Thursday, November 27, 2014

24th and last Sunday after Pentecost 23rd November 2014

Last Sunday after Pentecost
(From 24th and Last Sunday of Pentecost)
23 November 2014

"Come, ye blessed of My Father, Possess the kingdom prepared for you....” Mt. 35:40
In his book of meditations on the liturgy, Divine Intimacy, Fr. Gabriel of St. Magdalen, OCD. comments: “The Mass for today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year is a prayer of thanksgiving for the year that is ending and one of propriation for that which is about to begin; it is a reminder that the present life is fleeting, and an invitation to keep ourselves in readiness for the final step which will usher us into eternity....With the description of the end of the world and the coming of Christ to judge the living and the dead, the Gospel (Mt. 24:15-35) reminds us that just as the liturgical year comes to an end, so does the life of man on earth. Everything will have an end, and at the end of all, will come the majestic epilogue: "Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven [the Cross]: and then shall all tribes of the earth mourn; and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty." (Mt. 24:30) Fr. Gabriel, p. 1100-1 In today’s Epistle (Col. 1:9-14), St. Paul shows us how we can be assured of a place in the heavenly kingdom at the end of the world if we live according to God’s will: "We ... cease not to pray for you and to beg that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will ... that you may walk worthy of God, in all things pleasing; being fruitful in every good work,” Col. 1:9-10

Eternal Glory in Heaven
Fr. Gabriel tells us about the importance of today’s Epistle for the attainment of eternal glory in heaven: “This is a beautiful synthesis of the task which the interior soul has endeavoured to accomplish during the whole year: to adapt and conform itself to God's holy will, to unite itself to it completely, and, being moved in all things by that divine will alone, to act in such a manner as to please Our Lord in everything. God be praised if, thanks to His help, we have succeeded in advancing some steps along the road which most surely leads to holiness. Making our own the sentiments of the Apostle, we should give thanks to “the Father who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light." (Col 1:12) The lot, the inheritance of the saints, of those who tend toward holiness, is union of love with God-- here below in faith, hereafter in glory. This heritage is ours because Jesus merited it for us by His Blood, and because in Jesus "we have redemption, the remission of sins" (Col. 1:14); thus, cleansed from sin and clothed in grace by His infinite merits, we also can ascend to that very lofty and blessed state of union with God.” Fr. Gabriel, p. 1100

The Fall of Jerusalem and the End of the World
In today’s Gospel, Jesus foretells two of the most catastrophic events to happen to mankind. By juxtaposing the Fall of Jerusalem (70 AD) with the End of the World, Jesus warns us to be ready for what will befall our world. When Jesus prophesied “When, therefore, you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains.” Mt. 24:15-6 Cornelius A Lapide in his Commentary on St. Matthew’s Gospel comments on this scriptural text, especially in relation to Fall of Jerusalem: “Some understand by it an idol placed in the temple as God; others, the sins committed by priests in the temple; others, more correctly, the Roman armies which besieged Jerusalem, and which, shortly afterward, when it had been captured, fearfully wasted it, and made it desolate. It could also mean the profanation of the temple by the murders and other crimes which were perpetuated in it by the seditious killers and wicked Jews, who call themselves Zealots of the law and of liberty.” A Lapide, p. 423. No wonder Jesus prophesied as A Lapide points out: “For there shall be then great tribulation (Jerusalem and all Judea because of the divine vengeance as is clear from Lk. 21:33), such as hath not been from the beginning of the world until now, neither shall be.” (Mt. 24:21) A Lapide, p. 427

