18 May 2014

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Easter

Delivered by Canon Raphael Ueda, ICRSS, this Sunday:

Fourth Sunday after Easter-2014

Since last Sunday, the church has been preparing us for the Ascension of Our Lord which will fall on Thursday May 29th. In Today’s Gospel taken from the Jesus’ discourse after the last supper, Our Lord is speaking to the Apostles and preparing their souls for His departure.

Jesus says “It is expedient to you that I go, for if I go not, the Paraclete will not come to you; But if I go, I will send Him to you.” Only Jesus’ death could merit this great gift for us, and it was not until after His Ascension into heaven that the Holy Spirit could descend upon the church. The Apostles were about to lose the sensible, physical presence of their Lord, Jesus. And after His Ascension, the Holy Spirit would continue to do His in a secret, hidden and interior way but no less effective and real.

The interior life is less evident but nonetheless it is more real and enduring. Jesus said “Without me you can do nothing.” It is a truth that constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and in union with Him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness.

Interior life is a life which seeks God in everything, a life of prayer and the practice of living in the presence of God. It connotes intimate, friendly conversation with Him, and a determined focus on internal prayer versus external actions, while these latter are transformed into means of prayer.

We should remember the necessity and the true nature of the interior life, because the true meaning of it, as given to us in the Gospel has been partially obscured by many false ideas. In particular it is clear that the notion of the interior life is radically corrupted in the theory of conversion by faith alone.

According to this idea, the mortal sins of the convert are not positively blotted out by the infusion of the new life of grace and charity; they are simply covered over, veiled by faith in the Redeemer. Thus there is not interior renewal of the soul. Man is saved just by the outer wrapping of the justice of Christ, according to this view, in order to be just in the eyes of God it is not necessary to possess that infused charity by which we love God supernaturally and our fellowmen for God’s sake. According to this view, however firmly the just man may believe in Christ Redeemer, he remains in his sin, in his corruption or spiritual death.

This grave misconception concerning our supernatural life, reducing it essentially to faith in Christ and excluding sanctifying grace, charity and merits, was destined to lead gradually to Naturalism; it was to result finally in considering as just, the man who, whatever his beliefs, valued and practiced those natural virtues which were known even to the pagan who lived before Christ.

In such an outlook, the most important question does not even arise. “Is he able without grace to love God the sovereign Good, the author of our nature, and to love Him, not with a merely superficial affection, but with a true love, more than he loves himself and more than he loves anything else?

The question still repeats under a more general way. “Is man able without some help from on high, to get beyond himself, and truly, deeply love Truth and Goodness more than he loves himself?”

Clearly these questions are deeply connected with understanding of the nature of our interior life. For our interior life is nothing but a knowledge of the True, and a love of Good; or better a knowledge and love of God.

Let us read the lofty idea which the Scriptures and especially the Gospels give us of the interior life.

According to the Scriptures the justification or conversion of the sinner does not merely cover his sins as with a mantle; it blots them out by the infusion of a new life by Baptism and by confessions.

The Psalmist implores, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy and according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my iniquity. Wash me yet more from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop and I shall be cleansed. Thou shall wash me and I shall be made whiter than snow. The similar expression repeats throughout the Bible. God is not content merely to cover our sins. He blots them out, He takes them away. So when St. John the Baptist sees Jesus coming toward him, he says; “Behold the Lamb of God. Behold him who takes away the sin of the world."

The blotting out and remission of sins thus described by the Scriptures can happen only by the infusion of sanctifying grace and charity which is the supernatural love of God and of men for God’s sake. The prophet, Ezekiel, speaking in the name of God, tells us. “I will pour upon you clean water, and you shall be cleansed from all your filthiness and I will cleanse you from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart, and put a new spirit within you. And I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit among you and I will cause you to walk in my commandments.

Sanctifying grace, the principle of our interior life, makes us truly the children of God because it makes us partakers of His nature. We cannot be sons of God by nature, as the Word is; but we are truly sons of God by grace and by adoption. And whereas a man, who adopts him his heir, God, when He loves us as adoptive sons, transforms us inwardly, giving us a share in His own intimate divine life.

We are still in the month of May which is dedicated to Our Blessed Mother. She, the Immaculate, full of grace from the first moment of her conception, takes our souls stained by sin and with a maternal gesture, cleanses them in the blood of Christ and clothes them with grace.

Mary’s soul is compared to a garden of virtues, an oasis of silence and peace where justice and equity reign. Every interior soul, even if living amid the tumult of the world, must strive to reach this peace, this interior silence, which alone makes continual contact with God possible.

Let us ask of Our Lady the grace of interior life so that we can live ever closer with God. Amen.


A Seminarian's Mom said...

Thank you so much for this posting; it is so valuable
to those of us who
don't live in an area
with an Institute church
but remain a member
of the family.

Pete said...

Wow! I am reading a little book by the late French Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP (1877-1964). He early on writes about Naturalism and Luther's errors. A key point, as the sermon you post notes, is the false idea that man can rid himself of sin without the help of God; Luther's idea of faith alone ignores sanctifying grace, charity and meritorious works. I have just started the booklet so I cannot offer much more at this time. It is "The Three Conversions in the Spiritual Life." A fascinating work.