Low Sunday, “in albis”, Divine Mercy Sunday – Tucson – 2020
Christ is risen alleluia! On this feast today in which we celebrate the Mercy of Our Lord, please join me in praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy after this sermon.
“When it was late that same day, the first day of the week, and the doors were shut where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews…”
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen
“and the doors were shut where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews….” That sounds awfully familiar, one could easily add: “and the disciples closed the doors for fear of the coronavirus…
Fear has been recounted in the liturgical texts so many times in these past two weeks…. Peter’s fear to be known as Jesus’ disciple causing him to follow from afar and then deny Our Lord, the other Apostles who fled the Garden for fear of the Temple guards, Pilate’s fear of the Jews after the threat to report him to Caesar, the soldiers who watched over the tomb who were struck with terror of the Angel of the Lord and they “became as dead men.”
But the saddest fear to hear of, is from His own disciples.
1) In the Gospel of Easter Monday, two disciples on the road to Emmaus recounted about hearing of the resurrection of Jesus: “Yes and certain women also of our company frightened us, who before it was light, were at the sepulchre, and not finding his body, came, saying that they have also seen a vision of angels, who said that He is alive. And some of our people went to the sepulchre and found it so as the women had said.” If you note clearly this recitation, they recount 4 proofs of Jesus’ resurrection and yet they are “frightened”. We may be tempted to say to these disciples: “What is wrong with you? Why are you sad? Why are not going to see if Our Lord is risen for yourself? Why are you headed to another village?” 2000 years later, our spiritual life is united to theirs and unfortunately, we’re still battling earthly and human fear. When we hear of what all Jesus has done for your redemption, and yet we become bashful when our faith necessitates us to correct another or when we become timid when we have to stand up for our faith. Why are we paralyzed with the fear of the world that was conquered by the Risen Christ? Why are you fearful when Christ has overcome all evil? Why would anyone choose sadness over the joy of the resurrection?...“What is wrong with us?” … Thus Our Lord had to rebuke the disciples and us in our disbelief: “O foolish and slow of heart to believe...”
2) But unfortunately, we’re not done. Also, in the Gospel of Easter Tuesday, when Our Lord first appeared to the 11 in the Upper Room, we read : “But they being troubled and frightened, supposed that they saw a spirit.” Why would 11 men be afraid of 1 man? It seems as if they were hoping that Jesus’ Resurrection wasn’t real: they shut Him out, and didn’t want to recognize Him at first.
3) In today’s Gospel, we read: “When it was late that same day, the first day of the week, and the doors were shut where the disciples were gathered together for fear of the Jews…” These 11 had already heard from St. Mary Magdalen earlier that morning the vision of the angels. Peter and John had already run to the empty tomb. And now they’re afraid of the Jews? “What is wrong with you people?”
I’m sorry to bring up the coronavirus again, but I know it weighs heavily on many hearts, and it is the elephant in the room. Currently, it seems that Mainstream Media doesn’t want to tell us good news about how the virus isn’t as deadly as previously thought, it doesn’t want to tell us how a great majority are completely asymptomatic, or about certain treatments that are working… It’s as if they are afraid of the truth just as the disciples were afraid.
It seems that so many are even fearful of a possible fear, not even directly a fear itself, just the possibility of fear. For example, faced with the reality that in so many cases people are fine and healthy, they threaten a hypothetical 2nd or 3rd wave of the virus to create fear of a hypothetical fear. Sometimes you just want to say to these people: “What is wrong with you people?” With nearly 75% of people being asymptomatic, it seems that the coronavirus is less than a half percent fatal of those who contract it. Of course, our prayers are present for all those who have passed and are suffering from the virus as the Church is constantly praying for souls as priests continue to offer daily Mass and recite their Breviary. --- But let's be objective: I just spoke with a knowledgeable and respected doctor and they said, with all the data we currently have, coronavirus is .3% deadly and likely upwards of 10 times less. The Bubonic Plague killed 30-60% of total European population. As a priest that hears daily confessions, now with more hours daily since this lock-down, I would be happy if only .5% of penitents confessed mortal sins, if .5% were spiritually dead, but it almost seems that the opposite is closer to the reality. Do not fear the coronavirus! Protect yourself of course, but do not have fear! We as people of faith only fear one thing, only one thing are we called by the Scriptures to fear - and that is God: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We fear God - meaning that we obey His Commandments and subject ourselves to His Divine and Good Law. Proper filial fear of the love of God helps us to do our religious, moral, civil, and family duty. Nothing else should we fear.
