LENT - THIRD SUNDAY


Introduction-Author-Talks

 

There is one very remarkable thing about our Blessed Lord, considered as a teacher of men, and that is, the short, sharp, decisive way in which He puts an end to any possible delusion that might exist in the minds of men, either with regard to His sacred person, or to His doctrines, or to the claims He advanced to the allegiance of men.  He was meekness itself as long as meekness was possible, but He was not one to speak soft words when hard words were needed; not one to try, by plausible understatement, to conciliate the prejudices of those, who, if their prejudices were not conciliated, would refuse to become His disciples; not one to hesitate for an instant to set before His hearers the whole broad truth, even though the truth might be, as truth very commonly is, bitter to those whose previous lives had not prepared them for its acceptance.

There is one very remarkable thing about our Blessed Lord, considered as a teacher of men, and that is, the short, sharp, decisive way in which He puts an end to any possible delusion that might exist in the minds of men, either with regard to His sacred person, or to His doctrines, or to the claims He advanced to the allegiance of men.  He was meekness itself as long as meekness was possible, but He was not one to speak soft words when hard words were needed; not one to try, by plausible understatement, to conciliate the prejudices of those, who, if their prejudices were not conciliated, would refuse to become His disciples; not one to hesitate for an instant to set before His hearers the whole broad truth, even though the truth might be, as truth very commonly is, bitter to those whose previous lives had not prepared them for its acceptance.

We have an instance of this in the Gospel I have read for you.  We have here one of three trenchant, incisive sayings that there is no explaining away – a saying which, the moment we hear it, we recognize to be a watchword of the Christian faith – one of the working maxims of the Holy Church – it is this:  “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not with me scatters.”

Let us first examine the details which the passage in the Gospel presents to our consideration.

I cannot help seeing that the circumstances in which our Divine Lord found Himself on the occasion, were very similar to the circumstances in which His church has many a time fund herself since, and never more certainly than now; that the several classes of persons mentioned in the Gospel were representative classes, and might be found doing their characteristic work at this present moment.

First – there is the man, in himself not an inapt illustration of the condition of the Gentile world before the coming of our Blessed Lord: a man, blind and dumb, with, consequently, two of those strings wanting that contribute so much to the full music of a human life, with two of those golden cords broken which bind society together, and one human heart to another.  It is a pitiable thing to be blind.  Blind – cut off from all the sights of beauty with which even this fallen world is still so rich.  Blind – never to catch one glimpse of the bright, glad face of nature, varied by gleam of sunlight and the tender play of shadow; never to see the beautiful things that we see so often that we almost forget to notice them; never to see tree or flower, or the welcome that lights up friendly eyes; never to have the remotest chance of witnessing – nay, never even to possibility of conceiving – the dusky glow of summer sunsets, or the mellow gleam of harvest moons.

And dumb besides.  The thoughts might gather in the dark, sad heart, till their tumult would make it all one living throb of pain; but there was no outlet, and the current of busy, restless thought could never flow out on other hearts in the silver tide of speech.

This, then, was the man on whom our Lord had compassion – whom He healed – whose eyes He opened and whose tongue He loosed, and who witnessed the miracle.  First, there was the multitude, who were lost in admiration.  Ah, yes; the people loved Jesus; they were impressed, as people always are impressed, by His power, but still more by the tender compassion of its exercise.  Second, there were those who, awful to relate, took occasion from His very power and goodness to burst out into blasphemy – who, blinded by hatred, could see nothing in the beneficent exercise of His divine compassion but a manifestation of the power of the devil.  They could not deny His power; its effect upon the poor dumb wretch they could not gainsay; but what they could the did – they said that he had been healed by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of devils.  Well, our Lord confutes them by a word.  For how could it be supposed that the devil would work against himself?  But as there were some there present who, not going to the length of the blasphemy of those evil minds and ling tongues, yet were indifferent to the preaching of our Lord, to these, too, He has something to say, and it is this: “Do not suppose that it will be enough to keep silence about me, and refrain from uttering blasphemy against me; do not imagine that having once heard my voice and seen my power, you can go your way and have no more to do with me; do not suppose that you can play the cautious part of men who are neither friends no enemies.  No; once I have announced myself and my Gospel to the world, there is no middle course – you must be either friends or enemies, for – “He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not with me, scatters.”

Now, my brethren, when our Blessed Lord, having redeemer the world, went back to His Eternal Father, He did not do so without leaving in the world an image and representative of Himself, to which each successive generation could come – come look up into its face, and read upon it a likeness to the Divine features of our Lord Jesus Christ – and that image and representative of Him is the Holy Catholic church, which He purchased with His precious blood.  Do you want to see Christ in the world? – look at His Church.  Do you want to hear His voice? – listen while she speaks.  Do you want to witness the continued manifestation of His power? – you have only to read her history.

It is no wonder, then, as I told you, that the same things that took place around the living presence of our Lord should take place also around the Holy Catholic Church.

She, too, found upon her arrival upon earth a world around her that was blind and dumb.  Blind to the light of Divine faith, groping darkly through the world, from the cradle to the grave; cherishing hopes that failed them in their day of need; dreaming dreams that faded long before life’s evening came; still sowing in the long grey furrows that each day ploughed across the world, still sowing vanity, and reaping little better than despair.  And as this world was blind, so, also, was it dumb.  It had no voice to speak to Him who made it, no word of fitting worship to offer to its Creator - it was blind and dumb.  Well, the Church came – and healed it; gave to its eyes the light of faith and to its lips the voice of prayer; raised it from the dust in which it sat – from the filth in which it wallowed; sanctified it, taught it, civilized it, and made it – especially this Christian Europe – what it has been, and what it is.

