pour le temps après la Pentecôte 2021.
Our Time after Pentecost 2021 newsletter is published below.
Vous trouverez ci-dessous notre lettre aux amis
pour le temps après la Pentecôte 2021.
Our Time after Pentecost 2021 newsletter is published below.
+ “How many loaves have you?” What resources do you have to feed these four thousand hungry people?
This question – the prelude to the miraculous feeding of the four thousand in today’s Holy Gospel – is risible. It must have been more than obvious that what was available was utterly inadequate to meet the needs of so many. And yet it prefaces one of the greatest acts of Our Lord, so great that it was recorded by all four Evangelists.
There are many elements upon which to ponder here, not excluding the profound Eucharistic symbolism in the actions of Our Lord in taking, blessing, breaking and giving the bread to the multitude upon which the Fathers of the Church speak eloquently. However this morning I would like to propose three elements of this passage for our consideration:
Firstly, our Blessed Lord says: "I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat.” The Lord’s compassion for those who follow him is real. It is practical. And it is extraordinary, for it encompasses caring for the needs of four thousand people in a desert.
No matter what our needs, no matter how improbable or impossible it seems to us that they can be met, our Blessed Lord knows them and wishes to provide for them.
Secondly, the disciples asked him: "How can one feed these men with bread here in the desert?" Seven loaves and a few small fish are but nothing before four thousand hungry mouths: it is impossible.
How often have we arrived at this point – the point of giving up in the face of the sheer size of the task before us? “I simply can’t do it. I am inadequate. I don’t have the resources...”
In so many ways we can indeed look around and see the utterly enormous task before us. We can look at ourselves and be paralysed by our inadequacy, our weakness, our sins. In the light of these realities, progress in the growth of virtue, in pursuing my vocation, in making a positive contribution to the growth of the Church in the world, can seem at best unlikely. Daily perseverance can feel like an impossible burden.
Yet – thirdly – the four thousand ate and were satisfied; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. My friends, the Lord cares, the Lord provides. He accepts what we have to hand and – from the abundance of His grace – works miracles.
For almost a year now we have prayed the Divine Office and celebrated Holy Mass as richly as we are able in this ancient church. This has been possible only because many people from around the world have offered what they could to the Lord. And indeed, He has done the rest. He has brought to life these very stones and filled these walls anew with His glory in a way that not even we monks could have dared to imagine a year ago.
Our Blessed Lord teaches each one of us today that howsoever little we ourselves have or can do, if we offer that to Him in faith and trust, if we respond generously and wholeheartedly to His call and to the promptings of Divine Providence in our particular circumstances, He will multiply the modest resources we have and He will give us all that we need, in abundance. The key is our offering of ourselves and all that we have in faith and trust. Without that, His Providence will be frustrated and we shall remain hungry in the desert. It is up to us.
We could do no better than to ponder the words sung by the monk after his profession of vows, taken from psalm 118 (v. 116) which occur every Monday morning at Terce, and make them our own: “Suscipe me, Domine, secundum eloquium tuum et vivam et non confundas me ab expectatione mea.” Uphold me according to thy promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
The Lord will uphold us and we shall truly live, if but we offer Him ourselves to Him! In this Holy Mass, therefore, let us offer ourselves anew, with Him to the Father that all that Almighty God wills to be accomplished in us and through us may come to be, for His glory, for the salvation of our souls and for the ultimate good of others. +
+ “No one is perfect. We’re only human,” we hear it said frequently as we trudge along with heavy feet in a world full of far-from-ideal events and people – ourselves included. We quarrel with others and get angry. We may not physically murder people, but do so often enough with the sword that is our tongue through gossip and undue interference in others lives. Sagely, Saint Benedict reminds us of the teaching of the Book of Proverbs: “In much speaking, thou shalt not escape sin.” (Rule, ch. 6; Prov. 10:19)
This somewhat depressing disposition, which is a daily reality for many, is contradicted outright by Our Blessed Lord in the final verse of the fifth chapter of Saint Matthew’s Gospel – famously containing the Sermon on the Mount – from which the Gospel of this Holy Mass is taken, when He insists: “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5:48).
For to be “only human” is not to be weak and sinful and imperfect. To be human is to be like Christ. It is to be perfect. And the more we approach perfection in and through Christ the more fully human we become; the more we return to man as God created him in His own image and likeness, before the Fall.
