Hail Mary, Full of Grace, The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed it is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen.
From the lesson for the second of the Passion Sundays, known as Palm Sunday, we heard, “He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even death on the cross, for which cause, God also had exalted Him.” And from the tract we heard, “My God, my God, look upon me, why has Thou forsaken me?”
In the name of the Father and of the Son of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
On this Faithful Palm Sunday, I propose we view Lent, and its culmination this coming week, as the answer to the devil’s first efforts to tempt His Majesty in the desert. Remember, the devil entered the garden, and he got the first punch and failed. Our Lord goes out into a desert. The devil as it were gets the first punch before Jesus goes into his public ministry, and he still failed. But it is not over, is it? So Lent is as it were, the unraveling of the conflict between Heaven and Hell, as presented on the first Sunday of the season. This conflict is seen in the Lenten Sunday Gospels. There is an undulation, an oscillation to these Gospels. They are the coming and the going of Hell and Heaven’s response to them, with the ultimate victory coming on Easter. These Sundays are like waves of desolations and constellations following upon each other. So let’s spend a little time here and see what lessons are contained therein for us during this time, during what seems to be a divine interdict, a divine time out, a divine “Go to your room, and think about things.” The first Sunday of Lent, as we know, the devil tempted His Majesty three times, as expressed in the Gospel on that Sunday. These temptations are basically summarized as bread, providing for the bodily needs of mankind. The second temptation is wonder: providing for the needs of man’s soul. And finally, the third: authority. Providing for the uniting of mankind.
His Majesty casts aside each of these temptations, revealing them for what they were: empty. Not able to realize the good God the Father has in mind for his creation, it was the devil’s first attempt; his first punch.
The second Sunday of Lent. Lo and behold, on this Sunday, we find His Majesty providing much wonder and consolation to Peter, James, and John, and His Transfiguration on Mount Tabor. They are overcome by it and want to stay and build three tents. Moses and Elias appear, and they too think about it. They too, in their own day provided bread, wonder, and authority. Manna in the desert, grain for the woman of Tyre, water from the rock, splitting of the Red Sea, fire from heaven, Commandments from Heaven, the promulgation of the Law. It was not enough. All that they did was not enough. It’s as it were, the whole Old Testament is a divine interdict in itself. The undulations and the oscillation is so deeply embedded in man’s nature, that even worship of the golden calf as Moses was in the wonder-filled cloud above, with a pillar of fire burning in the very midst down below. Something else was needed. Wonder is not enough. Bread is not enough. Authority is still not enough. We might recall here our sermon from Septuagesima Sunday, where we made that seven-week challenge about technology and gadgets. On that Sunday we heard a little from Aldous Huxley about making gadgets our saviors.
Live streaming; it’s a wonder. It may help, but it’s not going to solve the matter, is it?
We need much more than fancy gadgets to make us stop oscillating. This is one of the lessons of this divine interdict; that you have all this technology, and it’s not enough.
It’s not enough to bear the suffering and gain the martyr’s palm. So let’s go now to the third Sunday of Lent; the devil comes back. But this time he’s inside of a man, possessing him. He does not speak directly, but only through others, namely the Jewish elders and the Pharisees who blaspheme by saying His Majesty cast out devils by the prince of devils. His Majesty warns us here of how a divided kingdom cannot stand. God is revealing divisions in our time too. And if we’re not careful, we’re not going to stand either. Keep in mind that often an interdict is done to make one comeback to legitimately established authority and to obey, to adhere to that authority. And thus they will find unity under it. True Catholics have always adhered to authority, unless it asks them to disobey the author of all authority, God. We obey God first. So far, in this divine interdict, I have not seen or heard much about those ruling legitimately, whether in the Church or the state commanding us to do something sinful. We’ve not been asked to do anything sinful, as far as I can tell. It’s been some, maybe imprudent things, and maybe some things that need to be reevaluated, agreed on. But what has happened when an interdict is laid upon a city or a nation? They were cut off from various sacraments for a time. In fact, this current interdict is rather mild in comparison to many things that will surely happen in the future, according to both public and private prophecies. And so we can conclude God is giving us a chance to convert along the way. And from my vantage point, many are failing the test. Because the test is primarily inside of us, dealing with that oscillating nature, overcoming the psychological hindrances that are keeping us from obeying. Instead, people are shaking their fists, as it were at various authorities, bishops, government leaders and priests too, and saying all kinds of dumb things. One wonders if they’re not, as it were, in the Gospel today, spitting upon the face of Christ Himself. They might be a little surprised at how much their defiance of authority offends His Majesty.
