11 Feb Quinquagesima Sunday
Today is Quinquagesima Sunday
The third Sunday of Septuagesima is known as “Quinquagesima,” which means “fifty” and which comes roughly fifty days before Easter. (4)
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1876
“For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and scourged, and spit upon:
and after they have scourged Him, they will put Him to death.”–Luke 18: 31.
The Gospel of today refers to the preparation of the Church for the great festival of Easter. This time of Lent was especially instituted in order that we might have a time, in which to meditate, with more than ordinary seriousness, on the passion of Christ. All those who, believing in Christ, obey this invitation of the Church, feel their hearts filled with bitterness and aversion for the ungrateful Jews; but how few consider that when they, as Christians, sin, they become more guilty towards the Redeemer than were even the Jews!
This we will understand if we refer the words we have just read: “He shall be delivered to the Gentiles and shall be mocked and put to death” to the life of a Christian sinner. O Mary, refuge of sinners, pray for us that we may recognize the foulness of sin, and from today banish every trace of it from our hearts! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
Christ prophesied of Himself: “The Son of man shall be delivered to the Gentiles.” This complaint is also directed to the Christian sinner. Each sin is treachery. A child of the Church who commits sin is a traitor to Christ, as Judas was; for at baptism he swore to be true to God; and, in addition to this, he has, perhaps, received Him frequently in Holy Communion. A sinner is a traitor to Christ; for if he be a child of the Church, he generally prays and lives outwardly as though he were a genuine follower of Christ. He becomes a hypocrite, confessing with his lips love for God above all else, and outwardly seeking only to know and fulfill His holy will, while all the time he is acting exactly the opposite. Thus his whole life is a life of treachery.
Christ prophesies of Himself: “The Son of man shall be delivered to the Gentiles and shall be mocked and scourged.” Every sinner scourges the Lord anew! St. Alphonsus Liguori tells us that the Lord once appeared in Rome to a great sinner in the form of a young man. The woman rejoiced at His coming; but when she asked Him who He was, the figure of the youth changed, and Christ the Redeemer stood before her crowned with thorns, and His body lacerated by scourging. “Do you know Me?” asked He, the Lord. “Behold how I have suffered for and through you. When will you cease to scourge Me?” The woman, weeping bitterly, cast herself repentantly at the feet of Christ, and abandoned her evil ways.
This vision concerns not only this one sinful woman, but all sinners, and to each Christ addresses the sad question: “Do you know Me?” And to each the Apostle says: “Whoever sinneth, crucifies Christ in his heart.” The sinner revives the passion of our Lord; he scourges Him anew.
Men who live in the state of mortal sin are generally guilty not only of one sin, but of many, both in number and kind. A man offending God by impurity is likewise often angry, envious, full of hatred towards others, and intemperate. He braids all these sinful fetters into a lash with which he scourges the Lord in his heart.
Even to a single sin several guilty acts may concur. Thus the seducer offends not only in deed, but also in thought and word; then how long, how broad, how sharp the lash becomes with which he scourges Jesus!
And not only this, but he gives scandal by his sinful life, and is the cause that others offend God and scourge Jesus by their sins of thought, word and action. We can understand how the number of these scourges is increased, if we but consider how those corrupted by one sinner lead others into the path of evil, and these again others, and so on, God only knows how long, even to the end of time.
Have you ever thought of this dreadful lash with which you yourself have scourged Jesus by your sins, and by the scandal you have given? Has not Christ the right to address the same words to you which He spoke to the sinner in Rome: “Do you know Me?”
Behold how I am scourged by the number and greatness of you sins! Oh, cease to scourge Me with your countless sins! Christ prophesies further: “The Son of man shall be mocked.” The sinner mocks and derides Christ as God and as Redeemer. To comprehend this, we need only think of the Lord's prayer, and then consider how the sinner derides God when he repeats it!
He calls God “Father,” and yet, as Christ says, he is born, through sin, of his father, the devil! He says with his lips: “Hallowed be Thy name,” and desecrates it daily by sin! He prays with the mouth: “Thy kingdom come,” and yet destroys it in his heart by sin, and in the hearts of others by his vicious life and the scandal which he gives!
He prays: “Thy will be done,” and follows only his own sinful inclinations, and this with an ingratitude, a wickedness that is worse than that of the devil, because his soul has been redeemed with the blood of Christ.
