28 May Sixth Sunday after Easter/Sunday after the Ascension
Today is the Sixth Sunday after Easter.
by Fr. Francis Xavier Weninger, 1891
“The Comforter, whom I will send you, He shall give testimony of Me.”–John 15.
Before Christ entered triumphantly into the kingdom of His Father, He made a solemn promise; to His disciples to send the Holy Ghost unto them. Jesus Christ bestows upon Him various appellations, all fraught with profoundest significancy. He styles Him the Spirit of Truth, the Consoler, the Imparter of Strength. In these designations lie concealed admonitions of paramount importance. Through them we are exhorted to cling, with filial devotedness, to the service of God, and ever to keep our gaze fixed upon the term of our journey through life, the heavenly Jerusalem. For those things which are so indispensable to the happiness of man are light, comfort, and strength.
For what, I ask of you, was the result of Adam's first fatal transgression? The loss of sanctifying grace. With it the Holy Ghost abandoned the defiled hearts of our first parents, and His departure was followed by the saddest of consequences. The brightness of their intellect was clouded, the joy of their hearts dampened, and the strength of their will weakened. The observations which I have premised, lead me to ask you the question:
Why does Christ call the Holy Ghost, whom He will send unto us, the Spirit of Truth? and what motive lies hidden under that name, which causes us to yearn with all our heart for His speedy coming? Mary, thou seat of Wisdom, O thou who hast penetrated most profoundly into the grand secrets of God, and hast conceived a higher estimation of their importance than any other of God's saints, beseech the Almighty to illumine our darkened intellects, and give determination to our will to render our lives conformable to the known truth! I address you in the holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God.
When Christ was summoned before the tribunal of Pilate, He called Himself the King of Truth. Hence it follows that His reign is in the kingdom of Truth. Christ's mission upon earth is to be a light for the redemption of mankind, led astray by the crafts of Satan.
In consequence of our first parents fall, our understanding has been shrouded in dark night, and it is no longer able; to discern the road which leads to God and conducts us safely to our last end. The history of mankind affords ample proof of this statement. Ah! how horrible a darkness broke in upon the human race after the fall of Adam! Mankind sank into the night of paganism, lost sight utterly of the path leading to salvation, and toiled only for the attainment of honors, riches, and pleasures!
Even the chosen people, upon whom God ever and anon shed the beams of truth, through the instrumentality of Moses and the Prophets, were plunged again and again into the dark abyss of idolatry. In confirmation of this assertion, I need only allude to the deplorable fall of Solomon a prince once so wise and favored by God. While such dismal shadows were enveloping the face of the world, the brightness of light suddenly burst through the gloom in the appearance of the divine person of Jesus Christ. This glorious event finds a beautiful expression in the words of St. John, at the commencement of his Gospel: “In Him was the life, and the life was the light of man.”
Now that we are in possession of His holy doctrine, the path to salvation lies distinctly traced before our view; now is held up to our imitation His encouraging example, embodied in the glorious deeds of His life; and we have the consoling assurance that whoever follows His example walks in the light, and shall gain eternal salvation. That, however, the light of His doctrine might serve as a beacon to future generations, and still point out the road which we must tread as true imitators of Christ, He deigned to send to His Church the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth: “The Paraclete, whom I will send you,” said He, “will teach you all the truth, and remind you of all things that 1 have taught you.” But lest this light might become extinct, He promised to bestow upon His Church infallibility, and in the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Apostles He fulfilled His pledged word.
“As My Father sent Me, so do I send you,” said Christ to His Apostles and disciples. And again: “He who hears Me, hears you.” After all these blessings, which Jesus Christ showered down upon you, you can not but have a thorough knowledge of the demands that God makes of you, of the end for which you are created, of the destination to which you are tending, and, lastly, of your duties, and the means for their perfect fulfillment. But do not imagine that it suffices merely to know these; truths; no, you must also apply most strenuously, to live in accordance with your belief. Hence you can see how appropriately Christ calls the Holy Ghost the Spirit of Truth. For it is this very love of truth that constitutes the principal requisite for leading a holy life.
