Third Sunday of Lent
My Dear Friends,
The psalmist on this Sunday invites us to lift our eyes to the Lord, rather, to keep them always turned towards the Lord – Oculi mei semper ad Dominum – but he also asks the Lord to cast his eyes upon us and to show us his mercy and deliver us from the snare, for we are alone and poor.
How well this verse fits us, each one of us, and our Church as a whole. This past week, we witnessed yet another one of those scenes that we used only to see in movies, the lamentable spectacle of lawmakers digging their own graves and assuring their immortal place in the Hall of Infamy. A step further has been taken toward the death of society as we have known it in what is now becoming the memory of a distant past. After the rejection of Christ’s Kingship over society and the promotion of the flesh and all that flatters the flesh, it had to be that we would see the day when lawmakers would sanction the killing of humans. And now that they have opened the door, they will themselves be swallowed up in it. It is only the realisation of St Paul’s prophecy to the Galatians: Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit (Gal 6:7-8). Having sown for the flesh with the sexual idolatry (for as St Paul tells us today, sins of the flesh are a form of idolatry, that is to say, worship of false gods), it was inevitable to arrive at the final end of such madness, that is the destruction of the very flesh that has been idolised. And once again, the demons rejoice in their prey as the way is paved for many more to fall into the horrors of their eternal damnation.
We may wonder how it is that we have come to this. Is it really possible to be so blind as to oppose the wisdom of millennia and think that we can allow the killing of innocent humans and that it will all work out well? Today’s Gospel gives us the key to understanding how this happens. We see our Lord casting out devils, and in such an marvellous way that the possessed person who had been made dumb, began to speak. The miracle was evident, and the common folk were in ecstatic admiration. But some of those who were there, probably Pharisees, uttered a most astounding blasphemy: By the very power of the devil is this man casting out devils, they say. As is always the case with those who deny evidence that everyone can see, their own explanation of the event is not only ludicrous, it is impossible. No matter. There is none so blind as he who will not see. When you have blinded yourself to the light, there is no longer any remedy. When you have plucked out your own eyes, in vain will someone show you the light.
This is the reality, this is the context in which we who, thanks be to God, still have our spiritual acumen, are urged to keep our eyes constantly fixed on the Lord. It will do us no good to lament ourselves, to spend hours and days blogging about how bad it really is. By now it should be obvious to anyone who still has reason and uses it, that we have entered a new era, one in which Christendom is of the past, and we find ourselves in a totally pagan and increasingly hostile world.
To what will it lead? That we do not know. What we do know is that the pressure on true disciples of Christ to compromise with the new world order will increase. We are getting very close now to the time when it will no longer be possible to pretend that we are Catholics. Those legions of self-styled Catholics who for generations now have on Sunday mornings been at the altar of God and in the week at the altar of demons through approval of contraception, abortion and sodomy, will no longer be able to hide themselves, to blasphemously camouflage their evil deeds behind their rosary beads (like the current President of the United States, for example). No, the day is fast approaching when Our Blessed Lord’s words will be realised to the letter: Whoever is not with me is against me. Whoever does not gather together with me, scatters.
And what is it to be with Jesus, we might ask? It is to imitate God, as St Paul tells us today: Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma (Eph 5:2-3). The apostle could hardly be more clear. To be with God is to imitate His divine deeds. And what is the most divine of His deeds? It is that He handed Himself over as a sacrificial offering to God, a fragrant aroma. In the Old Covenant, when God prescribed the offering of holocausts, it was said that the smoke of the sacrifice came before the Lord as a fragrant aroma, to appease His wrath and atone for sin. The animal was burnt up on the fire lit in the Temple. In the New Covenant, the fire is none other that the burning furnace of charity which is the Sacred Heart of Our Lord. That is the altar on which He offered His own flesh, amidst so many cruel torments, and that offering of Himself was received by the Eternal Father in atonement for the sins of the whole world.
