The Chaplain's Log
Archives since August 14, 2012
For the past nine days, the Apostles have been waiting and praying along with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nine days ago they witnessed one of the most astonishing sights ever seen by man – their Saviour, right in front of them, rose up from the ground, ascending higher and higher until he was lost from their sight beyond the clouds of heaven. But he did not leave them orphans.
An orphan has neither father nor mother. First of all, with his dying breath on the Cross, he made sure the apostles had a mother: “Mother, behold thy son,” he said to his own most Blessed Mother, indicating his beloved apostle St. John. And of course St. John, the lone apostle at the foot of the Cross, represented all of the apostles, and all of us today, and Christ was giving his Mother to us poor banished children of Eve, to be our Mother. “Son behold thy Mother”. My dear faithful, behold thy Mother. And now, the apostles were gathered around this same Mother in the Upper Room, waiting for the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.
So Our Lord did not leave his apostles without a mother. And to be sure, the apostles had a father also, the same Father we acclaim in our prayers. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name!” The same Father we share today with the apostles, and the same blessed Mother – our sacred parents in heaven whom we love so much.
Certainly, Our Lord did not leave us orphans. But even then, Our Lord was not satisfied. He knew our weaknesses. He knew that we lacked faith. That we lacked strength. He knew of the future troubles and persecutions, the martyrdoms and the sufferings of his children. He knew that only Love, a tremendous Love, is capable of making us strong enough to withstand our temptations, to carry our crosses, to be able to live and die for him. And so he wanted to share with his most beloved creature, Man, that extraordinary love that exists between his Father and himself, a love so extraordinary that it defies description and must simply be labeled as a Mystery. That Mystery of Love binding Father and Son together, which is the Holy Spirit.
Pray often then to that same Holy Spirit the words of the hymn: “Come down, O Love Divine, seek thou this soul of mine, and visit it with thine own ardour glowing.”
As befits any great event, much preparation had to precede this descent of the Holy Ghost. God the Father began these preparations by enlisting the help of the Holy Virgin, giving her that most sacred privilege which is the Immaculate Conception, to ensure that his Son should have a fitting dwelling place wherein to be made flesh. With the cooperation of our Mother, he then sent forth his only-begotten Son, who was born of this Virgin Mary, and then suffered a most terrible death for us on the Cross. He opened the Gates of Heaven, he rose from the dead, he confirmed the apostles in their faith and gave them their mission, and finally he returned to his Father. All was now ready for the coming of the Holy Ghost. And yet even then, he willed that the Blessed Mother and the apostles should spend yet nine more days in prayer to prepare themselves for this greatest gift of God, which is Himself.
Finally, the day came, the day of Pentecost. And the hour came, the “third hour”, that is the third hour after the rising of the sun, the hour of Terce, mid-morning on the day of Pentecost. Today, and throughout this coming week, the Octave of Pentecost, Whitsuntide, we pray the hymn Veni Creator Spiritus at the Office of Terce, marking the only time during the entire year that a hymn at one of the Little Hours of the Breviary is changed for any reason.
Mid-morning on Pentecost Sunday. The hour at which the Holy Ghost descended upon the BIessed Mother and the twelve apostles. I want to stress the time to you now, as this is indeed about that same time when the Holy Ghost came down. This is why we must pray very fervently here and now, that the same Holy Ghost may descend now upon us all, here present in this church of Our Lady, in Monroe, in the State of Connecticut.
This town has suffered much this past year, along with our neighbours in Newtown and Sandy Hook. And the inhabitants of this town should be proud of the love and compassion that was shown to those who suffered the most. These towns, where, as once in Bethlehem so many years ago, Rachel wept for her children because they were no more. To you was given this singular burden and trial, and today, we must beg God that the Holy Ghost may descend upon us with his sevenfold gifts, and give us the Faith and the Fortitude not only to continue to show such Love and Compassion to our neighbours, but also the Faith and the Fortitude simply to live our Catholic lives during these most extraordinary and difficult of times.
Pray therefore. Pray that we may be led not into temptation, pray that we may be delivered from evil. These are not easy times to practice our Christian faith. We are called upon to struggle simply to hang on to what those before us took for granted. Our Holy Mass, our Sacraments, our Catholic way of life. We have seen what happens to our poor friends who remained trapped in the abuses of Vatican II. They have lost so much of their faith, they barely even know any more what it is to be Catholic, a son or a daughter of the Church. And who can blame them? Who could continue to have allegiance to the sacrilegious substitutes they have in place of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, their liturgy which ranges from the banal to the downright ugly?
Cast your eyes towards heaven therefore and pray. Look up to that heaven into which Our Lord ascended in triumph and from which the Holy Ghost descended on the feast of Pentecost. Keep your eyes forever focused on heaven, detach yourself from the world, save your love only for the things that are of heaven. Do this and the Holy Ghost will bring to you this day the gift of Wisdom.
Learn your faith and the truths of our holy religion as well as you can, and the Holy Ghost will give you his gift of Understanding. And how important this gift is in today’s world where the understanding of our faith has been left to so few of us! We who have been chosen to pass the torch to our children must plead with God for this gift of Understanding.
And where there are choices to be made in life, when we aren’t sure what to do, whether this path is the right one, or that one or another, pray that God will help you choose correctly the road that will lead most directly to your salvation, and which will be to the greater glory of God. The Holy Ghost brings his gift of Counsel to help you with these choices and make sure you do not fail to follow God’s will.
He offers you this day his gift of Fortitude. When we find it difficult to pray, when we are tempted, when we cannot seem to summon up the strength to practice a particular virtue, when the overwhelming burdens of this world weigh most heavily upon us, his gift of Fortitude is there to help us overcome these obstacles and carry these crosses.
And then, like the Finger of God’s right hand pointing the way, the Holy Ghost brings his gift of Knowledge, pointing out to us the road to follow, the dangers to avoid, in order to do our duty and reach heaven. And again, in these days where dangers abound in numbers and magnitude unimaginable to our forefathers in the Faith, it is this gift of Knowledge that will surely be our present help in time of trouble, guiding us like a lighthouse in the tempest, to our eternal reward.
Finally, the twin gifts of Piety and Fear of the Lord, help us in two different ways to reach that same goal. Piety, by inspiring us with a tender and childlike confidence in God, making us embrace joyfully anything that pertains to his service. While the gift of Fear fill us with a respect for God, making us dread, above all things, to offend him.
With these sevenfold gifts that the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, offers to us today, we have the seven pillars upon which we can build our lives and maintain our Catholic peace in this world of insanity. They are ours for the asking. And today, Pentecost Sunday, is the day on which to ask. When we were confirmed, we became warriors of the Holy Ghost, did we not? The history of our Church is filled with examples of such warriors. We think of mighty St. George who fought the dragon. Of St. Michael Archangel who cast into hell the devil and his angels. But think too of a little girl in Italy, who fought for her chastity and who died a martyr’s death not too many years ago, St. Maria Goretti. Or another little girl in France, who became a great warrior, the Maid of Orleans, who drove out the English from the shores of France in the Name of the Catholic King. Today, I hope you will not drive out the English from your shores. But I do want you, all the same, to pray to receive these seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost, to become true Warriors of Christ. From the oldest among you, veterans of past wars, down to the two little girls of this church who today will receive their first Holy Communion.
Let the Holy Ghost descend upon you. Open up your heart to his inspirations. Cooperate with his graces and become Warriors for the Catholic Faith, so that your forefathers in heaven today may look down on these sons and daughters of Connecticut, New York, wherever you’re from, with pride. For Pentecost marks the birthday, the coming to life, of the Holy Catholic Church. In his encyclical Mystici Corporis, Pope Pius XII states that “the Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church”. The soul. The principle of life. In other words it is the Holy Ghost who gives the Church the impulse to accomplish God’s will, thus enabling her to fulfill her mission, the continuation down through the ages of the redemptive work of Christ. Just as the soul quickens the body, so too does the Holy Spirit quicken the Church. Indeed we invoke the Holy Spirit in the Credo at Mass as “the Lord, the giver of life” (Dominum et vivificantem). He kindles in the Church her zeal for the glory of God and the salvation of souls. He gives light and strength to her shepherds, fervor and energy to her apostles, courage and invincible faith to her martyrs.
And we few Catholics who are left to preserve the true faith are the only remaining apostles left in this world. We are apostles and we have our mission. It is up to us to complete the mission Christ gave his first apostles, that redemptive work of giving glory to God and saving souls. Let us meditate profoundly on this mission, and fulfill it, each of us, to the best of our ability. And may the Holy Virgin, full of grace, intercede for us to that same Holy Ghost, by whom her Son became incarnate, that we may rise up as Warriors today to carry out this apostolic mission. Let us follow her example in the Upper Room, that we may first receive and then cooperate with the gifts of the Holy Ghost, that we may each help in our own way to renew the face of the earth.
Since his Resurrection from the dead, Our Lord has appeared many times to his beloved disciples. For forty days now, he has been seen amongst them, walking with them on the road to Emmaus, entering the Cenacle through locked doors, calling to them from the shore as they were fishing in the See of Genesareth. He has explained many things to them, things for which they were not ready before his death on the cross, but which now they would need to remember and take with them on their voyages over the seas and beyond to evangelize the nations. He had called Peter to be his rock, the rock upon which he would build his Church, he had instructed the apostles to go forth unto all nations, teaching and baptizing in his name. Finally, on the fortieth day of Easter, which is today, he appeared one last time to them near Bethany on the Mount of Olives, and there he gave them their final instructions—that they should remain in Jerusalem and there wait for their baptism with the Holy Ghost.
