A Homily for the First Sunday of Lent
+ It is exciting, is it not, when someone offers us a gift? It is affirming. Very often gifts open up new possibilities for us, small or large. They expand our horizons and introduce something new into how we proceed in the future.
So too, it is pleasing when we are entrusted with greater responsibility in our vocation or career. It is right and fitting that when we work hard and diligently over a long time that this be recognised and rewarded and that, if we are capable, when we are ready to exercise authority, we are given the opportunity so to do. Advancement in life and responsibility and a successful career are all good things. St Paul exhorts us to be ambitious for the higher gifts (cf. 1 Cor. 12:31)—insisting, of course that they are exercised in love.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong, then, in accepting gifts or responsibilities. They are often gifts of Almighty God Himself that call us further in His service and the service of others. And yet, as the Gospel of this Holy Mass teaches very clearly, some gifts that are offered are in fact pernicious temptations:
“The devil took Him to a very high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to Him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”
“All the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them,” is quite an offer! What child does not dream of ruling the world and making all things right? Thankfully children grow up and as adults, usually, rightly recoil from any such ambitions—because the offer is made by the devil on one condition: “if you will fall down and worship me.”
On this first Sunday of Lent the Sacred Liturgy of Our Holy Mother, the Church, confronts us with the fundamental realities of good and evil and of their personification in God and the devil. She starkly puts before us the choice to fall down and worship the devil by grasping for whatever we can in this life, or of saying: ““Begone, Satan!” and of worshipping the Lord our God and of serving Him alone.
This choice—and our radical human freedom enables us to choose either of them—is as fundamental to our existence as it is frequent in the fabric of our daily activities. The monk who daily takes back more and more of what his self-will prefers is on the road to perdition: his habit and his profession call him to serve God, not his own desires. The married man or woman for whom their spouse and their family do not come first has placed something else in front of their God-given vocation—and that something needs to move to second place so that it is the Lord God, and He alone, who is worshipped. The young man or woman who considers what “I want…” rather than the radical self-sacrifice to which Almighty God calls them may never realise their true vocation.
So too, for those who exercise responsibility and power in the Church or in the world, this temptation is an insidious reality: to politic and grasp for power as an end in itself, or for one’s self-aggrandisement and the advancement of one’s ideologies, is a grave danger. We are, perhaps, too used to this in the cutthroat realm of secular politics: one party replaces another and, in a solemn act of homage to the demon of relativism, declares black to be white and white to be black and the contradiction of this political dogma to be illegal. The next party changes everything yet again, and we hope that one day black may be black and white may be white once again.
The Church, it seems, is by no means immune to such positivistic political relativism. The demonic seduction of power and prestige has been a debilitating factor throughout the Church’s history, and its resurgence in our own times is deeply distressing. For the use of ecclesiastical power to advance a political programme to reverse the policies of a previous administration, to declare white to be black, and to rejoice in the doing thereof, is a very long way indeed from the humble exercise of authority under God as a service to the Church.
For whether we be a president, prime minister, a prince of the Church or a pope, be we a parent or a priest, a postulant or a prior, it is the Lord our God and Him alone whom we serve, not ourselves or our own febrile ends, and the exercise of any authority or power that may be given to us must reflect this reality: for according to that reality, according to whom we bow down and worship, we shall be judged.
That “all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them” are offered to us by the devil in one way or another is a reality—a seductive reality that will lead to our perdition. Through our prayer, fasting and almsgiving this Lent, and with the help of the grace of the sacrament of confession, we must rid ourselves of this temptation and return ever more to the worship of the Lord our God alone even—most especially!—when we hold authority, power or responsibility in the Church, in the family and in society. For that humility, and for the grace to persevere in its daily exercise, let us beg Almighty God at His altar in this Holy Mass. +
A Chapter Conference for Ash Wednesday
+ “Qui meditabitur in lege Domini die ac nocte, dabit fructum suum in tempore suo.”