Jerusalem’s Catastrophic Fate
The Fall of Jerusalem was going to be the most catastrophic event to befall a nation in the entire history of the world. It is a reminder of the great price that needed to be paid for the deicide of Jesus Christ. It is also a foreshadowing of the greater events which will happen at the end of the world. Cornelius A Lapide says: “This most dreadful destruction of Jerusalem was an express type and prelude of the end of the world, just as Noe’s deluge, the burning of Sodom, and the drowning of Pharaoh and his entire army in the Red Sea....Christ, therefore, compares the destruction of the one nation of the Jews with that of any other nation whatsoever, but not the destruction of all nations, or the whole world. That this was the case, is plain from the seven books which Josephus compiled (de Bello Judaico). Thus he says expressly (lib. 6 cap.11) ‘to speak briefly, I am of opinion that no other city suffered calamities, nor in any other nation of which there is memory among men was the wickedness of seditious more ferocious... (lib 7, cap. 18) The number of those who perished surpasses that of any calamity, whether human or of divine origin; of whom some were killed outright, and some were carried off by the Romans.’ ....Hence Josephus (lib. 7 Belli c. 17) asserts that besides innumerable others slain in all parts of Judea, there fell in the siege of Jerusalem alone 1,100,000 souls, who died of famine, pestilence and the sword. ...The same writer says that 97,000 Jews were taken captive at that time..... ‘For these are the days of vengeance (i.e., for the death of Christ)... There will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.’ (Lk. 21:22) Josephus adds (lib. 7 Belli c. 16) that Titus (the Roman General) recognized this vengeance of God, and attributed the capture of Jerusalem, not to his own power, but to Him. For entering into the captured city, when he saw the height and solidity of the bulwarks and towers, he exclaimed, ‘It is evident that God has helped us to fight. It was God Himself who cast down the Jews from those fortifications. For what power of man, or what machines, would have been able to do so?’ The same Josephus (lib. 6 Belli cap. 14) adds, and Eusebius cites him (lib. 3 Hist. cap. 5) that ‘Titus went round, and saw the ditches full of corpses of the dead, he groaned aloud, and lifting up his hands to heaven, called God to witness that it was not his work.’” A Lapide, p. 424-8

“...the sun shall be darkened and moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and powers of heaven shall be moved.” Mt. 24:29
Cornelius A Lapide quotes the allegorical meaning of this passage from St. Augustine (epist. 80 at Hesychium): “The sun, that is, the Church, shall be darkened, because in those tremendous tribulations and temptations which shall be in the end of the world, many who had seemed as bright and as firm as the sun and the stars shall fall away from the Faith and a state of grace.” p. 441. Cornelius A Lapide gives a more literal and symbolic explanation of this passage: “...the sun will be darkened because God will withhold His concurrence and take away from it, not its light, but its power of illuminating and of scattering its rays; thus it shall come to pass that in the sun there will be light, but upon the earth nothing but darkness, as it happened during the passion of Christ, so as to manifest the indignity which He suffered, since the sun, the moon, the earth and rocks and all the elements seemed to mourn, indeed grow indignant....” A Lapide, p.441-2

“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn...” Mt. 24:30
Cornelius A Lapide quoting St. Augustine (serm. 130 de Tempore) tells us of the power of Christ’s Cross: “Hast thou considered how great is the virtue of the Sign of the Cross? The sun shall be darkened, the moon shall not give her light; but the cross shall shine and shall obscure the heavenly luminaries. When the stars shall fall, it alone shall send forth radiance, that thou mayest learn how the cross is more luminous than the moon and more glorious than the sun, because illuminated by the brilliance of divine light, it shall surpass their splendour. For just as when a king enters into a city, his soldiers go before him, bearing upon their shoulders the royal arms and standards, and all the pomp of military array, to proclaim the monarch’s entry; so when the Lord descends from heaven, the angel hosts shall go before Him, bearing upon their lofty shoulders that sign which is the ensign of triumph, to announce to the inhabitants of earth the divine entrance of the heavenly King... But why will the cross appear then? That they might understand the mystery of iniquity (cf. II Thess. 2:7). ‘And then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn.’ (Mt. 24:30) That is, many of every tribe, that is, all the reprobate and the damned shall mourn, because they have neglected their salvation, which cost Christ so dearly that he was crucified. But the elect will rejoice and sing, because they will see that they have been saved and blessed by the cross. The distribution (of rewards), then, is to each according to his kind, and not to (predetermined) categories of individuals as logicians put it. S. Augustine (serm. 130 de Tempore) gives the cause of weeping, ... because they shall see their accuser, that is, the cross itself; and at the sight of this reprover they shall acknowledge their sin. Too late, and in vain shall they confess their impious blindness. And dost thou marvel that when Christ cometh He will bring His cross, since He will show His wounds also?” A Lapide, p. 446

“And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with much power and majesty.” Mt. 24:30b
Cornelius A Lapide comments of the power of Jesus at this His Second Coming: “In Greek, ‘with great strength and glory’, Lk. 21:27 ‘with great power’. For as Christ as His first advent came into the world in great infirmity of the flesh, in poverty and contempt, so He hath thereby merited to come in His second advent with great strength, glory and majesty. His might and strength shall appear, in that at His command all the dead shall rise in a moment; in that all men, angels, and devils shall behold and worship Him as their God, their Lord, and their Judge; in that He shall pass sentence upon all according to their merits, and shall execute His sentence, so that none shall dare to contradict or resist it. His majesty shall appear in the infinite splendour of His body, in the multitude and brightness of all the angels accompanying Him, and in His garments of radiant clouds, also in the trumpets, thunder, lightning, earthquakes, etc., that shall precede Him....” A Lapide, p. 448