So let us be done with excuses and put away the pretences, some of which we hear in the Gospel of this Mass. “I am not a murderer,” I like to say. That is good. But it is not enough Our Lord teaches. I must not only avoid the external acts of sin. I must also do battle with the inner impulses of the passions and not allow them to rule my heart, mind, thoughts and words. For, if they do, Our Lord teaches us this morning that we shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
One could be forgiven for thinking that this is itself a depressing reality. Who can manage such a conversion? Who amongst us can approach the altar with a clean conscience, reconciled with God and man?
We monks know well enough that the enclosure of the monastery is the necessary “school of the Lord’s service” (Rule, Prologue) to move us forward, step by step, in this conversion of life which even then can take decades to be accomplished in us. Those with different vocations in the Church and in the world know also that the conversion of the inner man is no small task and is not ordinarily accomplished overnight.
What is essential, however, is that we recognise this need and continue to take steps along the path toward perfection. The classical spiritual practices of a daily examination of conscience and of frequent confession are indispensable. Sunday Mass – also weekday Mass where this is possible – is essential. Joining ourselves to the daily Work of God in praying at least some of the Divine Office is a powerful tool. So too, we should turn to the saints who have themselves climbed this very path before us and ask their intercession. Personal prayer, which Saint Benedict teaches should be “short and pure” (Rule, ch. 20) is vital. Fasting, almsgiving and other penances are strong tools with which to clear the overgrown path to virtue.
If for some reason my progress is slow, or has ground to a halt, or if I have fallen back into old vices or even fallen victim to new ones, Our Lord calls me this morning to the radical conversion of my life which he expects of us all. Nothing less.
It is up to me to do what is necessary. If freely, knowingly and willingly I choose not to do so, then I must not be surprised if I am not able to enter the kingdom of heaven. If, however, I take the first step in doing what is necessary today, and persevere in so doing each day and make continual use of the classical spiritual practices, I shall finally come to know that reality of which the Psalmist sings in today’s Communion antiphon – a reality which the life of the monk anticipates on this earth in a singularly privileged manner:
Unam pétii a Dómino, hanc requíram: ut inhábitem in domo Dòmini ómnibus diébus vitæ meæ.
“One thing I have asked of the Lord, After this will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” +
+ “Duc in altum.” Set out into deep waters, the Lord commanded Simon Peter. We have tried already, and it didn’t work, protested Simon Peter in return. But he obeyed, and as a result the catch was so great that he needed help to haul it in.
A command, a protestation of impossibility, eventual acceptance and obedience and then a result beyond any expectation: there is an important lesson for us all here. It is a lesson taught by Saint Benedict in the sixty-eighth chapter of his Rule:
“If it happen that something hard or impossible be laid upon any brother, let him receive the command of his superior with all docility and obedience. But if he see that the weight of the burden altogether exceeds the measure of his strength, let him explain the reasons of his incapacity to his superior calmly and in due season, without pride, obstinacy or contradiction. If after his representations the superior still persist in his decision and command, let the subject know that this is expedient for him, and let him obey out of love, trusting in the assistance of God.”
God’s call doesn’t listen to our excuses and protestations; He sees that which we can become if only we allow Him to direct our actions and our path. We can live our lives in shallow waters of our own self-perception, or we can set out into the deep in loving obedience, trusting in the assistance of God, and become part of something so utterly of God’s doing – and not of ours, at least initially – that it humbles us and takes our breath away.
Indeed, Simon Peter was so humbled by this miraculous catch of fish that he protested his unworthiness and asked Our Lord to depart from him. Our Lord’s response is instructive – in both what He says, and in what He does not say.
He did not say, “Yes, you are quite right, you are a sinner, I will leave you behind. You are an expendable casualty of your own behaviour.” Nor did he say, “Your sins don’t matter – you’re only human after all.” Our Lord does not accept our excuses, nor does he pretend that we are anything other than we in fact are. He knows our unworthiness better than ourselves.
Rather, seeing the humility and repentance of Simon Peter, Our Lord called him beyond his sin to a life of particular service and indeed of apostolic responsibility that he could never have foreseen. And Our Lord chose well: the rough fisherman witnessed to Christ even to the shedding of his blood as a martyr.