It is difficult to imagine the feelings of the apostles that day. There were only eleven of them. One of them had taken another path, betraying his friends, and then committing suicide in a final act of despair. The others had lived to see Our Lord put to death, and then to see him walking again in their midst, the miracle of the Resurrection. These were men that had seen so much! So many miracles. Healings, exorcisms, walking on water, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread, and then finally that indescribable moment when they first saw Our Lord after the crucifixion, after the third day. What had all these events done to the psychological makeup of these simple men from Galilee? I could hardly say, I’m no psychologist, but it makes you wonder, doesn’t it, what was the reaction of these men, who probably thought they had seen it all, what on earth could have gone through their mind, when Our Lord finished speaking to them today, and started rising up into the air…
In our childish fantasies, we think of the Ascension of Our Lord, and we think of him floating up to the clouds with the apostles standing on the ground and maybe waving. Like a navy family on shore watching their son’s ship pulling out into the harbor. Only one member of the family hadn’t come along to see him off. There’s no mention of Our Blessed Lady in the account of the Ascension. It’s possible she was there, but I doubt it. I prefer to think that Our Lord had a private meeting with his Mother before his Ascension in front of the Apostles, a meeting where he made his own private farewell, in words that were never meant to come to the ears of the Evangelists, never meant for our ears.
So with no Blessed Mother to look to for guidance what did the Apostles do now when they saw him gradually getting smaller, smaller, until he disappeared into the clouds and was seen no more? What does one do after such a spectacle as this? Banal conversation would seem so out of place, the shock of the scene could not have left them much in a mood for discussion or even for prayer. It must have been one of those moments when all you can do is just stand there and give your brain time to adjust to the enormity of what it had just seen. Our Lord certainly knew they would need help with this, and so he sent them two men clad in white apparel—angels obviously. And as the eleven apostles gazed into the sky with their mouths wide open, these angels break the shocked silence and say to them: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven?”.
And with a jolt these eleven apostles returned to the practical consideration of what to do next. They had their instructions—not to depart from Jerusalem. So they obeyed their Master’s last command, and journeyed back to the Holy City, about a day’s journey away. They went back to the Cenacle, that same Upper Room where Our Lord had celebrated his Last Supper with them, where the Holy Mass had been instituted, where they had been ordained, where they had returned a day later overcome with horror and grief at their sight of Our Lord in the agony of his final Passion and death. This was their comfort zone, the place to which they returned. And they remained there nine days.
The first order of business was to take care of the group. Christ had called Twelve Apostles, mirroring the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Judas had died a traitor’s death, and now they were only eleven. And so Peter, called by Our Lord to be their leader, made his first act as first Pope, and called an election to fill the vacant chair left by Judas. Accordingly they drew lots and chose Matthias to be the Twelfth Apostle. And then they sat back and they waited.
By now they had been joined by Our Lord’s Mother, the other faithful women, like Mary Magdalene and her sister Martha, Mary the mother of James, Salome, and the rest. Many of the other disciples also flocked to the apostles to hear of Our Lord’s Ascension and to find out what they should do next. But they didn’t really know what else to do. They had been told to wait. And so wait they did. They waited and they prayed. Prayed for nine days. You’ve often heard this time called the First Novena. They prayed their Novena, not knowing it was a nine-day novena, not knowing what would happen next or when.
Let’s come back to the 21st century now. Two thousand years later, and the last anyone saw of Our Lord was this day twenty centuries ago. He has not been seen since. We are still waiting for his Second Coming, still praying, still not knowing what will happen next. We live in a world where certainly, anything could happen at any moment. There are nutcases all over the world who could pull the trigger any minute and plunge the world into catastrophe. Most of us here today will remember that day in September 2001 when our smug peace was shattered as those planes flew into the Twin Towers and our lives changed forever. When is the next big event going to take place? When are we going to get a phone call in the middle of the night from some relative telling us to turn on the news: “You’re not going to believe this…” What scenes of horror lie out there in that dim and scary, oh so uncertain future, waiting for us? And so we wait and we wonder.
We are just like the twelve apostles, aren’t we? We cling to our comfort zone, and there we stick like glue. And we wait. And hopefully we pray like they did. But we wait and pray with fear.
The apostles need not have feared. Look at all the promises Our Lord had given them. For example, he had just promised them he was going to heaven to prepare a place for them, for us. He promised them he would send the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. He had promised that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there is he in the midst of them. That he would be with his Church until the consummation of the earth. But they continued to fear. And so do we. We have not learned that lesson yet. The lesson not to fear. Learn it today on this feast of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven, when our Paschal Candle is extinguished for the last time and the Light of the World is hidden from us till the end of time. Hidden, Christ may be. But absent he is not. He ascended into heaven, but where is heaven. Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere. Only a thin veil separates us from this hell on earth from our heavenly paradise. Only a thin veil separates us from the tabernacle here in which is contained God himself. But again even in the tabernacle he is hidden in the veil of the host, unseen to our eyes. Some of the saints learned to see beyond this veil, to see the angels, and the demons too, as they winged their way to and fro, influencing us for good and evil. We need to learn to look in the right way for God, beyond our fears, our distractions, our needs, and our trivialities. Learn how to see God where he truly is, which is everywhere. Don’t take this too far. We don’t want to become scientologists or pantheists, where God is a tree, every tree, every blade of grass. No. God is not a tree. But remember that indeed his majesty and his awe, his delicacy and his love for us is reflected in the nature he created. And in his greatest creation of all, mankind, fashioned in his own image and likeness, then surely there, in our fellow man, we can find the face of God. In the smile of a baby, sure that’s an easy one. But look too in the face of your enemies, for there God is surely also.
And finally, take a lesson from God’s supreme creation, the Blessed Virgin Mary, conceived without sin, Mother of God and Virgin most pure. When all else fails, let us do what surely those apostles must have done as they waited for the coming of the Comforter, and that is to turn every now and again to Jesus’ mother, now their mother, and now ours. How much solace they must have drawn from her presence there with them, from that face that resembled his, as they waited and prayed. Don’t stray far from her side. For she is the one, the only one who has been given the privilege to follow Christ, body and soul, by being assumed into heaven. She is our inspiration that we too shall one day join them both, in in blessed bliss, forever and ever. Amen.
5th Sunday after Easter
“Ask, and ye shall receive. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”
It seems so obvious to us, doesn’t it, that whenever we want something, we simply ask for it. We have many ways of asking: from a simple request to getting down on our knees and pleading, begging, for some favour. The more we want something, the greater lengths to which we are prepared to go in order to get it. And who better for us to ask than the good Lord God Almighty, from whom all blessings flow, and from whom all good things come. “Ask, and ye shall receive.” So we ask God for the things we need. And from his bounty we receive.
The Latin word for “ask” is “rogare”, from which we get the word “rogation”. Which is why today, the Fifth Sunday after Easter, is usually referred to as “Rogation Sunday.” Because of this reference in the Gospel “Ask, and ye shall receive.” And the three days that follow, Monday through Wednesday of this week, these are called “Rogation Days”, because on them we pray the so-called “Lesser Litanies”, where great processions used to be held through the villages to bless the fields and the crops. In some places these processions are still held even today.
What day then could be more appropriate on which to have our May Procession? On a day which has been set aside to ask God for the favours we need from him, what better day on which to carry the statue of Our Blessed Lady in humble procession, and ask her to bestow her own sweet favours on her children. For who is it that takes our petitions to God and makes them her own, interceding for us at the throne of the Most High, making most of the time her simple requests, but if necessary pleading with her Divine Son that our prayers may be answered. And he, who turned water into wine at her request, he who can refuse his Mother nothing, he answers her petitions. Not some of the time, not even most of the time, but every single time. “Never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thine intercession was left unaided.”
Let us remember these things as we walk in procession around the church today. And let us thank God also for another small gift from his Divine Providence for giving us today the feast of Pope St. Pius V. This was the great Pope of the Holy Rosary, who urged all Christendom to pray for the defeat of the Moslems at the Battle of Lepanto, and whose prayers were most resoundingly answered. May this church of Our Lady of the Rosary resound with her praise today, as we celebrate her coronation in heaven. May our prayers ascend as incense in the sight of God, to be brought before his throne in praise and thanksgiving.
Yet another tiny little gift of Providence this morning is one which is barely worth a mention. And yet such a simple gift carries a lesson, a lesson that the great Almighty God cares, even in the tiniest of details, for those who come to him in prayer. This other little gift from God today is just one of those simple “coincidences”, that the melody of the Introit at today’s Rogation Sunday Mass is exactly the same as for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady on December 8th. It’s not important in itself, and most of you probably would not have noticed it at all, but God is making the connection for us between Rogation Sunday and Our Lady and her May Procession. And I just wanted to share that with you, another little sign that the good Lord is smiling down upon us all this morning, and in a sense, helping to orchestrate our little endeavours to make things “nice” for his Mother. Truly, there is nothing that makes God happier than when we and all generations shall call her blessed.
