Sermon for the Third Sunday of Advent – December 11, 2011 by Father Sretenovic
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. While not a part of today’s gospel proper, I cite this verse from the Beatitudes, because I believe it to be essential to the theme of Gaudete Sunday, which is today’s Mass, as also the proper effects of the Immaculate Conception. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God where Our Lady, from the moment of her conception, already had, in a certain way, the vision of God. Not the Beatific Vision yet. That was reserved to those who were in heaven, and obviously to the soul of Christ, but she who never sinned was able to perceive Christ, her Son, and the Father in the Trinity really more and more clearly, literally moment to moment. Imagine — I think I’ve used this example before — imagine if you were on a rocket ship and you were going closer and closer to the sun. But somehow, no matter how close you came, you could never quite hit it. Well, that’s an image of what it must have been for Our Lady, I mean without being burned up, the intensity of her charity became greater and greater as time went on. She became more filled with the Divine fire because of her Immaculate Conception, and then she began to see more and more of God, because as you get closer, let’s say for instance, to the sun, you see it’s a mass of fire but you see the flaring, you see everything, all the qualities more and more clearly as you get closer. So, in a similar way it is for those souls who are holy and getting closer and closer to God. We see more and more of Him, but can never exhaust Him. It’s maybe not a coincidence that the sun has been used in an image of the divinity before.
Now Gaudete means in Latin rejoice, and it used this Sunday because our deliverer from sin, Jesus Christ, is about to come into the world to save us. And this from the slavery of the devil. If this is not a cause for rejoicing, nothing is. We also rejoice just for the opportunity once again to behold the Divine Infant in the manger, both with our bodily eyes when we look upon the crèche and use it as a means for meditation, and, more importantly, with the interior eye of the soul. Yet, as Our Lord says in the gospels, and I am paraphrasing here because I couldn’t find the exact verse but, If your eyes be in darkness, the whole soul is in darkness. No sin causes this darkness more than impurity. Saint Alphonsus Ligouri once compared the soul to a bucket of water. If any part of the water in the bucket is dirty, even the smallest part or impure, it makes the whole bucket fowl, unpleasant, even poisonous. So whereas with other sins, even grave sins, there is normally a threshold before the soul is immersed in darkness, with impurity, it only takes a little bit to corrupt the whole soul. Maybe this is why Our Lady says that more souls are lost for sins against the 6th and 9th commandments than for any other sin. Just a little bit of impurity makes it impossibe, therefore, to gaudete, rejoice. And this brings us back to the Beatitude at the start, Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
The converse of this is that the impure, even a little, will not see Him either in this life or in the next. The reward for purity itself should be that which spurs us on, the very promise of seeing God. And not just in the next life, not as much as Our Lady in this life but to a certain extent we can share with her in this interior vision of the soul seeing God, just by purity. And that in and of itself, given that purity brings peace and we cannot have joy unless we have that peace, is a necessary prerequisite for being able to behold with the soul’s eye the Son of God, and, therefore, maybe sometimes it is very difficult for us when we are trying to pray, maybe it is difficult to behold Christ in the crèche, maybe it is difficult to behold Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. If so, the chances are what’s hindering us is not God’s hand, it’s our hand holding Him back, because we are not pure. Christ will not dwell alongside impurity. And this is an absolute. Only those who are pure of heart and, of course, therefore of body have had a taste of such a reward and continue to long for more. They have tasted that the Lord is sweet, and that no one and nothing else can fulfill their desires. The consequence of impurity, on the other hand, is not only to not see God, but even worse, to be so corrupted interiorly, as not to even desire such a gift, not to even understand what such a gift will bring to us beyond description. The consequence of impurity is to, in the words of our Blessed Savior, already have our reward. This is why so many of us may turn to creatures for fulfillment, whether it is spouses, significant others, worldly amusements, food, whatever it is, fill in the blank. It’s not because we love these things but rather because we have made ourselves incapable by our sins of the flesh of loving or even desiring to love that which is truly good and beautiful. As St. James wrote, a little bit of leaven ferments the whole batch.
So rejoicing, then, has a price — all out warfare. We must oppose the promptings of the flesh contrary to right reason, not just enough to avoid mortal sin, but also enough not to allow the desires to make any home in us whatsoever. If your right eye causes you to sin, cut it off. In other words, cut it off at the pass immediately. And repeat again and again the words of St. Paul, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified their flesh with all of its’ concupiscences . Remind yourself of that verse over and over again. I know I have. As soon as certain promptings come out of the blue, those who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh and all of its’ concupiscences. This is St. Paul saying this to us.
It brings up the point of meditation, not just a time for meditation, but in times of temptation bringing us back to that point.