Whether we are at the beginning, middle or nearing the end of our Christian discipleship on this earth, the command Duc in altum pertains. Do I hesitate to take the necessary steps in testing my vocation? Do I fear what I may lose by so doing? Is there a significant aspect of my life that must be corrected in the light of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church? Do I worry about the implications of rectifying it? Am I anxious about what suffering and illness may be ahead as I grow older? “How can I do these seemingly impossible things?”, I continue to ask.
Duc in altum Our Lord responds.
Let us put our protests aside. Let us accept His command and obey out of love. Let us trust in the assistance of God. For if we but take this step in faith, He will reward us and bless us in abundance. But He cannot if we will not. It is up to us.
Duc in altum. +
+ As ever, Saint Peter gives good, clear, practical advice in the Epistle of this Mass, so good in fact that the Church repeats it every night at the beginning of compline (at least in the traditional monastic office; later reforms don’t seem to see the need for this daily reminder):
“Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.”
Without doubt is good advice. The devil is a reality, and he seeks to devour souls and lead them to hell. We must be on our guard and use all the weapons that our faith provides – most especially the sacraments and the sacramentals – to ward off his attacks.
But Saint Peter was wrong on one point. The devil does not always go around like a roaring lion. He more often appears as a wolf in sheep’s clothing (cf. Mt 7:15) and is much more subtle, tempting us a little this way, and a little that way, until he has us so well advanced in sin and vice that we do not know anything else. If you have never read the classic work of C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, please do. It reveals much about the devil, and about ourselves.
And what of those people whom the devil ensnares? What of those who are wounded and damaged by their sins? What of they?
“It’s their own stupid fault,” we may be inclined to say. And we may well be right. “The consequences of their actions are their own responsibility, and theirs alone,” we may continue. “They are a lost cause.”
Without disagreeing in respect of the question of culpability, the Gospel of this Holy Mass teaches something rather different. In praising the economically stupid shepherd who risks the wellbeing of ninety-nine sheep to rescue the idiotic one who is lost, Our Blessed Lord teaches us that no soul is “a lost cause,” and that extraordinary efforts to bring a person back into the sheepfold are to be the norm for His Church.
Accordingly, Saint Benedict instructs his abbots to “imitate the merciful example of the Good Shepherd, who left the ninety and nine sheep in the mountains and went after the one sheep that had strayed; and had so great pity on its weakness, that he deigned to place it on his own sacred shoulders and so bring it back to the flock.” (Rule, ch. 27).
If this is not the rule in our monasteries, in our families and in the wider Church, if those who lose themselves in the byways of sin are simply left to perish in the wilderness, if no one goes in search of them and has the strength to carry them back, how can we be called Christians let alone monks? In what sense are we doing more than practising a form of cold quasi-economic efficiency with the very souls of our brothers and sisters? No person, no sinner, is expendable, no matter what their sin. Even when a person’s crimes are judged sufficient to warrant the punishment of the death penalty the Church will send a priest to be present at the execution in the hope of the salvation of their soul. Or it should.
The devil, sin and hell are realities. But God, forgiveness and heaven are greater realities – ones which, please God, form the substance of our daily perseverance in the Christian life. Nevertheless, we have no business in being smug or pharisaically content that this is so. Rather, we must do all that we can, each according to the responsibilities of our particular vocation, to seek out and bring back those who are lost. Saint Benedict’s instruction pertains as equally to parents, friends and acquaintances as it does to abbots, bishops and other religious superiors.
“There will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance,” Our Lord teaches us. Let us pray and work earnestly, therefore, to increase the joy in heaven! +
+ “They all alike began to make excuses.”
There are few things more frustrating and annoying than to have gone to great trouble in preparing an event and inviting people, indeed friends, and then to be inundated, not with gratitude and joyful acceptance of the invitation, but with procrastination, excuses, and even an unspoken ingratitude.
In the Gospel of this Holy Mass the invitation concerned is to a banquet. We ‘moderns’ may wonder why such a fuss is made of a mere invitation to a supper. However, if we appreciate the very high importance of sharing a meal in common in the ancient world, indeed the fact that it was a preeminent form of communing with others, and if, with the Fathers of the Church, we read this parable as referring to the invitation to the feast that is the Kingdom of God, and indeed more specifically to the Banquet of the Eucharistic Sacrifice – a layer of meaning augmented further by the development of the feast of Corpus Christi in the liturgical tradition of the Church – we can begin to appreciate the anger of the householder in the face of all of these excuses. For, as Saint Gregory taught at matins this morning, “spiritual delights, when they are not partaken of, are in fact disdained.”
