Of Dumb Dogs

Of Dumb Dogs

Third Sunday of Lent

In the opening verses of today’s Gospel we have a summary of the two kinds of reactions that men in every age have before the manifestations of the divine. St Luke tells us that the crowds were in admiration. The awe before the astonishing feat is one of the most natural of human reactions. This awe naturally leads to praise and glorification of the author of such deeds. And that was God’s intent, when He decided to intervene in history by means of prodigies, starting in the Old Testament, but especially in the New. All the songs of praise of the Church are simply the continuation of the admiration of those crowds.

Immediately afterwards, however, St Luke tells us that others attributed these stupendous feats to the devil himself. In other words, they acknowledged that they exceeded human capacity, and that therefore there was some other power at work. So to avoid having to acknowledge Our Lord’s divine mission, to avoid having to obey Him and risk their own positions of authority, they have no other option but to attribute them to Satan. In so doing, they fall under the power of Satan, who is the father and inspirer of lies. They commit the sin against the Holy Spirit: to see the visible and unmistakable signs of God’s presence, and to close one’s eyes so as not to see, and thereby to prefer Satan to God.

These two attitudes are found in every period of history. Humble, upright souls look at Our Lord’s miracles and listen to His teaching, and they are moved to repentance and to belief. They have their struggles. They sometimes fall. But they do not justify themselves or canonise their faults. They humble themselves and return to God, asking His mercy. Such are the faithful souls He came to save.

Proud souls on the other hand, full of themselves, refuse to believe or to live up to what God  asks of them, and instead of being ennobled as sons in the kingdom of God, they become slaves in that of the devil. They devise all sorts of ways of justifying themselves. They make bold to teach their errors as if they were truth. They fall into vice, but they glorify their vices and want everyone else to glorify them. They are proud of vice, they therefore have no opening nor need for mercy, and in so doing they lock themselves out of the kingdom of God and throw the key away. For only the humble can see God. Only humility is the key that opens the door to mercy and grace.

It is also of note that the possessed man in today’s Gospel was in the power of a demon that caused him to be mute. As soon as Our Lord casts out the demon, the man begins to speak, which prompts in turn the praise of the crowd. Dumb devils are legion. They seek to prevent the truth from being spoken and God from being praised. They do not want people to speak the truth nor do they want people to open their mouths for prayer. Some people are under the power of a dumb devil when they are afraid to confess their sins. Others when they are afraid to be open with their spiritual guides, and thus fall into the trap the devil is laying for them and into which easily fall those who rely on their own wits.

When the dumb devil takes hold of someone in authority, he prevents him from condemning error and teaching the truth. The prophet Isaiah refers to those shepherds who do not warn their flocks as dumb dogs. His watchmen are all blind, they are all ignorant: dumb dogs not able to bark, seeing vain things, sleeping and loving dreams (Is 56:10). Of what use is a dumb watchdog? A watchdog is supposed to bark and make noise at the approach of strangers. If it does not, he is useless, does not deserve his food, good only to be shot. So it is with shepherds, that is to say bishops, priests, lawmakers, magistrates, teachers… If they do not call out evil and condemn it unequivocally, they are dumb dogs, who love their sleep and their dreams. They are living in fairy land, outside of reality, and they will one day have a rude awakening; they will be pulled out of their sleep and thrown into hell.

The book of Job seems to be referring to them when it says: The praise of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment. If his pride mount up even to heaven, and his head touch the clouds: in the end he shall be destroyed like a dunghill, and they that had seen him, shall say: Where is he? As a dream that fleeth away he shall not be found, he shall pass as a vision of the night: the eyes that had seen him, shall see him no more, neither shall his place any more behold him (Job 20:5-9).

Interestingly the dumb man in today’s Gospel, St Matthew tells us was also blind. He is healed of both blindness and dumbness. He opens his eyes to see and he opens his mouth to proclaim the glory of God. There are plenty of people who close their eyes to the marvellous deeds of God, who do not really want to see. There are those who see, but do not have the courage to profess their faith. But such spiritual dumbness leads straight back to infidelity. If someone has the faith but refuses to profess it, he loses the grace of being faithful. If someone sees evil and does not denounce it when he should, he becomes an accomplice of that evil and becomes evil himself.

The great lesson for us all is to truly seek God, to sincerely listen to Him and to manfully obey Him. Pray for your shepherds that they will have the courage to speak the truth, to denounce error, to condemn vice. One of the saddest spectacles in our world is the shameless display of what is called Pride on our streets, and none of our shepherds, not one, having the courage to denounce the corruption of the innocent, the wrecking of the social order, the downfall of society of which such manifestations are the clear and obvious presage. We are surrounded on every side by dumb dogs, and so our ruin is assured.

Our Lord tells those wicked men in today’s Gospel: He that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth. It’s all very simple. The light is before us. Let’s open our eyes. The finger of God is here, and so the kingdom of God is upon us.

Our Blessed Lady appears at the end of today’s Gospel, as the one who listens to God’s word and ponders it in her heart, day after day. May she obtain for each of us the grace to keep our house, the house of our soul, in peace, fully armed with prayer and the spirit of sacrifice, lest the enemy return with many others and make our last state worse than the first.