Sunday, March 09, 2008

Dominica de Passione (Passion Sunday)

A Homily by Rev. Jonathan Romanoski, FSSP

+ He that is of God heareth the words of God +

Today the Church enters upon the sacred mystery of Passiontide, in which She has us turn our entire gaze upon the sufferings of Christ. In ancient times, when the Church was fervent, the faithful redoubled their efforts of penance, almsgiving and pardon to their enemies, to become more mystically united with Christ in His passion. Indeed these two weeks of fasting in particular, St. Leo the Great tells us, goes back to the Apostles themselves. For all has now come to a climactic clash; the malice of the Jews has reached a feverish pitch, as they begin to accuse their Christ and their King, of being none other than the devil himself. Our Lord who no one can accuse of sin, who has worked so many miracles, healed so many lives, and even raised men from the dead, will no longer be tolerated by this world.

Why? Why would the world not love a perfect man who has done them so much good, who has shown himself to have power to overcome their greatest fears- of hunger, of illness and even death? It is because Christ the King came not to establish an earthly kingdom nor lead men back to a paradise of naturalism, without suffering or death, but rather to teach them to hold the world in contempt, to embrace suffering and death so as to attain the Kingdom of Heaven. All his miracles and alleviations of ills were not an end in themselves, as Lazarus would die again, but merely a means to get their attention, that they might hear what He has to say.

And what has he to say? Before Abraham was made I AM. I and the Father are One. I AM the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me. The Jews understood all these statements correctly...that He claimed equality with God, but yet they sought to kill Him.

I have spoken of the Jews so far, the religion not the race, who condemned our Lord to death. Indeed they are, according to God’s own word, the first in the order of guilt, as they are the first in the order of promise, having had received God’s self revelation for thousands of years, and amongst whom the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in bodily form, and who thus were the first-hand witnesses of all His teachings and miracles. But this crime of deicide applies to us as well. We, who have cried out every time that we have sinned- I will not serve...We have no king but Caesar...His blood be upon us and upon our children. Indeed, in a sense, it applies more thoroughly to the baptized soul, who has received so much more than all the Patriarchs and Prophets could have ever dreamt of. Our consideration, for these last two weeks, must therefore be not only on our cultural enemies who propagate this social order which rejects Christ’s divinity in every way, which the Church has so often condemned and admonished us to fight against, like the Freemasons, the followers of the Talmud and it’s injunctions to destroy Catholics, and Catholic society, and the many others who work for a secular society in which Christ is not King, but much more must our reflection be on ourselves, our own sins, and the naturalism in our lives, which has no part with Christ. In Catholic days gone by, lawsuits and even wars would be put on hold, so as to focus on the Passion of Christ- which reveals the depths of the Love of God, and the sinfulness of ourselves.

Let us then like Christ, as the gospel and the purple veil bid us, seek to hide ourselves for these two weeks from the world, and escape from the clamor of it’s noise, not by neglecting or avoiding the duties of our state in life in which we find and embrace God’s will, but through a deeper effort at recollection and detachment from diversions and distractions, distractions not so much of the mind but of the will, striving to be still and know that He is God- He who IS, and that we are that which is not.

And what will we discover in this meditation about our sinfulness and God’s holiness? Regarding our sinfulness, we will discover most of all that our sin springs from our forgetfulness of God, a forgetfulness for which we hold the blame, a turning away rather, in which we decide that we will not think of God and His blessed law, that we are not of God. Consider the difference between the convert who knows nothing, who has led a life of sin. When he hits bottom and realizes he “is not,” and that he is rather of God, and turns to hear His voice, how quickly will he learn, as he seeks a remedy for his ignorance, admitting that the knowledge of good and evil is not of himself. Compare his state of knowledge with the Catholic who lives a lukewarm life or one even of sin; who pushes Our Lord out of their life into a little box of one hour on Sunday, maybe; who tells him they are sorry for their sins, but do not mention them in confession, or wait so long to do so, and make no effort to change; who receives the infinite God in Holy Communion, to the holy envy of the angels themselves, but does so sacrilegiously, or when done well never spends time in thanksgiving after Mass, for the greatest gift one could ever receive. Who tell their parents and others to stop telling them of God’s truth when they begin to hang around the wrong crowd, adopt a sinful lifestyle at college, etc. This soul knows not God, because it is not of God, that is, it will not acknowledge its dependency on Him. As one poor soul told me, whom I ask you to pray for, “I don’t believe in Christ because I don’t want to.” Would that we were all so honest about our intentions. The Pharisees were not interested in our Lord’s interpretation of the law, but only an excuse to kill Him, b/c He was not what they WANTED. This is the face behind the ugly mask of sin and our so-called ignorance- our own self will- “do as thou please.”

