Sunday, 27 June 2021

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost - following the Sacred Heart in charity


    “Because the eyes of the Lord are upon the just, and his ears unto their prayers: but the countenance of the Lord upon them that do evil things. And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice’ sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled. But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts.”

    As the month of the Sacred Heart draws to a close, these words from today’s Epistle ring out ever more true and apt for this time. The saints and commentators write about how the Sacred Heart is on fire with love for man, a love that leads ultimately to the cross. Dwelling upon this love of the God-man for mankind, St. Peter writes to encourage those in the Church, urging faithful souls to have confidence in the fathomless love of God. 

    Indeed, his words start by first calling his listeners to an imitation of Christ, as evidenced by a daily living out of the virtue of charity. “And in fine, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, being lovers of the brotherhood, merciful, modest, humble.” Such words are not to be understood in the modern, corrupted meaning, whereby mercy is equated with ready acceptance of all and sundry, including sin. Rather, they are to be understood by charity itself, which is that virtue whereby one loves others for the sake of God. Moved by charity, faithful souls are thus able to practice true mercy, modesty and humility, since they seek the love of God in all things. This means, therefore, that any manifestation of mercy, modesty or humility which does not ultimately tend towards love of God, and respect for His will, is not motivated by charity, nor is it a true good action. 

Hence instead of an irreligious concept of fraternity, St. Peter urges a truly Catholic union of souls, where the binding theme is love of God which is consequently manifested in the love for one’s fellow men. Dom Gueranger writes of this true, charity driven brotherhood as described by St. Peter, when commentating on the Epistle: “But let us also understand the importance and the necessity of mutual union for all Christians: there must be, among them, that love of the brotherhood, which is so frequently, and so strongly, recommended by the Apostles, the co-operators of the spirit in the building up of the Church. The keeping aloof from schism and heresy, of whose terrible consequences we were told in last Sunday’s Gospel;—the repression of hatred and jealousy,—no, these are not enough for the making us become useful members of the Church of Christ.”

It is with this in mind, that the prince of the Apostles calls for his readers to give each other good works and blessings, instead of returning evil for evil. “Not rendering evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing: for unto this are you called, that you may inherit a blessing.” Here is true charity in practice, whereby souls deal only in blessings, and are repaid in blessings. 

    What is it that enables souls to be able to do so? A life lived in imitation of Christ, in imitation of the Sacred Heart, which burns constantly for love of man. Such a life of charity becomes much easier when faced with the reality of the Sacred Heart, the heart which was pierced out of love, for this reality instantly demands that men either rise to the challenge of the life of virtue, or reject it. There is no middle ground in this decision; no possibility of ‘treading water’ and remaining stationary in the spiritual life - one either grows or shrinks in virtue. 

    The moral and spiritual writers of recent decades have advocated a policy of avoiding the mention of sin, or firm doctrine, or even of solid teaching on the truth about the virtues. This leads unavoidably to a lack of understanding of the faith and an inability to realise the love which consumes the Sacred Heart. 

Yet the Apostles, principally St. Peter, do not shy away from firm teachings, aware that only an ardent zeal in the faith is going to enable souls to continue in their pursuit and imitation of the Sacred Heart. St. Peter’s words are not like those heard in more recent days, but challenging, constantly encouraging and teaching. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile. Let him decline from evil, and do good: let him seek after peace and pursue it.” 

This challenge, which is not merely from one man but principally from the Sacred Heart, is not easy, but neither is it supposed to be. The Apostle does not promise that such a life would be free of hardship; on the contrary he warns that suffering will be expected. Indeed, hardship is to be expected, but so also is the assistance of God: “And who is he that can hurt you, if you be zealous of good? But if also you suffer any thing for justice’ sake, blessed are ye. And be not afraid of their fear, and be not troubled.”

The month of June is an apt time to make use of the month’s dedication and approach the Sacred Heart, using the principles laid out by St. Peter. They are firm, yet not overly severe; doctrinal, but not blind to the hardships faced in life. Ultimately, it boils down to developing the virtue of charity, for just as it is such pure as selfless love which fills the Sacred Heart, moved always by love of God, so it is love of God which must orient man’s actions on earth and so imitate the path established by the Sacred Heart.

As Dom Gueranger notes: “Union of true charity, concord and peace, which must, at every cost, be kept up as the condition for their being happy both now and forever,—such is the substance of the instructions addressed by Simon, now Peter, to those other chosen stones, which rest upon him, and constitute that august Temple to be presented by the Son of Man to the glory of the Most High.”

Sunday, 20 June 2021

The love of the Sacred Heart

Regular readers will have noted the absence of any post on this blog last Sunday. Many apologies for this unannounced break; normal service will now resume, with this below section from Dom Gueranger's writing on the feast of the Sacred Heart, since we are currently in the month of the Sacred Heart.