Woe to us, if we rest satisfied, like Pilate, with asking Christ in indifferent sloth: “What is truth?” and then turn away unconcernedly from Jesus. If we dare act in this manner, we imitate Pilate in cowardly giving over our Saviour to His bitterest enemies. And what will be the consequence? We shall be damned for our sins, since we profess our faith only with our lips.
Whereas, Christ in His quality of both God and Man, infuses into our souls the knowledge of truth; the world, on the contrary, ruled over by the evil Spirit, whom Christ calls the prince of darkness, exerts all its power to spread lies and deceptions. Holy Writ calls Satan a liar from the beginning, and with truth! For even in heaven he gave utterance to that most impudent of lies: “I will rise and become like to the Almighty!” Numberless angels were ensnared by his blasphemous craft, and, like him, thrust out of the kingdom of heaven. Afterwards he addressed himself to our first parents, saying: “You shall be like gods,” and thus succeeded in bringing about their unhappy fall.
Lies and deceits are, and have been, the characteristic marks of his kingdom for centuries. He inspires men with the foolish desire of amassing riches, of accumulating honors, and of procuring the enjoyment of earthly pleasures. And what does Satan design in using these means? Nothing else but to cause men to offend the Majesty of God by transgressing His Commandments. And yet what are all honors and possessions of the world but dust? What all purely human greatness and glory but vapor? What all forbidden sensual gratifications but filth? And what is the longest life but a moment's breath when compared to never-ending eternity?
What else does the father of lies propose to himself in spreading abroad his dangerous errors, than to frustrate the labors of the Apostles of Christ? For although the light of the truth has already been lit in all parts of the world, yet Satan ceases not to induce men to shut their eyes against the light, and to prefer the darkness of idolatry to the splendor of truth. And what else is this but craft and mockery of the devil?
In a similar manner he deceives our separated brethren; for although they are aware of the words of Christ: “I will be with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world,” and know that the Church is one and unerring, yet they, by blinding themselves, think that faith in Christ alone is sufficient for their salvation. But it is saddest of all to witness his successful efforts in deceiving even the children of light, who, though they have eyes to see, see not, and ears to hear, hear not. And why? Because they are deficient in the love of truth. They, indeed, pronounce the articles of their creed with their lips, but they are far from forming an adequate idea of their great importance, much less do they rouse their languid will to a determined resolution to live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And, in truth, if a Christian of good will were to impress on his mind a high appreciation of the principal truths of his religion, what great progress in perfection would he not make? He might, for that purpose, propose to himself the following questions:
Who am I? What is my last end? What will finally become of me? What heavenly treasures are already in my possession? What am I capable of receiving still? What dangers threaten my soul? Who will one day be my judge? What alternative is implied in those two words: “either,” “or” either saved or damned; either eternally in heaven or eternally in hell? What grand truths are not these! and yet what a slight impression they produce on us! And why? Because we make too little account of truth; because we have no love of truth.
The same may be said of the use of the means placed at our disposal for gaining eternal salvation. Would to God that we were thoroughly penetrated with the idea of the grandeur of truth! How different our life would be, if we strove to secure for ourselves all the benefits flowing from fervent prayer, from a worthy reception of the Sacraments, and, above all, from a frequent intercourse with Jesus dwelling in the tabernacle!
How often do we not receive the flesh and blood of our Lord, and yet experience none of those salutary effects, which generally accompany the actual presence of the Most High in our hearts? It is because that truth has not yet gained complete mastery over our hearts, which tells us: Under these forms of bread and wine Christ is personally present; it is because our hearts are not enkindled with a real love of that same truth, declaring to us: Under this host Jesus is truly concealed!
