Where True Joys Are Found

Where True Joys Are Found

4th Sunday after Easter

As we approach the feast of Our Blessed Lord’s Ascension, our holy Mother Church prepares our minds and hearts for the moment when He will no longer be among us in a visible manner. We have, since Easter, enjoyed as it were His visible presence, reliving liturgically by means of the paschal candle, what the apostles lived that first year of our era when, between the Resurrection and the Ascension, the Lord appeared to them, instructing them and preparing them for His departure.

For our consolation, He promises not to leave us alone but to send us the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, He makes it clear that He must go if the Spirit is to come. In our spiritual life, if we are to grow to spiritual maturity, we must be deprived of the consolations that are helpful in the beginning. Just as the visible presence of Jesus, necessary at the beginning, later became an obstacle because of the too natural affection it engendered in the apostles, so the disappearance of the props we needed in the early stages of our life in the spirit, leads to a faith, hope and charity that is deeper and opens up to authentic growth in sanctity.

Among the tasks of the Holy Spirit, is to lead to the truth: When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will teach you all truth (Jn 16:13). St Augustine points out that the Holy Spirit will continue to teach us the truth throughout all eternity, for in this life it is not possible for us to know all the truth. But if we are to be gratified with the fullness of truth in eternity, we must start here below. We therefore must be able to know with certainty the truth about God which is knowable in this life. This in turn shows us that there must be some way of being certain that what we profess about God is true.

This is an oft-forgotten point in a pluralistic, relativistic society in which all that really matters is being sincere. To my knowledge, nowhere in Scripture, nowhere in the Church Fathers, nowhere in Church teaching, is it said that sincerity makes one worthy of Heaven. Sincerity is an extremely volatile notion, for we all know by experience how easy it is to seek cover for our misdeeds or our cowardice under the guise of sincerity. Humans are very good at fooling everyone, including themselves, about their real intentions. That is why Our Blessed Saviour has given us objectively verifiable criteria for knowing the truths which are essential to salvation. This is why, when He came to this earth, He gave us objective facts to prove His divinity. These are His countless miracles and the fulfilment of the many prophecies of the Old Testament. It is clear from the New Testament that for the apostles, the failure to accept the countless proofs of Our Lord’s divinity could only be due to darkness of the mind: it is the veil of which St Paul speaks, which is over the eyes of those who do not believe. When they accept to humble their intellects to the revealed truth, the veil is taken away and all becomes clear (see 2 Cor 3:15-16).

The divinity then of Our Lord is what gives us the certitude that what He tells us is the truth. But when He left this earth and returned to the right hand of the Father, He did not leave us without a guide in matters of faith. That faith was bequeathed to the twelve apostles sent by Christ to teach the sacred and saving doctrine to the ends of the earth. Having such a lofty and important task, one upon which hangs the salvation of humanity, it is obvious that their teaching must be guaranteed as infallible by the very God who sent them. That is why the Holy Spirit was promised, to teach us “all the truth”. Indeed, as St James tells us in today’s epistle, God is the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration (James 1:17). God is light, there is no darkness in Him, writes St John (1 Jn 1:5). If He is light, then what He teaches us can contain no shadow, nor can it ever change.

This is the basis upon which, from apostolic times, the true Church of Jesus Christ has consistently put forward its claim to teach in an authentic way what has been revealed. Whenever a new question arose that demanded clarity, the Church knew from the very start that there was only one thing to do: turn to the successors of the apostles with and under the successor of St Peter, in order to have the word of truth. And so it is, that the soul desirous of knowing exactly what we must believe to be saved, can know without the slightest doubt what that truth is, and where to find it.

There are periods – and this is certainly one of them – in which, due to the influence of the spirit of the world, a certain amount of confusion can seem to reign, even in the Church. “This bishop said this and that priest did that”. Fortunately, the Catholic never has any reason to be confused about the faith, nor need he be concerned by what any bishop or priest may say or do when it is not in accordance with the clearly defined teaching of the Church. Such matters as the Trinity of Persons in God, the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Seven Sacraments, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the existence of Heaven Hell, final judgment, to name only the most fundamental, are beyond the shadow of a doubt for anyone who sincerely wants to know the truth and seeks it. The faith of the Catholic Church is not found in an obscure, dusty corner of some hidden medieval library, nor in the unending talkfest of modern ecclesiastical bureaucracies. No, it is clearly proclaimed in any number of small Catechisms readily accessible that lay out with precision all that the Lord bequeathed to His Church and which is necessary for salvation.

The Church has also received the mandate to teach the moral law and to condemn what is incompatible with it. The moral teachings of the Church are just as infallible as her dogmatic ones. When, for example, the Church condemns at all times and in all places such evils as abortion, euthanasia, homosexual activity, or contraception, her teaching on these matters is not up for grabs. Any member of the Church of any rank who would call them into question, even in one single situation, is thereby putting himself outside the Church and its long tradition that goes back to the apostles themselves.

All this has bearing on the upcoming Australian elections. The Catholic Church does not advocate any particular candidates, but she does give clear guidelines to help Catholics make their choice when they go the polls on election day. It is quite simple: to be a worthy candidate for public office, one must hold to the integrity of the moral law as taught by the Church. Why? Simply because all political matters, all economic matters, all matters of public safety and health, as well as international agreements, since they concern human beings who are moral beings, all have a moral end, and having a moral end, they are directly related with the eternal salvation of the soul. Therefore a candidate who does not embrace the moral law in its fullness is not apt to serve the public good. This is especially true if the candidate proclaims him/herself to be a Christian, for in that case, they are bound even more to a clear knowledge and defence of the moral law. A second consideration concerning out-coming candidates is this: one should consider their public record: how have they voted on moral issues? What is their declared stand on abortion, euthanasia, etc?, keeping in mind that a country that allows the murder of its children and elderly is under God’s curse and has no future whatsoever. Also, in the light of the past two years: have they advocated any measures that violate the most fundamental human rights, such as: freedom of movement within a free country; freedom to offer public worship in church; have they done violence to consciences and violated physical integrity by seeking to impose medical choices which are the unique right of each individual to decide? Have they prevented access to reception of the sacraments? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then it is clear that such a person is unfit for public office. These and other questions are among the ones that a Catholic voter should be asking him/herself, even though they are ones that those in power at the moment would like for us to forget.

Let us turn with renewed confidence to our Blessed Mother, and beseech her with increased fervour to touch minds and hearts, to open up those who stand over us in both Church and State to the perspective of eternity. Only in the light of eternity, can our earthly life be guided in peace and tranquillity.

O God, who makest the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant to Thy people to love that which Thou commandest and desire that which Thou dost promise; that so, among the changing things of this world, our hearts may be set where true joys are to be found.