PENTECOST - 6th Sunday After
I know of no passage in the Sacred Scripture more likely to awaken this desire than the passage found in the beginning of this day’s Gospel. For, there is no other that brings our Blessed Lord before us in a way that more clearly expresses the exquisite tenderness of His character, none that appeals more touchingly to our own hearts. Just consider it. “I have compassion on the multitude.” Where was He when He spoke it? He was where He most loved to be, surrounded by the simple people, who hung upon His lips, and felt their hearts stirred strangely by the accents of His voice. They were people just like you, drawn together from the town and from the village, from the street and from the field, from the market-place and from the workshop. They, too, had felt, as you have often felt, that the labor of the hand or of the brain does not satisfy the heart, that men live not alone by bread, but by every word that falls from the mouth of God. They were men who, moved by a mysterious hunger for the bread of life, had followed Jesus to listen to His words, forgetting for a while the yoke of labor and the burden of toil. Just such a multitude as you, who have laid aside the business of the week-day would come to the house of God, to be greeted by the blessing of the self-same Jesus, Who was not more really present to the multitude in the Gospel than He is present to you in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at which you have been assisting. To the multitude in the Gospel He addressed the words: “I have compassion on the multitude.” Do you think He shall say less to you who gather round the altar where He renews in your behalf the very sacrifice of Calvary? To you, also, He says: “I have compassion on the multitude.” Aye, on every one of you, on the young and on the old, on the rich and on the poor; for, you are all His people, purchased with His precious blood, stamped with the seal of His baptism, bound to Him in the membership of His Church, made one with Him in the sacrament of His love, brought into closest relationship with Him, because His dear mother, Mary, is your dear mother, too.
He has, He cannot but have compassion on this multitude of His faithful who stand before His alter. Let me put before you today the p9icture of our Blessed Lord standing before you, His people, looking not alone upon your faces as I look, but down into the recesses of your hearts, seeing your every thought, your every wish; seeking there, it ay be, much weakness and much misery; seeing there perhaps, the secret sin, the unholy wish, the impure desire; and yet, notwithstanding all He sees, still saying, with a voice that rings through the Church: “I have compassion on the multitude.”
I shall put before you a few instances of His divine compassion. Even before you were born He had compassion upon you; else why did He so arrange that you were to be born within the fold of His one true Church, thus saving you from the blindness of heresy, and the hopeless misery of unbelief? Take any man amongst yourselves, trace his career from the cradle to the grave, and you shall see how the compassion of Jesus has been lavished upon him. He may be a sinner now, he may have grown grey in crime, but once he lay, weak and helpless, an infant in his mother’s arms. Even then Jesus was his strength and his helper. He met him on the very threshold of life, in the Sacrament of Baptism. He took him, as it were, from the arms of his mother, and placed him in the hands of a greater mother than she, in the hands of his mother the Church, in the hands of His won Immaculate mother, Mary. The child is baptized; well, all heaven stands enraptured before the beauty of that soul, the angels look upon it with reverence, Mary looks at it, and loves it with a great love, for she sees in it the likeness of Jesus. Time passes; the boy grows on to the perilous use of reason. God has been very good to that soul; shall He not have a right to its first rational service? And if that first service be given to the devil, might we not expect that Jesus would cast that soul aside, a useless brand, to burn in the fire that is not extinguished? Let us see. The boy has grown to the use of reason, and the boy commits a mortal sin. The angel guardian turns aside and weeps, tears rush to Mary’s eyes of mercy, and all heaven turns to Jesus to see I He will raise His hand and strike the sinner dead. But no; Jesus waits. He has compassion on the sinner still. The sinner has come to the use of reason, on the very threshold of it, he has met Jesus in His law, and at the first meeting he insults Him y mortal sin. My brethren, when you come in at the door of the Church you must meet the baptismal font, a few steps further you come to the confessional. This is the revenge which Jesus takes upon the sinner, the Sacrament of Penance.
Well, the sinner goes away from the rails of the altar, carrying within his breast – just think of it – carrying within his breast the Living God. His soul is white, his signs are forgiven, he has Jesus along with him, and he carries Him – where? – he carries Him into the very occasions of sins which he had promised to avoid. For while he avoided them, for a while he followed the advice he had received in the confessional, but soon he begins to hanker after the unholy freedom of his sin. He begins to say: “There is no longer any fear, I have done with sin, I will go into the danger; it is true the Holy Ghost has prophesied that if I do I shall perish, but I know better, I shall not perish” – he goes back into the occasion of sin whatever it be – the public house, the evil companion, the bad book – and he falls again; for, the Holy Ghost is not a liar, and then, to use the awful language of Scripture, seven other devils enter into him, and the last state of the relapsing sinner is worse than the first.
What ought to happen then? Would you not expect that before a day or night had gone the abuser of so much grace would have fund and filled his place in hell? Still, Jesus has compassion on him. He waits. The sinner goes on sinning and repenting – repenting, did I say? No; pretending to repent. So life passes; but Good is not mocked. Do you think He will wait for ever? Some day the sin shall be committed that shall be the very last, some day the last grace will be abused, some day the compassion of Jesus will be exhausted, and on the evening of that day the sinner will be in hell.
But as long as life lasts, Jesus is ready to lavish His compassion upon us, He is ready to take the sinner back. No matter how far he may have gone upon the fatal road, he never gets so far on this side of the grave as not to hear the tread of His pursuing footsteps. Jesus lies in wait for him at every turn of life; when things are at their worst, He hides, as it were, behind some sorrow or some worldly misfortune, striving to steal into the sinner’s heart, and soften it into repentance before it is too late.
My brethren, we cannot afford to abuse the compassion of our Blessed Lord. The greater our sin, the more need we have of God’s great mercy. There are some here who stand in sorer need of it than they imagine, for in so large a multitude some must be who are nearer than they think, to death, and to the judgment-seat of God. Carry home with you to-day the picture I have striven to put before you – the picture of Jesus, looking down upon you with all your follies and your faults, and saying: “I have compassion on the multitude.” Come to Him, and He will pour out on you that compassion in the tribunal of Penance, and then, seeing that you have come from a far way off, even from the exile of sin, lest you faint on the way, He will perform in your behalf a miracle infinitely greater than that recorded n the Gospel. He will seat you at His Holy Table, and He will give you, not the bread that perishes, but the Living Bread that cometh down from heaven, of which whosoever eats shall live for ever.