Regardless of this shameful hiding of the Word of God from His people, that we must forgive with the generosity of the king in today’s Gospel remains the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by its Truth we shall be judged. It behoves each of us, therefore, to examine our consciences on this point and do the hard work that is necessary within us before we ourselves suffer the fate of the unforgiving servant.
It is a sad and dangerous fact that our times are marked by the tendency to edit or water down the Truth revealed by Our Blessed Lord in the Gospel. The world promotes a cocktail of (usually) polite utilitarianism and absolutist syncretism: believe anything you wish so long as you do not hold it to be true and do not be a burden to others or to society and all will be well is its creed. There is no room here for the definitive revelation of God in history in the person of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, or for His ‘difficult’ teachings.
Most alarmingly, these worldly influences have infected the Church, and even at times her Sacred Liturgy, with the result that instead of being the lumen gentium (the light of the people), the Truth revealed by Our Lord and the clarity that that brings to the nature and destiny of mankind, and the irreplaceable prophetic and salvific mission that this gives to His Church, becomes a discomforting embarrassment to be hidden amongst the shadows of so-called ‘openness’ and ‘tolerance’. Christ, the light of the peoples should be our joy and hope, not a source of awkwardness within His own Church! How are we to deal with this crisis? It is surely far larger than we can tackle.
Through the Church’s liturgical tradition Almighty God addresses us in the words of St Paul this morning:
"Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Our contemporary problems are not altogether new. St Paul, perhaps, experienced worse. His response is instructive:
"Therefore take the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
The darkness of evil powers, of the wiles of the devil, of the unacceptable edicts of godless world rulers may abound, and the light of Christ that should shine in the Church herself may even appear to be eclipsed, but as St Paul teaches, we have the necessary weapons: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. If we hold fast to these, if we continue to seek grace necessary grace for the battle through the sacraments of the Church, we shall ourselves share in the victory of Christ over all that is evil.
In the face of trials St Benedict warns his monks not to be “dismayed and run away from the way of salvation, of which the entrance must needs be narrow.” (Rule, Prologue) Rather, the monk “should with a silent mind hold fast to patience, and enduring neither tire nor run away, for the Scripture saith: He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved.” (Rule, chapter VII).
Mutatis mutandis, St Benedict’s counsel applies to all. If we tire and run away in the face of the difficulties or the dangers we encounter the devil will win, and all that God wills to achieve though our sharing in His Son’s victory shall be lost. “He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved,” God’s Word instructs us (Mt 24:13)—not he who gives up because the going gets tough or the light grows dim. In this holy Mass let us beg the necessary grace of perseverance for ourselves, and also that through our faithful—even heroic—witness, others too may come to live in the light of Christ, even amidst the darkness of our times, and rejoice in the victory He has already won. +