Today then is a special day. It is a day set aside for making your prayers to God. A day of Rogation. I hardly doubt that each of us can think of plenty of things to pray for. There’s no need to burden you with a litany of worthy favours that you should be begging God to provide. However, I’d just like to mention to you a couple of things for which you should not pray.
Fortunately, God is all-wise, and knows how to answer our prayers, even when we ask for something stupid. Or worse still, for something wrong for us to have. I was on a website the other day, reading through some of the prayers that people had posted. There was one anguished prayer from a young woman who was trying to conceive a child without success. I started to feel sorry for her, and then read the rest of the plea where she explains how she and her boyfriend have been trying so long to have a child. Her boyfriend! As though God would bless such illicit unions with good fruit!
It’s certainly possible for us to pray, unthinkingly, for favours which would go contrary to the will of God. It’s especially possible for those not of our faith, those unfortunate, ignorant children of protestantism and modernism today, uneducated by their false religions or their Novus Ordo upbringing. One of the worst examples I saw was a prayer uttered the other day by none other than the President of the United States of America. In his address to “Planned Parenthood”, the nation’s largest abortion provider, he assured them first of all “You’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you fighting every step of the way.” Fighting to kill more babies! And then he had the blasphemous audacity to call down Almighty God himself to bless, to bless the work of these baby-killers. Prayers like this are for God to answer in his own way. And you may be sure that he will answer them, and in his own way. Let not your heart be troubled…
The idea then is when you pray, let your prayer always be ultimately that the will of God be accomplished. What you pray for should certainly not go directly against his will, as in the case of the pathetically confused Barack Obama. But neither should it be focused on our own will. Sometimes these prayers are made innocently. “Please God, don’t let Grandma die.” Meanwhile, Grandma is 110 years old and suffering from Alzheimer’s and lung cancer. Pray for the right things. Because when we, with our fallen nature, pray for things our fallen nature wants, we are obviously going to tend to pray for what is not good for us. “Please God, let me win the lottery.” Don’t pray for things we don’t need! There’s a prayer in one of the responses of Matins that is repeated at one time of the year, that says basically: “Lord, I don’t pray for riches, but I don’t pray for poverty either. Please just give me what is necessary to get by.” This is the kind of prayer God answers. Our Blessed Lady herself tells us so in her Magnificat: “He hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.”
We know God is smiling down on us today, ready to hear our prayers. After the High Mass, join our procession round the church, sing your praises to Our Blessed Lady, as we crown her statue and acknowledge her Queen of Heaven, Queen of the Angels, Queen of the May. And amongst all this rightful praise and veneration, slip in your little requests, your little rogations, and ask God for the needful things of life, and most importantly for the grace of a holy life, and when the time comes, a holy death in the welcoming arms of Jesus and our Blessed Mother.
4th Sunday after Easter
Today is the Fourth Sunday after Easter. Four Sundays already since Our Lord’s glorious Resurrection from the dead, and only a week and a half to go before his equally glorious Ascension into heaven. Not long now before Our Lord leaves this world to go back to his Father. These are the twilight times, the last golden days of Our Lord’s earthly visitation, when the Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary, the Divine Word was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us. In the Gospel he is preparing his apostles for his departure, his return to his Father in heaven. They know it is getting late and that he cannot stay with them much longer. They are saddened by their master’s imminent departure, and seek to cling to him, like a little boy whose mother has to leave him for a while. “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.” The darkness gathers, and if we are well attuned to the Church’s liturgy, we too will feel that twinge of sadness, that sense of imminent loss.
But make no mistake. This is no death watch. Christ has died already. And on the third day he rose again from the dead. And so he consoles his disciples that his departure will not be one of sorrow, but that he will rise in glory to the sound of the trumpet. He consoles them that unless he depart from this world and return to heaven, they will not be able to receive the Holy Ghost: “It is expedient for you that I go away,” he says. “For if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” The disciples had no idea what Our Lord was talking about. Who was this “Comforter” who would come unto them after Our Lord had left them? They did not know that Christ was telling them about the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity would descend upon them with his sevenfold gifts.
To be honest, the apostles had other things on their mind. This promise that Our Lord made to them in today’s Gospel was actually not made just before his Ascension. Christ made these promises in a far different context. It was in fact the night of the Last Supper. They had just eaten their last meal with their Lord before he was betrayed by one of their own, Judas, to be led away to die on Calvary. This was not a happy time for the apostles, and it is unlikely they were able to concentrate too clearly on this future promise of a Comforter. And so, and possibly in part for this very reason, Our Lord gave them another gift that night. He knew they needed to be comforted now. Not just later after his Ascension. But now when all the horror of the Great Night of Darkness was about to descend, here, now, was the need for comfort.
Thus was instituted the great Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. “This is my Body,” said Our Lord that same night. "My Body that is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” Not content with sending us the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Christ left us his own Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Holy Eucharist. The next day, Christ the Eternal High Priest would sacrifice that same Body and Blood to his Father in heaven. But first he would establish the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in which that same Body and Blood would be offered daily on the altars of his Holy Catholic Church throughout the ages. The very same sacrifice as on Calvary, identical, except for the shedding of blood. The same priest, Christ the High Priest. The same Body and Blood of the same Our Lord Jesus Christ, offering the same sacrifice to the same God in heaven. Bringing with it a continuation of the graces and merits that flowed from his sacred wounds on Good Friday.
This, my dear faithful, is the lesson we have before us today. Not just a Gospel story. But the reality of what Christ speaks in the Gospel. We have here a gift so great that we can never comprehend its magnitude. A gift from the very height and breadth and depth of the infinite God. A gift from the Sacred Heart of Jesus. A gift for you and for many, unto the remission of your sins.
I won’t waste your time by reminding you of how our brethren in the conciliar Church have come to treat this greatest of all gifts. How they chatter away in their churches, clapping their hands, hugging each other, dancing even, all dressed up in their jeans and t-shirts, ready in the depths of their mortal sins to grab the Host from the painted fingernails of some Eucharistic mini-skirted minister. I don’t need to remind you of what you have already rejected. Pray for these poor deluded children of God, for they have no idea of what they do.
But what about us? Let us not even think about congratulating ourselves just because we do not act like gorillas in the presence of God. We owe more to him than that. It takes more than wearing a mantilla to be worthy of receiving this Sacrament. More than putting on your Sunday best, more even than all your fasting and all your prayers. It takes everything we have, and then it isn’t enough. So who then shall approach this altar to receive this gift today? Who considers himself worthy, good enough, to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion? But let us call to mind the last words we hear before we approach the Communion table to receive Our Lord on our tongue: “Domine, non sum dignus.” O Lord, I am not worthy. None of us is worthy. But God commands us to approach nevertheless. “Say but the word, and my soul shall be healed.” By the very act of receiving Holy Communion we are healed. We must never think lightly of receiving Holy Communion. But neither must we fear to approach.
The Church requires only three things for you to receive Holy Communion: that you are a baptized Catholic, that you are fasting according to the rules with which you are all familiar, and that you are in a state of sanctifying grace. We are very familiar with these rules, and I hope none of us would even think of receiving Holy Communion right after eating, or worse yet, in a state of mortal sin. And by the way, while we’re on the subject, let me just remind you that some of you may be in danger of committing a mortal sin very soon. Easter Duty! It binds under pain of mortal sin, don’t forget! There are only a few weeks left now for you to perform this Easter Duty of Confession and Communion. Make sure you take care of this and don’t leave it till the last minute.
Now let me ask you another question. It’s a good question, and one which we hear often enough. You probably think you have the answer too, but I’d just like to add a few thoughts to the standard response, and then you can see where it leads you.
The question is “how can I best attend Mass?” “What is the best way of participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass?” Many of the popes have taught us through the ages that the faithful should not just attend the Mass, passively, like mindless sheep grazing in the pasture. You are exhorted to take part in the Mass. And here of course comes that standard response I mentioned, namely that the best way of attending Mass is by silently but attentively reading with the priest the words of the missal. Especially the propers of the Mass which vary according to the feast, and which are in keeping with the spirit of the feast or liturgical season. I cannot stress to you enough the importance of doing this. For many of you it will be enough. But for others it may be just the springboard from which your soul may rise up to contemplate the very essence of what is happening, the renewal of the Sacrifice of Calvary, the re-opening of the Sacred Heart of Jesus from which all blessings flow. Use a brief passage to focus on, and then be transported into the presence of God, to the very foot of the Cross. Just as the Blessed Mother participated in her Son’s Sacrifice on Calvary. Hers was no passive attendance, just standing there watching and feeling depressed. Our Lady united herself with her Son’s intentions, offering him to God thse Father as he himself did. We can share in the role of the priest in some way, by offering this divine Victim to God the Father. Be careful here. The Novus Ordo has taken this concept and exaggerated it in such a way as to increase the role of the people, substituting it for the ordained priest (think of those horrible Offertory processions where some well-meaning elderly couple or scantily clad teenagers bring up the “gifts” to the altar, think of those Eucharistic ministers again, priest facing the people instead of towards God, reception of Holy Communion in the un-anointed hands of the non-ordained). But there is still a way for you to participate in this priesthood, simply by joining the priest in offering Our Divine Saviour to Our Father in heaven.
