20th Sunday After Pentecost
11 October 2015
“Unless you see signs and wonders, you do not believe.” Jn. 4:48
Today’s readings remind us that, as long as we are committed to serving as the beloved spouses of the Son of God, we will have spiritual warfare with the forces of evil from hell. The devil knows that he cannot overcome God, therefore, he will vent his anger on souls especially dear to God in order to deny God the love that they would give to Him for all eternity. For this he tempts man in his weakness in order to cause him to lose his faith and fall into sin. This is why, in today’s Epistle (Eph. 5: 15-21), St. Paul enjoins his disciples to take care to keep their hearts pure in these evil days: “See to it therefore, brethren, that you walk with care: not as unwise but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil.” Eph. 5:15-6 We see a similar message in today’s Gospel ( Jn. 4:46-51), where, according to Dom Prosper Gueranger in his book, The Liturgical Year Vol. 11, “The world is drawing towards its end; like the ruler’s son, it begins to die. Tormented by fever of the passions which have been excited in Capharnaum, the city of business and pleasure, it is too weak to go itself to the Physician who could cure it. It is for its father—for the pastors, who by Baptism, gave it the life of grace, and who govern the Christian people as rulers of holy Church—to go to Jesus, and beseech Him to restore the sick man to health. St. John begins this account by mentioning the place where they were to find Jesus: it was at Cana, the city of the marriage feast, where He first manifested His power (cf. Jn. 4:11) in the banquet hall; it is in heaven that the Man-God abides, now that He has quitted our earth, where He has left the disciples deprived of the Bridegroom (cf. Mt. 9:15), and having to pass a certain period of time in the field of penance. Capharnaum signifies the field of penance, and of consolation, which penance brings with it. Such was this earth intended to be when man was driven from Eden; such was the consolation, to which, during this life, the sinner was to aspire; and, because of his having pretended to turn this field of penance into a new paradise, the world is now to be destroyed. Man has exchanged the life-giving delights of Eden for the pleasures which kill the soul, and ruin the body, and draw down the divine vengeance.” Gueranger, p. 432-433
Supernatural Light in Dark Days.
The “days of evil” to which St. Paul refers and the pleasures of sin to which St. John alludes at Capharnaum are the days when the devil will use all his cunning to defeat the children of light and destroy their faith. Dom Gueranger comments on the attack which will come to the Church in these times which seem so much like our times today: “Supernatural light will, in those days not only have to withstand the attacks of the children of darkness , who will put forward their false doctrines; it will, moreover, be minimized and falsified by the very children of light yielding on the question of principles; it will be endangered by the hesitations, and the human prudence of those who are called far-seeing men. Many will practically ignore the master-truth, that the Church never can be overwhelmed by any created power. If they remember that our Lord has promised to uphold His Church even to the end of the world (cf. Mt. 28:20), they will still believe that that they do a great service to the good cause by making certain politically clever concessions, not weighed in the balance of the sanctuary. Those future worldly-wise people will forget that our Lord needs no shrewd schemes to help Him to keep His promise; they will entirely overlook this most elementary consideration, that the co-operation which Jesus deigns to accept at the hands of His servants in the defence of the rights of His Church, never could consist in the disguising of those grand truths which constitute the power and beauty of the bride. They will forget the apostle’s maxim, laid down in his Epistle to the Romans, that to conform oneself to this world, to attempt an impossible adaptation of the Gospel to a world that is unchristianized, is not the means for proving what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God (cf. Rom. 12:2). So that it will be a thing of great and rare merit, in many an occurrence of those unhappy times, merely to understand what is the will of God, as our Epistle expresses it.” Gueranger, p. 426-7 St. Paul tells us what the will of God is: “Therefore, do not become foolish, but understand what the will of Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, for in that is debauchery; but be filled with Spirit...” Eph. 5: 17-8.
Sick at Capharnaum
Traditionally, those who are sick at Capharnaum are those who have partaken of sinful pleasures. The bodily sickness is only an indication of the greater sickness in the soul. This is why the father has to go to Jesus for his sick son. Cornelius a Lapide in his Commentary on St. John’s Gospel comments: “Tropologically (morally), the ruler, or the little king, is the mind of every man; the sick son is the will, which is weak in choosing the good; the servants are senses and bodily members; the heat of fever is the desire and love of earthly things; the chill of fever is the fear of them,...Christ heals them; He should therefore be approached and called upon, to restore the complete rule of the mind and to make a king out of this ‘little king,’...” a Lapide, p. 170. Only Jesus Christ can forgive us of our sins, which have caused our sickness. However, the Official needs to have his faith developed, as he does not believe that Jesus can cure him from a distance: “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jn. 4:49 He wants to see the sign, his son’s cure, but he does not have the faith to believe that Jesus can do it without being present in Capharnaum which is a journey of several hours from Cana. This is why Jesus wants to see his faith improve: “Unless you see signs and wonders you do not believe.” Jn. 4:48
“Lord, come down before my son dies.” Jn. 4:49
With these words, the Official pleads with Jesus for a miracle. Jesus is pleased to do it for him even though his faith is not perfect: “’Go thy way, thy son lives.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and departed.” Jn. 4:50-1 On his return home, the Official meets his servants who tell him that his son got better at the seventh hour which was the exact time in which Jesus told him that “thy son lives” Because of this miracle, he and his whole household believed in Jesus Christ. “And he himself believed and his whole household.” Jn. 4: 53 No doubt, Jesus saw that the Official was increasing in his faith and rewarded him with the miracle and stronger faith for himself and his whole household. In commenting on this passage, St. Bede, the Venerable tells us: “From this we may understand that there are degrees of faith, as well as other virtues. There is the beginning, the increase, and the perfection of faith. This man’s faith had its beginning when he asked for his son’s safety; its increase when he believed the word of the Lord saying, ‘Thy son liveth,’ Jn. 4:50; it was perfected by the announcement of his servants.” The son was cured at the symbolic seventh hour: “...He was healed at the seventh hour: 1. Because, as Origen says, seven is the symbol of the Sabbath, and of rest in which is health. 2. Because the same number is the symbol of the seven-fold Holy Spirit, in whom is all salvation. 3. Because, as Alcuin says, sins are remitted through the seven-fold Spirit. For seven, which is divided into three and four, signifies the Holy Trinity ruling in the four corners of the world.” a Lapide, p. 170-1
:“...but be ye filled with the Holy Ghost...”
St. Paul reveals a most important reason for the amount of faith in a soul in today’s Epistle:“...but be ye filled with the Holy Ghost, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ....: Eph. 5:18-20. When a soul fails to praise and thank God, he will lose his faith: “And so they are without excuse, seeing that, although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give thanks, but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless minds have been darkened.” Rom. 1: 20-21. Today, as Dom Gueranger revealed, there are many who are in great darkness both within and outside the Church. They think that they know better than the Church. They fail to realize that the Church is preserved from error as Dom Gueranger commented: “Those future worldly-wise people will forget that our Lord needs no shrewd schemes to help Him to keep His promise; .....Many will practically ignore the master-truth, that the Church never can be overwhelmed by any created power.” Gueranger, p. 426 How many today have lost their faith by listening to the Devil who tries to deceive men into thinking that they know better than the Church. They devise all kinds of innovative ideas which oppose the Catholic teachings of the Church. St Paul reminds us that the punishment for such souls who do not glorify God and thank Him is that they will become vain in their reasonings, and their senseless minds will become darkened. (cf. Rom. 1:21)
“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.”