Sermon for Low Sunday – April 15, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Well, I’ll say something very briefly first about the fact that this week we will find out what is going on once and for all, hopefully, between Rome and the Society of St. Pius X. I am not going to spend much time with this. However, I want to say that for me I don’t know what will happen. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were any one of three things; either nothing happens at all and we go back to the way it was before the negotiations began; the negotiations will fail and the result of it will be some kind of sanctions upon the SSPX, possibly even more excommunications. That’s a possibility. You know, Rome has pretty much threatened that in a veiled way. Or there will be an agreement.
Now, any agreement that would happen would not be like Ecclesia Dei. They would not do it in such a way as to formally compromise. But I have had a problem from the very beginning with the whole thing. Because, if you look at it — and, again, I don’t want to spend too much time — but, if you look at the spirit of this whole negotiation, if you look at what began — remember that Archbishop Lefebvre said very specifically that the only way that he would even begin to consider speaking with the Pope and other cardinals and bishops is when they showed specific signs in which they would return to the faith, the practice of the faith and the belief of the Catholic faith, which they have not done. And supposedly the two things that were supposed to happen were going to be the lifting of excommunication (one), and, then, also the lifting of the supposed ban on the old Mass.
Now, materially speaking, these things happened. But they did not represent any real movement as should be obvious in what the Pope has been saying since these negotiations began. He has not changed one iota from the modernist that he was before. So, the whole point of any negotiations was not so that the SSPX could be regularized in the Church. The point was to help the Pope and the bishops to become Catholic again. And at this point that is not happening, even with this whole preamble back and forth, back and forth, there has been no movement. You can see, it’s not about Rome becoming Rome again. It’s about the SSPX accepting the conditions by which there is nothing in Vatican II supposedly against tradition, which is a lie. There are specific heresies in it that do not bind the faithful per se, however, they are still there. Like the fact that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. That is incorrect. That is a heresy. The Catholic Church is the Church of Christ. And there are other such heresies there. There is no doubt about that. Any kind of agreement that would be made that seems to help society and make it have a recognition now in the world, I think would be a very bad idea. I think it would be very bad for tradition and I think it would add to the confusion. The irony is if you look at Vatican II and what followed, the biggest sign you can see of the devil’s work is the fact of what is happening in terms of the inversion of the ends of marriage, the inversion of the ends of the Mass, and now, interesting enough, what’s happening is an inversion in the ends of the dialogue itself with Rome.
Rather than being primarily about the bringing back of Rome to the faith, now it is just about, Can we kind of get recognition, can we at least be recognized as being Catholic. That’s putting the secondary first. If I am Bishop Fellay, unless this represents some kind of return of Rome to the faith, I do not accept anything. Because spiritually I think it would be taking advantage of a situation, and I think that would be wrong. So, at this point, really, as Bishop Williamson has said, it’s a dialogue of the deaf. I don’t mean to be critical or negative, but that is the reality. As things stand, it is a waste of time until there are real signs that Our Lady of Fatima is at work in the souls of these men. Until then, it is just a lot of hot air and they could be doing more of what I’m about to talk about now.
In today’s gospel, what can be seen maybe most distinctly and significantly, is the categorical difference in the apostles in the Lord’s presence, and then away from His presence. When they are with Him, they are at peace. They are full of confidence. They are full of conviction. “We have seen the Lord.” That one appearance of Christ lasted them the whole week until the next time when He appeared. When they did not have Him, they were gathered together for fear of the Jews. These men who had been with Christ for three years were terrified of dying, even after all they had seen. They had received the Blessed Sacrament, they had received many graces, and yet, at this point, it was lost on them. So, we see a clear difference, then, between when God is present with them, the person, Our Blessed Savior, and when He is not. Now, what we need to learn in studying the clear difference in the apostles is the importance of time spent before the Blessed Sacrament apart from Mass and apart from the Holy Rosary. And this, in effect, to obtain for us the courage and the conviction of Jesus’ presence both with and within us, and, really, this is absolutely necessary if we are to be faithful to our baptismal promises and if we are to be able to die for Christ and the Catholic faith in accord with our Confirmation.
We cannot die for Him if we do not love Him. We cannot love Him if we do not know Him. And we cannot know Him if we do not spend time with Him. So this time that we have before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, especially given the fact that for many this is the one time during the week that you have. Some of you cannot get here maybe the rest of the week. Some of you could and maybe you are not now. Maybe a little examination of conscience. But the time that you have here is so important. Our Lord wants to communicate to you His presence. He wants to breathe on you the Holy Ghost. In one respect, it’s not like Confirmation, it’s not the same way as that, it’s not a sacrament that Our Lord is looking to give to you here, outside of obviously at the Mass, but He wants to by spending the time with Him and just getting rid of any distractions, any other thoughts and anything else that could be pressing upon the mind, and simply recognizing in the presence of God, He already knows. He already sees what our difficulties are. He already understands everything about us and things that we don’t understand about us. So, when we go before Him, in order to receive this blessing, in order to receive what the apostles received on two different occasions here in the gospel, we must be willing to forget ourselves, forget our fears, forget what is happening on the outside, and simply behold Him face to face, and express our confidence that He will help us with whatever it is that is troubling us. And maybe what is troubling us is the fact that we are not holy enough. Maybe we do not desire Him enough. But we are absolutely dependent upon grace. So, that is something for us to ask for.