As long as we are upon earth we shall be a constant prey to temptations. Yet, what are temptations, when considered in the light of faith, but trifles, which a believing soul, strong in her God, repulses with scorn and contempt? For this reason the great Apostle exhorts us to have “our loins girt about with truth.” Therefore, love truth, and place no obstacle to its salutary influence. Then you shall bear witness to the truths of your faith in joy and constancy!–Amen!
“The Comforter, whom I will send you, He shall give testimony of Me.”–John 15.
Christ promised His disciples to send them the Spirit of Truth. Man, the spiritual likeness of God, is a reasonable being; and, as such, his most essential need is knowledge, especially the knowledge of his relation towards God his Creator, and final reward.
But man, besides being endowed with reason, has also a heart and feelings. Hence it is that he can not be satisfied with knowledge only, but he also needs comfort and consolation. For whilst, through the fall of Adam, our understanding is darkened with clouds of doubts, our hearts groan heavily beneath the pressure of sadness and despondency. We are continually striving to rid ourselves of these evils, and drive them away.
The human heart needs comfort in order to serve God with cheerfulness, zeal and perseverance; and it can be comforted only through God the Holy Ghost. This is the object of today's meditation. O Mary, comforter of the afflicted, pray for us, that we may be filled with the sentiments that animated thee in the service of the Almighty, and that thus, being comforted, we may serve the Lord with zeal and gladness! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
“Few are the years of my life, and tormented with pain,” thus sighed and groaned the Patriarch Jacob. And in like manner every mortal feels keenly the pressure of sorrow and pain. And these evils torment and harass not only the body of man but also his soul. With regard to the bodily sufferings to which man is subject, they manifest themselves at the very beginning of his existence. He weeps when he is born, and before he is yet conscious of his miseries, by his cries and tears solicits the help and comfort of those that surround him. Nor will this necessity of comfort and help ever leave him for a moment through the whole course of his life.
How hard, how bitter is the struggle of by far the greater part of mankind for their very existence! how harassing day and night the care to provide their daily bread! Behold, the effects of the curse which the sin of the first man drew down upon the human race: “Thou shalt eat thy bread in the sweat of thy brow.”
Yea, man would consider himself happy, did but he always possess the opportunity of earning his bread, though it be by the sweat of his brow. How often does it not happen that he is left without work, and consequently deprived of the means by which to support himself and his family! Nor is it of rare occurrence, that after having toiled hard and long, the poor laborer is cheated out of his wages, and the husbandman doomed to witness the destruction of the crops. Surely such and so many adversities and disappointments can not but produce sadness and melancholy in the heart of man.
Truly, there is much work in life. Even those who appear to be rich often work until late into the night to increase their possessions and secure their treasures. The poor mortal, thus burdened with earthly care and misery, longs greatly for comfort. He turns to creatures; but, alas! he soon finds out that created things can not satisfy his wants and desires.
But how much are not all these evils increased when sickness is added to them? And, oh! there are so many diseases, and so many and great bodily sufferings! The mere names and descriptions of the ills to which flesh is liable fill many volumes. The sick man longs eagerly for comfort and cure, yet how often does he not hope in vain!
But bodily sufferings are not the only evils which embitter man's life here below. He is harassed also with mental cares. And these anxieties of the heart make him suffer still more than either the struggle for his daily bread or the most painful sickness.
First of all, he must seriously inquire how to serve the Lord our God, how to please Him, and thus secure eternal life. Man, guided by the light of reason alone, can not find the way to God. And what a torture is it not for the mind to be in a state of uncertainty concerning the means of salvation! To this we may add the, anxiety caused by the continual war which we are obliged to wage against our evil propensities; the concupiscence of the eyes, of the world, and the flesh; the pain caused by the reproaches of conscience, if we have yielded to temptation; the fear of appearing before our God and Judge to give an account of our lives.
