Sunday, 24 October 2021

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Imitate St Paul to effect the reign of Christ the King


Dom Gueranger writes in his commentary for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, that the Mass has references to the “days of the antichrist.” Indeed, the Epistle from St. Paul to the Philippians is written while he is in chains in his prison cell, suffering persecution for the sake of the Faith and his Lord. But despite the dire situation of the great missionary, he writes in tidings of hope, entrusting the Philippians to the renewed practice of the spiritual life.

    The holy abbot, Gueranger, writes: “If, unitedly with this prophetic sense, we would apply these words practically to our own personal miseries, we must remember the Gospel we had eight days ago, and which, formerly, was the one appointed for the present Sunday. Each one of us will recognize himself in the person of the insolvent debtor, who has nothing to trust to but his master’s goodness; and in our deep humiliation, we shall exclaim, If thou, O Lord, mark iniquities, who shall endure it?”

    The theme is similar in St. Alphonsus’s homily for this Sunday, in which he focuses on the torments of those who have reneged upon the practice of the spiritual life, and given themselves to other things instead. 

    Indeed, as the Church’s liturgical year draws to a close, She presents texts that naturally point Her children towards a meditation on death, on giving an account for one’s life, and on the fate that will await every man after death. Unlike much of the modern ecclesial spirit, St. Paul’s witness is one of militant Catholicism. His life has been given to the service of God, and for that he languishes in chains. 

    Yet, he writes of hope, declaring that trusting in Christ will ensure that the world cannot remove such a soul from his adherence to God. In fact, as the liturgical texts increasingly dwell on the end times, the reign of Christ the King, and the purgation of souls – all before the year recommences in Advent – the militant Catholicism of St. Paul is one which is most apt to bring about the victory of Christ the King once more.

    “We are confident in the Lord Jesus that He Who has begun a good work in you will bring it to perfection until the day of Christ Jesus.” For a king is not led to a victory by supporters and soldiers who are only half-hearted, who do not care about the cause nor have faith in their leader. Nor is he crowned after simply conversing with those who wish to destroy him, instead of vanquishing such foes on the field of battle. 

    A king needs followers who are committed to his cause, who believe in him, and who are prepared to sacrifice themselves so that he might righteously triumph. So much more so it is required that Christ the King must have such followers who imitate St. Paul.

    For this reason, as ever the liturgical texts are so apt and timely, for occurring just one week before the feast of Christ the King, and in an age where depravity and satanism is more praised that virtue, the Church calls Her children to dwell on how they are to answer when facing the judgement seat of God. She calls us to choose between following St. Paul’s model of strong, fearless Catholicism – which is the kind needed to effect the reign of Christ – or a weak, diluted imitation of religion, in which dialogue and compromise are more important than adherence to doctrine.

    “And this I pray, that your charity may more and more abound in knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the better things, that you may be upright and without offense unto the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of justice, through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

    These words of St. Paul are an appeal to an almost distant form of Catholicism: one in which people strove to follow Christ and bring souls to Him, instead of forming bonds of irreligious fraternity and union, without being centred on God.

    Indeed, such is the command contained in the final line of the Gospel: “Render, therefore, to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Thus St. Paul’s witness to the defense and spread of the faith, which brought countless souls to the knowledge and practice of the faith, is placed before the Church once again, almost as a clarion call for Her children to model themselves upon him, in order to bring about the reign of Christ the King.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost: The reality of spiritual battle

    “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high.” The words of St. Paul’s Epistle ring true in every age, for a crisis is never one dimensional. It is never merely an earthly crisis, wherein evil men seek to accomplish their desires completely divorced from a spiritual reality. Rather the earthly and spiritual realms are interconnected, meaning that in any, and in every, earthly crisis there is a spiritual element which is to be addressed. 

While various politicians and activists clamour about their respective concerns, the issue which is often ignored is the spiritual element of a particular crises. Even for those (very few) honest public figures, who recognise the crisis in society, they will often seek to solve it with legislation while ignoring the necessity for prayer, or for policy which draws society back to the moral law. Ultimately, any action which is not rooted in adherence to the law of God is destined to fail, and is like constantly attempting to cover a wound, instead of attempting to heal it instead.

Indeed, the ultimate source of catastrophe in the world comes from the disorder brought about through sin, through demonic influences, and through the fallen nature of man. Thus, in order to address any issue, a solution must be two-fold, combined of a material and a spiritual element.

Such is the message conveyed by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Ephesians, as he writes about the spiritual battle which they must be prepared to face. And while modern society, and even the modern Church, may seem less inclined to listen to the rhetoric of spiritual warfare, the facts remain that we are indeed engulfed in such a battle. Ignoring it is of no use; formulating the most intricate policy, while rejecting any spiritual solution, is also of no use. “I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Part of the wiles of the forces of evil is to seek to distract souls form the spiritual reality of the current crisis, and attempt to convince people into all sorts of activities, only to disctract them from attending to the spiritual necessities of each day which play a crucial part in combatting the forces of evil. Temptations will occur that time spent in prayer is of no use, or would be better spent in other, more visibly productive activities. In short, the devil makes use of any means possible to divert souls away from paying attention to the spiritual reality, for as long as souls attempt to combat the forces of evil using only earthly weapons, then their efforts will be in vain. 

Hence St. Paul writes to instruct the Church that She must be first and foremost adept with the weapons of the spiritual realm. Armed with these, the forces of evil will waste themselves upon the bulwarks of the Church, as She fights with the all-powerful weapons of God.

“Therefore, take up the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and stand in all things perfect. Stand, therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breast-plate of justice, and having your feet shod with the readiness of the Gospel of peace, in all things taking up the shield of faith, with which you may be able to quench all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is, the word of God.”

This is not to say that souls should abandon any attempt to remedy the ills of the world, and instead abandon themselves to constant prayer, but nothing else. On the contrary, the Church has the mission of preaching the Gospel, converting and saving souls, and this cannot be achieved if everyone remains reclusive in their homes, never venturing out into the world. Spiritual and temporal remedies are necessary, and while the temporal must be guided ultimately by the spiritual, it should not be disregarded. 

Indeed, there have been times and may well be again, when the military style language of St. Paul is not restricted to mere allegory, but is translated in a more literal manner. Souls may well be called upon to take up arms in defense of the faith, of morality, of the Church, of the family. During the Sack of Rome in 1527, the Swiss Guard were killed down to a man in their defence of the Pope from the Masonic and Protestant forces. While God has raised up many holy martyrs whose blood is the seed of the Church, so He also raises up champions for the Church, such as those members of the Swiss Guard, so that the Church may defend Her own when the forces of evil turn against Catholics.

Consequently, the response to the evil of modernity and the crisis of the day, must always be guided by the acknowledgement of the spiritual battle which is being constantly waged. Only when this aspect is addressed can the Church, or indeed any man, hope to bring about the reordering of society in accordance with God’s law. 

Twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost: Imitate St Paul to effect the reign of Christ the King

  Dom Gueranger writes in his commentary for the twenty-second Sunday after Pentecost, that the Mass has references to the “days of the anti...