“Amen, amen I say to you. If you ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it to you.” Words taken from today’s Holy Gospel.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Pollyanna was a children’s book written back in the early 20th century and the title character is Pollyanna Whittier. She was an 11 year old orphan who goes to live with her wealthy but stern and cold Aunt Polly. Aunt Polly doesn’t really want to take in Pollyanna, but feels it is her duty due to the love she had for her late sister. Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls the glad game, an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how bleak it may be. And due to the book’s fame, Pollyanna actually became a term within our dictionaries for someone who has an unfailing, optimistic outlook. Considering the present situation, the world and even within the membership of the church, I don’t understand how anyone could be a Pollyanna today.
But on the other hand, there is also the fictional character known as Eeyore who is anything but a Pollyanna. He is generally described as a pessimistic, gloomy, depressed, old grey donkey who is a friend of that famous character Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh once asked the donkey, “Lovely day, isn’t it?” And Eeyore responds “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.” And yes, this donkey also once said in a chicken little-like fashion, “The sky has finally fallen. I always knew it would.” Eeyore’s mindset would very much fall in line with what we know as Murphy’s Law. And certainly this famous code is quite pessimistic, but it’s also very realistic and filled with lots of truth. As Murphy’s Law states, “Nothing is as easy as it looks. Everything takes longer than you think. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” And the closing dictate of this famous body of laws is, “The light at the end of the tunnel is only the light of an oncoming train.
Now, it should be noted that optimism is not a virtue; it never has been a virtue and pessimism is not a vice. Rather, both are outlooks on life. They are a person’s point of view and their general attitude about life. Now the traditional Catholic, for the most part, tends to have a bit more of a pessimistic outlook on life, at least in regards to the present situation in the world and the overall membership of the church, especially the hierarchical members, bishops and priests. Considering the way that things have been going on in this modern age, since the revolutions of the past centuries, one ought to be at least a bit pessimistic. Traditional Catholics can even embrace a certain defensive mindset; possibly even a siege mentality as if an attack against the traditional Latin Mass or traditional communities is right around the corner, or even an outright suppression or persecution. And so then a spirit of defeatism can also arise when the work of restoration and rebuilding seems to be stymied at nearly every turn.
In observing so many setbacks, the traditional Catholic can sometimes forget the Mystery of Divine Providence and predestination, both in the worldly temporal realm and in the eternal spiritual realm. The fact that God cares for and watches over His creation, infallibly brings His elect to eternal beatitude in heaven, that nothing is outside of his control, and that every affair of men is of divine concern that nothing happens to us without first passing through the hands of the good Lord, He shows that he cares for us and He loves us. As the great mystic and spiritual Doctor, St. Catherine of Sienna, once stated, “Everything comes from love. All is ordained for the salvation of man and God does nothing without this goal in mind.”
And let us not forget that wonderful consoling message from yet another mystic and spiritual Doctor, St. Teresa of Jesus, who stated, “Let nothing trouble you and let nothing frighten you; everything passes. God never changes, and patience obtains all. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone is enough.” But at times, we forget this truth regarding divine providence. The traditional Catholic can begin to embrace, often unknowingly, the error of deism and begins to see the good Lord as simply a divine architect or a divine watchmaker who creates the clock, winds it up, and then departs, leaving us on our own, only to return, perhaps, when the alarm goes off.
And as a result of this mindset, some traditional Catholics feel that they must take matters into their own hands, thinking that somehow Christ the King is detached from us, distant from us, or unconcerned that he is somehow unable to work through various authorities, whether in the church realm or in the realm of the state. And they forget the Son of God and Son of Mary even worked through the Jewish high priests, Annas and Caiaphas. They were evil men. He worked through Pontius Pilate, who was a cowardly fearful man. And yes, our dearest Lord Christ the King worked through Satan himself. Satan was an instrument in God’s plan to accomplish the work of redemption.
The traditional Catholic can grow saddened at the present condition of the Church, in particular, especially when churchmen seemed to make decisions which are directly against our best spiritual needs. They become traditional Catholics who are discontented with the Church, which is always the first step towards rebellious behavior. We’re discontented. On the other hand, the saints were always discontented with themselves, and their failure to live up to the demands of the Gospel.
The holy priest and stigmatist Padre Pio was banned by the local Bishop in his area and other church superiors from offering public mass and hearing confessions for 10 years; a decade of being suspended from public ministry. And yet what was Padre Pio’s response to this obvious mistreatment? He said, “The Church is our mother. Even when she scourges us, she is still our mother.”
But such sadness and discontent in some traditional Catholics can lead even to despair where they give up. Forgetting about the God of Providence, they begin to depart from the heart of the Church, like those two disciples of Christ, who left Jerusalem and headed off on the road to Emmaus; you know that story. On the Monday of the Easter octave, the traditional liturgy presents St. Luke’s gospel and the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus.
St. Luke describes two of Christ’s disciples leaving God’s city early on Easter Sunday, leaving the community of believers on the very day of the resurrection and heading off on a seven mile trip to a town called Emmaus. And as they’re walking along, they suddenly find a third companion, who is our dearest Lord, acting as an ordinary traveler joining in on their conversation, and doing so in such a mild and sweet manner, that they don’t even notice the intrusion. Even though they were disciples of the Son of God and knew him well, the two disciples fail to recognize Him, and their failure to recognize Him must have been brought about by our Lord to make a point. Namely, that their inability to recognize their very master reflected the blindness and doubt within their very souls. They were losing faith, and they were losing hope.
