THE LITURGICAL YEAR

Sermons, hymns, meditations and other musings to guide our annual pilgrim's progress through the liturgical year.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

THE PRINCE OF THIS WORLD COMETH

A SERMON FOR PENTECOST SUNDAY


It’s Pentecost already.  Fifty days have passed since Easter, and our Lord’s promise of a Comforter is today fulfilled.  Cloven tongues of fire appear on the heads of the Apostles, and they now begin their task of spreading the good news of the Gospel to the four corners of the earth.  Pentecost in the year of our Lord 33 marked the beginning of a new era in the world’s history.  With his death, Christ conquered Death, with his Resurrection he humiliated the Devil, and with his Ascension he re-opened the gates of heaven.  Today, a new Church is born, one that would replace the ancient Synagogue of the Jews with a global covenant for all mankind, Jews and Gentiles alike.   On this day, all things were made new again, and we were given a second chance.

How did Satan feel about all this?  On Good Friday, he had experienced the pinnacle of whatever evil glee his hatred permitted him to have when he witnessed the death of the Son of God on the cross.  But his victory had been turned into utter defeat on Easter Sunday, and he had found himself in a worse position than ever, with his human slaves now able to avail themselves of sacraments and graces unheard of in the Old Testament.  Heaven was once again open for business after a lockdown of four thousand years.  And people were anxious to change their lifestyles and make sure of their place in this newly opened heaven by staying away from sin.  Satan was losing his hold on his followers, and people were beginning to flock to the waters of baptism.

So what’s he going to do about it?  Quite simple.  If you hold a serpent by the tail and stick pins in it, you’re going to make it mad.  Real mad.  And then watch out, because it’s going to swing around and bite you.  And our blessed Lord knew this would happen, and that’s why he warns his apostles in today’s Gospel, that along with the coming of the Holy Ghost, “the prince of the world cometh” also.  With the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost, another spirit comes slithering in, an unholy spirit, one that has just been deprived of its victory over the God it hates, and one fixated on revenge.

Since that first Pentecost, when the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church was born, our world has experienced the presence of these two spirits, the one holy and the other evil.  Men have been torn as never before in this struggle between the Holy Ghost and the Devil.  Each of us have experienced this struggle many times in our lives – shall I do what I want to do, or what I should do?   It’s the Jekyll & Hyde story over and over again. 
In the wider sphere of world history, the same struggle has been continually waged between the two forces of good and evil.  Victories and defeats, sometimes with evil being vanquished, other times with God’s forces seeming to suffer an ignominious beating.  But history is just that—it’s the story of what’s happened in the past.  Today, we are living tomorrow’s history.  The events of today are what will shape our future into what it will become.  The current crisis in world events brought about by a simple little bug has been the catalyst for developments that we’ll surely be feeling for years to come.  How will it all turn out?  Only time will tell.  Who’s to blame for what’s happening?  There are too many conspiracy theories clashing around these days for us to be able to pick the right one.  All I know is that the devil doesn’t miss a trick.  He recognizes the chance he has been given by this crisis, and he will use his human instruments to try and bring about changes in our society that fit his agenda.

“Brethren, be sober, be vigilant,” says St. Peter our first Pope in his epistle, “because your adversary the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Whom resist ye, steadfast in the faith!”  Here’s our agenda.  To be sober, to be vigilant, and finally to resist the assaults of the devil.  We’ll need to resist when the time comes, when we know exactly what we need to resist—whether it be hatred, division, immorality, or pressure to abandon our faith.  But in the meantime, for goodness’ sake, stay sober, keep your wits about you.  And above all, be vigilant—keep your eyes open for any cracks in the infrastructure through which the devil can enter in.  Whether it be our constitution, our laws, our local community.  Or maybe our own family.  Or our very own souls.  Don’t let him in.  Resist.

Back in the Middle Ages, when a village was attacked by foreign barbarians, the villagers would all run for cover in the local castle.  They would run inside, and then the drawbridge would be pulled up, and they would defend themselves from the safety inside the fortress walls.  Our souls are a bit like that fortress.  They are our house of defense that we need as the world outside seems to be collapsing.  First we had coronavirus, and before we’ve even had chance to breathe, we then get a new cold war with China and race riots in Minneapolis, all within the space of a few days.  Many in our own families have already fallen victim to the wolves of an apostate Church and a society of rotting morals.  So where else can we turn?  We must run for cover to the house of defense that is our own soul.  Know that as long as we keep that soul safe and free from sin, there is nothing an enemy can do.  Even the very prince of the world, the Devil, cannot enter in unless we throw the door open and invite him in.