But He that is of God heareth the words of God. Seek and ye shall find. Those who want to follow the will of God will find it, and in it perfect joy, which the world of self-will, so anxiously filled with unrest and fear of losing its idols, cannot understand. Yet the mystery of our lives, is that we go back and forth, between these two realities- serving God and serving ourselves. One day a partaker of the divine nature, the next day nailing our Lord to the Cross again.

How can we stop this insanity? Let us turn to the meditation on God’s holiness. The Scriptures tell us that if we remember our last end, we shall not sin, our last end being not only death and the passing away of all things, friends, family, with which we were only meant to serve God, but most of all God Himself our last end, the fulfillment of our restless heart, the vision of whom will take away all liberty to sin, as we will finally see that He alone is Good.

And so I recommend to you for these last weeks of Lent, not any particular practice, but the most essential practice, the one thing necessary- the practice of the presence of God. When God spoke to Abraham and said “walk before Me, and be thou perfect.” “He mentioned only one point because it contains all the others,” for “All saints, under both the Old and the New Law, have held to this more than to any other rule,” says Fr. Grou in his great work on the subject called “Spiritual Maxims,” which you can read on-line at Catholic Treasury, along with the other famous work “The Practice of the Presence of God,” by Bro. Lawrence of the Resurrection. To summarize these very inspiring works, Let us say briefly what this practice is based on and how to carry it out.

It is based on the divine indwelling in the soul through sanctifying grace, by which, God Himself tells us, we become partakers of His divine nature, as the Father Son and Holy Ghost take up their abode within the temple of our soul. How little does the baptized soul think of this most necessary consideration. If thou didst but know the gift of God! And who it is that wishes to speak to you in the deep waters of your soul. He whom the heavens cannot contain, He who IS, Goodness, Charity and Absolute Joy itself dwells in your soul by sanctifying grace. How could we ever sin, or put ourselves in the occasion of sin, inviting the devil into our house, where our Divine Saviour dwells, if we kept this in mind.

And how are we to keep this reality in mind? These eminent authors tell us that there are so many ways that the Holy Ghost will inspire one to do so, if they truly seek Him, as men of God, which I encourage you to read about. But the key to this practice- is simply to seek Him in everything. It is not to always try to avoid every other thought and occupation, which would be impossible to do, but rather to seek to love God in every occupation, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do;” to think of him in those free moments throughout the day, as creator and sustainer of His beautiful creation, as dwelling in our soul, imagining that we have just received our Lord in the Eucharist, as He wishes to dwell there all the day, which will be easier to do if we practice by making a good thanksgiving after Mass.

Mothers, know that you can practice the presence of God in your children, in whom we are certain that the Most Holy Trinity dwells, if they have been baptized and have not reached the age of reason, capable of sinning. May this be your consolation as you rise to nurse them at night. The saints especially recommend contemplation of the Passion, as it so moves the heart; frequent ejaculatory prayers- “My God I love Thee,” “save me O Lord for I am drowning,” “O Mary my heart and my soul,” and whatever else keeps the fire kindled throughout the day for you. You know more about this practice than you think. Consider those who are in love, how while amidst their occupations their beloved remains ever present in their mind, and whenever they have the chance they naturally think of them again. They are animated by this love throughout the day, which is well noted by those around them. They keep their picture on their desk to remind them of their love. They call them or text message them for brief moments throughout the day to tell them they love them. Yet all true loves are but a faint image of the love of Christ the Bridegroom of every baptized soul espoused to Him on the Cross, when His Most Sacred Heart was pierced for love of you. That is the heart of this practice, to love Him in all things, a love which faileth not as our weary minds might if we turned this into some sort of philosophical exercise. I wish I had time to say more. Bro. Lawrence said that it he would have been a preacher it is the only thing he would have spoke of. Yet, it is not so much a thing to speak of but something to practice with one’s whole heart, one’s whole soul, one’s whole mind and one’s whole strength. For this is the mystery of sin and the mystery of holiness- we get to choose. And you will get what you really want. He that is of God, heareth the words of God.

Mary Mother of Divine Grace: Pray for us



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