Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost—18 September AD 2016

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Decorum (.doc)

    In this morning's Gospel our Lord heals a man afflicted with paralysis by forgiving his sins.  The scribes—the lawyers of the Temple—are disconcerted; accusing our Lord even of blasphemy.  They understand the connection between sin, suffering, illness, and death—all consequences of original sin—but they are not ready to accept the idea that Jesus is God.  And by claiming to forgive sins, our Lord was claiming to be God.  For only God could judge the living and the dead;  only God could separate the good from the bad, sending the good to eternal reward and the bad to eternal punishment.

    In the early days of Judaism, the life after death was understood as nothing much more than a very dreary existence in a nether world called “shaeol.”  But by the time of Christ, the Jewish people had come to understand that God's justice demanded more than just dreariness, that punishment awaited His enemies, that the godly could be helped by prayer and sacrifice after their death and would be rewarded, and that some day the dead would rise again in physical bodies.  And a significant part of our Lord's teachings while here on Earth dealt with these realities of Heaven and Hell.

    In the past 30 or 40 years there has been a movement afoot to diminish many of the supernatural elements of the Catholic Faith—downplaying the realities of a transcendent God, and of our relationship to Him in eternity.  The works of many modern writers and preachers, at all levels in the Church today, seek to limit the outlook of man to a merely earthly and natural reality;  a man who no longer seeks perfection in conforming to the divine will, but rather in his ”authentic” human activities;  a religion in which spirituality is replaced with psychology, in which theology (the study of God) is replaced with anthropology (the study of man and human institutions).  Modernism recasts our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to redeem us from our sins and re-open the gates of Heaven, in the role of a founder of utopian society here on earth.

    Particularly offensive to the Modernist mind is the role of Jesus Christ as the one who will—as we say in the Creed—“come to judge the living and the dead.”  They don't at all like the way He described Himself in Saint Matthew's Gospel, as a King sitting on the throne of |His glory, surrounded by Angels, rendering judgment:  “Come, blessed of my Father, take possession of the kingdom prepared for you”[1] or “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.”[2]   They don't at all like the concept that one might be “cast into the Hell of unquenchable fire, where their worm dieth not and the fire is not extinguished.”[3]   Or that the branches that are not united to the Vine of Christ will be “gathered up and cast into the fire to burn.”[4]

    Fifteen or twenty years ago, the “in” heresy was that Hell didn't really last forever, that the fires would one day go out, and everyone would be taken to heaven.  This was “a bit much” for most Christians to accept—so five or ten years ago, they began again to admit that Hell was eternal, but the “in thing” was to suggest that nobody actually went there—even Judas, after all, had never officially been taught to have gone to hell—maybe only the devils lived there.

    Today, it has become popular among the Modernists to speak of Hell as a “state” rather than a “place”—and to speak of it as a state that bad people banish themselves to, rather than being told “depart accursed one” or being “gathered up and thrown into the fire.”

    One ought to ask immediately:  “What do you mean by a ‘state’ as opposed to a “place’”?  Try to answer that question, and you immediately see that effort to reduce the spiritual to the psychological, the supernatural to the natural.  Is Hell now like being in a “state” of confusion, or a “state” of anxiety?  And how can anybody be in a “state” of anything without being in a “place.”  Certainly to claim that Heaven and Hell are not “places” in the full physical sense of that word is to deny the possibility of the resurrection after the general judgement (not to mention the dogmas of the Ascension of our Lord and Assumption of our Lady bodily into Heaven.

    Then too, to suggest that banishment to Hell is solely one's personal choice, is surely to deny our Lord's description of Himself as Judge, a theme that regularly recurs in Sacred Scripture.  And, again, it seems to reduce the Judgement from a supernatural act to a natural one—to reduce the damnation of a sinner to some sort of neurosis; a sort of  “inferiority complex” that interferes with a natural relationship.  It also suggests that the arrogant might have a better chance of salvation than the humble!  We've all met people that think that they are more than worthy of God!—but they are rarely (if ever) the ones who have a right to expect a place in heaven.

    Now, I've never been one for preaching hell-fire and damnation.  I certainly don't want to scare anyone by speaking about the reality of Hell—it should be something about which you already know, and are already taking steps to avoid.  The best way to avoid hell is through the knowledge and love and service of God, much more so than through fear.

    But in order to know and love God, we must have the Truth.  Our Lord tells us: “I am the resurrection and the life ... and the way and the truth.”[5]   All of these things are the things of eternal life—and all of them come through Jesus Christ.  Christians have the right to the truth.  Damnation is not the “state” of an anxiety neurosis, any more than salvation is the mere thinking of happy thoughts.  Heaven and Hell are both real;  to deny one is to deny the other—and to deny either one is to deny the power of God.

    Salvation comes to us only through Jesus Christ—“If you abide in His word, you will be His disciples indeed, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”[6]   (Remember, only Jesus is “Truth” with a capital "T")


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