Today’s Gospel brings before us the parable of the sower. Our Lord is the sower who sows the seed of His word in every age and in every heart. More often than not, that seed bears no fruit. The reasons are multiple: hardly has it been sown that the devil himself comes and by means of his temptations steals it from the hearts of men; distractions of worldly affairs prevent one from giving spiritual matters the time they need and deserve; pleasures and riches suffocate the soul’s longing for a more pure, simple and holy life. For the seed to take root and bear fruit, a number of things are required. It must fall into good soil, but that good soil must be prepared. No farmer will sow his grain onto hard ground without first ploughing it up and enriching it with manure. Even then he will take care to protect his crop from parasites and diseases. Sun and rain will also be required, along with careful attentiveness and patient waiting. The crop will bear fruit only inasmuch as it is looked after. Good crops do not grow on their own. Virtues do not grow in the human heart without serious spiritual gardening.
Today’s epistle gives us a close up look at what the life of an apostle is like. St Paul describes with great detail all the hardships he had to endure for the Gospel. The passage that we are invited to reflect upon today conveys the same message as the Gospel: the apostle must roll up his sleeves and work hard to sow the seed of the word, but more often than not he meets with opposition. If he pulls back at the slightest resistance, he will accomplish nothing, nor is it enough for him to sow the seed and run off, hoping that somehow it will take root and grow. All true apostles throughout history have experienced this, and some of them have gone on to shed their blood for the cause. When the word is preached with clarity and conviction, it has an astounding power to convert, on condition that it cuts through to the heart of the hearer like the razor-sharp blade of the plough cuts through the hard, dry soil.
But what happens when the Church no longer teaches with authority, but begins to propose its teaching as just another form of human wisdom? What happens when the Church renounces her mandate to admonish civil authorities and instead engages in unending and fruitless dialogues that have no other purpose than to promote the co-existence of differently-minded people? This is what happens: the faith is no longer taught, or if it is taught, it is taught as if it were simply a proposal to make for a better life in this world. Christ becomes just another god in the pantheon of modernity. He is uncrowned and dethroned.
Last Sunday we reflected on the devastating consequences of the loss of Catholic dogma on eternity and the salvation of souls. Failing to hand on the teaching of Our Lord and the saints, we have created a Church for which social questions are all that matter. Today’s Mass gives us further insight as to why the Church’s approach to social and political matters over the last few decades has been one of the causes of the failure to transmit the faith.
What has been left aside is the conviction that the message of the Gospel and incorporation into the Church through the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Now that the Church has decided to present herself as the servant of the world, instead of its teacher, we find ourselves less and less able to proclaim the Gospel with force and conviction. Nor did this go unnoticed when it came to pass. The young theologian Joseph Ratzinger noted at the time of the council that what was called at the time “Schema 13”, and which would ultimately become the pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes was nothing short of the Church’s October Revolution, a kind of counter-syllabus that turned the syllabus of errors of Blessed Pius IX on its head, not to mention the syllabus of modernism of St Pius X. No longer will the Church condemn. She will accompany and discern, in such a way as to never enter into conflict. From Gaudium et Spes on, the Church’s relationship to the world changes radically, and its bitter fruits are all too evident to us today: a spineless Church utterly incapable of standing up to corrupt politicians who promote the murder of infants and the elderly, who destroy marriage and corrupt our youth. More recently we had an opportunity to see this attitude in action when bishops around the world closed their churches and refused the sacraments to the faithful based on unjust health orders from a government she is henceforth gutless to resist. In the same way we have seen the faithful abandoned by their bishops who refuse to stand up against the same governments who violate some of the most fundamental rights of the human person. This latter failure is indicative of a much deeper problem: locking the church denotes a lack of faith; failing to resist government vaccination mandates denotes a loss of humanity. And that makes sense, because really it is only Our Lord Jesus Christ and His revealed truth that can keep us human. Without Him, we slide down the slippery slope of fallen nature and founder in the dark waters of irrational animal life.
Yet another instance of this disastrous state of affairs can be seen in the quasi-takeover of Catholic institutions, in particular in exchange for money grants. So we have on one hand an incapacity for vigorous pushback because now we are supposed to dialogue and be nice, and on the other hand, if we don’t do that, we lose our money. And that is the perfect scenario for creating Judases en masse. You might say that there has always been political interference in the Church and that is true. There have always been Judases, and that is true. But what there has not always been is a quasi-universal abandonment of the most sacred function of teaching the truth without ambiguity and the subsequent chastisement of vice that was always the hallmark of the Catholic episcopate. It is so true that one canonised bishop, St Anthony Mary Claret, went so far as to say that to be appointed a bishop meant that one must be prepared for one of two things: martyrdom or hell. If a bishop (and we can add here a priest, because it is also the priest’s duty to preach the truth of the Gospel) preaches with clarity the fullness of the faith he can expect persecution, and persecution can lead to martyrdom, that of blood or that of rejection and slander; but if he does not, hell awaits him.
St Paul’s example today reminds us that this effort to please the world is simply not Christian. To the Galatians he writes furthermore: If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ (Gal 1:10). It’s one of the many verses that causes one to shudder, when one considers that for the past sixty years such has been the first concern of so many in the Church, namely to please men. If we try to please the world, we lose our faith, the seed gets eaten up by the birds, by riches, by the spirit of the world. It is gone.
To conclude, we must also connect the dots with what was said last week. How could the prelate who is convinced that in the end we will all be together in Heaven efficaciously resist anything, let alone a powerful dictator who could pull the plug on the finances of his church at any moment? It is really only because they were convinced that they would be required to give the Lord an account of souls that the valiant prelates of our history were able to speak out fearlessly. When St Pius X was placed before the alternative of seeing the Church in France lose all its property or its freedom of activity, he valiantly stood up and proclaimed: “We prefer the good of the Church to the goods of the Church”.
So what must we do? First of all, not be afraid of the truth. Each of us at our own level must speak the truth and be convinced of the power of the truth to convert when spoken with clarity and with charity. The truth saves. Only the truth saves. It is the two-edged sword that penetrates to the very marrow of the bones, as St Paul reminds us (Hb 4:12)).
We must also pray that the leaders of the Church will have a change of heart and direction. Pastoral orientations that prove fruitless or detrimental must be abandoned. When something has been tried, and has proven disastrous, if it is not rejected, then we have a very serious case of either obstinacy in evil or insanity. Errare humanum est, perseverare diabolicum – To err is human, to persevere in error is diabolical. The Church must once again teach the nations with authority. The day she does wake up, she can expect another bath of blood to flow in her midst, but that is the path to true peace. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.
With today’s introit, let us pray: Exsurge: arise O Lord and save us.(Ps 43). Wake up and hear our call. How long will you allow us to be left as orphans, defenceless before the tyrants of the day? With the gradual of today’s Mass, let us be insistent: O my God, make them as stubble before the wind. Fill their faces with shame; and they shall seek thy name, O Lord. And let them know that the Lord is thy name: thou alone art the most High over all the earth. (Ps 82)