Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent – March 18, 2012 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
There are certainly plenty of reasons today to rejoice on this fourth Sunday of Lent. For one, it is Sunday which is always good during the penitential season if we are truly practicing the penance. We are about halfway to Easter, another cause for excitement and anticipation. And if we are making a good Lent, then all the more reason to laetare, rejoice, because we know that we are halfway there. And to this point it really hasn’t been so bad. All those penances we have taken upon ourselves, all that self-denial, really hasn’t hurt that much, hasn’t cost so much in comparison with the blood that Christ shed upon the cross. It is so little in comparison, and yet we realize if you are making those sacrifices, you can already begin to see God revealing in your soul that pleasure that He takes in that self-denial. As little as it is, yet, how little it takes to please God.
We know how little it takes to offend Him by sin. I was just reading yesterday how one mortal sin all the merits of the saints, all their sufferings, all the martyrdom, all those put together could not take away even one mortal sin before God. So we know how easy it can be to offend Him to the death, but do we realize how easy it is to please Him? Do we realize the chance that we have in the little that we do, if we do it with the right intention and persevere in it to win an eternal reward. There is the eternal reward of heaven, but also accidentally to add to those joys and pleasures of paradise simply by a little bit of suffering here.
Also, we realize this time of Lent, if we are suffering properly, actually most of the suffering should be coming not from what we impose upon ourselves, but from the daily fulfillment of our duties, which brings with it so much suffering, so many crosses that maybe to this point we have not suffered well. If we do that, we realize that this is a preparation for martyrdom when we bear wrongs patiently, which I will mention again in a moment and the connection here, but how much of an opportunity we have before God to win so many graces, not just individual graces but the grace, the strength in virtue, the growth in virtue that will help us in that moment of trial if and when it comes. It may be through martyrdom or, if not, at least in that last test, deliver us from the final test when each of us know we are going to die and when the devil pulls out all the stops to try and get us.
It is very important to develop in the soul these dispositions. And hopefully we are making a good Lent. But the one thing we should remember is that while everyone here today should have some cause to rejoice, the proportion of our joy will be dependent upon the depth of the sorrow that we have thus far acquired. So the more deeply we regret our sins, the more profound sorrow also that we feel for Holy Mother Church during this time of universal crisis, along with it, the incalculable loss of souls, many souls, millions if not billions of souls, the more deeply we will be capable of rejoicing knowing what it means that our salvation is closer than when we first believed. It is then that the words from Isaias, the prophet in the Introit today ring true, “Rejoice, O Jerusalem: and come together all you that love her: rejoice with joy, you that have been in sorrow: that you may exalt.”
So, oftentimes it is that many take what is happening in the Church, or take what is happening with politicians or the world and that is an occasion of sin, it is an occasion of anger, and indignation that goes into sinful desires. There is no rejoicing that can come from that. It is a dead end. It is only when we recognize the moment of our visitation, we remember God’s just judgment upon the Church, or Church men, at least, for the sins and the negligence and also how that, in turn, has effected the world. Because the heart of the problem is in the Church, not in the world. If the Church is functioning as it should be, we wouldn’t have what we are having going on right now. There would be much stronger resistance, which, in turn, would lead to the conversion of millions of souls. Only those who are truly making reparation who have understood the nature of their own sins and the pain that it has caused Our Lord on the cross, only when we have that level of understanding can we, in turn, begin to feel the sorrow that the Church feels for her lost children. And in doing so we know there is a reparable value to that, and we begin to rejoice because we are working out not just our salvation, but the salvation of those who do not pray for themselves.
We are not allowed to be indifferent towards our past and present sins, as if they are of little consequence. Less still should we be unconcerned for the souls that at each moment are falling into hell, lost forever to Our Savior’s Precious Blood. Every moment of every day, maybe even every second a soul is falling into hell. What are we doing to stop it, let alone taking the kind of account that God wants us to take, it requires of us for our own contribution to the crucifixion.
Each soul lost should be to us like a brother or sister lost forever, someone whose presence we would have enjoyed for all eternity but now they are gone. It is bad enough how many millions will most likely never get to heaven because of abortion. How many of them we would already know and love even in this life, but, alas, we will never even meet because they do not ever see the light of day. But at least in their case there is no suffering, no torment. We should approach the remainder of Lent, then, the second half, with a more proactive and missionary spirit. The first half is primarily penance for ourselves, for our own sins, contribution to the crucifixion, and not that this ends. But now reconciled to God by a good confession and abiding sorrow for having put Our Lord on the cross, and that with no help from anybody else, seeing that our own sins, even if nobody else had sinned, even one venial sin, would have taken the crucifixion to repair. So once we have come to understand that, now we can show our gratitude and repentance by winning back others who would otherwise fall into hell. We do this by prayer, continuing the Lenten fast, but especially by bearing wrongs patiently and with compassion.
True patience comes from compassion. When we are able to bear with the weaknesses, sins and proclivities of others, specifically because, one, we know by this point better what we are, and in some way at least can relate to their weaknesses. But, more importantly, number two, the remembrance that we do not love and bear with others for their own sakes. We do not love them as an end in itself, because if we do love them as an end in itself, we will also hate them in certain moments. But if we remember that we are loving them for God’s sake, not for our sake, not for the sake of them in particular, it is then that we are able to be compassionate. It is then that we are able to see the wounded Christ in their souls. We look at them with sorrow, with that compassion that says, Look what they have done to themselves, look what they are doing now. We want to reverse that. We want to put balm upon their wounds. Because obviously they are wounded to be inflicting these kinds of wounds. So it makes us more sorrowful and our only concern at that point is trying to repair their wrong, doing what they are not doing, but also by our example helping them to make a good Act of Contrition.
So this is the proactive approach that we need to have in these last few weeks of Lent. We need to become more charitable, but we can only be so, again, if we have been reconciled to God. So, if we have not yet made a good confession in this Lent, during this time of Lent, now, this week would be the time to do that, not just any confession, but we need to ask Our Lord for a deep sorrow, an abiding sorrow, that we will suffer with Christ on the cross, but also as He is suffering in the wounded members of the Church. Those who understand and practice such patience know what it is to sorrow and will be those who can truly rejoice this Sunday, and most especially on that eternal Sunday in heaven, only with many more friends who otherwise lost, only add to the joy of the blessed in heaven.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.