Furthermore, how much do we not suffer from slanders, calumnies, and false accusations in our intercourse with others from dishonesty, violence, and in juries of every sort! Lastly, there is the pain caused by the thought of death's certain approach, and of the humiliating corruption to which our bodies will fall a prey.
What wonder if, amidst all these; miseries, man yearns for consolation? Tell me, sad father, grieved mother, sorrowing widow, and you, poor sinner, troubled by the reproaches of your conscience, tell me, does not your heart long eagerly for rest and peace? But the world the spirit of the world is not able to satisfy your earnest desires.
How different is all this when man's heart is prepared to receive within itself the comfort which Christ has promised to send to the human race through the Holy Ghost! We shall understand this difference more fully, if after reviewing the many sources of grief which embitter our earthly life, we turn our eyes to the sweet consolations which God the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, is wont to impart to us, provided we open our hearts to Him in faith, and trust, and love.
With regard to our bodily sufferings, we are assured by the Spirit of Truth, that it is God and not man who sends us our crosses. The Holy Ghost, as Spirit of Truth, and, therefore, also of comfort, recalls to our mind, the words of Christ: The Father in heaven knows your afflictions, He watches over you, and no hair of your head shall be injured without His holy will. Be of good heart, the Holy Spirit whispers to the mourning soul, God is purifying you in the fire of tribulation, and preparing you for the crown of eternal life. Such thoughts indeed impart true consolation to the heart of man.
If we are calumniated and persecuted the Holy Ghost admonishes us to look up to Christ and remember His consoling words: “If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.” “Blessed are the poor . . . . Blessed are those that mourn.” “Blessed are you, greatly blessed, when you are persecuted for justice sake; for great will be your reward in heaven.” Yes, these promises of Christ are sources of the sweetest comfort, when the Holy Ghost, speaking from within our hearts, calls them to our minds in the hour of tribulation. And though death threaten us under the form of sickness or old age, yet we need by no means despair. But enlightened by the Holy Ghost, we may joyfully exclaim with St. Paul: “O death! where is thy sting?” it has vanished in the victory of Him who has risen from the dead.
If we have lived in Christ and followed perseveringly in His footsteps, then we shall also rise with Him, and enter triumphantly into the joys of the blessed. But how particularly consoling is it to one who has sinned and feels remorse of conscience, when the Holy Ghost reminds him, through the mouth of the priest, of these words of our divine Saviour: “Show yourself to the, priest;” confess, “whose sins you shall forgive, they are not forgiven;” no matter how great may be their number, or how heinous their malice. Truly there is more comfort in the penitential tears of a Mary Magdalen, than in the tears of joy shed by all the children of the world.
Just and true, indeed, is the saying of the Apostle of the Gentiles: “Rejoice, rejoice always, but in the Lord!” In this manner the Holy Ghost comforts not only the Church and Her children in general, but He also bestows His consolations on each and every one of us in particular, provided our hearts are prepared to receive these heavenly favors, whose sweet efficacy is known only to those who taste them.
Come, then, Holy Ghost, and fill our hearts with such consolations as Thou art wont, as Spirit of Comfort, to bestow upon the children of God in this valley of tears. Let us feel Thy comfort, and let us guard it jealously within our hearts, that thus we may be enabled to fight cheerfully and manfully for the cause of God and the salvation of our immortal souls, through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen!
“And you shall give testimony of Me.”–John 25, 27.
“Christ redeemed mankind and established His Church in order to give us the means of knowing the truth of His doctrine, and also of saving our souls. It is true that the Incarnate Son of God might have done all this in other ways, had He willed to force man into believing and living rightly. But God has created man free. He desires, moreover, that, while a member of the Church militant, man should use his freedom to merit the joys and glories of the Church triumphant; and hence it is that divine wisdom and goodness, instead of forcing us, makes us co-operators in sanctifying and saving the human race.