A sacrifice requires not just a priest but also a victim. And I hardly need to point out that the Novus Ordo don’t pay much attention to this aspect of participation in their New Mass. But in the true Sacrifice of the Mass, of course the Victim is the Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, the “Salutaris Hostia”, the Victim of Salvation. But this same Lamb of God tells us “Take up your cross and follow me.” We are called too to be victims on our own crosses, our very own Calvaries. When we pray the first Sorrowful Mystery of the Rosary, when we really pray it, do we not dare to say the words of Our Lord, “Please, take this chalice of suffering away from me, nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” Do we not dare to agree to accept whatever crosses God gives us? And how are those Crosses? Do they hurt? Of course they do. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be crosses. It’s always so amazing, isn’t it, how we all recite the Our Father: “Thy will be done”, or the Angelus “Be it done unto me according to thy word,” and then complain when God answers our prayer and those heavy crosses are placed upon our shoulders. But this is one of the most effective ways there are to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It’s a real participation. You are offering yourself as a victim, sharing in the suffering of Our Lord, participating in his Sacrifice. When the priest turns round to you after the Offertory, and says to you “Orate, fratres”, take a look at the words that follow in the Missal: “Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice and yours, may be acceptable unto God, the Father Almighty.”
Make Your attendance at Mass on Sunday the great highlight of your week. Not because of the nice music, the beautiful ceremonies, or because you like the smell of incense, or you get to see your friends. But because it is your great opportunity actually to take part in the Sacrifice of Redemption, offering Our Lord and your very being itself, to God for the salvation of mankind. Surely, that beats anything else you do during the course of the week? This is the gift of the Mass, and when Our Lord departs from this earth on Ascension Thursday, and the Light of the World as represented by the Paschal Candle, is extinguished one last time, this gift abides, on our altars, in our tabernacle, waiting for you.
3rd Sunday after Easter
For those of us blessed to have been born into a loving, caring family, we hold in our hearts many cherished memories of our childhood. We remember a place called “Home”, and all the happy times we enjoyed there. We remember when we first left home, perhaps to go off to college, or to fight overseas in the war, and we remember the wrenching ache in the pits of our stomach as we yearned to be back home, home with our mother and father, our brothers and sisters, home where we were loved and cared for by those we loved the best. Home, sweet home! And the older ones among us today, what would we give to be back home one more time!
The idea of home, then, is very dear to our heart. For those fortunate enough to live still at home, you parents and children, thank God for these wonderful days you still have, do all you can to help one another, to work together, to make your home a home after the heart of God, a truly Christian home. Do this and your home will be to you the dearest spot in this world—a paradise of happiness.
To help us turn our home into such a paradise on earth, God has given us the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Those loving patrons of family life, perfect examples each in their own way of how a mother, a father, a child should be. Holy Mary, God’s Blessed Mother, was a model of purity, charity, and godliness, caring for her divine Son with tender, loving affection. Her spouse, the good Saint Joseph, the provider, the protector, taking care of his spouse and the Child entrusted to him. And Our Lord himself, who the Gospel tells us, was obedient unto them. How could a home like theirs not have been anything but the most sublime and loving paradise on earth? An example for us all to follow.
Today is the Third Sunday after Easter, and the Sunday within the Octave of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. We have already celebrated the first and more ancient feast of St. Joseph on March 19th. But this date always falls during Lent, and so we are prevented by the somber atmosphere of fasting and penance from celebrating the feast with all the solemnity it deserves. And so the Church provides us, on the Wednesday during the second week after Easter, with a more fitting Solemnity of St. Joseph, complete with an octave, a full eight days where we can contemplate the virtues and example of this great saint, foster father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
On his feastday on March 19th, we celebrate St. Joseph as the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We are reminded at that time of all that he did to look after and protect his Spouse and the young child entrusted to them by God. Indeed he did such a good job of protecting his Holy Family that he was given another role to play in the history of our redemption, one that he continues to work at long after his death, even unto the present time. For Our Blessed Lord so loved his parents on earth that he gave them another reward, over and above that of their eternal recompense in heaven. He rewarded them by continuing until the end of time to entrust them with the safeguard and protection of his person. No longer his physical body, but now his mystical body. The Church. When, from the Cross, he gave his blessed Mother to St. John, he was giving her to the Church, to us, so that we might flee to her protection, implore her help, and not be left forsaken. And he did no less for good Saint Joseph. Through the decrees and liturgy of his Holy Church, he made St. Joseph the supreme Patron and Protector of that Church. And it is in this aspect that we revere St. Joseph on this second of his feastdays, this great Solemnity and its Octave which we are currently celebrating.
And is it not truly right and fitting, that St. Joseph should be not only the head of the Holy Family, the head of the household, the head of the home, but that he should also be the head of that other great Family, the family to which we all belong, the family of the Church! This Church which is, or should be, our second home. Not just the entire family of the Roman Catholic Church, but even our own intimate little family here at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel. I hope your memories of this home will one day fill you with the same happy memories, the remembrance that here you were cared for, here you were loved, here you were fed with the graces of the Sacraments, here you experienced that peace and joy of being in the presence of God in the tabernacle, and in your souls at Holy Communion. Prepare now for a future that will bring you such happy memories. Don’t waste your opportunities to make this second home your paradise on earth. Pray to St. Joseph, especially during this great Octave, that he will grant that prayer we say in the 26th Psalm: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will require; even that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.”
To dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. To dwell in the state of sanctifying grace, a member of God’s holy Church, God’s holy Family. All the days of my life. And then what? Those “days of my life” and your lives, are slowly ticking away. In the midst of life we are in death. Slowly (or perhaps more quickly than we know) we are approaching that portal we call death. It is a portal, a gate, by which we leave our home here in this world, and go to our eternal home in the next. It is a portal that we fear, perhaps, because it is outside our experience, unknown. And God understands this fear, and has given us a helper for that day on which we take the step from this world to the next. And we should not be surprised that this helper, this Patron Saint of the Dying, is again, St. Joseph. He who according to tradition, died blissfully in the arms of Jesus and Mary. Who could ask for a more blessed death than that? He who is the Patron of the Universal Church. Universal—we all know that the Church is divided into three branches, the Church Militant, we living souls here on earth, the Church Suffering in Purgatory, and the Church Triumphant, the saints in heaven. St. Joseph is there with us wherever we go, precisely because he is the Patron of the entire universal Church, Militant, Suffering and Triumphant. And so he provides for us and protects us in this life, he prays for us during our sojourn in Purgatory, and he rejoices with us when we reach our final destination. And he remains with us every step of the journey, just as he accompanied the Blessed Mother every step of the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem, as he accompanied her and their Son during the Flight into Egypt, and later back to their home in Nazareth. He remains with us as we transition from Church Militant to Church Suffering, and from Church Suffering to Church Triumphant. Because he is the Patron of the Church Universal. He abides with us from one home to another.
And by the way, it is surely no accident that the freemasons, during their reforms of the liturgy in the 1950s, saw fit to desecrate this divine plan by abolishing the Solemnity of St. Joseph and its Octave. As they began their attack on Holy Mother Church, the Feast of her holy patron Saint Joseph was, I think, the very first feastday they got rid of. It is such a sad thing that many of our friends in other traditional churches no longer venerate St. Joseph in his God-given role as Patron of the Universal Church, choosing instead to honour its masonic replacement, a secondary feast on May Day—the Communist feastday—calling it the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. What a poor substitution! Let us pray for the restoration of the Solemnity together with its Octave, that St. Joseph may once again be given the honour he truly deserves.
But to get back to this passage from earthly life through death to eternal life, which is common to all men, there’s just one more observation I’d like to point out, which is the one exception to the rule. Because one man’s journey took a slight detour. This man of course is our divine Saviour. He lived his life of 33 years, it is true. And then he died, it is true. But what followed next was completely without precedent, nor will it ever happen again. He rose from the dead, and remained on this earth for a further forty days. Only then would he ascend into heaven for all eternity. During the Church’s liturgical year, we are now in this rather strange and unprecedented period of forty days between his Resurrection and Ascension. And because this is a strange and unprecedented time, we must try and understand Our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel in that context. “A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.” Because Our Lord wants us to look beyond the narrow boundaries of our own home here in this life. He bids us look beyond the grave; he points heavenward, and bids us think of our “eternal home.”
But here lies our difficulty during this transitional period of 40 days between Easter and Ascension: the apostles are overjoyed that Our Lord has risen from the dead, that he walks once more amongst them. But gradually, Our Lord is making it apparent to them that he must leave them, that he must return to his heavenly home with his Father. And so, in spite of our Easter joy, we have now the beginnings of a twinge of sadness in the knowledge that Christ must leave us. We are now counting down the days to the moment when he will rise up and be seen no more until the end of time, to the moment when the paschal candle will be extinguished, and the light of the risen Saviour dimmed until his Second Coming.
There is a famous English hymn, which is typically sung at funerals, but which can be applied equally well to this time of year. Its first lines are taken from the Vespers of Eastertide: “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide.” Let us make these words our own, as we seek to keep Our Blessed Lord with us as long as we can. Cling to the hem of his garment, and ask him to abide with us. But at the same time be consoled by his response: “And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.” Our heavenly home sweet home awaits.
This is where we should be looking during these forty days. Towards our eternal destiny. Every day during this season we say these words at the Office of Prime: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” St. Joseph will help us if we ask him. He will help us through our life, through our death, our suffering and our triumph. Keep the name of this our beloved Patron always on your lips, and the sight of your eternal home ever before your eyes. And as that wonderful old hymn describes so beautifully:
Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven's morning breaks, and earth's vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.
