A Reading From the Holy Gospel According to Luke

The (Great) Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, c. 1563

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

Transcription of Sermon

The Gospel of the Lord.

He who does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

In the name of the Father, and the Son, of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Notice when Our Lord says first the cross, He’s speaking about a very particular cross; his own cross. In other words, Our Lord is talking about something that is tailor-made for each one of us. We can sometimes think that my cross is too heavy, and, therefore, God has abandoned me and that is not giving Him enough credit. That is lack of trust in His providence and lack of trust in His grace. If we have no crosses, we ought to be very concerned, because Our Lord shares His cross with those He loves, and those are going to Heaven. Those who are not going to Heaven, out of justice, Our Lord gives them easy materially comfortable lives in this world for whatever good they’ve done outside of His grace.

Today we celebrate this feast of a great saint, St. Norbert. And St. Norbert was born in the 11th century and into an aristocratic family in Xanten. And he grew up in a life of comfort, of ease, of recreation, kind of the life of an idle rich aristocrat who enjoyed all of the material pleasures, living a very superficial life. Not that those things necessarily bring about this superficial life, but that’s what he chose. And, he even received some orders in the Church not along the way to priesthood, not because of devotion, not because of piety, not because of a sense of vocation, but because they brought with them certain benefices and stipends. And so, he was in it for the money, so to say, and, therefore, he had court life with his family and his friends. He also had ecclesiastical court life, which was materially beneficial for him. And everybody knew Norbert as a very fun-loving, superficial man who didn’t take anything very seriously.

One day out, I believe he was hunting, on horseback in a storm. Lightning struck. The horse threw him. He was out cold. When he woke up, he couldn’t move and he was still for an hour. And he heard a voice, “Enough of your evil, start doing good.” And with that, he received the grace of conversion. And, he didn’t know exactly what it was he was supposed to do, but he knew our Lord was calling him to conversion. He confessed. He started to become a man of prayer and penance. He evangelized and eventually became a priest. He was scorned by all of the other ecclesiastics who knew him in his superficial days and they said, “Here you are now. You’re becoming a priest just to gain whatever you think you can gain in this life.” And he didn’t respond to them. He just allowed his actions to show what grace had done in his soul by living this austere, prayerful life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

So, when Our Lord says, “Take up your own cross,” it’s not only the penances received but it’s also the particular purifications each one of us needs in this life, or we’ll have it in purgatory if we’re going to heaven. And so, it’s very personal, very particular, every sin that we’ve ever committed that has been forgiven and has to be purified. And so, it’s not the same, to commit 834 mortal sins in one’s lifetime or 837. There has to be a purification for every one of those offenses, not because we’ve broken a law but because we have broken a relationship, and once that relationship is restored, there is still disorder. And so, it’s not enough to go to Confession. Confession forgives our sin. Confession does not take away pain of sin.

And so, Norbert was very generous and he lived an extremely austere life. The very men who vituperated him, who dismissed him as a hypocrite, – “What do you think you are, Norbert, you think you can be good? Do you think you can be holy? We all know what you lived like. We all know what you’re made of.”– they later became his followers. And he began the Order of the Premonstratensians because they had been given a plot of land in Prémontré in France. And they were the beginners of Eucharistic Adoration.

So, note well that Eucharistic Adoration began only 1000 years ago. Before that, we had the sense of the Eucharist in Mass but outside of Mass the Blessed Sacrament was stored in the Tabernacle, but the notion of Eucharistic Adoration did not exist until the Norbertines came up with that idea because they saw that the Church had these reliquaries, and when they would get up to do their vigils in the morning, two in the morning, and they would see the cross, or the reliquary, with a relative, a saint, and then behind it, Our Lord in the Eucharist they thought, “Well we have the greatest relic of all which is Himself.” And so, they began to expose Our Lord in these reliquaries, which were made for relics of saints, and this was the beginning of Eucharistic Adoration.

Notice, too, that because this was around the time of the Great Schism, that the Orthodox who broke off from the Bride of Christ don’t have this Eucharistic spirituality. They don’t have the notion of Adoration. This is properly Catholic.

About that voice that Norbert heard: It was certainly the voice of God. But what do we do? What are we counseled to do with voices and visions? We are counseled by the great mystical writers of the Church, John of the Cross, Teresa of Ávila, et cetera, to dismiss them. We ought not follow voices and visions. We follow principles. If the voice or the vision calls me to greater conversion, to greater virtue, to greater prayer, to repentance, we do that, but not because of a vision or a voice, but because it’s real, it’s necessary, it’s true, it’s good for our souls. So, we follow principles, not phenomena.

And this is really important: We know that that voice was authentic by the fruits that it bore. And what it was asking of Norbert was nothing out of the ordinary. It was nothing that was exotic. It was nothing except conversion to Christ and Norbert, notice his docile obedience to that voice, brought about a great saint who would found a great order, who gave us what we have today, the practice of Eucharistic Adoration. And so, notice how this generous response to the voice of God reverberates throughout all of the cosmos, history of the Church, all the way into eternity. And may our responses to the petitions of God be also that obedient, and that loving, and that docile. 

In the Name of the Father, and the Son, of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

— Fr. Ermatinger