St. Paul warns us about adhering to legitimate authority. We must do this. And he uses very strong words, Romans chapter 13, “…that every soul be subject to higher powers. But there is no power but from God, and those that are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God. And they that resist, purchase for themselves damnation.” On the fourth Sunday of Lent, we again have a consoling gospel where His Majesty feeds the 5000 in the desert; He provides them bread in abundance, He provides them again wonder in the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. And they immediately try to make him king then and there to unite them. Under His own authority, He flees. He knew that something more was needed. But He also knew that they were not ready to obey. They had misconceptions about what a true leader ought to do. In any case, it is clear all that the devil offered on the first Sunday is proving to be not so useful after all. Something more needs to happen. That is the way with the devil. It is the way he is. He offers what he cannot ultimately provide. A calming of the undulations, the waviness, the oscillations in man’s heart. His solutions never last, and they never work. They make you feel good for a moment or two. But they don’t work.
God can fill that hole, God can solve that undulation. But how? Let’s go to the fifth Sunday of Lent. The first of the passion Sundays, we are once again facing the devil and his wily ways. This leader of Hell is now working in the Jewish elders, trying to catch his majesty in a falsehood, a blasphemy, a crime. So they can rid themselves once and for all of their true Messiah. Their father is the devil.
Yet the Gospel ends, “But Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” Desolation is a figure of mortal sin. The lesson from St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews on the first of the Passion Sundays is important, as it gives the solution to the oscillations. And it’s none other than the blood of Christ. The blood that flowed in the Old Testament. Yet, it is only symbolic of the infinite value of Christ’s blood that will be shed mystically on Holy Thursday at the first Mass. And then physically on the next day of the sacred Passion, but even that night with His sweating blood in the garden, and now represented in our Mass down through time. Again, we recall what we spoke of back on Quinquagesima Sunday about true morality based on divine charity. Remember how in order to have perfect charity, there must be something? The cross, suffering, adversity, testing. This is why the devil got the first punch in the garden; they were being tested for true charity. This is something all the ethical systems of the world down through time neglect.
We haven’t. We’ve joined the company of those climbing up the mountain with Christ. And He is soon to be crucified at the top on Good Friday. Folks, we’re being tested. We have to bear wrongs and endure trials, especially many that seem preventable, using moral systems of this world. Never forget that leaders have prudence different than ours. There are different levels of prudence. Everyone that joins the military knows that leaders have different prudence than those below. One of the challenges of being in the army is going along with someone you think is completely wrong, and maybe they are. But the fact of the matter is that the saints teach us that there are different levels of prudence. And we should be very cautious about thinking we know better how to order things to an end when we’re not on top. And in a position in which they receive graces from God, pagan and Catholic. Regardless, they can resist them. That’s true. But God has a plan, and they can move even a pagan king to do his bidding to fulfill that will and make his prudence clear in certain decisions. This is a divine interdict. Let’s not be blaming anyone in between.
And finally, we’ve arrived at the sixth Sunday of Lent, the Second Passion Sunday, today being Palm Sunday. Here we see the constellations and desolations brought together side by side with the two Gospels. We’ll be saying the final Gospel, which is the Gospel of Palm Sunday at the end. Two Gospels, the Passion, and that of Palm Sunday. He is declared the king in this Gospel, the people who claim Him as the long-awaited Messiah, and did him homage and adored him. But soon he is put through his Passion. Only then did he triumph. Only with the Holy Triduum is the solution to the undulations of man’s fallen nature found. Only with this cross can the devil’s temptations be vanquished. No wonder the devil keeps trying to get us to come down from the cross, for this is where the undulations are solved. That is the essence of all his temptations. “Come down, come down, come down from that cross.” I hear much of that now. “Come down from the cross give up adhering to legitimate authority. Do not accept this interdict. Do your own thing, show the world you care.” “What kind of priest are you?” “Watch out for deep state and the one-world government, you’re being manipulated, you’re being had.” You hear it all. Yes, there are a number of dissenting voices out there. But I wonder if these folks are really acting according to their duties of state, within their God-approved sphere of activity. How easy it is to become like the friends of Job at this time, So many are talking and acting like they know better than Job, about why this interdict has been laid upon him and us. And they can end up in serious trouble before Almighty God with only Job to help them. But let’s not forget, God used the mysterious and puzzling evil that came upon Job for much good. Such that Job would act as a type of prefigurement of His Majesty in His Passion, and later of His Mystical Body. We are in a passion, it is true. Better to do what Job did. Search our hearts and be patient and pray. Let us not be like Aaron and Miriam, conspiring against Moses. Remember the divine interdict placed upon the Egyptians, the plagues He sent, even the good people of Israel were close to disowning Moses and Aaron at that time. Even as God worked through them to help these poor souls escape a greater evil. God is in charge. He has a plan. And part of that plan is that we endure this trial right now. Even the government has made it clear there will be an end.
This is not indefinite. God’s plan is that we endure this trial right now, and making the best of it by bringing good out of evil, uniting it with His Holy Passion, so that we can tame our undulating, oscillating nature and gain victory with Him. God is telling us we need to endure this present suffering to gain victory. Thus, the divine interdict, the divine timeout.
In the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.