Utterly Despicable

Utterly Despicable

Low Sunday

This Sunday in albis deponendis, meaning the day on which the neophytes deposed their white garments, is rich with many mysteries: the octave of Easter and therefore the omnipresence of the resurrection theme, the conferral of the power to forgive sins as the first fruit of the redemption, the events of the eighth day with Thomas’ reconversion to Our Lord, and the admonition of the Church to the newly baptised to continue to nourish themselves with the sacred doctrine of Holy Scripture in order to persevere in their newfound faith. It is upon this last point that I would like to dwell this morning.

Already yesterday, St Peter told the neophytes, and through them us: You have come to Christ as to a living stone, rejected by men, but chosen and made honourable by God… To you that believe, he is honour: but to them that believe not, the stone which the builders rejected, the same is made the head of the corner: and a stone of stumbling, and a rock of scandal, to them who stumble at the word, neither do believe. (1 Peter 2:4, 7-8). We have here the same message that already the prophecy of Simeon had declared: Christ is salvation for some, that is to say those who receive Him, and damnation for others, that is, those who reject Him.

In today’s epistle, we have St John telling us that the true victory that overcomes the world is our faith. We do not win victories by means of political campaigns; even less do we win them by force. No, our victory is that we believe in the Son of God and we have life in His Name. The victory, as all the apostolic letters tell us, is also everything that goes with the faith, and therefore the victory over ourselves, over our sins and over our passions; this is why today’s Gospel presents us with the power given to the priests to forgive sins. True victory is indeed that: victory over the world, the flesh and the devil, a victory that will last forever.

So we can say that the annual celebration of the Lord’s resurrection is really an annual reminder that we are already on the victorious side. At the same time, it recalls to us that there are conditions for remaining on that side, namely, fighting and winning the victory over sin and the power that sin wields in the world.

We all know that the power of sin is on the increase in the world. Mighty forces are leagued together to literally obliterate every vestige of a Christian world view. The latest news in Australia of the Religious Discrimination Bill proposed by the Albanese government would remove legal protection of doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings even in the context of preaching at a church service. A priest simply explaining Catholic teaching on marriage or sexuality to his congregation would have no automatic protection against a complaint being lodged against him under other anti-discrimination laws, either state or commonwealth, and could even be cited as breaching the proposed Religious Discrimination Act simply because a given person might find what he said ‘intimidating’ to his/her religious sensibilities. Further, the Albanese Government has also introduced a bill, titled the ‘Cost Protection Bill’ that will mean the person against whom the complaint is made could be liable to all the costs associated with any legal process, while the complainant has no financial risk.

In other words, this legislation would force priests to cease preaching the truth or put them at serious risk of heavy fines or even imprisonment. So the world wants us priests to never sound “intimidating”. Having looked up the definition of “intimidating”, I found that it means: “having a frightening, overawing, or threatening effect”. And then I began to wonder if any priest could possibly conjure up more intimidating words than these:

Ye brood of vipers, who hath shewed you to flee from the wrath to come? (Mt 3:7)

Or these: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).

Or these: The unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, they shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Ap 21:8).

Or these: Begone from me, you accursed, into eternal fire that was prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25).

It would appear after all this and many more verses that Christianity is an intimidating religion, in which case we priests would best prepare ourselves for a long retreat behind bars. The good thing is we will have more time for prayer and lectio divina. Hopefully there will be someone to bring us some cookies every now and then…

The priest’s role is to present the teachings of Christ, which are intimidating indeed for those who refuse to convert. The priest need only present the words of Christ without edulcorating them. But that is precisely what the powers that be want to prevent. There is a psalm that relays the words of the enemies of God, who want to abolish all God’s feasts from the earth. Today, they want to abolish any reference to the moral order, and God Himself will be censored. So be it. But let them know that true disciples of Christ never back down, they never give into to their intimidation. Let them try to intimidate us into not being intimidating. Let them know that we really do not care. They are so miserably pitiful in their lack of logic, utterly despicable in their hardly camouflaged attempt at silencing the very voice of God.

The Church has been here many times before, and in a way, we should stress that, with a longterm view, that of eternity, it is so very little to be concerned about. At the same time, sufferings can be great for the Church. That is why the encouragement of St John on this day is so important. The victory that overcomes the world is our faith. We do not need, nor do we want the applause or the approval or the consent of any government. We have no permission to ask of anyone in any government in this world.

We have our script, that is Word of God, and we go on repeating it in every age, inspiring souls to leave behind their vices which only make them miserable. Getting more people to applaud you in your vice is an ancient tactic that already St Paul had pointed out in his epistle to the Romans. But it does not give peace. Only the forgiveness of sins gives peace, which is why Our blessed Lord preludes the power to forgive sins with those sweet words: Pax vobis – Peace be to you. Only the struggle to resist sin gives peace. Only the prayer for and the reception of Divine Mercy gives peace. Today we have so many people bending the knee to the Rainbow Reich. They would do be better advised to bend the knee to Christ for in Him alone will they find mercy and peace.

Christ alone is our peace. Keeping the commandments is our peace. Standing up for the truth, whatever the cost, is our peace. So fear not. The Victor Rex has overcome death and He is among us forever.