That we are in fact here, at Mass, is, please God, an indication that we have not ourselves disdained the invitation of Our Blessed Lord. This is not a matter for pride, but for humility, for we are privileged to be invited guests (regardless of whether we were on the original guest list, or were dragged in off the streets). Let us not omit to thank God for this privilege, and indeed to pray for those who so dearly wish to be present at the Lord’s banquet but are today impeded from so being by secular authorities in one way or another. They are not to be counted amongst the excuse makers.
And yet so many do make excuses. The Gospel is for all. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ. It is imperative that all acknowledge this truth and come to worship Him. Nevertheless, so many excuse themselves in their busy pursuit of the allurements of the world, the flesh and the devil. Even in the Church we can become preoccupied with activity aimed at improving this world which can so absorb us that we omit to call people to conversion and to faith in Christ. Our worship of Him, which is our first duty, and in which our good works must be grounded and out of which they should flow, can become merely a secondary, almost ‘private’ matter, fitted in after our humanitarian activity.
So too, in the circumstances of finding or living out our own vocation, we are all too prone to make excuses. When the Lord is inviting me to follow him in a particular way of life, or more completely in the given circumstances of my life, how many excuses do we make? How many futile questions do we raise? The Lord’s invitation is always specific. It may not be what I expect, nor even what I may prefer. But it is His invitation. If I procrastinate, indulging in perpetual speculation and innumerable ‘what-ifs’, if in my pride-disguised-as-discernment, I refuse to take even the first step in following His call, I may well find that the opportunity has passed and I have missed out on the opportunity to take my invited place in the Lord’s Banquet.
The encounter of the rich young man by Our Lord (Mark 10: 17-23) comes to mind. How Our Lord loved him and wished him to come to perfection by leaving all and following him. And how sadly the young man went away from this encounter because of the excuse of his great wealth. Wealth, attachments, ambition, ecclesiastical preferences and predilections, and even a form of self-serving prudence are but some of the excuses that we proffer.
At the beginning of matins each morning psalm 94 is sung. It is a call to worship God, our Creator, as faithful sheep of His pasture – unlike the stubborn generation that put God to test in the desert at Massah. (cf. Exodus 17) The psalm prays: “O that today you would hearken to his voice! Harden not your hearts…”
My brothers and sisters, when we hear the voice of the Lord inviting us, be that to a greater fidelity in the particular circumstances of my life and vocation, or, be that to follow Him in a particular and new way, let us not make excuses. Let us hearken to his voice. For what He has in store for us is nothing less than the Banquet of His Kingdom, of which this Holy Mass is a sacramental foretaste. Let us not allow anything to harden our hearts, lest we come to be included in those of whom it was said: “None of those men who were invited shall taste of my banquet.” +
+ “Quicumque vult salvus esse… Whoever would be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith, except everyone doth keep entire, and unviolated, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. Now the Catholic faith is this: that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity…”
These words form the opening of the Athanasian Creed—a creed which St John Henry Newman called “the most simple and sublime” and “most devotional formulary to which Christianity has given birth” (Grammar of Assent)—originating between the fourth and sixth centuries (possibly even rather locally, in association with St Vincent of Lerins, according to some scholars) and sung at the Office of Prime on this feast to this day.
These words are uncompromising, and the text of the Athanasian Creed continues in the same vein. It is well worth praying and pondering this ancient creed in its entirety on this feast – the feast of “God Himself”, as it were. For the Athanasian Creed is a powerful witness to the faith of the Church hammered out amidst the secular persecutions and doctrinal conflicts of her first centuries as she sought faithfully to follow the command given to us in the Gospel of this Holy Mass: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
In stark contrast to the faith of the Athanasian Creed, and indeed to the command of Our Blessed Lord in commanding that we make disciples of all nations, we very frequently hear – even from Catholics! – expressions such as “We all worship the same God,” or “All religions are valid paths to God,” etc. At best such statements are disingenuous and misleading. At worst they are false and heretical. The doctrine of the Trinity is not some form of optional upgrade or an ‘add-on’ to a basic theism chosen by people called Christians according to their peculiar taste. No. As today’s feast proclaims loud and clear, the doctrine of the Trinity speaks of the very nature of God Himself, as He has revealed Himself in human history. To reject Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit as truly God is to reject God. To refuse to worship the Trinity is to refuse to worship God. Any “god” who is not three persons yet one God is not the One True God. This is what we mean when we say that the Holy Trinity is “indivisible.”