And as it was of old, so is it now.  There is a class of men who have witnessed this miracle, who have partaken largely of the blessings which it bought, but who, as the Pharisees of old hated Jesus, reanimated by a deadly hatred to His Holy Church.  They are at work in almost every land – using their ingenuity to find out where the Church may be wounded, and all their strength to strike the blow that will wound her.  They, even they, cannot deny her power, and the blessings she brought to Christendom in days past; but the Pharisees have taught them what to do – they say that she, too, worked her miracles by the prince of devils.

Well, my brethren, there are none such here; you rather fall into the class of the disciples who followed Jesus; of the warmhearted people who were filled with admiration at His miracles; of the impulsive woman who cried out: “Blessed is the womb that bore Thee,” etc.  You are Catholics, but your danger is this – that yu may be satisfied with being Catholics in name – satisfied with feeling that you have no wish – God forbid! To be the enemies of Christ or of His Church, without doing anything to show you are His friends.

Our Lord has said: “He that is not with me is against me.”

This sentence has been graven upon the brow of His Church.  As it was true of Him, so, and in equal measure, is it true of her, that in the relations which men can contract towards her, as towards Him, there are only the two extremes, without any possibility of a middle curse.  Either a man hates the Church with the whole force of his moral being, or he loves her with his whole heart; either he sits at her feet with the docility of a child, or lifts his armed hand against her with the audacity of a rebel.

There are men, unfortunately there are Catholics sometimes, who carry the spirit of the world into their Catholic lives.  They think there is more than one thing necessary; they think that it is as equally important to succeed in this life as in the life to come.  They do not think it quite prudent to be too determined in the assertion of their Catholicity.  They always stand a little aloof from the Church; they haggle over the terms of salvation she proposes, and try if they can succeed in beating down her demands.  Indeed they sometimes so far mistake her character, as to imagine they can secure her co-operation, in the solution of that insoluble problem, which has occupied some of the most ingenious intellects – “How to serve. at once. God and Mammon.”  They sometimes even think they have solved it; think they have so nicely adjusted the rival claims of God and the world that neither side has any just reason to complain; and they live their worldly lives without even a momentary qualm of conscience; and, probably, in many sad cases, never find out their fatal mistake till they have passed from the world they loved, to the final jurisdiction of God, and heard, to their despair, that because they had not been His firm friends, they had, in reality, been His enemies all along.

You, then, my brethren, being Catholics, have to guard against the spirit of the world; and the spirit of the world is, above all things, a spirit of compromise, which it strives to carry even into matters that admit no compromise, even into things that concern the eternal salvation of our souls.  It is a spirit that would strive to induce such Catholics as it had taken possession of, to give up some of their Catholic principle for sake of a temporal advantage.

We have an instance of it in a question, that forms at this moment, the very battle-ground on which the Church and the world are brought face to face, and which threatens to be a conflict to the very death.  I mean the Education Question.  And I speak from the profoundest conviction when I say, that there is at this moment no question that so vitally concerns the real interest of Ireland as the question of education.  On the one hand we have had, and have, offers made to us of large assistance if only we would agree to compromise our Catholic principles; on the other we have our profound convictions that these principles – an inheritance hardly won by the tears and blood of those who went before us – are infinitely above any temporal interest that could be furthered by their sacrifice, that they admit no compromise, and that we would be traitors alike to Ireland’s past and Ireland’s future, if we basely consented to compromise them.  For, I ask, what has been the special glory of Ireland’s past?  I answer, and you answer – her Catholicity.  And what will be the glory of Ireland’s future?  Again I answer – it will be her Catholicity.  Now, if you took the children of even one generation, and give them to be educated under a system that openly professes indifference to religion in general, and reserves its avowed hostility for the Catholic religion in particular, when such a generation so educated would have taken our places, and we would be gone to give our account to God, would not the love of Catholicity have already died even out of Irish hearts?

But I have no fear of the results of this crisis.  When I look back a little I can see that there was a time, not so long ago, when Irish fathers and mothers saw their children starve rather than stretch their hands for the bread of the proselytizer; and I cannot but feel that the Ireland of to-day, will spurn even the more sacred bread of knowledge, rather than pay for it the price of their children’s souls.  In this you must work for yourselves: you must make your legitimate influence felt.  Recent events have served to strengthen a conviction that has long been forming itself in my mind, that where Catholic interests are concerned it would be the very madness of trustfulness, to hope for impartial justice from an English parliament.  And there is another conviction that has grown upon me – and I do not see why I should hesitate to express it even here – and it is this: that it was one of those happy instinct of which only genius is capable that made the great O’Connell deem Catholic Emancipation incomplete, till it should have been followed by Repeal of the Union.

Put this question before you: discuss it among yourselves.  People will tell you it is a complicated question. I say, No; it is simple enough for the lowest intelligence.  When you ask yourselves about rival claims of religions, and mixed education, the question is simply this: Do you or do you not desire that the Ireland you leave after you, shall be as Catholic as the Ireland of to-day?  There can be no mistake about that question, and neither can there be, thank God, any mistake about the tenor of Ireland’s answer.