Our soul is the temple of the Holy Ghost.  It is he that we must invite to fill our souls.  It is the Holy Ghost whom we must ask today to fortify our souls for the battle with evil, to arm us with his sevenfold gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord.  After you leave here today, look up that hymn we all learned as children: “Come Holy Ghost, Creator, come, from thy bright heavenly throne.  Come, take possession of our souls, and make them all thine own.  Far from us drive our deadly foe; true peace unto us bring; and through all perils lead us safe beneath thy sacred wing.”

COME, THOU HOLY SPIRIT, COME

A HYMN FOR WHITSUNTIDE


Translated from the Latin by Fr. Edward Caswall, 1849

1 Come, thou Holy Spirit, come,
and from thy celestial home
shed a ray of light divine;
come, thou Father of the poor,
come, thou source of all our store,
come, within our hearts to shine.

2 Thou of comforters the best,
thou the soul's most welcome guest,
sweet refreshment here below;
in our labour rest most sweet,
grateful coolness in the heat,
solace in the midst of woe.

3 O most blessèd Light divine,
shine within these hearts of thine,
and our inmost being fill;
where thou art not, man hath naught,
nothing good in deed or thought,
nothing free from taint of ill.

4 Heal our wounds; our strength renew;
on our dryness pour thy dew;
wash the stains of guilt away;
bend the stubborn heart and will;
melt the frozen, warm the chill;
guide the steps that go astray.

5 On the faithful, who adore
and confess thee, evermore
in thy sevenfold gifts descend:
Give them virtue's sure reward,
give them thy salvation, Lord,
give them joys that never end.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

A REFLECTION FOR WHITSUNDAY


When our Blessed Lord told the apostles that after the coming of the Holy Ghost they should go and teach all nations, there is no record that any of them questioned him as to how they would communicate with all the foreigners they would encounter.  They were simple men, fishermen for the most part, so maybe it just didn’t occur to them that people spoke in different languages depending where they lived.  Perhaps they thought about it later, perhaps not.  All we know is that on the morning of Pentecost they started their mission, and everyone—everyone—understood exactly what they were saying.

“They were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”  These simple fishermen, most of whom spoke only Aramaic, now spoke in tongues that were completely unknown to them.  It was undeniably a miracle, and the multitude “were all amazed and marvelled.. because that every man heard them speak in their own language.”

As with all miracles, God had a purpose.  He does not perform party tricks for our amusement, and miracles happen for a reason.  He created nature, and this wonderful nature takes care of everything in one way or another as God intended.  He does not intervene in the workings of nature unless there is a very special reason for which he wills to make an exception.  In this particular case, the reason is obvious.  God wanted to make known his new covenant with mankind to as many people as possible and as quickly as possible.  And it was the miracle of tongues that made it possible.

One of the various hundreds of heretical sects that have come into being since those days is a group called the Pentecostals.  It originated at Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas, and its members claimed that glossolalia (the ability to speak in an unknown language) was evidence that they had been truly baptized with the Holy Ghost.  More and more of them began gibbering in strange-sounding tongues, which sadly, nobody could understand.  They figured out that it would be good to also have members who could interpret the babbling of the first group, and then they claimed this as a further miracle.  We may legitimately wonder why God would go to all this trouble when all these people spoke English anyway.

Eventually, this bizarre cult found its way into other mainstream Protestant churches, and even into the post-Vatican 2 Catholic Church.  These groups are usually referred to as Charismatics, and don’t usually limit themselves to speaking in tongues.  You’ll find that they’re big on faith healing, fake exorcisms, and other “miraculous” parlor tricks that are designed to make money out of gullible converts.  They are not of God, and should be avoided like the plague.  Miracles are exceptions to the rule, and no one should be selling advance tickets to a weekly performance of them.

Miracles do happen though, and the events of Pentecost show us their true reality and purpose.  Don’t be taken in by imposters.