Now, this co-operation is a great source of merit to ourselves, and of glory to God. Speaking of it, St. Paul says : “I endeavor to supply what is wanting to the merits of Christ” i. e., I endeavor, by my cooperation with grace, to turn these merits of Christ to the good of mankind. So likewise all the Apostles gave testimony of Christ for the salvation of their fellow-men; and this is the calling and duty, not of the Apostles only, but of all Christians, and will be until the end of time!
We shall consider, then, the meaning of the words: “And you shall give testimony of Me.” O Mary, Queen of Apostles, pray for us and obtain for us the courage and fidelity of those Apostles who surrounded thee in the dining-room at Jerusalem, awaiting the coming of the Holy Ghost. I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, to the greater glory of God!
“And you shall give testimony of Me,” said our Lord to His Apostles, and they did according to His Word. Enlightened, strengthened and animated by the Holy Spirit, they gave testimony of our Lord both by word and by work. In that same hour in which the Holy Ghost came down upon them, St. Peter addressed the murderers of the Saviour, saving: ” Let it be made known to Israel, and to the entire world, that no other name is given to men by which they may be saved than the most holy name of Jesus.” And from that time, as St. Paul testifies, they preached the Gospel over the entire world, confirming it by the holiness of their lives and by their untiring efforts to spread the kingdom of Jesus Christ, until they finally sealed this testimony with their blood.
Thus their testimony was an illustrious and efficacious testimony; it was, besides, holy and most perfect in life, and faithful even unto death. Hence, if we would show ourselves true children of the Church, and real imitators of the Apostles, we must endeavor to make our testimony like unto theirs.
Theirs, as I have said, was a splendid and efficacious testimony. They had to teach man why God created him, how sin and misery came into the world, who it was that freed us from these, and opened to us once more the gates of the kingdom of heaven. Finally, they had to make known to man his duties toward God, his Father, and toward man his fellow-creature duties that must be fulfilled by all who wish for membership in God's kingdom.
Long had the human race been sighing for an answer to these questions, that were so bound up with the whole life of man in time and eternity. For four thousand years its daily cry and prayer had been that of the Prophet: “Ye heavens, drop down dew from above, and let the clouds rain down the Just One!”
At length the Just One came, but His own received Him not. Leaving the earth, He returned to heaven; but not before He had given to His Apostles the mission of spreading the Gospel over the entire world: “As My Father hath sent Me, so I also send you.” “Go ye therefore, teach all nations.” “He that heareth you, heareth Me.” And the Apostles did according to His word, and not here or there, but everywhere might be heard from numbers the eulogium: “Oh, how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Gospel of peace!”
As St. Paul addressed the learned of the Areopagus at Athens, so he likewise addressed vast, numbers everywhere shrouded in the night of ignorance, or buried in the dark and fitful gloom of idolatry. “We preach to you the Unknown God.” For the first time since the creation men, armed with the power of working miracles, traversed the whole earth, teaching all nations; and so illustrious and so convincing was their testimony, that the whole human race must have embraced the faith, had man only been of good will.
But man was free, and abusing his freedom, as he does even today, he; turned a deaf ear to the truths of the Gospel. “Hearing, he did not understand,” as God often permits both as a punishment to men of bad will, and as a trial of merit for the good who strive to convert them.
Had the world, then, been honest and sincere, it would have accepted the teachings of the Apostles, for, it could find no flaw in their testimony, or in their manner of giving it; and, besides, it was a holy testimony amply confirmed by the sanctity of their lives. With St. Paul they could all say: “Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ.” And truly they were faithful followers, even unto death; for they sealed their testimony with their blood.
