. 21, p. 41)

Posted August 4, 2007

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