    At the period of Jesus’ coming upon this earth, man had forgotten how to love, for he had forgotten what true beauty was. His heart of flesh seemed to him as a sort of excuse for his false love of false goods: his heart was but an outlet, whereby his soul could stray from heavenly things to the husks of earth, there to waste his power and his substance. (Luke 15:13) To this material world, which the soul of man was intended to make subserve its Maker’s glory,—to this world, which, by a sad perversion, kept man’s soul a slave to his senses and passions,—the Holy Ghost sent a marvellous power, which, like a resistless lever, would replace the world in its right position:—it was the sacred Heart of Jesus; a Heart of flesh, like that of other human beings, from whose created throbbings there would ascend to the eternal Father an expression of love, which would be an homage infinitely pleasing to the infinite Majesty, because there was in that love of that human Heart the dignity of its union with the Word. 

    It is a harp of sweetest melody, that is ever vibrating under the touch of the Spirit of Love; it gathers up into its own music the music of all creation, whose imperfections it corrects, and supplies its deficiencies, and tunes all discordant voices into unity, and so offers to the glorious Trinity a hymn of perfect praise. The Trinity finds its delight in this Heart. It is the one only organum, as St. Gertrude calls it (Legatus divinæ pietatis; lib. ii. c. 23; lib. iii. c. 25.), the one only instrument which finds acceptance with the Most High. Through it must pass all the inflamed praises of the burning Seraphim, just as must do the humble homage paid to its God by inanimate creation. By it alone are to come upon this world the favors of heaven. It is the mystic ladder between man and God, the channel of all graces, the way whereby man ascends to God and God descends to man.

    The Holy Ghost, whose masterpiece it is, has made it a living image of himself; for although, in the ineffable relations of the divine Persons, he is not the source of love, he is its substantial expression, or, in theological language, the term; it is he who inclines the holy Trinity to those works outside itself, which first produce creatures, and then, having given them being (and to some, life), he (the Holy Spirit) pours out upon them all the effusion of their Creator’s love for them. And so is it with the love which the Man-God has for God and Man,—its direct and, so to say, material expression is the throbbing it produces upon his sacred Heart; and again, it is by that Heart that, like the Water and Blood which came from his wounded Side, he pours out upon the world a stream of redemption and grace, which is to be followed by the still richer one of glory.

    One of the soldiers, as the Gospel tells us, opened Jesus’ Side with a spear, and, immediately, there came out blood and water. (John 19:34) We must keep before us this text and the fact it relates, for they give us the true meaning of the Feast we are celebrating. The importance of the event here related is strongly intimated, by the earnest and solemn way in which St. John follows up his narration. After the words just quoted, he adds: And he that saw it, hath given testimony of it, and his testimony is true. And he knoweth that he saith true, that ye also may believe; for these things were done, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 19:35-36) Here the Gospel refers us to the testimony of the Prophet Zacharias, who, after predicting the Spirit of grace being poured out upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, (Zacharias 12:10) says: They shall look upon Him whom they pierced. (Zacharias as quoted by St John 19:37)

    And, when they look upon his side thus pierced what will they see there, but that great truth which is the summary of all Scripture—of all history:—God so loved the world, as to give it his Only Begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in him, may not perish, but may have eternal life. (John 3:16) This grant truth was, during the ages of expectation, veiled under types and figures; it could be deciphered by but few, and, even then, only obscurely; but it was made known with all possible clearness on that eventful day when, on Jordan’s banks, (Luke 3:21-22) the whole sacred Trinity manifested who was the Elect, the Chosen One, of the Father,—the Son in whom he was so well pleased. (Isaias 42:1) Yes, it was Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary: but there was another revelation, of deepest interest to us, which had still to be made: it was,—how, and in what way, would the eternal life brought by this Jesus into the world, pass from him into each one of us? 

    This second revelation was made to us, when the soldier’s spear opened the divine source, and there flowed from it that Water and Blood, which, as the Scripture tells us, completed the testimony of the Blessed Three. There are three, says St. John, who give testimony in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these Three are One. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the Spirit, and the Water, and the Blood: and these three are one, that is, they are one because they concur in giving the one same testimony. And this, continues St. John, is the testimony:—that God hath given to us eternal life, and that this life is in his Son. (John 5:7-8, 11) These words contain a very profound mystery; but we have their explanation in today’s Feast, which shows us how it is through the Heart of the Man-God that the divine work is achieved, and how, through that same Heart, the plan, which was conceived, from all eternity, by the Wisdom of the Father, has been realized.

    To communicate his own happiness to creatures, by making them, through the Holy Ghost, partakers of his own divine nature, (1 Peter 1:4) and members of his beloved Son,—this was the merciful design of the Father; and all the works of the Trinity, outside itself, tend to the accomplishment of that same. When the fullness of time had come, there appeared upon our earth He that came by water and blood, Jesus Christ,—not by water only, but by water and blood. The Spirit, who, together with the Father and the Son has already, on the banks of Jordan, given his testimony, gives it here again, for St. John continues: And it is the Spirit which testifieth, that Christ is the truth; and that he spoke the truth (1 john 5:6) when he said of himself, that he is Life. (John 5:26) Yes, the Spirit, as the Gospel teaches us, (John 7:37-39) comes forth with the water from the fountains of the Savior, (Isaias 12:3) and makes us worthy of the precious Blood, which flows together with the water. Then does mankind, thus born again of water and the Holy Ghost, become entitled to enter into the kingdom of God; (John 3:5) and the Church, thus made ready for her Spouse in those same waters of Baptism, is united to the Incarnate Word in the Blood of the sacred Mysteries. We, being members of that holy Church, have had the same union with Christ; we are bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh; (Genesis 2:23, Ephesians 5:30) we have received the power to be made adopted Sons of God, (John 1:12) and sharers, for all eternity, of the divine life, which He, the Son by nature, has in the bosom of the Father.

Sunday, 6 June 2021

Sunday after Corpus Christi

 

In the happy days following Corpus Christi, the Church calls to mind the mysteries of the Sacred Species and the beauties of Holy Mass. It is a topic on which St. Jean-Marie Vianney writes on in his sermon for today, the second Sunday after Pentecost. He calls to mind the glorious nature of every Mass and the riches contained therein.

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    Why is it then, you are going to ask me, that we assist at so many Masses and yet we are always the same? Alas my dear brethren, it is because we are there in body but not in spirit and that rather our coming there completes our condemnation because of the bad dispositions with which assist. Alas! For all those badly heard Masses which, far from insuring our salvation, harden us the more. 

    When our Lord appears to St. Mechtilde, He said to her “Know this my child, that the saints will assist at the death of all those who have heard Mass devoutly, to help them to die well, to defend them against the temptations of the devil, and to offer their souls to My Father.”

    What wonderful happiness for us, my dear brethren, to be helped at this formidable moment by as many saints as we have heard Masses!

    No my dear children, we need never fear that the Mass hinders us in the fulfilment of our temporal affairs; t is altogether the other way around. We may b sure that all will go better and that even our business will success better than if we have the misfortune not to assist at Mass. 

    Here is a splendid example of that. It concerns two artisans who belonged to the same trade and who lived int eh same little town. One of them, who had a very large family and never missed Mass every day, lived very comfortably by his trade, but the other on the contrary, who had no family, worked all day and part of the night, and very often on the holy day of Sunday, and still had the greatest difficulty in the world in making ends meet. The latter, when he saw how well things were going for the other man, asked him on day when he met him how he managed to make enough to maintain so comfortably a family as large as his. Alas for himself, he said, although there were only his wife and himself and whenever stopped working, he was often short of everything. The other replied that if he so wished, he would show him the following day so that he might learn how to make his fortune. True to his word, his friend called for him. So there he was, setting off in great heart, and full of confidence, following his friend who brought him to church, where they heard Mass.

    When they came out the friend said, quite at his ease, “You can go back to your work now.” The same thing took place the following day, but on the third day, when the friend came to bring the unsuccessful artisan along to Mass, the latter objected. “What is this all about?,” he said. “If I want to go to Mass, I know the way without your taking the trouble to come and get me. That is not what I wanted to know, but the place where you find all the money that enables you to live so comfortably. I wanted to see whether, if I did the same as you, I could get something out of it too.”

    “My good friend,” said the other to him. “I do not know any other place than the church, and no other method than that of hearing Mass everyday of the week. I assure you that I have never used any other means to acquire the money which surprises you. But have you yourself not seen where Jesus Christ tells us in the Gospel to seek first the kingdom of God and that all the rest will be added unto us?”

    Are you surprised at this story my dear brethren? I am not. It is only what we see every day of our lives in those homes where there is some religion. Those who come often to holy Mass manage their affairs much better than those whose weak faith makes them think that they have no time for Mass. Alas, if only we put all our trust in God and relied on our own efforts for nothing, how much happier we should be than we are!

    Yes, you will tell me, but if we have nothing, no one is going to give us anything.

    What do you want God to give you when - as is shown by the fact that you do not give even the time to saying your morning and night prayers and that you are quite content to come to Mass once a week - you depend solely on your own efforts and not at all on Him? You have no knowledge of the resources of the providence of God for anyone who confides and trusts in Him. Do you want a more striking proof of this? It is before your eyes. Look at your pastor and examine his case in the light of God’s providence.

    Oh, you say, that is because people give to you.

    But who gives to me, unless it is the providence of God? That is the source of my treasures and nothing else. Alas, that man should be blind enough to worry and fret so much as to damn himself and yet be quite unhappy in this world. If you have the great happiness to think a lot about your salvation and to assist at Holy Mass as much as you can, you will soon see the proof of what I am telling you. 

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

 Apologies to regular readers of this blog, who will notice the absence of a post this morning, as a result of needing time away from the sc...