Trusting The Father With St Charles De Foucauld

Trusting The Father With St Charles De Foucauld

8th Sunday after Pentecost

At the beginning of today’s Mass, we sang joyfully the verse from Psalm 47, the great psalm of Pentecost: Suscepimus Deus misericordiam tuam in medio templi tui- We have received O Lord Thy mercy in the midst of Thy temple, and this morning at Matins we commemorated the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem by Solomon. That temple was one of the wonders of the ancient world. It was seven years in the building. On that joyful occasion the Lord had assured Solomon: “I have sanctified this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and my eyes, and my heart, shall be there always” (3 Ki 9:3)

It seemed that the future would be bright for Solomon and his descendants, for the entire people of Israel. But we know that it was not so. That wonderful temple would be destroyed some four and a half centuries later, and the people would be dragged off into a long and hard exile. Finally, the temple would be rebuilt, the one that would be visited by the Prince of Peace in person, but it too would be razed to the ground, as we shall be reminded by next Sunday’s Gospel.

In the fullness of time, the Messiah, the Lord Jesus, came to earth to build another Temple, which would be His own Mystical Body, composed of living stones who are the faithful sons and daughters of the Church. When we look at the history of this Church, the new Temple, the one that will never be destroyed, we see certain similarities with the old. There are periods of prosperity and fidelity when the faith grows and spreads, when conversions are many and souls are saved. But there are also the periods of decadence and subsequent trial, which often resemble the captivity in Babylon.

We might ask ourselves: Why does this happen? Quite simply for the same reason it happened to the Hebrews. Solomon had been forewarned: “If you and your children, revolting, shall turn away from following me, and will not keep my commandments, and my ceremonies, which I have set before you, but will go and worship strange gods, and adore them: I will take away Israel from the face of the land which I have given them; and the temple which I have sanctified to my name, I will cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb, and a byword among all people. And this house shall be made an example of: every one that shall pass by it, shall be astonished, and shall hiss, and say: Why hath the Lord done thus to this land, and to this house? And they shall answer: Because they forsook the Lord their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and followed strange gods, and adored them, and worshipped them: therefore hath the Lord brought upon them all this evil” (3 K 9:6-9).

In the history of the Catholic Church there have been numerous episodes which are reminiscent of the tragic destruction of the Temple and the captivity of the Chosen People. One of the worst instances was the sack of Rome in 1527 when the eternal city was handed over to the cruelty of the imperial troops. For several days, they killed; they pillaged churches and homes; they raped women, girls and – one shivers at the sacrilegious thought – even nuns were violated by the godless soldiers; the city was reduced to a pitiable site, thrown to the ground, trampled under foot, humiliated like never before; Rome atoned for the sins of so many, including popes, cardinals and priests who had defiled it especially during the renaissance period with their luxury, lust and thirst for power.

In other words, what brings calamity upon God’s people is their sins, their lack of fidelity. And every time the Church is hit by any disaster, the reflex of her children should ever be to proceed to a serious examination of conscience. When evil seems to triumph, each of us has to ask ourselves how we have failed, in what we have not lived up to the dignity of our state of life. We have to be on our guard against spiritual blindness, which often has its source either in repeated personal sin or in failure to denounce it in others. When one is in a position of authority, either in the state or in the Church, it is not enough to disapprove evil in one’s heart; one must denounce it, not once but on every possible occasion. For decades now, our communities, both civil and religious, have been eaten away by evils so great that they call down the wrath of God upon us. I really need not remind you, but I’m afraid I must. We continue to murder untold numbers of children in their mother’s womb; we approve and bless sodomy; we corrupt our children by teaching them vice; we tolerate the murder of elderly and handicapped persons; heresy and immorality spread with impunity and are celebrated with the blessing of men of the Church. Is it any surprise that the failure to denounce such horrors should lead to spiritual blindness, to the incapacity to see the good where it is, and to promote it, instead of sanctioning and fighting against it? That’s the bad news, which we ignore at our own peril.

The good news is that, in the midst of that awful story, our story, God is present. Just as He was with the remnant of the Jews in exile, when He sent them prophets to proclaim a coming time of mercy, so today, however mighty the forces of evil might be, how much ever we might feel inclined either to succumb to evil and compromise with it, or to spend our lives in mulling over the darkness of the times or in angry reactions to the undignified behaviour and decisions of those in authority, in the midst of it I say, we know that even legitimately angry reactions do not define us. We are blessed to have the truth in its fulness, we are blessed to have the sacraments, the temple of Holy Church still stands, and grace still reaches us. We are free to praise and to serve and to live the truth. And that should give us joy.

Blessed is he who is not scandalised in me, says Our Lord (Mt 11:6). When we are tempted in these dark times to despair, we need to remind ourselves of these words. That Babe shivering with cold in sub-human conditions on a dark winter night in a stable for animals, that wretched naked worm of a man squirming with pain on that awful gibbet outside the walls of Jerusalem while the rabble taunts shamefully, that consecrated virgin stripped, mocked and violated by a good-for-nothing scoundrel of a soldier, that most gentle and loving of priests beaten and left to die of thirst in the bunker of starvation of a concentration camp, that God-fearing man scoffed because of his love for and veneration of the traditional rites of Holy Mother Church, that simple priest, pushed to the margin and excluded, mocked for calling out the evil that is condoned in higher places, while those who cast him out have continually at their lips the sweet, treacherous words of inclusion, dialogue, accompaniment and discernment: in all these cases and a legion of others, we need to remind ourselves: Blessed is he who is not scandalised in me. Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you (Mt 5:11-12).

What is the secret to making sure we are on the right side of the struggle? It is given to us in today’s communion antiphon. Gustate et videte quondam suavis set Dominus. Taste and see how good the Lord is. Taste and see, in that order. If you wait until you see, you will never taste the sweetness of God, nor will you ever see. Those who truly seek God, who spend a serious amount of time in serious prayer, they have an interior instinct which leads them to know and stay on the right path, to continually send spiritual riches before them to prepare the eternal tabernacle alluded to in today’s Gospel. So in the end, we can say that it’s all about prayer and silence. It’s all about knowing how to wait for the Lord, with absolute confidence that in the end, the good will triumph.

In today’s epistle, St Paul reminds us that we have received the spirit of adoption by which we cry Abba, Father. We truly are sons and daughters of God, God who will never let us down, even if we are sometimes let down by our earthly fathers, be they according to the flesh or according to the spirit. Earthly fathers often fail and hurt. There are many hearts of fervent Catholics around the world whose hearts are aching today, and they will ache for a very long while. In this dark hour, let us pray with St Charles de Foucauld:

Father, I abandon myself into Your hands; Do with me what You will. Whatever You may do, I thank You: I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only Your will be done in me, and in all Your creatures – I wish no more than this, O Lord. Into Your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to You with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into Your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, For You are my Father. Amen.

Charles de Foucald