He asks: “Give us this day our daily bread,” and works as hard as though he thought there was no God, and every man had to take care of himself. He gives no thought to nourishing his soul by the frequent reception of holy Communion; he lives for this earth only, and cares nothing for heaven. He prays that God may forgive him as he forgives others, and yet he refuses to pardon; what mockery!
He entreats: “Lead us not into temptation,” and does not avoid, but seeks temptation. He begs God to deliver him from evil, and remains voluntarily in a state of sin, which is the source of all evil.
Lastly.–The Son of man is, according to the prophecy of Christ, to be crucified. Every Christian who sins crucifies the Lord in his heart. He crucifies Jesus, and can not prevail upon himself to take Him from the cross of sin. The three nails which fastened the Lord to the cross are: Custom,–the forgetfulness of eternity,–the example and society of others! These are the three obstacles which generally prevent the conversion of a sinner.
Divine grace, however, is all powerful; may its triumph be celebrated, and may every sinner now present profit by it, in order that the Lord may, during this Lent, arise in his heart; and, celebrating Easter within it, dwell therein from this day on for evermore! Amen!
“When He drew nigh to Jericho, a certain blind
man sat by the way-side.–Luke 18: 35
Today's Gospel, besides relating to us the prophecy of Christ concerning His approaching sufferings, speaks also of a “blind man who sat by the way side begging.” It might at first sight appear that there is no connection between these two circumstances, and yet there is.
This blind man, begging by the way-side, personates the sinner. No one is able to restore to him his sight but He Who came into the world to suffer and die for sinners. The particular fact to which I wish to draw your attention today is: The blindness of sinners. I desire the more particularly to speak of this blindness as we live in a century which boasts of its enlightenment, and of its progress in art and science.
It is true that in a temporal point of view we have reason to marvel at the inventive genius of men, but at the same time we have no less reason to wonder that these same men should be so blind and grow daily more so in regard to everything that concerns their future life.
O Mary, thou first bright beam of Christ, the rising Sun, pray for us that we may receive light to see the misery of that blindness with which sin encompasses men! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
At the siege of Assissi by the Turks, when the latter were attacking the cloister in which St. Clair and her sisters lived, the saint had the Host brought before the gates of the convent and cried to the Lord for help. Christ heard her prayers, and while the Turks were scaling the walls of the convent, they were suddenly struck with blindness and precipitated to the ground.
Blindness, spiritually considered, is the state in which all sinners live, especially those who, though belonging to the Church of Christ, conduct themselves like heathens. Let us draw a comparison; a blind man does not perceive that the rays of the sun descend upon the face of the earth; the darkness of night surrounds him. The sinner passes his days in spiritual blindness. He who looks with his physical eyes upon the world, sees the wonders of the wisdom, power and kindness of God. He recognizes how Providence cares for everything, preserves every thing, and leads all things to the end for which He has destined them.
And when we look about us with a heart filled with love for God, how many causes greet our sight to love, honor, worship and serve Him! The divine attributes become clearer to us, if we think of all that God has done for mankind by the work of Redemption. What proofs of His Wisdom, Power and Goodness we have in the creation of divine grace! But of all this the Christian sinner seems to see nothing. For him it is night, as it was night for Judas when, on the evening of Holy Thursday after having unworthily partaken of the Lord's supper, he went away and betrayed Christ.
The Catholic sinner confesses with his lips all the tenets of his faith, but they do not influence his life; he remains in utter darkness, and in the light of faith lives like a blind heathen. This is especially the case if he has never been thoroughly instructed in his faith. Oh! how many spiritually blind people there are in this enlightened century, even among the children of the Church. Whatever may be the size of an object the blind can not see it. So it is with the spiritually blind. The truth of faith stands in its eternal grandeur before the eyes of his mind, but he does not see it, he does not deign to regard it.
A blind man knows nothing of the beauty of colors, nor of the harmony which unites all things in nature and forms of them one great picture. Thus it is with one who is spiritually blind, it is as if he had no perception of the beauty of true holiness and of a virtuous life.