To be imitators of God is therefore to be prepared to be offered up in sacrifice with Him. We may not be nailed to a cross, or even forced to stand before a firing squad. But we may very well lose some or all the benefits of a free society if we refuse to bend the knee before the modern idols. Prosecution, fines and prison are no longer imaginary, distant possibilities. They are realities that affect a growing number of Christians around the world. They will affect us here in Australia as well. And it will not be long now.
We look at this situation, and we can find it daunting. And it is. On our own, it would be impossible. But we are not alone. We have our Blessed Saviour who, from the height of His cross, calls us to follow after Him. Generation after generation of Christian souls has been inspired to suffer with Christ and like Christ. If we lift up our eyes always to the Lord on His cross, we find in ourselves the desire, the growing desire, to be more like Him. Everything else becomes insipid. We are reminded of the words of the Lord: Because iniquity hath abounded, the love of many will grow cold, and so we arouse ourselves, we seek to stir up in our hearts a burning love for our Blessed Saviour. The more the world grows cold to God, the more we must be aflame with desire to love and serve Him, and to suffer and die for Him.
In whatever sufferings we may have to endure from those who are opposed to the Kingdom of God, we must always imitate God, that is, pray for our persecutors, and never say that it is too much. The Lord knows what is too much, He knows what we can take. A good practice to prepare for greater struggles is to not put a limit on what we can take from others, to never say, “That’s too much”. In this way we resemble Our Blessed Lord more and more and make ourselves a little less unworthy of the privilege of suffering for God and His truth.
But we must also keep in mind that the persecution may not only come from Godless politicians. It may very well come from members of the Church. Some of them are promoting heresies that are contrary to Divine revelation and the Divine constitution of the Church. The hardest thing a Catholic can have to do is oppose His own who have drifted from the faith and, in practice, are no longer Catholic.
Returning to today’s introit, our eyes must be – it is not optional for anyone who does not want to be lost himself – our eyes must be always turned to the Lord, that He may have mercy on us. We must plead, day and night, that He will sustain us with His grace and defeat the foes of our immortal souls. And we know through faith that He will indeed do so for those who are faithful.
Today we are also mindful to honour the memory of St Thomas Aquinas, outstanding for his purity and love of the truth. When he was but a young boy, Thomas was sent to the abbey of Montecassino to receive an education and learn the rudiments of the faith from the Benedictine monks. It is told that as a small boy he would pull on the monks’ cuculla and ask “Who is God”? That desire to know God and love Him would become an ever more intense passion. He learned to find his soul’s delight in the contemplation of divine realities. His life was a living example of what we will sing in today’s communion antiphon: The sparrow hath found herself a house, and the turtle dove a nest where she may lay her young. Thy altars, O Lord, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house, they shall praise Thee forever and ever.
Taking up his abode in the House of God, St Thomas came to develop a profound devotion for the God Man through contemplation of the Incarnation. It is through the Incarnation that God achieved what, up until then, was unthinkable, namely that man could become the friend of God. St Thomas writes: “Since friendship consists in a certain equality, things which are very unequal cannot be united in friendship. This is precisely why, in order to create a more familiar friendship between man and God, it was fitting that God become man, for a man is naturally friends with another man. In this way, while we know God in a visible way, we are swept away to the loving contemplation of the invisible”.
As the world becomes less and less a place of peace, light and spiritual repose and more and more a place of darkness and turmoil, let the monastery become more and more like the nest in which the sparrow comes to lay her young. May the altar of God in this church and this monastery be a haven in which the sweetness of the Divine Law and an ever more intense and fulfilling commerce with the Godhead may give peace to many souls, the monks first of all, but through them, to many other souls who unite with us in prayer and self-sacrifice.
At the end of today’s Gospel, Our Lord seems to give us the means of achieving this, when He says: Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it. Our Lady was the first to do precisely that, and so let us ask her to assist us as we continue our Lenten sacrifice.