As I have said, however, not to the Apostles only, but to all who believe in Christ, to all who are children of His Church, are addressed the words: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and praise the Father and Him whom He has sent, Jesus Christ.” To give our testimony faithfully, therefore, we must observe the following conditions:
As the Apostles and early Christians, we must be fully instructed in our faith, that we may be able to defend it and instruct others in its teachings. This is but the first requisite for giving testimony of Christ, and how few there are who can do even this much! The great majority are themselves but poorly in structed, and how can they attempt to teach others? Besides, our life must reflect as a mirror the virtues which our holy faith demands of us. We must observe in a special manner that first of all commandments brotherly love, burning with a deep desire to save and sanctify every immortal soul, to bring unbelievers into the true fold, to lead sinners into the path of righteousness, and to do unto others all the good that lies in our power.
Lastly, we must learn to look upon trials and sufferings with an eye of faith, to bow our own will before the holy and supreme will of God; and this even to our latest breath. To live thus is to give testimony of Christ; and to do all that is demanded of us we are supported by the strength of the Holy Spirit, Who dwells in our hearts as in His temple.
If every child of the Church would testify to the true faith of Christ in this manner, we should have little need of miracles to prove our faith. For such a life, amid the corruptions of this world, would be a perpetual miracle, and a most effectual means of turning sinners and unbelievers to God, to the Church, and to a holy life, in which they would follow Christ in this life and be saved by Him in the life to come! Amen! (1)
by Fr. Raphael Frassinetti, 1900
Gospel. John xv. 26, 27; xvi. 1-4. At that time, Jesus said to his disciples: When the Paraclete cometh whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of Me: and you shall give testimony, because you are with Me from the beginning. These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you of them.
You have heard, my dear young people, that our good Lord and redeemer promised today the coming of the Holy Ghost. He foretold, at the same time, the great persecutions that were to follow His leaving this world: but with the grace of the Holy Ghost His people would be able to overcome all these persecutions, which would redound to their own glory and the spread of the kingdom of God on earth. But why will these persecutions come and the cruelty of the world to the Apostles? They shall be hated, chased from the synagogues, and if one is murdered, it will be considered a benefit to the human race. Such were the persecutions of the Christians, and they have continued to the present day; under the guise of religion the most barbarous cruelties have been practised. Whence comes it that men are so wicked and so cruel as to persecute the pure and holy Church of God? Simply because “they know not Me nor My heavenly Father.”
My dear young people, what terrible persecution you will have to endure, not of fire and sword, but for your faith and morals in every-day life. Your faith is continually assailed by the wrong theories of our day. How many young men lose their faith in the early days of manhood! Young, strong, and healthy, they do not see the end of their days, and they wish to throw off all restraint of religion; they do not want to believe; it is too much to ask them to make an act of adherence to the Catholic faith.
Many a man's religion is spoiled in his young days; he seems to have no mind for it, and who knows whether he will ever get the grace of God again to take up that which he throws away. Yes, my dear young people, you give your pastors, your parents, and all who are interested in you, great concern for your future. You will have to undergo many temptations, too, from the flesh, which you carry about you; from the devil, who is everywhere watching to find an opportunity to destroy you; from the world, in which all sorts of evil abound, but you are weak and inexperienced in the midst of this great trial.
But you must strengthen yourselves by the thought that the same Spirit of fortitude and wisdom who came upon the Apostles will also descend on you, to shield you from all your enemies. In order that you may receive that holy Spirit, you must prepare yourselves carefully to celebrate the feast of Pentecost with sincerity and earnestness. Let us examine a little the necessity of receiving the Holy Ghost, and how we are to prepare for Him.
Every one of you, my dear young people, knows, as did the prophet Job, that this world which we inhabit is a great battle-field, on which we are surrounded by most stubborn and watchful enemies, and that we have to enter on a struggle with them. Hardly have we come into it, and have reached the use of reason, than the fight begins. These enemies aim at the soul; the life of the body is nothing to them, they wish to ruin the soul. They are powerful enemies, against whom we can do nothing of ourselves. We can easily see, then, that we need the assistance of the Holy Spirit very much.
