16th Sunday after Pentecost
Two weeks ago it was the feast of St Pius X and I spoke to you at length about this outstanding shepherd. I was told that it was a long homily, one of the longest I ever gave. My apologies for that. However, I did not say half of what I wanted to say, so let’s resume today.
Let’s take our cue from St Paul who today takes us to the very heart of the reason for which God sent His Son into the world, namely, so that we would come to know the riches of God’s love for us and respond to that love by living more deeply of the divine life He came to bring to us. The passage you recognise no doubt as being one that is read on the feast of the Sacred Heart. It follows upon the magnificent prologue to the epistle to the Ephesians in which the apostle tells us that the eternal Father’s plan was to bring all things into unity in Christ, to establish and restore all things in Christ, the God-Man.
Pope St Pius X took those words for motto: instaurare omnia in Christo. In an age in which it was becoming more and more fashionable to leave to each his own opinions about religion, in his first encyclical Pius X explained with great clarity and concision what would be his program: “The interests of God shall be Our interest, and for these We are resolved to spend all Our strength and Our very life. Hence, should anyone ask Us for a symbol as the expression of Our will, We will give this and no other: To renew all things in Christ.” For St Pius X, to renew all things in Christ meant to bring all to faith in Christ, to His Church, to the holy sacraments, to an interior life focused on becoming more Christlike. I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me, St Paul tells the Galatians (Gal. 2:20). For me to live is Christ, he tells the Philippians (Ph 1:21). Pius X reminds us, sixty years before Vatican II, that we are all called to the perfection of sanctity “All are included in the exhortation to advance towards the perfect man, in the measure of the age of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:3). To become Christlike, to be stamped with the very image of Christ, to live in Christ and of Christ, such is the goal of our life on earth. There is no other model given to us with which we must be conformed.
Sadly, many today do not take Our Lord seriously. For them, He is an inspiring teacher, sometimes a bit eccentric, and certainly too demanding. They stay at a distance and don’t want to get too close, lest they be compromised, or commit to too much. They are preoccupied with many things, but certainly not with becoming Christlike.
But there is much worse. It is one thing to fail to imitate Christ in the details of one’s life for lack of generosity; it is quite another to want to adapt Christ to our way of life. This is exactly what the Modernist does. Two weeks ago we saw that for the Modernist, the Christ of History and the Christ of Faith are two very different people. Since the Christ of Faith is the product of my own thoughts and feelings, He becomes a Christ whom I can easily manipulate, one whom I can trim down to the size I think He should be. He has become a tame lion that we can lead around at will, that we can put forward as sponsoring whatever we feel like doing at the moment. Whereas Christ is no tame lion at all, as C.S. Lewis says, the Modernists have grown so used to making a Christ in their own measure instead of adapting themselves to His measure, that they see no problem at all with a faith and morals that evolve and change, contradicting themselves from age to age.
It’s not hard to see, my dear Friends, how monstrous such a mentality is, how abominable it is to take Christ hostage, making Him out to be whatever we want Him to be. From there it is only a step to making Christ into a social justice revolutionary, a pacifist hippy, and even a laissez-faire libertine. As long as you are nice and careful to recycle your rubbish, you can well be called a Christian. Such absurdity might evoke a smile, were it not the tragic reality we find ourselves in. This distortion of Christ which is used to promote whatever fallen nature feels like doing, is truly the abomination of the desolation. It is man putting himself in the place of God, as St Paul tells the Thessalonians (cf. 2 Th 2:2). To take God’s most precious gift to mankind, His Son, and to use Him to justify our evil tendencies, is the most heinous mockery of God. Just last week St Paul told us: Be not deceived, God is not mocked For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting (Gal 6:7).
If it is vital that we be conscious of this, it is not so that we can point fingers at those who are wrecking the Church; rather, is it so that we might be careful to avoid the trap ourselves, that we might truly let Christ live in us, take root in us, as St Paul tells us today. Jesus Christ, the true Jesus Christ, the only Jesus Christ, the One who is revealed to us in the Holy Scriptures, and who challenges us at every page of the Holy Gospel. Each of us, monks and faithful alike, must let ourselves be challenged each day by Our Lord, by His holy Gospel, by dwelling upon His words taken in their entirety, with no edulcoration, no watering down, no brackets, no pair of scissors.
The fake Christ of modernism says: I understand your situation, just do what suits you best and I’ll be content with that. The real Jesus says: If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not carry his cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple… Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple (Lk 14:26-27-33)
The fake Christ of modernism says: It doesn’t matter which religion you profess, or even if you make up your own. I know your heart, and the situation that is difficult for you, so don’t worry. The true Jesus says: Every one that shall confess me before men, I will also confess him before my Father who is in heaven. But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven. (Mt 10:32-33)
The fake Christ of modernism says that the only thing that matters is that people get along with each other, even if we have to tone down our preaching of the Gospel and adapt it to modern sensibilities. The true Jesus says: Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I came to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s enemies shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not up his cross, and followeth me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life, shall lose it: and he that shall lose his life for me, shall find it (Mt 10:39).
Talking about peace, St Pius X wrote in that same encyclical: “The desire for peace is certainly harboured in every breast, and there is no one who does not ardently invoke it. But to want peace without God is an absurdity, seeing that where God is absent thence too justice flies, and when justice is taken away it is vain to cherish the hope of peace. Peace is the work of justice (Is. 22:17). There are many, who, in their yearning for peace, that is for the tranquillity of order, band themselves into societies and parties, which they style parties of order. Hope and labor lost. For there is but one party of order capable of restoring peace in the midst of all this turmoil, and that is the party of God.”
And so my dear Friends, let us plead with Our Lord to grant us, through Mary Immaculate, the grace of getting to know Him, the true Jesus, intimately, to love Him ardently and to follow Him more closely, according to the beautiful prayer of St Ignatius. We have little time to do it, so let’s not lose a day. As the Psalm says: Now I begin (Ps 76).