Sunday Sermon for July 7, 2019 the Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
Readings: Is 66:10-14c; Gal 6:14-18; Lk 10, 1-12, 17-20
The times we are living in are very difficult for the Church and for her members. In parish after parish we are seeing the numbers of people who populate the pews diminishing. While we can blame some of this on the scandals of the past few years, the reality is much deeper. If we look at the tragedy of the absence of faith in Europe, it is clear this is not due to the recent scandals. There is a much more pervasive problem which has infected society in general and individual minds and hearts in particular.
The enemy of our souls has been very successful in pushing people to abandon God and His Church. Of course, they will initially say they still believe in God, but as time goes on they drift further and further away. At the root of all this is atheistic nonsense which has resulted in the entitlement attitude we see in so many of our young people. What our Lady spoke at Fatima just over a hundred years ago is coming to pass before our very eyes.
As we have mentioned many times before, this is a time of purification and, ultimately, the time of crucifixion for the Church. While many more will abandon the Church because they fear the suffering and persecution, St. Paul tells us in the second reading that he will boast in nothing except the Cross of our Lord because through it he has been crucified to the world and the world to him. In other words, it is the Cross which made Paul a Saint.
When one is enduring the Cross it does not seem to be a cause for rejoicing. However, when we see the fruit God brings forth from our suffering, we are most grateful and would not trade the Cross for anything the world has to offer. We can see this with our Lord: the fruit of His suffering is our redemption and salvation. As horrible as His crucifixion was, neither He nor we would ever exchange it for something passing, no matter how valuable it may be.
St. Paul’s rejoicing in the Cross merely follows the footsteps of our Lord Who rejoiced in His Cross first. Jesus did not rejoice because of the Cross itself and what it implied on the natural level; He rejoiced because of the incomparable good God would bring through the Cross. We see this same mystery described in the first reading when Isaiah calls upon all who were mourning over Jerusalem to rejoice with her and be glad because of her. Jerusalem had been destroyed and abandoned. The people were led into exile, the Temple was demolished, and it looked hopeless.
Jerusalem had become unfaithful to the Lord. Although they went through the motions of serving the Lord, the hearts of the priests and the people were far from the Lord. God allowed the city to be destroyed, only to rebuild it and bring back a people who were faithful and grateful. Initially, the people could see nothing good in what was happening, but later they understood that what God was doing was very good and that He desired only their true good.
So, as the Church goes through her time of crucifixion, we need to know God’s intention is only good. What is happening does not appear to be good and what is going to happen will not appear to be good. As it was with ancient Jerusalem, so it will be with the New Jerusalem, the Church: only after everything is finished and the restoration is complete will we be able to see fully the goodness of what the Lord has done. In the meantime, we have enough experience to know the pattern of how this works. For this reason, we can rejoice even now because we know the crucifixion is going to be the resurrection and glory of the Church and the cause for her rejoicing.
Jesus instructed His disciples not to rejoice so much in the fact that the demons were subject to them, but that their names were written in Heaven. Our Lord told them He observed Satan fall from the sky like lightening. More than that, our Lord has given His Church the power to tread upon scorpions and serpents and has said “the full force of the enemy will not harm you.” Satan, as intelligent and powerful as he may be, is nothing in comparison to God. The Lord will allow the vile creature some leeway for the purification of the Church, but it is ultimately for the good of the Church. The victory is assured, but it is through the Cross and resurrection. Therefore, recognize the pattern, rejoice, and do not boast except in the Cross of the Lord!
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.