Sometimes we may think that God is unfair, demanding too much of us, or we just can’t do it, the temptation is too strong. One of the reasons why the temptation is too strong is we are already giving into it. Right? If we hadn’t given it to it to begin with, it wouldn’t be so strong. That’s a part of the price, now. Just like with Adam and Eve when they sinned there was a cost to that throughout their whole lives. So, if you have ever given into a sin against the 6th or 9th commandment, not only is it keeping you from rejoicing, but there is a price to pay for our whole lives. That price is, again, that opposition, which becomes more difficult, but, in time, if we do violence, it becomes easier and easier. Then, the devil attacks us in different ways, more of the spirit. Those who are progressing in the spiritual life get attacked in the soul, whereas those who are not, or only beginners, get attacked primarily in the body. That’s the way this normally works, as St. Ignatius Loyola has said.
So, if we are dry or maybe even bored in prayer, is it not because we have failed in our duty to mortify our flesh by fasting, self-denial of the will and also because of spending hours wasting our time with vanity and self-seeking, and right under our nose., Often times this happens on the internet through different vehicles by which we put ourselves forth, rather than Christ. Maybe it’s in the form of pictures, maybe it’s in the form of lines, or whatever, our favorite this, that or the other thing, and what happens is that we are forgetting that Christ, no matter what our vocation is, is our first love, and we are extolling ourselves over and against him, maybe again not thinking about it, but we are sharing in a lot of the devil, who said, non serviam, I will not serve. When we start to spend time for ourselves, we get away from the cross and it goes from bad to worse. There are things that are happening among many of our children that is damnable, and the difficulty also there is the fact that the parents — you know, it’s like when Monsignor Perez mentioned in his talk a number of years back, it’s actually six years ago now, on the Phantom Menace, he said what happened to Pius XII was that not only did he not consecrate Russia right away, but there were too many battles, too many fronts. You had the doctrinal front, you had the liturgical front, you had the war going on, and there were just too many battles to fight. And because of that, he tried to do what he could, he was helping many to hide from the Nazis, for instance, he was fighting the war on doctrine in many of his encyclicals, but, then, right under his nose, the liturgical revolution was happening. So in a similar way, I think if it could happen to Pius XII, it could happen to any of us. Right?
So, for the parents, one thing I would warn you of is there are many things you are doing very well, very good. There are many battles you are fighting, there are many ways in which I am sure you are pleasing God. But there is at least one way in which you are not, and it’s happening through what our children are being allowed to do, allowed to see right under your noses. I know about it. I hear about it all the time. It’s about time that you fought that battle. I know it’s a lot, it’s a constant war, but remember that rest is not for this life. Rest is for the next. Blessed are those who rest in the Lord. Those who rest in the Lord are those who have already died. During our life here, there is no respite. The devil never sleeps. If the devil slept, we could sleep. But because he doesn’t, we must not. And for those of you who are parents, especially, nobody, God did not force any of you, He did not force me to become a priest, He did not force any of you to become married and have children. But now that you have, there are certain things you need to be reminded of. And there are things that are happening that are just in themselves damnable. You need to be vigilant.. You need to wake up, and I would say if you have computers in the home, make sure they are in public, make sure they are in a room which everybody can access, not in their own private quarters. If you are doing that, no matter what they are doing, whatever they are doing, you are responsible for. If they do something, you have done it. I know for many to talk like this seems to be too extreme or too much. There are a number of people you could talk about with this and they don’t know maybe what you are talking about. But, you know, when judgment comes there will be an awakening. So I don’t want that to happen later. It’s time it happened now.
So if we are to gaudete, if we are to rejoice, only those can rejoice who have peace of soul, only those can have peace of soul who are fulfilling their vocations and doing so, again, with great vigilance. Nothing is worth the damnation of our soul. Even for one mortal sin we will be lost if it’s unrepented. And how can we repent of it if we don’t even see what we are doing. And yet we can be held accountable for it because we should have seen. We have been given a great gift to be traditionalists, a great gift here to be Catholics, and to have this mission to convert — just like a little bit of leaven ferments the whole batch in a bad way, a little bit of good leaven will ferment the whole batch in a very good way. In other words, if we are that light to the world, a little light can shine on a mountain for all the world to see. We can only do that when we have taken care of our own house, of the soul and of those souls that are under us. We cannot be vigilant enough. That is what I leave you with today, and as soon as you are willing to do this, even if you have not accomplished it yet, just in willing it, God will already bless you with the grace to do it. Then already even if there are many sins to atone for, even now you can already experience that gaudete, that great joy of Christ to behold Him again face to face even in this life. So may we, whenever we are tempted, invoke the name of Mary, maybe especially in this time, during this octave of the Immaculate Conception, using the Miraculous Medal invocation, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee”. Just like we say maybe that line from St. Paul, say this prayer over and over again and eventually it clicks. Then Our Lady will inspire us to rejoice, not because the demons are put to flight as in the gospel. Right? But because showing ourselves to be her children, our names are written in the book of life.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.