These words, which are amongst the very first words of the Psalter and which are sung during the Communion procession of the Mass of Ash Wednesday, resound deeply in the monastic heart: “He who contemplates the Law of the Lord, day and night, shall yield his fruit in due season.”
For what is the monastic vocation if it is not to contemplate the Law of the Lord day and night: in singing the Lord’s praises in choir, in the precious, golden early-morning silence of lectio divina, in the silence and recollection that protects us whilst we are about our monastic work no matter where it must be, in our various studies, and even in our rest? The world may see this as a burden, as a restriction, as an imposition, but as every novice who perseveres to profession comes over time to discover from within, the discipline of silence is a liberation—the liberation of the new man “created according to God, in justice and holiness of life” (Rite of the Clothing of a Novice) from the old man, from the constant noise in which the world engulfs us and anaesthetises us, that he might become the man, the monk, Almighty God calls him to become so as to be able to yield his fruit in due season.
To be sure, monks young and old and everywhere in between must work at maintaining and protecting the discipline of silence, just as a novice must patiently learn its fundamental importance over time. It is all too easy for us to let the observance of silence slip and to allow noise to infest our hearts, minds and souls, leaving little or no room for the contemplation of the Law of the Lord.
This, then, I would ask, is our first Lenten priority: to ensure that our observance of silence is as it should be externally, and that it is generous and loving internally. The Law of the Lord must not only find space within us in which to enter, it must also find a welcome that allows it to take root and grow within us. It must find in us the good soil of the Gospel of Sexagesima Sunday.
This welcome must also be a patient one. We are used to instant messages and responses and to all manner of immediate cause-and-effect activity. But he who contemplates the Law of the Lord, day and night, shall yield his fruit in due season, not by return of electronic message.
That is to say that a monk—indeed any Christian, but especially those who live by the Rule of Saint Benedict—must have a supernatural patience which is content with doing that, and only that, which is the business of the day. A monk who is anxious to see the fruits of his prayer in this life, shall in all likelihood see the shipwreck of his vocation sooner rather than later. Our fidelity to the Office in Choir, to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, to the other liturgical rites, to our lectio divina, to perseverance in fraternal charity, to all of the customs and observances that shape and protect our vocation, is sufficient for today. They shall yield their fruit in due season, according to the Providence of Almighty God, in this life and in the next. Looking anxiously at our watches will not help: indeed, it may be regarded as a lack of faith in God’s Providence—and at worst a blasphemy.
So, brethren, we must be patient with ourselves, and with Almighty God. God is God: He knows what He is doing with us. He knows what He is doing here in our small, new foundation. When He is ready, we shall see more of His Holy Will for us. We must be patient—whilst all the while contemplating the Law of the Lord. This supernatural patience is, I submit, our second Lenten priority.
The third is that we offer our Lenten penances for two particular intentions. Firstly, for those young men within whom the Holy Spirit has begun the stirrings of a monastic vocation. Some of them we already know; some are at this point known to Almighty God alone. Such stirrings are a grace, certainly, but it requires courage and fortitude and many other supernatural gifts for a young man in the modern world to allow them to bear fruit. We have our very real part to play in winning for them the graces necessary that they may respond generously to His call so that they may themselves bear the fruit in due season that He wills.
Secondly, I ask that we offer our penances for the Church. She is sorely afflicted throughout the world by strife within and without. The former is more insidious. We do not expect the pastors of the Church to inflict unnecessary suffering upon us, most especially in respect of the very foundations of our ecclesial life, but even in the past day the monastery has received several messages from faithful around the world anguished at the restrictions being placed on the traditional liturgy in the name of obedience.
Our little monastery cannot solve this crisis, but we can carry the suffering of others with us into choir and to the altar. So too we can light a lamp, howsoever small, that will nevertheless shine in the current darkness; we can become an oasis in a desert if that is God’s will. But only if, first and foremost, we are faithful to our vocation to mediate on the Law of the Lord, day and night.
Our duty, then, is clear. May this Lent of 2023 be a time of purification, growth and renewal in our vocation that each of us, when the due season arrives, may indeed be found to have brought forth the fruit that is his due. +
A Homily for Quinquagesima Sunday
+ “Quid tibi vis faciam?” Our Lord asks the blind man who cries out to Him in the Gospel of this morning’s Holy Mass: “What do you want me to do for you?”
This encounter almost has a fairy-tale quality to it: ‘You have one wish; make it and it shall be granted!’ And yet this is no fable for children; it is the Gospel of Salvation announced by the unique and definitive revelation of God in human history, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and proclaimed anew by His One True Church in her Sacred Liturgy on this Quinquagesima Sunday. This very morning Our Blessed Lord, hearing our cries, turns to us and asks: “What do you want me to do for you?”
It is an apposite question, is it not, as we prepare for the great fast of Lent? What graces, what purifications, what growth do we hope for this Lent? What progress do we desire to have made when we celebrate the coming feast of Easter? What do we want the Lord to have done for us and in us by then?
The blind man was clear in his own request once again to be able to see. We, however, may not be so clear. We may well be approaching this Lent as many others with an habitual acceptance of its coming disciplines without, as it were, a clear goal in view. In one sense it would be quite possible to observe Lent quite correctly but to miss its great opportunity, as it were, to make real spiritual progress in uprooting vice and growing in virtue.
It is vitally important that we do not miss this opportunity; it is imperative that each of us takes the time and makes the effort to answer the question: What do we want the Lord to do for us in the coming weeks?
This requires an act of the will on our part. We must positively will to make the spiritual progress that is necessary in us. Complacency in respect of our spiritual life is a form of the sin of sloth, and we must overcome this temptation first and foremost if we are to move forward. We must actually want Our Lord to do something for us and in us. So too, we must be prepared for the consequent responsibility this will bring.
Then, if we wish Him to do something for us, we must work towards it. We must prepare ourselves worthily and fruitfully to receive His gift. Our Lord did not heal the blind man against his will. He did not force His grace upon him. The blind man cried out to Our Lord time and time again even when quietened by the bystanders. But Our Lord heard his cries for mercy and responded “…your faith has made you well.”
So too must we cry for mercy through our penitential practices, most especially in the coming weeks. If needs be we must cry all the louder through our faithful perseverance in them. The disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving are at our disposal as always, as is the Sacrament of Confession. Our state in life and the duties it involves, our age and our health, will regulate what is prudent and possible, but if we want the Lord to work within us, we shall be as generous as we can in what we offer Him in faith and in penitence.
We may well have something very specific in mind for which we wish to ask this Lent: growth in a particular virtue (in this morning’s Epistle St Paul would have us remember the need to grow in charity), the uprooting of a particular vice. We may wish to see God’s will for us more clearly and to ask for the grace generously and courageously to carry it out for His glory and for the salvation of our soul and the souls of others. We may need to ask for the grace of further perseverance in our longstanding vocation. We may need the Lord to heal our unworthiness in the face of the responsibilities He calls on us to accept.
Or perhaps, without any great or urgent demand, we simply seek an increase in faith, hope and charity—we could ask for nothing more valuable—so as better to be at the disposition of God’s will in the particular circumstances of our lives. In this case we ought not to be surprised if we receive these gifts in abundance for use in the Lord’s service in ways in which we presently cannot imagine.
“Quid tibi vis faciam?” “What do you want me to do for you?” Our Lord asks each of us this question today. It requires an answer; an answer that shall itself make demands on us, most particularly in the coming weeks. And yet these demands should not cause us anxiety, for as the Church sings in the words of the psalmist in the Communion Antiphon of this Quinquagesima Sunday, “They ate and they took their fill; all they asked, the Lord granted them; he would not disappoint them of their longing.” +
A Homily for Sexagesima Sunday
+ Exsurge, quare obdormis Dominie? “Wake up! Why are you asleep Lord?” the Introit of this Holy Mass impertinently cries out in distress. “Arise, Lord, help us and deliver us!”
Be it the particular situation in which we find ourselves in respect of persevering in our personal vocation in life (or in respect of embarking upon that vocation) with the perennial need to uproot vice and grow in virtue, be it the situation in which our nation finds itself as it pursues increasingly secular and godless agendas, be it the situation in which the Universal Church finds herself as she seemingly obliviously slumbers on in the “toxic nightmare” of the process of Synodality obscuring her unique salvific mission to the world with undue emphasis on internal processes, or be it even our diocese and our good bishop who, as of tomorrow, are to be subject to an Apostolic Visitation (with all that we know that implies), the cry: Exsurge, quare obdormis Dominie? finds a rightful home on our lips and resonates profoundly in our hearts, minds and souls.
In many different ways and times it can be that the Lord seems to have forgotten us. We need His saving help, now! We know we must follow Him and persevere unto the end in order to be saved, but we just cannot do so alone. We are weak. We are wounded by our sins. As we read at Matins this morning, it may well indeed be time to build an ark (even a monastery) so as to survive the storms that rage within us and that threaten us from without.
After the substantial boast provoked by the relatively turbulent Church of Corinth which comprises the greater part of this morning’s Epistle, St Paul recounts his own angst over the thorn of the flesh from which he suffered and about which he protested to the Lord no fewer than three times, begging for its removal. Instead of being granted an ‘easier’ life so to speak, St Paul’s entreaty earned him an invitation to enter more deeply into the mystery of the Cross. “Sufficit tbi gratia mea,” the Lord said to him: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When the Lord seems to be sleeping, when everything and anything is going wrong in us and around us, He speaks these words: “Sufficit tbi gratia mea”. Indeed, through the Church’s Sacred Liturgy this morning He speaks them anew to each one of us in the situation that this Sexagesima Sunday finds us. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The Lord’s grace, the strength and power of His Life and Love, made available to us by the Sacraments of His Holy Church and in different ways through prayer and the various sacramentals, is the constant help that He gives us no matter what dangers confront us. Our task, of course, is to open ourselves ever more to the worthy reception of His grace so that it may take root in our souls and direct and protect us in our daily combat with the world, the flesh and the devil, and bring forth an abundant harvest.
And this, of course, is precisely what the Holy Gospel of this Mass seeks to teach us in proclaiming to us anew the Parable of the Sower. For the sad reality is that, whilst Almighty God freely offers us all the graces we need, in many cases they are not able successfully enter into our hearts, minds and souls and enable us to live and grow as God wills us so to do. The world, the flesh and the devil reject God’s grace, they distract us from it. Our flirtations with them choke the growth of God’s grace and seek to kill and replace it with their seductive counterfeits.
So, we have some gardening to do. We must prepare ourselves be that “good soil” which brings forth an abundant harvest. As we know from our gardens, large and small, weeds must be thoroughly uprooted lest they grow back immediately after our cursory attempts to remove them. It is the same with our vices. We may confess the sins they produce, certainly, but unless we do the hard work necessary to destroy their roots, they will continue their nefarious work. Perhaps that of which we need to repent and duly confess is in fact our sloth in uprooting our vices?
A prudent gardener prepares his garden beds well before Spring. Our ever-prudent Mother, the Church, calls on us on this Sexagesima Sunday to get to work in the garden of our souls, even before Lent, so as to aim for a better harvest. For whilst it may seem that the Lord sleeps and does not come to our help, the fact is that His grace is always available to us if only we remove the rocks and thorns that prevent its growth, and nourish it through daily prayer, the worthy reception of the sacraments and perseverance in our vocation. For that extra grace to get on with the gardening we know we need to do, so that the Lord’s power may be made manifest even in our weakness, let us beg Almighty God this morning at His altar. +
A Homily for Septuagesima Sunday
+ Multum enim sunt vocati, pauco vero electi. Many are called; few, truly, are chosen.
As we commence our annual preparation for the great fast of Lent on this Septuagesima Sunday, our Holy Mother the Church chastens us, as it were, with the Lord’s stark reminder that whilst many are called, the truth is that few are chosen; few, in the end, find themselves amongst the elect of God in His Kingdom.
These are uncomfortable words—or at least they should be—because they refute the contemporary heresy that anesthetises people to the eternal realities of death, judgement, heaven or hell by assuming a universal salvation that exalts the mercy of God whilst ignoring the demands of His justice. Our world today, and yes, far too often some in Christ’s Church, assume that we cannot go to hell, thereby rendering our moral choices irrelevant and eviscerating the mission Our Lord gave to His Church. Those who hold to this heresy would have the Gospel read: “All are called, and all are chosen—regardless of their free will or the choices they have made in this life.”
But the Gospel of Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, the definitive revelation of God in human history and the unique Saviour of mankind, does not say this. It says: “Many are called; few, truly, are chosen.” And the One True Church He founded must faithfully proclaim this reality until the end of time—ministering His mercy and saving love through the Sacraments He instituted, most certainly, for we sinners have constant need of his grace and help, but never presuming to annul the reality and the demands of His justice, before which we must all answer.
In considering this sober reality, we would do well to contemplate two things. The first is the indignant question of the owner of the vineyard that we hear in the Gospel of this Holy Mass. “Why do you stand here idle all day?” he asks the men standing doing nothing in the market place. Through her Sacred Liturgy the Church asks each of us this question today.
And certainly, there is much work that needs doing—in the further conversion of our own lives, in uprooting vice by facing its reality in ourselves with an honesty that recognises its eternal consequences, in growing in virtue through the assiduous cultivation of good spiritual practices. There is much to do in our families, in our places of work, in our communities, where each of us are called to be witnesses to the truth that “many are called” but “few, truly, are chosen.” So too, we must bear courageous witness this truth in the Church, and refute errors that deny it or undermine its imperatives.
So too, there is much work to do in the Lord’s vineyard, and in contemplating the Gospel of this Holy Mass we cannot ignore all that it has to say to a young man or woman whom the Lord calls into His particular and intimate service in the monastic, religious or ordained life. Standing idle in respect of the Lord’s call is rightly rebuked. There is work to be done; if I do not do it when I am called, it shall remain undone—and for that I must answer before the justice of Almighty God.
The second thing we should contemplate on this Septuagesima Sunday is the exhortation of Saint Paul in this morning’s epistle to run so as to be victorious in the race. What he is saying becomes clearer if we consider the obverse: “Do not lose the race,” St Paul is saying. “Do not run so as to achieve defeat.” “Do not give up.”
Oh yes, it is so very easy to ‘give up’, isn’t it?! Self-pity, fear, sloth, wounds and illnesses all provide us with innumerable excuses or even reasons to say “I cannot…” when even more is asked of us. But St Paul would have us continue. He exhorts us to run to win the prize, not to fall by the wayside and lick our wounds, just as St Benedict instructs his sons who believe that that which has been asked of them is impossible to obey their superior nevertheless “out of love, trusting in the assistance of God.” (Rule, ch. 68). For Our Lord teaches us that “He that shall persevere to the end shall be saved.” (Mt 10:22)
On Septuagesima Sunday our holy mother the Church signals that Lent is approaching fast so that it does not catch us unaware, as it were. But as the Sacred Liturgy makes clear today is more than a mere purple flag asking us to remember a forthcoming event. It calls us to a sober and chaste contemplation of the reality that many are called but few, truly, are chosen, and by so doing seeks to wake us from our idleness and to encourage, indeed urge, us to keep running the course.
We may be tired, we may be injured, we may be utterly distracted; but none of those things changes the truth of the Gospel—the Gospel which assures us that the grace and the mercy we need are available for the asking if we but turn to the Lord and ask. As we now approach His altar to offer the Sacrifice of His Love, let us do precisely that. +
Toutes nos félicitations aux Abbayes du Barrroux et de La Garde
pour la preparation et la parution de cet ouvrage monumental :
une édition latin-française des matines bénédictines en trois volumes.
En outre, il existe également une édition dans un volume en latin uniquement.
Congratulations to the Abbeys of Le Barrroux and La Garde
on the preparation and publication of this monumental work:
a Latin edition of the traditional Benedictine night office (matins).
In addition, there is also a three-volume edition
in Latin with a French translation on opposite pages.
+ Domine, salva nos, perimus! “Save, Lord; we are perishing!”
How often since that storm on the sea that is recounted in the Gospel of this Holy Mass have Christians cried out “Domine, salve nos, perimus!” collectively or individually? How often in the history of the Church has it seemed—as it does at times today—that the Lord sleeps whilst His Church is attacked on all sides from without and is ravaged by strife within? How frequently do we feel ourselves to be helpless, to have used up all our energy and good will, and to be in grave risk of perishing because the Lord sleeps and simply does not act on our behalf. We try to be faithful, to conquer vice and to grow in virtue, but we seem to make no progress. The danger persists. The Lord sleeps whilst we rightly fear perishing.
It may be of some comfort to know that this is no new phenomenon. Israel cries out to the Lord in Psalm 43: “Exsurge, quare obdormis Domine?” “Rouse thyself! Why sleepest thou, O Lord? Awake! Do not cast us off for ever! Why dost thou hide thy face? Why dost thou forget our affliction and oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our body cleaves to the ground. Rise up, come to our help! Deliver us for the sake of thy steadfast love!” (23-26)
Weekly, whilst the world sleeps, we monks repeat this cry at Matins early on Monday morning—fulfilling our duty of reminding the Lord to wake up and to get to work on time, as it were. So too, the Church sings these words as she prepares for the great fast of Lent—as shall we in two weeks’ time—in the Introit of the Mass of Sexagesima. For very good reasons the disciples in the boat, the People of Israel, the Church of God in her Divine Office and in the Mass, and we as individuals, all cry out: Save us Lord! Do not sleep! We are in danger!
The answer to our cry, to our anguished prayer is given to us by Our Blessed Lord in the Gospel of this Holy Mass by way of the rebuke (almost of someone at least a little irascible at having been woken up too early) addressed to us in this morning’s Holy Gospel: “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith?”
In response we can, of course, list several real, important and urgent reasons why we are afraid: from fear of sin or suffering or death or eternal condemnation, etc. The storms that threaten us frequently arise without warning, and some are a danger even to the most well-prepared of navigators. And the Lord’s slumber does nothing to console us. We are naturally afraid.
But Our Lord rebukes our lack of faith. Yes, He knows our fears and the dangers that threaten us at a natural level. Even as He seemingly sleeps He knows them only too well: He suffered and died on the cross, offering the very last drop of His Precious Blood so that we might not perish: if only we have faith in Him.
To the many and varied fears that we naturally have, in the face whatever dangers threaten us and which rightly frighten us, the Lord offers us the gift—the armour—of super-natural faith, equipped with which we can face down anything that the world, the flesh or the devil seeks to terrorise us. For the gift of supernatural faith enables us to see beyond the storm, even if it seems that the Lord is asleep. It enables us steadfastly to navigate the seas even when the waves beat over us. And, as countless martyrs and other saints have borne witness, supernatural faith enables us to accept suffering, ignominy and defeat in the eyes of this world with the sure hope of salvation in the next—if only we hold fast and persevere unto the end. (cf. Mt. 24:13)
Of course, we must open ourselves to this gift and ensure it takes root in our hearts, minds and souls. It must be nourished and renewed by the sacraments, in particular by frequent confession and the worthy reception of Holy Communion. And the gift of faith in us must bear fruit in the circumstances in which we are daily called to be its witness in the world. Faith is not a one-time-only vaccination given at Baptism. It is the seed of divine life planted in our souls that must be nurtured and grow into a reality that will endure even the worst of storms.
Domine, salva nos, perimus! “Save, Lord; we are perishing!” we cry. He has. He does. He will. If only we have faith in Him, if only we will pray the collect of this Mass with fervour, He shall do the rest: “O God, You Who know that our human frailty cannot stand fast against the great dangers that beset us, grant us health of mind and body, that with your help we may overcome what we suffer on account of our sins.” For His help, for the grace to persevere in faith until the end, let us beg Almighty God at His altar this morning. +
+ One of the most beautiful encounters in the Gospels is placed before us by Holy Mother Church in the Gospel of this Mass: “A leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
“If you will [it]…” the leper pleaded, kneeling. “I will [it]” Our Blessed Lord responded. “And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
The dramatic healing miracles of the Gospels often astonish us and leave us in awe. They most certainly fulfil the task of asserting quite clearly that Jesus of Nazareth, whose birth we celebrated not a month ago, is the Christ of God, the definitive incarnation of God in history. But we can be tempted to leave them there, as it were—after all, very few suffer from leprosy, and our modern mentality rapidly dismisses the possibility of miracles of healing in our day (even when they truly occur).
But leprosy abounds in our day, in many and various forms—in the pervading relativism that continually eats away at any assertion of objective truth; in the materialism that worships any number of calves made of gold or of anything else that money can buy; in the frenetic pursuit of political power that consumes so many and which increasingly seeks to exclude differing stances (most especially theistic ones) from participation in public discourse or even, at times, in holding a legitimate place in society.
These lesions even appear on the Body of Christ, the Church. Relativism, materialism, political power struggles and the exclusion of those who hold perfectly orthodox but currently politically incorrect views is only too well known and even seems to be being enthroned by the (“toxic”) process called “Synodality”.
We, too, disfigure the Body of Christ by complacently allowing the leprosy of sin to take root in our souls and to grow into vice that devours the life of grace in our souls. The seven deadly sins— pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony and sloth—are called “deadly” for good reason. They mortally disease us. They gravely wound the Body of Christ.
The picture—in the Church, in the world, and perhaps even in our own souls—may well be fairly bleak, if not desperate. Yet it is in these utterly distressing and dangerous circumstances that here, this morning, amidst all that burdens or oppresses us, the Holy Gospel is proclaimed with great solemnity: “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” “I will [it]”
For miracles do happen. They can continue to happen. They can happen today: in the Church, in the world and in the lives of monks and clergy and in the lives men and women living all manner of different vocations. This is the good news—the Gospel—of Jesus Christ announced to us anew in this Holy Mass.
“But how?” we ask, perhaps somewhat cynically. The leper provides the answer: by humbling ourselves and kneeling before the Lord in faith, by recognising our leprosy and begging the healing we need. Popes, prelates, priests, presidents, prime ministers and politicians of every rank, as well as private persons no matter what their circumstances—all of us!—need to fall on our knees before the Lord, to look into His loving eyes with faith, and beg of Him the healing we need.
It is no coincidence that traditionally we kneel at the elevation of the Sacred Host and Chalice at Mass, that we kneel to receive Holy Communion, to confess our sins in the Sacrament of Penance, and to receive other sacraments. To kneel is make an act of faith. And as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote: “"A liturgy no longer familiar with kneeling would be sick at the core."
Do I need to grow in charity, in humility, in patience, in chastity, etc? Let me kneel before the Lord in the confessional and beg His healing. He will grant it, for He wills it. Does the Church and the world require radical, if not miraculous, healing from all that afflicts them? Let us beg these from the Lord with the same faith—and let us be prepared to serve as the instruments of His healing in ways, small and great, which may quite astonish us.
“I will [it],” He says. But we must have the faith to ask Him. And we must persevere in the asking. Then He can work miracles in us and through us.
For the faith and the perseverance we need, let us now beg Him at His altar. +
Thinking of a monastic vocation? Please read:
Am I called to be a monk?