This time here is of the utmost importance if we are to make good on the graces that are mentioned in the epistle today. The water, the blood and the spirit. Baptism, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation, which most, maybe not all of you, have received these sacraments already. So, the sufficient grace, the sanctifying grace is there, but the only way it will be used in such a way that before God who will bear witness to our cooperation or not, the only way we will do so is if we have this time before Our Lord to spend in such a way as to honor Him, as to love Him, as to allow Him to communicate Himself to us. Again, He breathe on them the Holy Ghost.
If we think about the saints, how jealous were they, even of fifteen minutes of mental prayer, they would steal that time even if they could not be before the Blessed Sacrament. If we spend the time before the Blessed Sacrament well, when we cannot do so, we can put ourselves, visualize ourselves, more readily there because we have done it well. If we even so much as once a week were to spend the time before Our Lord well, He would carry us through the rest of the week just like He did the apostles from Easter Sunday until the next Sunday in which St. Thomas was there.
The faith that St. John is speaking about today that overcomes the world is not simply objective belief. It is the conviction of faith. It is the love of the things that are unseen. As our love and attention to God increases, our love for the world will decrease. As our love for the world increases, by necessity, our love for God will decrease. You cannot love both God and mammon. In all things you must love God first and throughout. And the only way to do that is to communicate with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
We need to understand, again, the opportunity and the necessity that we have today. Again, the saints, as I mentioned, were jealous for even fifteen minutes of silent prayer. Those fifteen minutes could carry them for eight, nine, ten hours. Just giving themselves even that little bit of time, Christ gave to them their daily bread, whether or not they could receive the daily bread of the Eucharist. That spiritual communion with Christ which can carry and did carry the saints throughout their days. Because many of them were very busy, just like we are very busy. But how many Catholics, even traditionalists, do not long and do not take the necessary measures to avoid distractions in prayer. And whether or not they can get before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, do not spend the necessary time and effort to focus all the powers of their soul upon God’s presence in whatever way He is present in the moment.
So, if we do this, if we succeed even in this one enterprise, this one exercise, fifteen minutes of mental prayer, if we do that every day, we will become saints, we will get to heaven. If we do not, our salvation is in jeopardy, because if we do not have that reservoir in our souls as Dom Chautard says in The Soul of the Apostolate, that time which the saints would steal in prayer, they would be refreshed, they would drink from Christ, and that, again, would carry them through the day. If we do not have that when temptation comes, we will not have the strength, and maybe not even the grace to resist. But with this shield, with this armor of this little time, and you will find when you do this actually you will be able normally to repeat that time more than once a day, maybe twice or three times a day even. This time, and especially if we can get here before the Blessed Sacrament, is in a sense more important than the Holy Communions we receive, more important than the rosaries we pray, more important than any other good works we do, because remember what Our Lord says in St. Matthew’s gospel. He says that for those who present themselves to Him, it said, “Lord, did we not drive out demons in Thy name, did we not perform any miracles, did we not do this and that?” And what does Our Lord say to them. “I never knew you. Depart from me you evil doers”.
So the number of communions we receive, the number of rosaries we pray, even though of itself it can have certainly a lot of value, unless it is united to intense personal prayer, it will not benefit our souls to salvation. And, if anything, will count against us at judgment. So we do the former without neglecting the latter. What I want to impress upon you today is that really the absolute importance of doing your best and just really trying your hardest to give at least that fifteen minutes. If it’s maybe like Fulton Sheen would say, “Are you a rooster or are you an owl?” You can do it in the morning, you can do it in the evening, whenever is the time when you are the strongest. It is preferable in the morning, and if you can do so it will help you through the day and not simply at the end of the day after it’s already over. Right? So, even if it means getting up fifteen minutes earlier, we do what we have to do here. And if we do this, then we will be able to say, like St. Thomas, “My Lord and My God,” without having seen Him. And this is what we desire, to be able to have that refreshment, to have the repose so that in our activity during the day we will be inspired, we will be given consolations to help us along. God will give that to those who have put Him first. So, this is of the utmost importance.
Again, spend that time preferably here in the chapel. But, if not, at least in the enclosure of your soul in your room. Give Our Lord that time. And if you do so, you will say without any hesitation, not just in personal prayer, but before the whole world, “My Lord and My God”.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.