Confidence in God’s Love
St. Teresa of Avila gives us a confidence that, if we have loved God in this world we should have no fear of death nor God’s judgment: "Deign, O Lord, to grant me the experience of true love before You take me from this life, for it will be a great thing at the hour of my death to realize that I shall be judged by One whom I have loved above all things. I shall be able to meet You with security, certain that I shall not be going into a foreign land, but into my own country, for it belongs to the One whom I have loved so truly and who has loved me in return. How sweet will be the death of that soul who has done penance for all its sins and does not have to go to purgatory! It may be that it will begin to enjoy glory even in this world, and will know no fear, but only peace!" St. Jose Maria Escriva, The Way, 40

“The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part IV
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
The Words of Holy Scripture
“But why seek out the opinions of the Fathers and theologians, when Holy Scripture settles the question so clearly? Look in to the Old and New Testaments, and you will find a multitude of figures, symbols and words that clearly point out this truth: very few are saved. In the time of Noah, the entire human race was submerged by the Deluge, and only eight people were saved in the Ark. Saint Peter says, "This ark was the figure of the Church," while Saint Augustine adds, "And these eight people who were saved signify that very few Christians are saved, because there are very few who sincerely renounce the world, and those who renounce it only in words do not belong to the mystery represented by that ark." The Bible also tells us that only two Hebrews out of two million entered the Promised Land after going out of Egypt, and that only four escaped the fire of Sodom and the other burning cities that perished with it. All of this means that the number of the damned who will be cast into fire like straw is far greater than that of the saved, whom the heavenly Father will one day gather into His barns like precious wheat.
“I would not finish if I had to point out all the figures by which Holy Scripture confirms this truth; let us content ourselves with listening to the living oracle of Incarnate Wisdom. What did Our Lord answer the curious man in the Gospel who asked Him, "Lord, is it only a few to be saved?" Did He keep silence? Did He answer haltingly? Did He conceal His thought for fear of frightening the crowd? No. Questioned by only one, He addresses all of those present. He says to them: "You ask Me if there are only few who are saved?" Here is My answer: "Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." Who is speaking here? It is the Son of God, Eternal Truth, who on another occasion says even more clearly, "Many are called, but few are chosen." He does not say that all are called and that out of all men, few are chosen, but that many are called; which means, as Saint Gregory explains, that out of all men, many are called to the True Faith, but out of them few are saved. Brothers, these are the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Are they clear? They are true. Tell me now if it is possible for you to have faith in your heart and not tremble.”

“The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved” Part V
by St. Leonard of Port Maurice
Salvation in the Various States of Life
But oh, I see that by speaking in this manner of all in general, I am missing my point. So let us apply this truth to various states, and you will understand that you must either throw away reason, experience and the common sense of the faithful, or confess that the greater number of Catholics is damned. Is there any state in the world more favorable to innocence in which salvation seems easier and of which people have a higher idea than that of priests, the lieutenants of God? At first glance, who would not think that most of them are not only good but even perfect; yet I am horror-struck when I hear Saint Jerome declaring that although the world is full of priests, barely one in a hundred is living in a manner in conformity with state; when I hear a servant of God attesting that he has learned by revelation that the number of priests who fall into hell each day is so great that it seemed impossible to him that there be any left on earth; when I hear Saint Chrysostom exclaiming with tears in his eyes, "I do not believe that many priests are saved; I believe the contrary, that the number of those who are damned is greater."
Look higher still, and see the prelates of the Holy Church, pastors who have the charge of souls. Is the number of those who are saved among them greater than the number of those who are damned? Listen to Cantimpre; he will relate an event to you, and you may draw the conclusions. There was a synod being held in Paris, and a great number of prelates and pastors who had the charge of souls were in attendance; the king and princes also came to add luster to that assembly by their presence. A famous preacher was invited to preach. While he was preparing his sermon, a horrible demon appeared to him and said, "Lay your books aside. If you want to give a sermon that will be useful to these princes and prelates, content yourself with telling them on our part, 'We the princes of darkness thank you, princes, prelates, and pastors of souls, that due to your negligence, the greater number of the faithful are damned; also, we are saving a reward for you for this favour, when you shall be with us in Hell.'" (to be continued)