This is not to downplay in any way importance and value of good will with people of other beliefs, nor to undervalue cooperation in humanitarian matters where possible. But it is essential that gestures of good will not be misinterpreted so as to foster a “mentality of indifferentism ‘characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that 'one religion is as good as another.’’” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, 2000, n. 22)
Nor is it to exclude the clear and nuanced teaching of the Church that “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 847).
And it is not to deny the sincerity of people who adhere to other faiths or to refuse them the respect that is their right. But it is to insist that ordinarily, according to the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ and the constant Tradition of His Church, faith in the Blessed Trinity is necessary for salvation.
And yes, we must underline that faith is necessary for salvation, not simply good works. It is not enough to be “nice” or somehow “good”; one must truly believe in God the Holy Trinity. Hence the missionary command of today’s Gospel – a command that has inspired countless men and women, great saints amongst them, throughout the centuries, to leave their homeland to bring the One True Faith to others so that they too may be saved.
“Haec est fides catholica, quam nisi quisque fideliter firmiterque crediderit, salvus esse non poterit. This is the Catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved,” the Athanasian creed concludes. My brothers and sisters, this is nothing less than a question of (eternal) life and death. For our perseverance in this faith, and for a renewal and increase in missionary zeal in respect of it in the Church of our day, let us pray earnestly as we adore the Most Holy Trinity in the most perfect way possible in this life in this Mass. +
+ How are we to understand this great feast of Pentecost? How can we begin to comprehend the Gift of God Himself, poured out upon the Church on that day, and given equally to each of us in our Baptism and Confirmation, and anew today?
As ever, our Holy Mother the Church presents us with sublimely rich fare in the texts of her Sacred Liturgy that have come together in Tradition to form the Mass and Office of Pentecost, beginning yesterday afternoon with its ancient Vigil. And, as always, we can do no better in seeking to contemplate the meaning of this feast than by taking these texts and pondering and praying them today and throughout the Octave before us. In particular I recommend revisiting – as does the Mass of each day of this week - the beautiful Sequence of Pentecost. If we but open ourselves to these treasures by immersing ourselves in their riches, this Pentecost will have a greater impact upon us than heretofore.
And this is all to the good. A greater appreciation of the gift of Pentecost, the gift of God Himself, indwelling in us, Who will teach us everything, is assuredly vital. Entering more deeply into the mystery of God’s saving action in human history is an important part of prayer and contemplation – for monks, laity and others alike.
In doing so, however, we must avoid the heresy of quietism. For if the feast of Pentecost invites us to ponder anew the mystery of the Gift of God Himself given to us anew this day, it does not do so in order to produce smug, inert contemplatives. No. God the Holy Spirit is given to us in Pentecost so that we may have the power and the force and all the gifts necessary for heroic witness and final perseverance as faithful disciples of Christ in this life. Just as the tongues of fire transformed sinful men into eloquent apostles, so too the flames of Pentecost must fire us into action – action which will itself take us deeper and deeper into the mystery of God.
This is not to say that monks should become mendicants, or that parents should assume the roles of priests. In the one Body of Christ there are many members with distinct functions. And as for the human body, so too for the Church, it is essential that each different part of the body is in good health and serves according to its God-given function – fuelled by the fire of God the Holy Spirit. Contemplative “activity” is as essential to the Body of Christ as is apostolic “activity”. Any monk knows how apostolic an observant monastery in fact is, just as anyone immersed in the apostolate knows how essential prayer and contemplation is. Should any part of the Body of Christ become infected with quietism, the whole would suffer from the infection.
At this period in the Church’s history it seems that in many places the fire of Pentecost burns dully and low, somewhat like a dying candle. The Church sometimes seems more concerned studiously to avoid any criticism from the world, and to be more in a hurry adopt its agenda, than to be on fire with the joy of courageously announcing the wonders of Almighty God in every known language. Often the Church seems more preoccupied with the internal management of its own decline than with announcing with joy that the Spirit of God is alive and active in the world for the salvation of all. We, naturally enough, can feel inhibited and oppressed when our Apostles themselves seem to be thus distracted or depressed. It can seem that there is little left that we can do in the face of such quasi-institutional malaise.
That is true enough. We are powerless. We are tired. We are sinners. We are weak. We are few. The forces against us are simply too great.