In the first place, we must fight with the world, our great enemy. The world has an intelligence of its own; it teaches bad doctrines which, though in appearance are most inviting and even most natural, are wrong in principle. For example, the world has the strong conviction that they alone are happy who enjoy themselves; that while you are young, at least, you ought to enjoy the flower of your youth before it withers; that it will be time enough to give up pleasure when old age makes it insipid. How many such poor deluded souls are about us! The world insists that money makes one happy; that one must always have his purse well filled; that one's whole soul should be fully awake to the means of getting wealth, and heaping it up in abundance. One must be smart; by fair means or foul he must procure money. Money is the god of the world; so much so that it forgets real wealth, which is purity of soul and the possession of heaven in course of time. St. Paul tells us that “they that will become rich fall into temptation and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which hurl men into destruction and perdition.”
The world would have us consider in the next place that we must look for honors and esteem; and then running after the false honors of the world we forget the real honor, the true greatness of leading a good life and in the end of being placed in paradise by almighty God.
Are these not very deceptive doctrines? How can you discover their fallacy unless the Holy Ghost enlightens you? Not only does the world teach you these fallacies, but like a tutor, it shows you an example of the good fortunes of those who have succeeded in gaining wealth.
Look at the great number of successful men in the world that have not a spark of religion and who are proud of it. These men are ashamed to be humble followers of Jesus Christ; their charity is turned into philanthropy; they are ashamed to go to church, to hear Mass or a sermon, to go to the sacraments or to show any sign of Christianity. On the contrary, they make a parade of their vices; they prefer them to following Christ. Such are the consequences of the bad doctrines of the world. How thankful you ought to be that you are not like them. It is only by being enlightened by the Holy Ghost that you will continue to love “the better part.”
The devil himself is our great adversary on the battle-field of this world. Of what deception and snares does he not make use to lead us to a fall! “Your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.” St. Stanislaus Kostka while he was at prayer was visited by the devil: what a horrible object he was, perfectly black and hideous; his eyes shone in his head like ominous lights, which seemed to scatter fire on whatever object he directed them; his mouth was like the opening of hell. Stanislaus put this infernal creature to flight by the sign of the cross, and nothing daunted quietly continued his prayers, thanking God that he had the power of getting rid so easily of such an unwelcome visitor. I suppose the devil visited Stanislaus to disturb his peace of mind or even to fill him with fear; but not for a moment could the Evil One induce this good, holy soul to infringe God's law in the least.
You need have no fear of receiving a visit from the devil in person; but he puts on the grab of an angel of light, a serpent of beautiful colors. “It goeth in pleasantly, but in the end it will bite like a snake.” The devil shows us sin in its most attractive exterior; he tempts you as he did Eve, and will battle with the same arguments. Eve was afraid she would die, but he assured her, ” Not at all; you will not die, and you will have all pleasures, which it will not do to miss.” What of the bad companions you go with, my dear young people? The devil will argue, “What harm? You may do some good, you will have a good time. If there is any one in this world that is a wearisome fellow, it is certainly a pious chap; a certain degree of wickedness is required to make life spicy. And then why live such a timid existence; what kind of a life is it, when at every turn some one says, ‘Don't do that.' You pass your days in listening to ‘don'ts.' You have to watch your words and your thoughts, no useless talks, you cannot have the pleasure of sin, even in imagination; what a dismal life it is which is a continual struggle! Give it all up,” says the devil, “and lead a happy sort of life; don't be wicked exactly.”
The devil tries by every means in his power to get at your soul by the channels of your body and your senses; by your eyes through your sight, by your ears through your hearing, by your sense of feeling, by your imagination, and in this way he keeps up the attack, until he gets possession of you: he is not satisfied with that mischief, he demands more and more, until at last he has corrupted you completely. There is no rest; down we go, because the descent is so easy, until as disciples of the devil we are more wicked than the devil himself; we can at least do much more harm, for the devil makes use of men to corrupt others, and they become his agents afterwards.