2nd Sunday after Easter
During the darkest hours of the night, the Church’s thoughts revert to the worship of God. In monasteries and abbeys and convents all over the world, monks and nuns, souls dedicated to God, rise from their beds in the middle of the night, and make their way to the chapel. There, by the light of the flickering candles, they will sing the Office of Matins, their solemn chant rising through the night air, even as incense in the sight of God. And each night the Office begins with the chanting of what is called the Invitatory, the invitation or call to prayer, the 94th psalm. And as the world sleeps, these men and women of God sing through this psalm, until suddenly, in the middle of their solemn verses, they come to these words, and fall to their knees, calling upon all Christians everywhere to adore their God: “O come, let us worship and fall down, and kneel before the Lord our Maker: For he is the Lord our God; and we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.”
We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Reflect for a moment, this Good Shepherd Sunday, on the utter simplicity of these words, and the humility it takes to say them and mean them. We have no trouble of course, thinking about Our Blessed Lord as the Good Shepherd. But did we ever really stop to consider what that makes us? We are the sheep of his pasture. Now if anyone were to tell you that you were a bunch of sheep, I’m sure that your first reaction would be to take offence. Who wants to be thought of as a sheep? For after all, what is a sheep? Nothing more than a stupid animal, mindlessly following the sheep in front of him, as the flock moves about, bleating, without a single thought in its collective head. The sheep has none of the aggression and hunting skills of animals like the lion. It has none of the cunning of the fox, none of the loyalty of the dog, none of the usefulness of a beast of burden like the horse, the ox, the mule. The sheep is just a mindless creature, too stupid even to fight or complain when it’s being led to the slaughter. No. We don’t want to be thought of as a sheep.
But many of our enemies often do refer to us Catholics as ignorant sheep. According to them, that’s exactly what we are, sheep who mindlessly accept whatever Rome tells us. Never thinking to question anything, we blindly follow our popes and bishops, doing whatever they tell us to do, believing whatever they tell us to believe, not a single original thought in our heads. Just obeying, always ready to fill the pews on Sundays to be fleeced by our shepherds.
Obviously, we must take some time here to make distinctions. All comparisons fail in one or another aspect, and this is no exception. So we must take the aspects of “sheepness”, and reflect on which of those aspects should apply to us and which we must reject. For a start, don’t be the type of sheep that blindly follows any shepherd, good or bad. Our Lord tells us to beware the false shepherd. You already took this stand when you rejected the changes of Vatican II. You have turned your backs on the false shepherds that have tried to lead you astray, and so in this sense you have acted not like mindless sheep, but have obeyed the advice given by St. Paul, that “if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” You have not practiced the kind of blind obedience that follows the false shepherd, even when he leads you over the cliff of heresy, or delivers you to the wolves of false ecumenism, married clergy, the destruction of the Mass and the Sacraments. See to it that you continue to remain faithful to this “same gospel that ye have received”. Beware of any false shepherds, any man, pope, bishop, priest, conciliar or traditional, who suggests anything to you which is not according to the faith we have been taught. Never listen to suggestions merely because they appear to come from a pious man, nor because they seem to be prompted by a regard to the will of God. We may be always sure that, if we are to be tempted, it will be by someone having a great appearance of virtue and religion.
So what kind of sheep are we supposed to be then? Obviously not by blind trust in our shepherds today. Today’s Gospel shows us how we should approach this. It shifts the focus from us as the sheep to Our Lord as the Shepherd. The Good Shepherd, who lays down his life for his sheep. So let us take a brief look at the role of the shepherd, so that we can find our own true identity as his sheep.
The shepherd’s job, simply put, is to look after the sheep. To care for them. He loves them, feeds them, and guards them. The shepherd is the man who will make sure they are fed, that they are led to waters where they can drink in safety, he will look after them when they are sick, search for them when they are lost, protect them when they are attacked by the ravening wolves. All this is the job of the shepherd. Some shepherds have their hearts only partly in their job. These are the mercenaries Our Lord talks about, those who don’t mind feeding the sheep, watching over them, but at the first sign of trouble run away, saving their own skin and leaving the poor sheep to the wolves. But the good shepherd does more. He is not content with just feeding and guarding his sheep. He is ready to lay down his life for his sheep. And of course, the pre-eminent Good Shepherd, Our Lord himself, did just that, giving his sheep life at the cost of his own. He came into the world in search of men, who, like stray sheep, had wandered away from the sheepfold, and had become lost in the dark valley of sin. And he died for these, his people, the sheep of his pasture.
So we can see perhaps a little better now, that when Our Lord refers to himself as the Good Shepherd and to us as the sheep of his pasture, he is providing us with a striking and most beautiful analogy of the loving relationship between God and his people. And in this analogy, the aspects that apply to us now become obvious. Who among us has not been at one time or another one of those “stray sheep”, wandering around helplessly in sin. Which of us does not need to be loved, fed, and protected? Are we not all fed by our Good Shepherd with sound doctrine, the great truths of the Faith, and above all the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist? Are we not all protected by our Good Shepherd, who preserves our souls daily from the attacks of the devil by his loving grace? Is there anyone amongst us who can honestly say that God does not love him, or her, and in fact that he didn’t love each of us enough to die on the Cross for us that we might have eternal life? This is our Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep of his pasture. We are the trusting, grateful sheep, who place all our confidence, all our faith, in this our Good Shepherd, who follow him wheresoever he leads us. And we will stay faithful to him, not straying from our pasture, but as loyal sons and daughters of the Church, preserving our Faith, our Holy Mass, our Sacraments. And in this pasture of the Good Shepherd, we place ourselves entirely in his hands, and because he is a “Good” Shepherd, we will have nothing to fear under his protection, and we will want for nothing.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want: he maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters, he restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his Name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. And surely thy mercy shall follow me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. ” (Psalm 22)
The Latin word for shepherd is “pastor”. So when we priests read the Gospel of Good Shepherd Sunday, we read it from a different point of view than you, the faithful. Like you, we too are the sheep of his pasture. But we are also conscious of the very heavy burden of responsibility we have as your pastors, your shepherds, the ones whom God has chosen, for better or worse, to lead his people and the sheep of his flock. None of us can say, like Christ, “I am the Good Shepherd.” If we do compare ourselves ever with the Good Shepherd, it is only to realize our own shortcomings in performing our duties as shepherds of souls. For this reason, I ask you today to please pray for your pastors, your shepherds. Ask God to grant us the graces we need to feed you with the right doctrine, to provide you with the true Mass, valid and holy sacraments, to protect you from errors of the faith and from dangers to your morals, to heal you when you are sick with the Sacraments of Penance and Extreme Unction, to seek you out when you go astray. Orate pro nobis!
But please, don’t even think of going astray! There are wolves out there when you wander over the river and into the woods. Many demons and other beasts of prey who go about as a roaring lion seeking whom they may devour. As we say in Compline every night: “Whom resist ye, steadfast in the faith.” So stay safe in the true fold of this Faith, safe in God’s grace, remain as God’s people and the sheep of his pasture. So that “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him,” you may be gathered together by the Good Shepherd one last time. For “then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
Today is the Octave Day of Easter, a week since the Resurrection of Our Lord. We know this day by many other names: as Low Sunday, for example, to contrast it with the “high holydays” of the Sacred Triduum and Easter itself. Or as Quasimodo Sunday, after the first word of the Introit. A common name in Latin is Dominica in Albis. The word “Albis” means white and refers to the white robes of the newly baptized catechumens, who have been wearing these “albs” during Easter week, and who today would finally put them aside after receiving their First Holy Communion. In the Eastern Church today is known as St. Thomas Sunday, after the story in the Gospel of Doubting Thomas.
Whatever name we give to this first Sunday after Easter, we are reminded of the continuation of the Easter season beyond the octave itself. In our churches, the lilies continue to adorn our altars, and white continues to be the liturgical colour. The Alleluia, so long suppressed during the time leading up to Easter, is now used more than ever, with the Great Alleluia replacing the Gradual and Tract before the Gospel. It is still a joyful time, and I hope this joy is reflected in your sense of peace and tranquility, knowing that the gates of heaven have been re-opened.
Our joy during this extended period of Eastertide, however, can be nothing like the breath-taking joy experienced by Our Lord’s disciples during that very first Easter week. In the Gospels of Easter week, we see example after example of Our Lord’s apparitions to his apostles and disciples. One of the most moving of these of these accounts is the story of St. Mary Magdalene, and the path she walked, from anguish to mere worry, and then from panic to exsultation.
Her anguish of course came when she stood at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, along with the Blessed Mother and St. John. Poor Mary Magdalene, who seemed to spend so much time at the feet of Our Lord. We remember her in the house of Simon the leper, the Saturday before the Passion, when she broke the vase of precious ointment, pouring it over the feet of Jesus, bathing those feet with her tears and wiping them with her hair. Now we meet her again at the foot of the Cross, unwilling to tear herself away. Her burning love for Our Lord makes her indifferent to everything else. She wants him and him alone, the rest doesn’t interest her.