My brothers and sisters, the apostles suffered from these same realities. They were as inadequate as ourselves. Their fear and depression were real. The threats they faced were altogether of another order.
And yet these flawed and inadequate men were transformed by the Gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and became the very pillars with which the One True Church of Jesus Christ was built, not by virtue of their own merits, but by the singular outpouring of God’s grace – of God Himself – at Pentecost. If that same Church stands in need of rebuilding today – and who can doubt that it does! – the fact is that same Gift is given to us this Pentecost to that very end.
When we begin to understand this, when by our revisiting of the liturgical texts of this feast we begin to penetrate its incredible implications, when we open ourselves to the Power Whom Almighty God gives us in the sacraments of His Church, there is no room left for distraction or depression. Rather, we come to live in hope – indeed we come to live by and for Hope Himself. And we come to realise that there is much, very much indeed, to be done – in conforming ourselves ever more to Christ and in opening ourselves to that which He, by the power of the Holy Spirit, wishes to do in us and through us – as much in the monastic enclosure as well as in the world.
If we understand this, we have begun truly to understand – and to live – this great feast of Pentecost.
Veni Sancte Spiritus, give us the gifts of joyful and faithful perseverance in the Faith so the Church on earth may witness to the wonders of God with a fidelity and zeal that is truly renewed this day! +
+ “I have said all this to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues; indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.”
These stark words of Our Lord, warning his disciples of what the future held for them, are addressed to us this morning in this period after the Ascension, when we are left looking up into the sky, as it were, contemplating all that has happened and anticipating the Gift of the promised Paraclete, “the spirit of truth.”
And indeed, in Western Europe as well as in many other countries these words resound with a terrible truth in our times. Only last October three Catholics were slain in the Basilica of Notre Dame in Nice, not so far from us, by someone convinced he was doing what God willed. As we know only too well, this was not an isolated incident in our day. There have been many – too many – acts of violence committed against Christians in the name of God.
“They will do this because they have not known the Father, nor me,” Our Lord continues. How utterly true! Such acts betray an profound ignorance of the nature of the One True God revealed in history, revealed definitively so in the Incarnation of His Son, Jesus Christ. That is to say that the ‘god’ inspiring such hatred and violence is not God at all. This evil comes a fallen spirit of deception and deceit, seeking to destroy all that is good and is truly of God and to sow enmity and hatred.
It essential that we avoid falling into this most insidious temptation ourselves. That evil, even extreme evil, is done to us is no excuse for hostility or xenophobia towards others. Rather, it renders the increase in charity commanded by Saint Peter in this morning’s Epistle even more imperative. And it renders the command given by Our Lord at his very Ascension to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (cf. Mk 16:15) a matter of the uttermost urgency. For if people do not know the Father, or His Incarnate Son, whose fault is it, but ours?
This may seem to be too difficult a goal to achieve in our world. Who are we in the face of such widespread evil – we, weak and sinful beings, at times utterly unworthy of the inestimable gift and noble vocation that our baptism gives us.
Doubt and fear were the lot of the original disciples too. Unworthiness also – even after the Ascension. But the promised Gift of the Paraclete, the Consoler, burnt away all that was unworthy in them, purifying them in the furnace of God’s love so that they could realise all that to which their baptism called them.
Saint Leo the Great (400-461) instructs us on the nature of this reality:
“This Faith, increased by the Lord’s Ascension and established by the gift of the Holy Ghost, was not terrified by bonds, imprisonments, banishments, hunger, fire, attacks by wild beasts, refined torments of cruel persecutors. For this Faith throughout the world not only men, but even women, not only beardless boys, but even tender maids, fought to the shedding of their blood. This Faith cast out spirits, drove off sicknesses, raised the dead…” (De Ascensione Domini, II)
Therefore, we are not to live in fear, but with the confidence of supernatural faith and hope, in the charity and prudence to which Saint Peter exhorts us. We are not to be passive ‘closet’ Christians, but faithful witnesses to the Truth of God, revealed definitively for all men in Jesus Christ. We are to be His missionaries in that part of the world in which it is given to us to walk in this life. Nothing less.
For an increase in faith and hope and charity; for the resolution of our own wills that is necessary to take up our missionary duty with renewed zeal and efficacy, let us ask Almighty God in this Holy Mass and throughout the coming days as the great day of Pentecost draws near. +
Thinking of a monastic vocation? Please read:
Am I called to be a monk?