He experiences no longing after perfection, and regards all aspirations to a higher life as unfeasible. He is hardly aware that there have been saints upon earth. He never raises his eyes to these glorious stars in the firmament of the Church, and if he does accidentally, these far-off luminaries, these worlds of holiness, appear but points of light, and it never occurs to him, while contemplating them, that they shine for his illumination.
The blind man does not become convinced of the existence of a thing until his hands have felt it. Thus one spiritually blind believes only that which he can seize, so to say, with his hands; he thereby dishonors his intellect and reason.
A blind man passes the most costly diamonds, the most brilliant jewels, and stretches out his hands towards a pebble which lies in his path. He is incapable of earning his livelihood, and would starve; if no one took care of him. Thus, one spiritually blind starves mentally, though he is in the midst of plenty and could gather with every breath merits of incomparable worth for the life to come. He is heedless of this fact, and wastes the precious time of his life in groping about in the darkness until the approach of that night when no one can work.
A blind man is unaware of the abyss that yawns at his feet; one step more and he will be precipitated into its measureless depth. If he is in danger, he does not perceive it, and would not leave his place if a wild beast came rushing towards him ready to tear him to pieces. Thus with the man spiritually blind. He must, as a Christian, be aware that the dangers besetting salvation are manifold, and he must know what Christ has said about the broad path leading to destruction and the torments awaiting the sinner, yet he never gives a thought to his danger, and is not concerned even if he is reminded of it.
A blind man, when threatened with some calamity, does not see the means of escape even if they are within his reach. This is exactly the case with one who is spiritually blind. He does not perceive that sureness which the Catholic faith imparts, but wanders about without a guide; or if, retaining the appearance of a Christian, he seems to perceive the light of revelation, he nevertheless sits motionless, like an owl on a withered branch, turning his eyes in every direction, but seeing nothing in the clear light of the sun.
Large numbers of these night-birds, of these spiritual owls, are to be found in the streets of cities. A true conversion to God by His preventing grace will restore the sight to these blind men when, on some occasion in their lives, the Lord passes by, and they perceive His presence by the grace that arouses their conscience.
It is especially on great festivals of the Church, in Missions and Jubilees, that the sinner feels the approach of Jesus, and is moved to follow him like others. Well for him if he then open his heart to the light of faith streaming upon him, or, should this light be still flickering in his heart, well for him if he endeavor, with the help of grace, to revive its feeble flame.
Christ said to the blind man: “Thy faith hath made thee whole.” Sinners, and all ye who are spiritually blind, take this admonition to heart, reanimate your faith, and you will see clearly the path of salvation. Then will you make rapid progress upon this path, and one day behold Jesus and understand the miracle which His power and love hath wrought to enlighten and save you. Amen!
“Now it came to pass, when He drew nigh to Jericho, that a certain blind man sat by the way-side begging.” Luke 18: 35.
The holy time of Lent is approaching, and the Church endeavors to prepare the hearts of her children for this solemnity. She would have us not only believe that Christ came into the world in order to save us by His bitter passion and death, but also wishes us to use strenuous endeavors to make His merits our own. Unfortunately the words of Christ to the Apostles, or rather what the Gospel says in regard to their mental condition, may be applied to many children of the Church: “They understood none of these things.”
The principal cause of this intellectual blindness is the state of sin which prevents them from understanding the true import of religious truths. We have a picture of this pitiable state in the blind man who sat by the way-side begging. The sinner is blind; we considered this truth last year on this Sunday. Today I say: he is also a beggar. I shall endeavor to show you the truth of this comparison, and to draw thence some important lessons.
O Mary, restorer of divine grace, pray for us that we may turn to God, and, forsaking the misery of sin, grow rich in merit as true children of God! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
St. Chrysostom, commenting on the parable of the prodigal son, says that the unfortunate young man feels particularly one circumstance of his miserable condition, which sinners, whom he represents, seldom take into consideration.
This circumstance is, that he served as a swine-herd, and without stated wages. He was hungry, but had nothing to eat. With how little would he have been satisfied! He craved the insipid husks which the swine devoured, yet no one offered them to him. Sinner, does your master give you bread ? Do you not serve him without recompense? Are you not obliged to beg your food of the swine?