We know for sure that one of these two disciples was a man named Cleophas, for St. Luke literally identifies him by name. This named disciple was the husband of Mary Cleophas, who happened to be Our Lady’s sister, and the same Cleophas was also the father of the apostle, St. James the Less. And as for the other disciple on the way to Emmaus, tradition tells us that it was one of Cleophas’s sons, a man named Simon. He was not one of the Apostles, but rather one of the 70 disciples mentioned in the Gospels. This Simon was the second Bishop of Jerusalem after the martyrdom of his own brother, St. James, the less. Now our Risen Lord went out to track them down on Easter Sunday, because they had left.
As a good shepherd, He went to find the sheep that had lost their way; sheep that had grown sad, and discontented. Cleophas and Simon were full of sadness. And again, remember, that they go out of Jerusalem the very day of the resurrection in Christ’s total victory. They headed off to Emmaus to seek some diversion or distraction from all their sorrow. They were like imprudent sheep wandering from the flock, exposing themselves to danger. It’s very dangerous to make these decisions. In a real sense, their sadness was causing them to leave the church. Their faith had already grown weak, and the two disciples had rejected the testimony. They had heard the testimony of the holy women and of the apostles, who had visited the grave and found it empty. They knew that message. They’d also been told that angels were there that had literally announced that Christ was risen from the dead. Those two disciples heard that, and yet they rejected the message.
They also had nearly lost all hope, because St. Luke’s Gospel records that they say to the visitor, “but we were hoping that Jesus will be the one to redeem Israel.” But notice, with what kindness and humility, our Lord hastens to help those who showed him so little loyalty in time of difficulty and temptation. He approaches them, He walks and speaks familiarly with them, as if He were one of them. And he begins to unfold His mysteries to the two disciples. He begins by questioning them, “What are those things that you are talking about as you walk and are sad.” And of course, our Lord knew the subject of their conversations and the cause of their sadness. But then he immediately begins to instruct them, unfolding the mysteries of the Messiah. “Oh foolish and slow of heart,” our Lord states to them “to believe in all things which the prophets have spoken? Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and so enter into His glory?”
It’s right in the book, everything is explained. He then expounded to them all that was written of Him in the scriptures. And so wondrous was the message, that later the two disciples would remark, “Was not our heart burning within us, whilst we spoke in the way?” Time passed rapidly while he was speaking to them. St. Luke’s Gospel then states, “They drew near to the town, whether they were going And Jesus pretended to wish to go farther. Of course, He feigned to go onwards, not to fool them, but to draw out from the disciples a loving desire to remain with Him. As a tender Father, he seems to withdraw Himself from the children to whom He loves, and cherishes in order to increase their love for Him, to preserve it from growing cold.
The Bible then adds, “But they constrained our Lord saying “Stay with us.” Because it is towards evening, they had practically lost the faith. They who had grown sad and then discontented so much that they have left Jerusalem, left the community of believers, these two now beg our Lord to stay with them. They are now reunited with the risen Christ. Their hearts are on fire, and the inerrant scriptures then add, “And He went in with them, and it came to pass as He was at table with them, that He took bread and blessed and broke and gave it to them and their eyes were opened, and they knew him with the Mass. Our Lord then quickly vanished from their sight. But he was alive in their minds and in their hearts, because the disciples now went back to Jerusalem.
“Rising up the same hour,’ the Bible says, “they went back to Jerusalem and they found the 11 gathered together, and they told him what things were done along the way, and how they knew Him and the breaking of the bread.” We can learn a lot from this Gospel passage. The sadness we feel, as the Church goes through her own passion, hanging upon her own cross, sadness, discontent, a spirit of pessimism reigns. A journey towards a maze looks attractive, at least to distract us.
The churches have been closed for public worship for many weeks, and even though we will soon witness the presence of the Lord and the breaking of the bread at Mass, that people will not be able to receive the body of the Lord and Holy Communion due to the rubrics imposed upon us, which are obviously so opposed to ancient rituals. But let us listen to our Lord. If He were to speak to us today, let Him unfold the mysteries and the prophecies. “Did you not know that my Mystical Body must suffer in the same way that I suffered? Do you not know that she the Church would be portrayed by the kiss of traders? Oh slow of heart, did you not know that there would be false teachers that would arise? Did you not know that the gates of hell would seek to prevail against my bride? Do not lose hope. Do not let sadness overcome you.” For Jesus says, “I am risen and the Church will experience her own resurrection too.”
This is not the time to leave Jerusalem, for tradition is rising and gaining disciples. This parish will continue to grow and thrive. More and more people are seeing the beauty of the ancient Mass, they long for traditional doctrine and spirituality. The old Mass has risen from the tomb if you will, and death has no power over it. As Father Faber used to say, “The mass that could not die would not die. No modernist is going to stop its growth or its influence.” So let us remember the words of Saint Teresa, “Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. Everything passes. God never changes. Patience obtains all. Whoever has God wants for nothing. God alone is enough.”
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.