Sermon for the Last Sunday after Pentecost – November 20, 2011 by Fr. Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Each liturgical year, beginning with the first Sunday of Advent which is next Sunday, as you know, and ending this week, is like a step of a staircase to heaven. Each year, if we cooperate with the graces of the liturgical cycle, we climb that step successfully, and as Advent begins we set forth to climb the next step. We think of a child climbing steps, just that little toddler, until he gets to the top, we also know how dangerous it is for that toddler as he goes from step to step, because he can fall down all of them and get badly hurt very quickly. So, it is important that we keep at it, and throughout the liturgical year make use of the graces that are there. If it’s Advent season, to be doing some penance, like fasting, not so much as a punishment for our sins, but maybe more so as a preparation for the birth of the Son of God, that we may have room, not having filled ourselves with food and drink and pleasure during Advent, there may be room for Him in the stable of our soul. So, if we have been doing that maybe for Advent, then we go to the time of Christmas and Epiphany, making use of that time of joy, because soon after, the sorrow of Lent will begin.
In the spiritual life it is that we have the periods of consolation and desolation. These are for those who are actually walking the path of the spiritual life. There are many who are not who haven’t really had consolation or desolation in the true sense of the word. So, consolation is that which comes directly from God, it is given to us as a great joy and it gives peace of soul, the acknowledgment that we are going forward and we are making progress, a little pat on the back. But oftentimes it is meant for any of you who have studied the spiritual exercises, it is meant as a preparation for the desert, and maybe a bigger desert than the time before, maybe a bigger step than the step we have just climbed. So, we need to see that, and when desolation comes when we have just the opposite of what the consolation brought, then we don’t change our resolutions, and we continue to go forward.
It is very important, if we are going to make progress through the liturgical year we have to be able to recognize the signs of what is happening in the soul, who is at work. Is it God? Is it Satan? Sometimes it is easy to tell. Other times it is not so easy. So, that is what this sermon is for, that is why we have the spiritual exercises that we are given from heaven, from Our Lady herself to St. Ignatius of Loyola. If we are being faithful throughout the year to whatever period in the Church calendar we are, it doesn’t mean that our soul is going to match the calendar necessarily, because each person is different and our circumstances, but if we are faithful, we will have the periods of time where there will be true consolation and true desolation. And we want to be making our resolutions when we are not in either, when we are somewhere in between. If you make your resolutions during the year when you are in the state of great consolation, when the help that you had is taken away, when that great inspiration is taken away from you, you won’t succeed. So we don’t want to be making our resolutions when we are feeling really, really good about ourselves or when God Himself is giving to us some kind of great pleasure in prayer, or great love for any of the truths of the faith. That is not the time for us to make the resolutions. It is the time for us to be thankful, to be grateful, and to recognize that the desert is coming, and when we come off of our mountain, that little peak, then we say, Okay, now given what I have just received, now what do I do? How do I give thanks for this grace that I have received. And then from there you go forward. Then, when all of a sudden you forget why you were doing what the resolution says that you are going to do, it is then that, in fact, you continue to do it. And that is where the merit comes from.
So, during the liturgical year, then, there are going to be times — again, whether or not it corresponds directly with the season, whatever season of soul we are in, we have to make use of that grace. If it is during Christmas, and we are experiencing desolation, which would be not normal necessarily, but if we are going through something that is really causing us a major problem, we can at least be happy for those who are not. We can still be grateful that we have the incarnation, without which we would have no hope. The incarnation, if we are going through desolation during the time of let’s say Christmas, we can say, Without Our Lord becoming man we would not have the Holy Eucharist, we would not have the Passion. Every grace that I have we would not have if it were not for the Incarnation. So the grace to actually get through this, to make use of this desolate time comes from the feast of Christmas, at least indirectly. It ultimately comes from the Passion.
If we are making use, though, of these graces throughout the year, then when the New Year comes, being the beginning of Advent, we will be able once again to climb and to climb with more force, more strength. So that is what we are looking for. The only thing that is necessary for us is to be faithful. It doesn’t matter how small the step is this year, or how big it is. That’s up to God. Each year for us the size of the step is going to be different. But we do what we are given to do. We don’t look at anybody else and what step they have to climb. It is up to us to do what we are given. If everybody simply did that, we would already be out of the crisis in the Church. But too many are worried about everybody else, whether it’s your neighbor, your friends, your relatives, whether or not it is the situation in the Church itself, everybody is worried about everybody else but one’s self. So, if we simply worried about ourselves, and a part of that would be worrying about those that we are called upon to worry about, like our children, our students, like those who are in need, if we are living the way we are supposed to, making use of the graces day to day, then, in fact, what we will find is we will be able to respond to their needs without rebellion, without feeling put out. We will have the strength interiorly to be Christ for them.
But we cannot be Christ for others if we do not allow Christ to be Himself for us. So the interior life is of the utmost importance. And, again, this dealing with ups and downs — it is easy to mistake simple ups and downs in the natural level for true consolations and desolations. Those are supernatural and preternatural. Often times, many Catholics work at simply the natural level and, then, because of that, maybe the prayer life is very stagnant and then you can read spiritual books and not really know what they are talking about, have an idea, maybe a conception of it, without having experienced it. And all it takes is the will for us to say today, Okay, we are going to prepare now because Advent is going to be beginning, starting next week. We are going to start this New Year, the Church’s year, the Church’s calendar, with the intention of gaining all the graces that God is going to give to us. And if we do that, simply making that resolution to be faithful, then we will see how God rewards us, and we will also see how the devil truly tempts us. Because most our temptations if we are functioning at a natural level, most of our temptations do not come from the devil, they come from within, they come from one’s self. But, if we are living the supernatural life, if we are really making use of God’s grace, then we know the difference. There is a clear difference between temptations that come from within and the temptations that come from the devil.
Therefore, as Dom Guéranger points out in his liturgical year for this Sunday, this last Sunday after Pentecost, “Let us make up our minds to walk worthy of God with dilated hearts and bravely, for the eye of His approving love will be ever upon us as we toil along. Oh, yes, let us run on in that uphill path which will lead us to eternal repose in the beatific vision. For one day and then for all time, it will either be the vision of God or the vision of Satan for all eternity”.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.