8th Sunday after Pentecost
This morning at Matins we were given to read part of the prayer of King Solomon after the construction and dedication of the first temple of Jerusalem. Since this temple was the image of the Church, the promises God made to him at the time apply to the Church and to its history. God is clear: if you and your descendants are faithful to my covenant, you will be blessed. If you are not, you will receive a curse and will become a byword among the nations of the earth.
As is well known, after years of faithful service, Solomon fell away into idolatry, led there by his lust for women. After his death, the kingdom was divided in two and from then on calamity after calamity befalls the people, leading ultimately to the destruction of the temple and the Babylonian captivity. God did not however reject His people. The temple would be rebuilt, the one that Our Lord knew during His lifetime and that in turn would be destroyed by the Romans after the Jews had rejected their Messiah.
As already mentioned, the events of the Old Covenant prefigure those of the New. Periods of fervour are succeeded by periods of decadence and falling away, and then comes a time of repentance and restoration. Just as in the Old Covenant, the most grievous temptation for the Church is to look around at the pagan nations and let herself be influenced by them. The two catalysts of the Church’s demise in every age are sexual immorality and the worship of false gods, both of which we always find linked together, but nowhere more vividly than in satanic cults, in which part of the higher initiation is to perpetrate the most vile and degrading acts of abuse on children.
Whenever the Church allows herself to be influenced by false religions and infiltrated by sexual immorality, she enters a period in which the faith fades and is virtually lost. It is not hard to see that at the moment the Church is going through such a grave crisis of faith. That spirit of compromise which has affected the Church at every level, seeks to make her an accomplice in the vices of the world. This is the only reason for the unceasing push in the Church for accepting such moral monstrosities as abortion, homosexuality, contraception and euthanasia.
It is very important to be aware of these realities, but even more important to know the remedy. If the points of downfall are immorality and the worship of idols, then the healing is going to come through renewed desire for holy purity in our thoughts and actions, but also in our worship, excluding any compromise with error of any kind. What we need to do is not difficult to discern. It is shown to us in the lives of so many saints. What it does require of us, however, is spiritual energy, courage, perseverance, willpower.
Is that not the meaning of today’s Gospel, in which through the parable of the unjust steward, Our Lord seeks to get across a fundamental lesson in our spiritual lives and in the life of the Church: it’s not because our supreme goal is life in the spirit and eternal salvation that we must not make use of our wits in the service of God and neighbour. Those words: the children of this world are wiser should haunt us every day of our lives when we read of the still greater conquests of those who are on the side of evil. The way in which, for example, the gay lobby has swept through every single institution in the world and now flies its flag proudly over them all should cause us at once great wonder at the amazing shrewdness they show in their influence on the leaders of our society, and extreme sadness to see that while evil wins the day, the sons of light – of whom we hope that we are – are so very far behind.
To what extremes will not the promoters of sin go to push their agenda? And in what lethargy are not most of the children of the Church plunged day and night? Some of us often find ourselves praying for the return of the Lord to reestablish all things. While it is true that we are told by divine revelation that at the end of time, the forces of evil will be so prevalent that the charity of souls will grow cold, it is also true that never at any stage in Church history have the saints stood by and waited for the parousia as if there were nothing else that could be done. Such an attitude is redolent of acedia, or spiritual sloth, and can be seem as the easy way out.
The saints, for their part, don’t take an easy way. Whatever might have been the dire circumstances of their particular period in history, they rose to the task with a zeal and fervour all the greater in that the evil to be overcome was more vicious and seemingly insurmountable. They knew how to make friends of the mammon of iniquity, that is to say, they knew how to use earthly goods and talents, including their own mental and physical capacities, putting all to profit in the conversion of souls and the restoration of the Church.
What is the key to such a mentality? How did the saints manage to do so much good, even though they were no different from us, weak and hesitant by nature? It’s very simple. They took to heart St Paul’s words in today’s epistle: you have received the spirit of adoption of sons, whereby we cry: Abba, Father (Rm 8:15). God Himself has made us part of His own family. He has adopted us as His very own. He has given us access to His intimate life. If that is the case, then what can we possibly fear? If God be for us, who is against us? as St Paul says a bit further on (Rom 8:31). If we are truly the sons of God, then we have nothing to fear from the world, and we know that we will conquer in the end. Of course, as in any battle, some will lose their lives. They are the martyrs. But the fear of suffering or death never deterred a saint from doing the good that he or she was able.
What we must do then is fix our gaze ever more on Christ our Lord. Do not be afraid of the enemies. Fear nothing. We are the children of God, and the measure of holiness of the children of God is God Himself. That measure is not attained by looking at ourselves, but only by looking at Him. Our Lord seeks adorers in spirit and in truth, and we must aspire to give joy to His heart by being among them.
As we sang at the beginning of this Mass: the love and mercy of God are right here, in medio templi, in the midst of the Church, but its power and mission extends to the ends of the earth. The temple of God is also the Christian soul, and the perfection of the Christian soul lies precisely in charity, true love for God and neighbour. As a holy soul once said: “An act of pure love is a very great thing. Oh, if you understood that, you would not wish to learn anything else”.