On Easter Sunday she cannot keep herself away from Our Lord, and returns early that morning to the sepulcher. She immediately notices that the stone has been rolled away from the entrance to the tomb, and she is gripped by anxiety: “They have taken away my Lord.” So strong is her fear of not being able to find him, that she seems to become disoriented, and questions everyone she meets, repeating the same questions: Who could have taken him? Where have they taken him? She tells it to St. Peter and St. John, who come running to see for themselves. She tells it to the Angels she finds at the tomb. She tells it even to Jesus himself, when she mistakes him for a gardener.
The other women, when they find the sepulcher open, they go in to find out what has happened. But Mary Magdalene runs off to bring the news to the Apostles. Then she returns. She comes back to the empty tomb. She isn’t really sure why, but she knows she must remain close to the place where Our Lord’s body had been, that body she wants to find at any cost.
She sees the Angels, but is so consumed with grief at not finding Our Lord, that she doesn’t marvel, she doesn’t even have room for fear in her heart, or any other emotion. And when the Angels ask her: “Woman, why weepest thou?” she has only one answer: “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.” Later, Jesus asks her the same question, and Mary, totally absorbed in her own thoughts, doesn’t even recognize him, but “thinking that it was the gardener”, she says to him: “Sir, if thou hast taken him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.” The thought of finding Jesus has now so occupied her mind, that in her panic she doesn’t even feel the need of giving his name; it seems to her that all the world must be thinking of him too, that everyone would immediately understand.
We think back on the Resurrection as a joyful occasion, we who have the benefit of knowing the whole story. But imagine the worry, the panic even, of one like Mary Magdalene, who loved so much (said Our Lord) that she was forgiven so much. One who loved Our Lord with every fiber in her body, where there was no longer any room for other loves in her soul, or for other desires, or pre-occupations. The movements of this soul were directed solely towards God, and through all her other thoughts, words, and deeds, she did nothing but seek God alone.
How far removed is this from our own state. How regrettable it is that our own love of God is so lukewarm in comparison with this woman’s. How it must wound Our Lord, bitterly, when he hears our poor excuses why we don’t desire to be holy, or at least to be without sin, when we consider someone fanatical because they want to go to daily Mass or receive Holy Communion as often as they can. And yet we make these excuses all the time. We’re too pre-occupied, too busy with other “important” matters for intangible things like “Sacraments.”. As if anything could be as important as God. As our salvation.
Keep this picture of yourself in your mind. And then compare it with the picture of Mary Magdalene dashing around in her panic to find Our Lord. How ashamed we should all feel at our lack of true love for God, our lack of desire and enthusiasm to find Our Lord.
There is a story about a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: "Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God." The monk was muscular and burly. He said: "Do you really want to find God?" The young man answered: "Oh, but I do."
So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after two minutes the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After five and a half minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: "When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will find God."
The key to finding God is simply how much you desire to find him. St. Mary Magdalene, on that first Easter morning, wanted desperately to find her Lord. And when the man she thought was a gardener spoke to her, calling her by her name, “Mary,” she finally recognized him, and fell once more at her familiar place, at the feet of her master. The Good Shepherd “calleth his own sheep by name, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice”. When Mary hears her name, she recognizes the Lord and cries out, “Master!”
At that moment she was perhaps closer to God than she had ever felt before. Her Lord was risen from the dead, he was truly God. And she must have reached out to clasp again those feet over which she had so recently poured ointment and dried them with her hair. But this time Our Lord pulled away and said to her gently: “Noli me tangere” – “Touch me not”. He is God, the Most Highest, the Most Holy. There is always an infinite distance between the Creator and his creature, between the one who is, and the one who is not. And the nearer the soul comes to God, the more it is made to realize (as Mary Magdalene was so very gently reminded by Our Lord that first Easter Sunday) that there is this infinite distance, and so is born in us a profound sentiment of reverence for the supreme majesty of God.
Today Our Lord is asking us the question he asked of St. Mary Magdalene. “Whom seekest thou?” Can we reply that we are seeking him alone? Look in the mirror and ask yourself the question. Could it possibly be that your answer is something like: “Well, yes, I’d like to find God, but if I don’t I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.” How far removed is this from the desperation of St. Mary Magdalene, or the young man with his face in the water gasping for air. He wanted to be a saint. But this wasn’t the answer he was looking for. He thought the monk would tell him to recite a list of prayers, or give his coat to some poor beggar, but this? This desire to breathe so strong he has no ability to think of anything else…
We are not Protestants who believe that because they simply “accept” that Jesus is Lord, they are entitled to heaven. For us Catholics it is not so easy. Or rather we are not so simple-minded as to believe that that is all God requires of us. He died on the Cross for us, not so that we can just smile and say thank you, but so that we will learn by his example that it is in a life of struggling against our fallen nature, struggling to carry all our heavy pains and sufferings (our crosses), struggling to practice virtue in the face of the persecution and mockery of others, and in the face of the lukewarm and selfish appetites of our own poor flesh, it is only in all this that we may learn to find our risen Lord. And we never quite get there, there is always that infinite distance between us and him. But if we desire it, we will do what it takes. We will struggle. And we will persevere until we find him. And how great will then be our joy when our loving Shepherd calls us by our name, and we can finally lie down at his feet for ever.
This last week was Holy Week as you know, the single most solemn and spiritually demanding of all the weeks of the year. The joy of today’s feast cannot be fully appreciated unless you experience it in stark contrast to the emotionally devastating path you were asked to make with Our Lord on Good Friday, the path known as the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross. I hope you made that journey with Our Lord this week, and that you now understand what I mean, and are able to feel the wonderful joy of the risen Christ.
Another reason why I’d like to revisit Calvary this morning is because of what else happened there. On Friday we were focusing, and rightly so, on the suffering and death of Our Lord. But something else very interesting was going on at the same time, and if we would just go back there today for a few moments, we can observe these phenomena and see them for what they truly were.
So put aside your joy for just a little while, and journey with me back to what was probably the most striking moment in all of human history, in more ways than one. Stand with me now at the foot of the Cross. The moment of Our Lord’s death is approaching. Look up at him hanging there on the Cross. But then look beyond his poor battered body, the head crowned with thorns. Look up into the sky behind him. Storm clouds are gathering in the heavens, great black ugly clouds. There’s something just not normal about them, and as you glance around to see if others have noticed, you notice the growing unease among the soldiers and the jeering Jews. They too have seen the coming storm and are anxious to bring to an end the long torture of their victim on the Cross if only so they can return home. The soldiers prepare to give the death blow to the three men hanging on the crosses of Calvary. Christ and the two thieves are now suffering the worst torture of crucifixion, the final suffocation, as they use up all their available remaining strength to pull themselves up a few inches so that they can take another breath. They can do this only for so long, before they are unable to summon up enough strength to raise the full weight of their bodies. When this happens, they will be unable to snatch even the smallest of breaths and they will die. But it’s taking too long. The soldiers want to get back to their barracks before the storm breaks, and they take out their heavy wooden hammer to break the legs of the three men. This will prevent them from being able to continue raising themselves to breathe. It will kill them. Meanwhile, the clouds continue gathering, and the heavens turn black. The sun is hidden behind the blackness, and all the world falls into darkness. At this moment Our Lord breathes his last words: “It is finished,” and expires on the Cross.
Imagine the great flash of lightning suddenly illuminating this scene of horror, silhouetting the figures of the Blessed Mother and St. John, who gaze up with the dawning realization that Our Lord has stopped moving, stopped breathing. That he is dead. Simultaneously, a gigantic clap and roll of thunder blots out the dying cries of the two thieves as their legs are smashed to pieces by the soldiers’ hammer. The Romans now shove the Blessed Mother to one side so they can finish off Jesus. But finding him already dead, another soldier pushes his long spear into Our Lord’s side, just to make sure. Blood and water flow from the side of Christ, mixing with the rain as it starts to pelt down in huge drops over the Cross.
And then more thunder. Thunder like the world had never heard before, not even during the great flood of Noah. Thunder so loud that it made the ground shake, and the rocks were rent. Down the hill in Jerusalem, in the midst of God’s holy temple, the high priest is preparing to enter the Holy of Holies as he does once a year for the feast of Passover. As he approaches the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple, he looks up to see a great bolt of lightning pierce through the roof of the Temple and tear this veil right down the middle. The Old Covenant is over. All around the city, men and women run out of their houses as the earth shakes. The quakes continue far beyond a normal earthquake, causing great upheaval of the land, buildings are crumbling and falling, and in the cemeteries, the ground opens up, and the dead rise and walk about the streets of the holy city.
What a moment that must have been! No wonder then, that a simple Roman soldier, on guard at the scene of crucifixion at the top of Calvary, would gaze around at what was happening as Jesus died, and say, with awe in his voice, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”
Christ had led a life of obscurity, born in a stable, raised as a carpenter’s son in Nazareth, and lately living a nomadic existence as he brought new hope and a new faith to the chosen people. To the bitter end he had endured the mocking and taunting of the soldiers and the Jews: “If thou be the Son of God, descend from the cross, save thyself!” But this was not in God’s plan of course, and Our Lord patiently endured his cruel and most painful death. But scarcely had he drawn his last breath, when his divinity revealed itself in such a powerful manner that it impressed even those who, up that moment, had been jeering and scoffing at him. He may have patiently endured his torment, but this was after all the Divine Word of God, He without whom was made nothing that was made. The enormity of this crime caused Nature itself, the very universe which he created, to rise up in one great protest against a mankind who would try to destroy their Creator.