Yes; even so! The master whom the sinner serves in capacity of swine-herd, is Satan! He serves him without stipulated wagers. There is no doubt of it. For what can Satan promise man in return for the slavish service of sin? He possesses nothing, nor does he rule the world. But even were he to promise something, the sinner could not be certain of his wages; for “Satan” according to the testimony of Holy Writ, “is a liar, and the father thereof.” All reward is uncertain, even the very husks of enjoyment which man receives from the indulgence of his passions. How often is sin the cause even of man's temporal misery! How often does it not weary him of life, and hurl him into the suicide's grave!
But even if all the enjoyment of the world were the sinner's, his heart, created for God, would remain empty and sigh with Solomon: “Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity,” except to serve God, to love Him, and possess Him. Oh! that the sinner would bear this in mind, and say to himself like the prodigal son: I am the son of a rich father; “the hired servants in my father s house have plenty of bread, and I here perish with hunger.”
Sinner, miserable beggar, are you not ashamed of yourself? Why do you not cease begging? God alone can give you that which you ask of human creatures. He alone can satisfy the longing of your heart. Men are poor themselves, and can give you nothing for food save husks, which can not allay the hunger of your soul.
We will see the truth of this if we consider the intrinsic value of those goods which the heart of man yearns to possess. First, man desires an occupation by which to earn a living; then he wants this occupation to be profitable enough to enable him to amass wealth. To succeed in this he becomes a beggar–begs of men. And yet what would it avail him were he to gain all the gold of the earth? It is but dust, and he can not take it with him to the other world. More over, he often receives for his labor only poor wages, and frequently the harder he labors the less he is repaid.
How many such beggars are there in this world! If they did for God and heaven only a tenth part of what they do for the world they would become, as Thomas a Kempis says, great saints, and immensely rich in the goods of heaven.
Yes, thou blessed Thomas, if men would do but a hundredth part of what they do for the world, what a great number of saints we would possess. But as it is, they are indolent in the service of God, and go begging, ask for wealth, honor, and renown. And how soon death deprives them of all they have gained by begging, while whatever is done for the service of God is gathered and kept for evermore in heaven!
The human heart craves not only possessions but also esteem, and what will not a sinner do to win distinction? and what will he not endure not to be disgraced before man or to gain his good graces? And yet of what worth is the honor bestowed by man? It is like vapor, which rapidly dissolves. Yet how many sycophants there are upon earth! Of those, however, who serve Him, God says: “Whosoever shall glorify me, him will I glorify.” A holy life renders us an object of admiration even to the angels, and secures for us a throne in the kingdom of God.
Ambitious human creatures, why do you not think of this? why do you persist in asking man for what God will give you bountifully, if you only live in such a manner upon earth as to be worthy to be called His child?
The human heart does not alone desire the possession of wealth and honor, but it also craves enjoyment and the sinner goes begging to human creatures for it. But all in vain! St. Augustine rightly says: “Thou, O Lord, hast created our heart for Thee, and it can not rest, until it rests in Thee!”
The joy which man seeks from his fellow-man, how unsatisfactory and empty, how frivolous, and often debasing! The sinner deservedly merits the reproach of the Apostle: And what benefit did you derive from that of which you are now ashamed?
On the other hand, how great the enjoyment which God prepares for those who serve Him, and who unite themselves to Him in prayer! As we read in the lives of the saints, they enjoy a foretaste here below of the bliss which awaits them in eternal life.
How vain, then, for man to beg created beings to fill the void in his heart, for he can receive nothing from them which is capable of satisfying his craving; on the contrary, after he has emptied the cup of sensual pleasures, he is forced to sigh with bitterness and repentance: O joy! why hast thou deceived me?
Well for him if he feels his misery, and turns to the One Who alone is able to give all that the heart desires. Many will endeavor to silence him, when his soul sends forth her first cry to God, as the beggar was hushed in today's Gospel; but if casting off all fear of men he heeds them not, he will be heard, and filled with the riches of the children of God. Those who love Jesus and follow Him will give thanks and honor to God for the grace bestowed upon them.
God grant that during this Lent all begging sinners, all spiritually blind, may have the happiness to sigh from the depth of their heart: Jesus, Thou hast cured me of my blindness, and delivered me from my misery! Now I see Thee and follow Thee, and I am rich through Thee, O my Lord and my all! Amen! (1)
Image: “Healing of the Blind Man” (1871); Carl Bloch. (5)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff