Flevit super illam, Enrique Simonet, 1892
Transcription of Audio
Translation of the Epistle for the Nine for Sunday after Pentecost
Brethren: We should not lust after evil things even as they lusted. And do not become idolaters, even as some of them were, as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, even as some of them committed fornication, and there fell in one day twenty-three thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and perished by the serpents. Neither murmur, as some of them murmured, and perished at the hands of the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as a type, and they were written for our correction, upon whom the final age of the world has come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. May no temptation take hold of you but such as man is equal to. God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, when Jesus drew near to Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, If you had known, in this your day, even you, the things that are for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will throw up a rampart about you, and surround you and shut you in on every side, and will dash you to the ground and your children within you, and will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you have not known the time of your visitation. And He entered the temple, and began to cast out those who were selling and buying in it, saying to them, It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves. And He was teaching daily in the temple.
The saving words of the Gospel.
If you had known in this day, even you the things that are for your peace.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
This Gospel is taken from Chapter 19 of St. Luke, in which our Lord approaches the Holy City to enter into His Passion and He stands, looks out over the city, and weeps at the coming destruction. Certainly, He was sorrowful over the destruction of the City that would happen at the hands of the Romans, the desecration of the Temple, but that’s not the real cause of His tears. Rather, the rejection of the People of God of the Eternal Word made flesh that’s what causes Him to cut short this sentence. It’s a literary device, aposiopesis, which is where I start to say a sentence and cut it off. What happens? Our Lord gets choked up, He can’t continue the sentence.
God the Father does not have emotions. The Eternal Word does not have emotions. The Holy Spirit does not have emotions. Angels and Demons do not have emotions, they’re pure spirits, so not having bodies, they don’t have passions, they don’t have emotions. But the Eternal Word made flesh has taken upon Himself our humanity, making it a sacred humanity in Him and His emotions are human. They’re perfect. His emotions then are perfectly ordered. Ours, our passions, our emotions all experience the effects of Original Sin, which brings about this disorder that maybe some of you have heard about.
Well, our Lord is weeping about the rejection. He has been preaching for three years. He has been doing miracles. He has been casting out demons. He has been attesting to His own divinity, and He receives coldness, ingratitude, rejection, and He says, “If you knew in your days, the things that are for your peace”. If you know the things in your days that are for your peace.
What is peace? Peace is fulfillment. Ultimately, peace is what St. Augustine describes as tranquillitas ordinis, a tranquility of order, that everything is in its proper place. And nonetheless, as a result of Original Sin and our own actual sins, very little is in its proper place in our situation. And so there is an estrangement from God, that we all suffer this alienation from God that makes worship impossible. Man was created to worship.
This reference in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians refers to the time when the Jews had escaped from Egypt. And why did they ask permission from Pharaoh to go out to the desert? To worship. And God said, “Bring all your animals because you might have to sacrifice them.” Right? So the whole idea was to go out to worship, and they escaped, and what happens? Moses goes up the mount, Mount Sinai, and it doesn’t take long for the people of God to fall into false worship. “The people sat down to eat, drink and rose up to play”. Play here is actually a play on words. He’s talking about perversion. And they did this in front of the Gold Calf. So there’s always going to be this crossover of idolatry and immorality. Man was made to worship but with this disorder, and without that abyss between us and God bridged, how are we going to worship in truth?
The difference between Catholic worship and every other form of worship is that every other form of worship is made by man. Catholic worship, what happens in the Divine Liturgy, what happens in the Holy Mass, is done by Christ Himself through the agency of the priest who works in persona Christi. So it’s our Lord who takes the initiative to bridge this gap, who makes worship possible for us. And if we don’t worship Him, we will find something else to worship. This worship then has conditions that our Lord lays down. It’s not for us to invent it. We don’t have to figure out how to worship, our Lord gave it to us and it came to us through Tradition.
There are conditions, right, there are conditions we have to avail ourselves of the ordinary means of salvation; we have to be in a state of grace for sacraments, our prayer, and our virtue. Those are the ordinary means of salvation. And nonetheless, we can avail ourselves of the three ordinary means and still not, sometimes, not experience peace. Why is that? It’s certainly not because the sacramental system is faulty and certainly not because there is something defective in what our Lord has established.
Often we don’t know how to manage this relationship that Our Lord has restored to our, sometimes, not our undoing, but certainly a lack of flourishing in that relationship. We don’t have the peace that He wants for us. Once we come to Him on our terms, and we’ve, we’re taking care of business, right, in terms of sacraments, in terms of prayer, terms of virtue there’s still an interior, and it’s a constant, work that has to be attended to. So where does it start, these steps towards maintaining peace with God?
Number one, we have to make the distinction between survival fear, and filial fear. Survival fear fears punishment. Servile fear is not fruitful. Filial fear fears nothing. We don’t even live in fear of God’s punishments. We live with only one fear; that I can mess things up, I can let him down, I can cause Him to weep, just as the people of Jerusalem caused Him to weep. That should be my only fear; that I can offend Him. So filial fear is that. It’s the expression of piety. An ordered relationship with Him who created us, Him who is saving us.
Second step, is to have a firm purpose of amendment: And now I want to live in a way that denies Him nothing. I deny Him nothing that He asks me. This is an invaluable way to peace of soul, to never deny what He demands of me. And this has to take a certain shape. We have to give immediate responses. We don’t stand back and calculate. We don’t think about what it will cost, or what my other opportunities or options are, or what if, and, and, and, and we come up with all sorts of reasons not to do His will. And that goes nowhere good. If this is not our dominant passion, doing His will, then we start a new campaign towards that. And this campaign will require a bit of readjustment and we’ll notice that there is going to be struggle, but there’s also going to be a healthy tension as well in this desire in this longing and the actual execution of His will in everything. Think of somebody who has been quite sick and they start to be on the mend. They really notice. That person notices that I’m not as sick as I was yesterday. And they’re gauging this balance of illness and health until such point that they become completely healthy. And they don’t think about this balance because nothing is out of balance, there is just health. So they’re not even thinking about it. It’s just the way they are. That’s what we’re working towards in the will of God; that there is no more struggle. There’s no more, “Well that wasn’t so difficult now, was it?” There’s no more consulting of ourselves. We’re just consulting Him.
Another step in this path towards peace that our Lord certainly wants to give us is to hold as suspect all notions of vagueness. We can sometimes have this dreamy idyllic idea of what I would like to be or if things were different. That goes nowhere. Or, on the other hand, a vague notion that, “I don’t know if I had enough contrition in my confession. I’m not sure if I said everything in my confession. I’m not sure if I had enough preparation for communion or enough gratitude afterwards.” This “I’m not sure” is not a good place to be in and we ought to hold it as suspect. When our Lord reproaches us it’s very precise. “Don’t do that. Do this.” He’s very precise and concrete. So if I can’t put my finger on it, I ought to dismiss it. We dismiss these vague notions because the devil is trying to rob us of our thriving in the spiritual life. So we dismiss all notions of vagueness. That’s why we don’t confess feelings. Having concupiscence is not a problem. That’s our situation. What do I do with it? Well, that’s going to decide whether I fall into vice or I grow in virtue. But concupiscence that’s our situation. So we don’t confess that.
Forth, for a soul that wants to be generous with Him wants to give Him glory with his life, Our Lord never causes anxiety. If there’s anxiety that’s to be dismissed. And anxiety becomes a form of false worship because it becomes all-consuming. Our Lord doesn’t reside there. That is from our psychology or from the devil. If our Lord reproaches us, the response is to repent, confess, and with great trust and joy, cooperate with His grace to overcome our faults and live the life of virtue that gives Him glory. It’s very simple. It’s not complicated. We’re complicated, but the program is not complicated.
St. Ignatius also gives us a fifth rule to follow. If I’m in a time of desolation, dryness, I’m not seeing things with clarity. That’s not the time to change my former good proposals. I should not make a change of plans. Rather, persevere in my good proposals. And then when I’ve come to peace again, then take an assessment. Should I change something or should I just persevere in this old faithful plan?
St. John of the Cross says something that’s very profound. He says for the man who is not penitential, he will never understand how the devil works. In other words, if we do become penitential, the devil will be unmasked how he has been working on us all along, because, all of a sudden, in denying ourselves, our attachments, denying ourselves, our likes, we start to see how we have been enmeshed with the influence of the evil one. And as we start to extricate ourselves from that abusive and dysfunctional relationship with Him, our relationship with Christ starts to thrive much more. And there’s a world of difference between doing penance and being penatential. There’s a world of difference between saying prayers and being prayerful. One is an action and the other is an identity. When we choose to be prayerful men and women, penitential men and women, we start to see things with a lot more clarity and our Lord works on our souls to give us tremendous peace, that only comes from Him. And may that be everyone here’s story.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
— Fr. Ermatinger