This great rebellion of Nature was proof of Christ’s divinity, even at the moment of his death. This rebellion transformed the moment of his death from merely a moment of defeat into a moment of victory. And the whole world was made witness to this victory. And those of good will would be forced to acknowledge that victory. Truly, this man was the Son of God. It was the greatest victory the world would ever witness, the victory over sin, the victory over death (which was the consequence of sin), the victory, which restored to man the life of grace. It’s the reason we call it “Good” Friday.
And now I want to tell you something most strange and most wonderful. We have been focusing on that incredible moment of Our Lord’s death, so awful in its apparent finality, and yet so awe-inspiring in its true meaning of victory and redemption. But the only reason we can understand this underlying message of hope and triumph is because, let’s face it, we have the benefit of hindsight. We know how the story will unfold after Our Lord’s death scene. We know “how it comes out.” “On the third day he rose again from the dead.”
Today is that third day. It is Easter Sunday. The day of the glorious Resurrection. “Hail thee, Festival Day, blest day that art hallowed forever.” “This is the day that the Lord hath made; let us be glad and rejoice therein!” Yes, we can look back from our vantage point to these events of two thousand years ago, and we can see the forest, not just the trees. One of those trees, the tree of Calvary, the Cross, is merely one aspect of the Redemption story. This moment of unparalleled drama surrounding the death of Jesus is, as I said, perhaps the most striking moment in all of human history. But, surely, isn’t there another moment, even more striking, even more dramatic, even more phenomenal in its import and significance. I refer of course to the moment, not when Christ died, but when his soul re-entered his lifeless body, and he rose again from the dead.
What of that moment? We’ve seen what happened at his death. What more could nature display than the great thunderstorm, the earthquakes, the shock and awe of all those terrible events? How was God going to “top” that?
And so here’s the strange thing I wanted to point out. And indeed it is both strange and wonderful. For as Our Lord’s soul left his body to the accompaniment of thunderclaps and lightning bolts, it returned to his body like the “still, small voice of calm.” His resurrection from the dead in many ways resembled his nativity 33 years earlier in Bethlehem. Only this time, there was no fanfare, no mighty choirs of herald angels singing Gloria in Excelsis Deo, no mysterious stars in the heavens leading wise men from afar to the holy sepulcher. There was only the simple silence of the night—this one note of Christmas was repeated on the first Easter—Silent Night, Holy Night. And somehow, in the midst of all that silence, all that holiness, the divine soul of Jesus Christ, only-begotten Son of God, rejoined his broken body in that tomb, and a heart began once more to beat, blood began again to flow through veins and arteries, and the Son of God lived once more.
Perhaps there was a great flash of light, imprinting the image of Our Lord on the Holy Shroud? Perhaps so, but what noise does light make? Maybe there was some commotion as the great stone guarding the entrance to the tomb was rolled back? Again maybe, but it apparently didn’t wake up the soldiers who guarded it. No, this greatest event in the entire history of our world was unseen and unheard, silent in its magnitude, tranquil in its supreme moment of victory and triumph.
And what is the message this conveys to us on this joyful Easter Sunday? Simply this: that in spite of our human nature, and its need to proclaim from the rooftops that “Christ is Risen”, we must remember that the simple and perfect truth of the Resurrection transcends all this joy and fanfare, and is ultimately a message of peace. When Our Lord appears to his disciples after his resurrection, he greets them with the words “Pax vobiscum”, Peace be with you. And to you today I say the same: Peace be with you. Be at peace. The turmoil of Calvary is over for another year. Just as the turmoil of your own lives will one day come to a similar end. But the hour of our death, which would otherwise be a terrible and fearful thing, has been turned into the hour of our glory, our own glorious resurrection. For when that hour comes, if you have lived a godly life under the shadow of the Almighty, you will all, my dear faithful, be able to lay down your heads one last time and say the words of the prophet: “I will lay me down in peace and take my rest. For it is thou Lord, only, that makest me dwell in safety.” And when that moment of drama, of sadness and bereavement, has passed, and your soul departs this vale of tears, you will be able to rejoice in that final eternal Eastertide in heaven, in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection, which was promised to us, vouchsafed to us, and handed down to us in that first Easter night so long ago.
This is the true joy of Easter. Remember it through the other joys that are meant to be nothing more than its pale reflections: the end of the Fast, your new Easter bonnet, the Easter Egg hunts, maybe a few days off work or school. Easter is so much more than these trivialities. Rejoice by all means in these things, but don’t forget why. Don’t forget that peace which has descended now upon us all, as we breathe this fresh Easter morning air, and sigh with relief that the gates of heaven have been re-opened to us. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” This is the peace that offers joy without limit, and on behalf of Fr. Rodriguez and myself, we wish to all of you and your families, an abundance of that peace, and a very very Happy Easter. God bless you.
One of the most poignant moments in St. Matthew’s Passion comes in the Garden of Gethsemane when Our Lord is so overcome with emotion that he falls down on his face. And lying there on the ground, he manages to lift his head a little, and raise his voice to his Father in heaven, with these words: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
We stand today on the threshold of Holy Week. A week filled with suffering. Our remembrance of our Saviour’s sufferings for us. As the week relentlessly proceeds, we are drawn closer and closer to the Cross, until at last on Good Friday, we walk the hill of Calvary with Our Lord, we stand beneath that Cross as he is raised upon it, we listen to his last words, and we watch him die. And if there is love in our heart, any love at all, for that Saviour who gave so much that we might live, we are moved to tears of grief at these terrible sights. We weep with Our Blessed Lady, his Mother, we weep with St. John, his beloved disciple, we weep with the Angels.
It is good that we weep. But how quickly do we forget our tears as the joys of Easter replace these dark days with the glorious good news of our Salvation, as Our Blessed Lord rises from the dead. In one sense, this is as it should be. The glorious mysteries of the Rosary have every bit as much right to our attention and emotions as the sorrowful. But it is perhaps a sign of our own shallowness, that as soon as those happy festival days of Eastertide are come, we tend so quickly to forget our tears, to the point where we actually turn our back on the price of that happiness that we are then enjoying. That heavy price which is the bitter suffering of the Son of God made Man.
How do I know we turn our back on his suffering? It’s very simple when you think about it. It’s because we are so very ready to turn our back on our own sufferings, our own crosses! We are so very ready to pray with Our Lord: “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” – without bothering to pray the second part. We just say: “O God, take away this suffering from me. It’s more than I can bear. It’s not fair I have to suffer when I try so hard to be a good person. Why don’t you punish sinners with crosses like this, instead of giving them to me? What did I do to deserve this?”
And we forget the second half of Our Lord’s prayer: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” “Thy will be done!”
“Aha!” says the blasphemer, as if he has stumbled across some profound and thought-provoking truth, “What kind of God do you Christians worship that wills suffering? How can a loving God allow suffering in the world? All he has to do is snap his fingers and we could all be happy right now. So why doesn’t he?”
It’s a question we have all struggled with at some time or other. Usually when we are suffering, naturally. Sometimes the overwhelming depths of woe we encounter in our lives threaten to drag us under into the cold, dark abyss of despair. But only if we have completely the wrong idea of who God truly is. Only if our superficial picture of God is nothing at all like the all-loving, caring Creator that he actually is.
I want to explain to you today something which is of vital importance in each of our lives. My message to you is perhaps not something you will need today, or tomorrow. But I guarantee that each of you will need it some day. We all have to suffer eventually, some most bitterly. But there is consolation to be found in our suffering if only we would look at it the right way.
For a message of such importance, rather than entrust your souls to my own words, I prefer to read to you from the writings of that reverend master of the spiritual life, Belgian Carmelite Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen. Take these words home with you in your hearts, meditate upon them, and discover how a loving God wills us to suffer.
“The Cross is suffering viewed in the supernatural light of faith as an instrument of salvation and sanctification, and therefore, as an instrument of love. Seen in this light, the Cross is certainly worthy of love: it is the outstanding means of our sanctification. Our union with God cannot be accomplished except through suffering. St. John of the Cross has explained the means by which the soul is to be purified, scraped to the bottom in order to reach this life of divine union. A program of total mortification is required to break all our bonds, for we have within us many obstacles which keep us from being entirely moved by God: and the accomplishment of this work is impossible without suffering. But active suffering, that is, the mortifications and penances inspired by our personal initiative, is not sufficient. We especially need passive suffering. In other words, the Lord himself must make us suffer, not only in our body, but also in our soul, because we are so covered with rust, so full of miseries that our total purification is not possible unless God himself intervenes directly. To plunge us into passive suffering is, therefore, one of his greatest works of mercy, a proof of his exceeding love.
When God acts in a soul in this way, it is a sign that he wants to bring it to very high perfection. It is precisely in these passive purifying sufferings that the concept of the cross is realized pre-eminently. In The Living Flame of Love (2, 27), St. John of the Cross asks why there are so few souls who reach the plenitude of the spiritual life: and he answers: ‘It is not because God wants to reserve this state for a few privileged souls, but because he finds so few souls disposed to accept the hard task of purification. Therefore, he stops purifying them, and they condemn themselves to mediocrity and advance no farther.’ It is impossible to become united to God without these spiritual sufferings, without bearing this ‘burden’ of God. Suffering and interior desolation alone enlarge the powers of the soul and make it capable of embracing God himself.”