Thus the good priest sees thousands of souls continually going over to Satan: souls that were good at one time, but now are entirely lost to God; souls who absolutely refuse to hear of God, and who try to persuade themselves that there is no God.
Another enemy on the battle-field is the flesh. This enemy is so intimately connected with us that we continually carry it about, and it is the occasion of many of our falls. The flesh has so many animal propensities, which are wrong, and unworthy of so noble a master as the God-like soul. The flesh is impure and filthy, and wants to satisfy its appetites, like an animal; it is avaricious to possess a great deal, so that a good time may be assured for the body. Is not the soul, the pure, immortal soul, far greater than the flesh? its difficult task is to discipline the unruly body and bring it under subjection and become master of it. The saints succeeded in so doing, but oh, by what great labor! How perseveringly they mortified their bodies, even to their last breath. But how did they succeed in subjecting this flesh? By the blessed Spirit of God, whom we are expecting at this time and whose feast we are celebrating.
Now, my dear young people, come with me to the place where we will find the Apostles gathered together and the Blessed Virgin in the midst of them. They are quiet and retired, they are praying for the coming of the Holy Ghost, and also for detachment from the things of this world. My dear young people, are your hearts detached from this life? Not yet, you will say, but you are trying to cut off more and more the love you have for the world. Your thoughts are still on the earth: does that not make you forget the heavenly paradise for which you are on trial?
For the great feast of Pentecost, the Apostles prepared themselves by devout prayer and holy meditation. They retired to the cenacle, a quiet place, and there waited the pleasure of God to send them the Holy Spirit. How do we poor mortals generally pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit? I think we do not pray at all, for we have very little devotion to the Holy Ghost; but let us, at least at this holy time, pray to the Holy Spirit, that He may come unto our soul; for prayer will surely bring Him to us.
Lastly, the Apostles had a great desire to receive the Holy Ghost; Our Lord Jesus Himself put this desire into their hearts, and therefore they wished the Comforter to come to them. Let us invoke this Holy Spirit with fervent prayers, and have a great desire for Him, that He may come down to us with His choicest gifts. (2)
|The First Epistle of St. Peter the Apostle, iv. 7-11.|
|Dearly Beloved: Be prudent, and watch in prayers. But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves; for charity covereth a multitude of sins. Using hospitality one towards another, without murmuring. As every man hath received grace, ministering the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the words of God. If any man minister, let him do it as of the power which God administereth: that in all things God may be honoured through Jesus Christ our Lord.|
The virtues here recommended are excellent preparatives for receiving the Holy Ghost, for nothing makes us more worthy of His grace than temperance, prayer, charity, unity, and hospitality towards our neighbors. Endeavor, therefore, to exercise these virtues, and every day during the following week pray fervently to the Holy Ghost for help in your endeavors.
|The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ, According to St. John, xv. 26, 27; xvi. 1-4.|
|At that time Jesus said to His disciples: When the Paraclete cometh Whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, Who proceedeth from the Father, He shall give testimony of Me: and you shall give testimony, because you are with Me from the beginning. These things have I spoken to you, that you may not be scandalized. They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doth a service to God. And these things will they do to you, because they have not known the Father nor Me. But these things I have told you, that when the hour shall come, you may remember that I told you.|
What kind of sin is scandal?
It is a frightful sin. By it countless sins are occasioned, thousands of souls are carried to perdition, while the loving design of God for the salvation of men is frustrated.
How, in general, is scandal given?
By saying, doing, or neglecting to do something which becomes the occasion of sin to another.
When do parents give scandal?
When they set a bad example to their children. When they do not correct them for doing wrong, or neglect to keep them from what is bad to teach them that which is good.
How do employers give scandal?
In much the same way that parents give scandal to their children: when, by bad example or by command, they keep their servants or other employees from divine service, or neglect to make them attend it. When they themselves use, or give to others, flesh-meat on days of abstinence. When they order the commission of sin. (4)
Image: Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, stained glass, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican) (6)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff