Ave Maria! “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of
Today is the Sunday within the Octave of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In more modern missals it is known simply as the Third Sunday after Pentecost—the text of the Mass is the same but the prayers in honor of the Sacred Heart have been removed. It would be a pity to lose this particular devotion to the Sacred Heart, for as Pope Pius XI told us in the Night Office, Christians have a twofold duty, the one of consecration to the Sacred Heart (which Pope Pius associated with his feast in honor of Christ the King) and also the duty of reparation to the Sacred Heart, associated with this very day.
We will recite Pius XI’s Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart today in place of the Leonine Prayers—but it would do us well to understand why our reparation must be real, and not confined to a mere formula of words. Pope Pius tells us:
… we are impelled to the duty of reparation by the most powerful motives of justice and love: of justice, in order to expiate the injury done to God by our sins, and to re-establish through penance the divine order which was violated by them;
of love, in order to suffer together with Christ, (who patiently endured all possible dishonor,) so that we may offer Him some solace in return for His sufferings.For it is our duty to do more than honor God by the worship of adoration … or by acts of thanksgiving…. Because we are sinners, burdened with many offences, we must also make satisfaction to the offended justice of God, because of the numberless sins, offences and negligences we have committed.
It should not surprise us to hear Pope Pius reminding us of the duty to make reparation for our own sins, but he goes further. There is a duty to make reparation that is shared by the whole human race. Together, we are jointly heirs of Adam and Eve, and all creation shares in their sin:
… for our souls are disfigured … by original sin as a result of the pitiable fall of Adam. We are also subject to passions, whereby we are corrupted in a truly sad state, and have thus made ourselves worthy of everlasting condemnation.
You see, some will argue that we had no control over Adam and Eve. That their sin took place in the remote past, eons and eons before we were even born—that it is not our fault that they ate the forbidden fruit. But, in reality, we have demonstrated that we are no better than Adam and Eve—we may not have eaten forbidden fruit, but we are all keenly aware of the sins we ourselves have committed. There is not a spec of evidence that we would have done any better if we had been in their place.
At least as far back as the false philosopher, Pelagius, in the fifth century, there have been proud men with the delusion that human nature is innately good, that men and women are naturally capable of elevating themselves to a high state of holiness. Pelagius denied the reality of original sin, and he denied the necessity of God grace to achieve holiness. Writing back in 1928, Pius XI was wise to remind us that Pelagius was in terrible error, for the rest of the century was filled with modernists who deny the reality of sin and the possibility of eternal punishment—people who speak about the acting person perfecting himself through authentic actions:
In order to perfect himself in his specific order, the person must do good and avoid evil, be concerned for the transmission and preservation of life, refine and develop the riches of the material world, cultivate social life, seek truth, practise good and contemplate beauty.
It is not through “social life” that man is saved, nor by “contemplating beauty.” He cannot “do good and avoid evil” apart from his redemption by our Lord on the Cross, and by the sanctifying and actual graces that flow to us from that all powerful gift of God’s love. He loved us enough to make that Sacrifice on the Cross, and to renew It with us in the celebration of Holy Mass—we must love him in return, and join with him in expiating the guilt of fallen mankind.
When we recite the Act of Reparation it will become obvious we are talking about more than just those people who are trying to keep the faith and the Commandment but having a little trouble. We must make reparation, as well for those who blaspheme God and His Sacraments and His saints, for those who curse His Holy Church, and for those who pervert the powers of government to work against God’s Holy Will.
We might ask, just exactly is expected of us in reparation for all of our sins and those of others?
Certainly, prayer will make up a significant part of our reparation. Perhaps you can resolve to add a decade or two more to your daily Rosary. Likewise, attending our Friday evening holy hours—probably a lot of the things for which reparation is necessary take place on Friday and Saturday evenings! Obviously there are numerous opportunities to increase your prayer life.
If you have not been regular in Sunday Mass attendance, resolve to correct that. And then consider assisting at Mass during the weekdays. Remember that Holy Mass may not always be available to us in our uncertain future.
Remember too, that Pope Pius spoke of “suffering together with Christ.” Personal mortification is something that seems to have gone out of popularity in the past fifty years or so. Resolve to keep the traditional practices of the Church in this regard. Some of the customs of fasting and abstinence are no longer binding under law—but keeping them anyway will develop in us a spirit of solidarity with our suffering Lord. We always mark the Ember Days and the vigils with a fish.
As we get older there are more aches and pains—that is inevitable, but accepting them without a great measure of complaint will develop that same solidarity. They are, after all, the result of our sinful nature. Learn to accept your limitations—not everyone can play the violin, not everyone can play in the World Cup—be gracious in your acceptance of them. But on the other hand, do not be falsely limited to doing less than you can do. There is an impressive video making the rounds, of a young man working as a farmer with only stubs for arms and legs. I worked with a man with similar problems, so I know that working beyond physical limitations is possible. Give thanks to God for the unexpected things He enables you to do. Give thanks, as well for the ability to turn your pains, difficulties, and limitations into something redemptive.
As we heard today in the Epistle:
After you have suffered a little, Christ Jesus, will himself perfect you and confirm you and establish you.
To him be glory and empire for ever and ever. Amen.
 Nocturn I, lesson v from today’s Matins.
 Pope John Paul II, Veritatis splendor #51 (Falsely attributed to Saint Thomas Aquinas in footnote 93 http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html