I told you last week that we need to be men and women of courage to be able to carry our crosses with Jesus up the hill of Calvary. I’m talking about real courage, ‘true grit’. The kind of courage that trembles each time before pronouncing the words of the Angelus “Be it done unto me according to thy Word,” or before hearing those words of Our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not as I will, but as thou wilt”. These men and women tremble, yes… but they repeat those words anyway. They repeat them as their own. “Yes Lord, I want to do thy will, not mine. Thy will be done.” These are the men and women God is looking for in his Church. These are the men and women who would never condemn themselves to mediocrity and advance no further. These are rather the men and women who will take up their cross and follow their Saviour to Calvary.
One little saint who had such courage was St. Catherine of Siena. In a vision, Jesus presented her with two crowns, one made of gold, fashioned with diamonds and glistening jewels, and the other one made up of thorns. He asked her to choose which of the two crowns she would like to have. Her answer was astonishing: "I desire, O Lord, to live here always conformed to your passion, and to find pain and suffering my repose and delight." Then, she eagerly took up the crown of thorns, and pressed it down upon her head. Do you have that kind of courage? For sure enough her life was transformed into one of terrible pain and sorrow. You need to be careful what you ask for. But if you are a generous soul, full of the love of God, and not one of those superficial types who weep a few forced tears of compassion for Our Lord this Holy Week, if and only if you are generous and courageous enough to repeat Our Lord’s words during his Agony, and mean them, “Not as I will, but thy will be done,” then you will surely merit to weep great torrents in your lifetime, and be swept along in the tidal wave of your tears of suffering into the eternal and immeasurable love of God.
What a grim and lonely feeling we had this morning when we walked into our church to find all our images and statues gone. Well, not exactly gone, but hidden. Hidden beneath these gloomy purple drapes, taken away from our reverential gaze for a while, removing from us, it seems, all consolation in this the most solemn and austere of the Church’s seasons which begins today, the climax of our Lenten penances, the holy Season of Passiontide.
Today, we also lose the joyful Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, the Gloria Patri is not sung at the Asperges or the Introit, nor said by the priest at the Lavabo. And then of course, whenever we look around the church, seeking relief perhaps, or some distraction, from the severity of the Church’s liturgy at the altar, what do we see? Once again, we are faced with these grim reminders of the coming Passion and Crucifixion, these purple hangings.
We older ones recognize these trappings as part of the Church’s calendar. We see the statues draped in purple, and immediately we think “Passiontide”. But please, parents, take a little time if necessary and explain to your children what is going on. All these purple figures standing around the church can be sometimes a little bit bit scary for a small child, and it’s your job to reassure them from whatever unpleasant theories their little minds might conjure up for themselves. I remember when I was younger, they reminded me of purple ghosts, and I was afraid to go into the church alone after dark.
But what do all these purple figures represent? What is meant by hiding all these images? The brief answer is to be found in the last few sentences of today’s holy Gospel. “Your father Abraham,” said Our Lord to the Jews, “rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” Then said the Jews unto him, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?” Jesus said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple. Jesus hid himself. And as he hid himself from his people in those days before his Passion, so too today he hides himself behind all these purple veils. Not just himself, but even those images of his Blessed Mother and the saints who followed him. We remember a time when God was hidden from his people.
The last time I spoke to you here, we were concerned with the first two Sundays of Lent. Today we begin Passiontide and our focus now is on the last two Sundays of Lent. And believe it or not, there are some similarities. Look back to the First Sunday of Lent for example. Remember how Christ went out alone into the wilderness? And now today, the First Sunday in Passiontide, he again goes off by himself, hiding himself from the people. And then the Second Sunday in Lent, if you remember, dealt with the transfiguration of Our Lord, as he appeared in all his glory before his apostles, strengthening them for the coming Passion. Just as next Sunday, Palm Sunday, we shall be strengthened one last time before his Passion, as he is glorified, this time before all his people, when he makes his final triumphant entry into the holy city of Jerusalem, to the waving of palms and the chanting of Hosanna to the Son of David.
So there’s a very similar message, isn’t there, between the first two and the last two Sundays of Lent. That message is for us to prepare. Prepare for our glory in the next life by our sufferings in this one. Prepare for our crown by our cross. And how? First we must go off on our own into our own wilderness of prayer and fasting. The Church reinforces this idea that we are alone now with God, by hiding all our images and statues, our dear friends and consolations in this life of suffering. We must now stand alone and face God alone. We must lay bare our souls to our Creator, and humbly acknowledge our nothingness, confessing our sins, thanking him for taking those sins upon himself, and carrying our cross for us. Take this opportunity this week. Stand alone before God. Go to Confession. Repent your sins. Vow to lead a more godly life. And then next week perhaps, at the sight of the new images the Church gives us, images of that triumphal procession into Jerusalem as our Holy Week begins, then perhaps we can be strengthened one last time before Good Friday. Then perhaps, we can receive from our loving God the graces to suffer with Our Lord and for him, on that other procession up the hill to Calvary.
This last week has been an interesting one. I’m sure many of us waited for that first puff of white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, signaling that the world once more had another man to play the role of Pope. The more cynical among us perhaps had no illusions that this new Pope Francis would be any better than the last version. And yet who among us could escape that tiny glimmering of almost extinguished distant hope that perhaps, by some miracle of divine intervention, we could indeed once more proclaim “Habemus Papam.” But from the stories being told out of Argentina about their Cardinal Bergoglio, that tiny spark of hope has been quickly put out. That wonderful show from the Sistine Chapel of red-robed Cardinals in all their splendor has now vanished in a puff of white smoke, and can be seen for the magic show, the great illusion, that it was. And our cynics say “I told you so”, while our more sensitive souls weep tears that they are unable to join the cheering crowds in St. Peter’s Square and welcome a true Vicar of Christ to rule and govern our Holy Mother Church. The Church’s Passion must continue. And just in time for this first Sunday of Passiontide, what better time for this Great Illusion to have been perpetrated.
Look around you at the draped statues of our saints. They don’t do that in the Novus Ordo anymore. They can’t, because they have removed the statues from their churches altogether. There’s nothing left to throw a purple drape over! What for us is merely a reminder of life without God, is a reality for those countless tens of thousands of poor souls in the conciliar Church. God has truly hidden himself from them. And from us, he has hidden himself from us too. Where is the true pope? Where is the true Church? “But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.”
We have moved now, my dear faithful, away from the world of Holy Scripture, the story of the Passion and Death of Our Lord, to the present day, our own lives. We are living this second Passion ourselves. What Our Lord experienced, the Passion and Death of his own physical body, is now in our lifetime being repeated, this time to his Mystical Body, the Church, to you and me, each and every one of us. It is as though purple drapes have been thrown over our true popes, our bishops, our pastors. As we walked into church this morning and looked around to see our beloved statues hidden from us, to see our God hidden from us, have we not experienced that same awful feeling every time we walk into a Novus Ordo church? Tabernacles hidden in side chapels, all hint of beauty hidden among the ugliness of modern art and architecture, eternal truths draped over with the doggerel of modernism. This crucifixion of the Mystical Body of Christ, is the Passion of the Church today. You and I are the ones called by God to cling to the now hidden truths, the truths of the everlasting hills.
Why did God hide himself before his Passion? Because they wanted to stone him. Why did they want to stone him? Because he said “Before Abraham was, I am.” No "I was, I am, I will be." Only "I am". "I am eternal". Eternal truth. Before Pope Francis was, I am. Before Vatican II was, I am. The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. God who is unchangeable like our holy faith in him must be unchangeable. In this brief snapshot of time in which we live, whether we have a good pope or a bad pope or no pope at all, God watches each and every one of us from heaven and gives us the graces we need to save our soul. That is all we need. And even though God may be hidden from us in these dark days of the 21st century, he IS just as much as he has ever been.
So on this Passion Sunday, as we prepare to commemorate Our Lord’s most bitter Passion and Death, live up to this call of God, and cling to God alone. Not to our images of God, not to works of paint and clay, plaster and marble. Put aside all reminders of God, and cling to God, himself, now. Take all the sufferings and sins of your own life and bring them to God. Who is going to carry them this Good Friday? Are you going to pile them once again on the back of your poor Saviour and make him carry them again? Or are you going to accept them lovingly and perhaps offer, like St. Simon of Cyrene, to take even a little of Our Lord’s heavy burden from him, and carry some of them yourself this time? It takes men and women of courage to follow Our Lord to Calvary, and I hope he will find such men and women in abundance here at Our Lady of the Rosary Chapel. To us has been given those extra graces to see a little into the truths and falsehoods behind the events of the last fifty years in Rome and the world. To us therefore has been given the responsibility of action.
God may be hidden under these purple drapes, but God is still here. He is the Godhead hidden in the tabernacle. Each of us must find him. “O Godhead hid! Devoutly I adore thee.” Make your Communion with God, and then ask of him, as St. Francis of Assisi asked, “Lord, what wouldst thou have me do?” To what task are you calling me? What role do you want me to play in this Passion of the Church today? Your answer will may not come right away. But it will come in time. Prepare for it now by preparing for Holy Week. Confession, Communion, prayer, penance, avoid sin, practice virtue. Lead a godly life. And God will eventually no longer hide himself from you. He will reveal himself in all his true glory, the glory of the Resurrection, and the life everlasting. Amen.