But we of faith mustn’t forget the primacy of the spiritual life. One deliberate venial sin is worse than the destruction of the entire universe - for one sin offends the Infinite Loving God. One deliberate venial sin should cause our hearts to weep for offending God's Divine Majesty. One deliberate venial sin should cause us to immediately beseech His Mercy. If we do not fear offending God by sin, even venial sin, this is due to luke-warmness in our spiritual life, or a complete lack of the love of God. Today is Divine Mercy Sunday, and His Mercy is infinite, His love is infinite, His justice is infinite. We must use the means of Mercy that God has established – particularly the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession. The Mercy of Our Risen King is infinite, it is accessible - let us not be negligent about seeking it and apply it to our souls by the means that He has established. But why are the Sacramental means forbidden, either partially or totally, in many dioceses around the world? If civil authorities allow for Church as “essential businesses”, why are public Masses forbidden? what is more essential than God? What is more essential than the Holy Mass? St. Pio of Pietrelcino said “It’d be easier for us to exist without the sun than without Holy Mass.” Nothing is more essential than God.
Monsignor Wach, our founder and Prior General recently said: “It seems to me that certain ecclesiastical authorities have too quickly and too easily decided to close churches and limit – and even suppress – access to the Sacraments. How can such measures be enacted when supermarkets, [fast-food], banks, [and liquor stores] remain open? Is supernatural life of lesser value? Could it possibly be considered secondary? Does not the soul need to be regularly nourished, purified and supported, especially when subjected to countless trails?... We have the means to make our churches safe and sanitary, even rigoriously so.” And I continue… Why are certain Sacraments forbidden in many dioceses and the attendance of faithful at Mass forbidden? It’s as if they’re afraid of being glad – it’s as if they’re afraid of being wrong in having over-reacted. We hope and pray that our leaders didn’t make these decisions based simply on human prudence, based on the fear of lawsuits, as the Sacramental shut-down has caused so many souls to be without the Sacraments in the most important moment of their spiritual battle. We the priests and faithful have to give them the benefit of the doubt. We have to pray for our leaders, because they’ll have to give an account of their decisions to Our Lord: of whether they put the spiritual mission of the Church first or whether they followed the fear of human prudence which is not of God and which will have tremendous negative consequences of scandalizing the faithful and causing others to never return to Church.
We know that Salvation of Souls is our number 1 mission: “Be not solicitous therefore, saying, What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathens seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” If we Catholics truly believe what the Church has dogmatically taught that “outside the Church there is no salvation”, that the Ark of the Church is the only ark of salvation, that Jesus said “I am the Way”, that “narrow is the gate, and strait is the way that leadeth to life”, then we see by faith and instructed by the Word of God, that the salvation of souls is our number one mission of the Church, not bodily safety. If 100% of mortal sins can send a soul to hell, why are we afraid of a bodily disease that only kills .5% of those that contract it? Does Our Lord not say: “And fear ye not them that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We priests, the day of our ordination, during the Litany of Saints before the imposition of the bishops hand, we laid face down prostrate before the altar, we laid face down because we give our very life to the Church, we gave our very life to Jesus Christ, we laid down our lives for the spiritual mission of the Church, we are celibate to be 100% united to Jesus Christ and the mission of the Church in saving souls. WE PRIESTS LAID DOWN OUR LIVES ON THE DAY OF OUR ORDINATION AND WE MUST BE WILLING TO LAY DOWN OUR LIVES FOR OUR FAITHFUL EVERYDAY, AND ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY ARE THE MOST IN NEED. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A PRIEST, THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A DOCTOR IN THE FIELD HOSPITAL OF THE CHURCH. DEAR FAITHFUL, PRAY FOR YOUR PRIESTS THAT IN THE MOMENT OF TEMPTATION, THAT IN THE MOMENT OF WORDLY FEAR, THAT THEY WILL NOT FLEE LIKE THE HIRELING, PRAY THAT THEY WILL LAY DOWN THEIR LIFE FOR YOUR SPIRITUAL SOUL. A good local bishop of Las Crucas has recently said: "It seems to me that while we run a daily count of the physical deaths, we are overlooking those that are dead interiorly." A priest was ordained in the person of Jesus Christ to offer the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass and to bring the Sacraments of Salvation to the Faithful. A good priest said: “What he has been ordained to do is never for his own safety or his own salvation.” A priest is different to bring the Sacraments to the Faithful when they’re in need and not only when it’s “safe”. The faithful cannot go to anyone but a priest to get the Sacraments. If Our Lord wanted a perfectly safe distribution of the Sacraments at all times, with absolutely zero chance of spreading contagion, then He would have instituted a vending machine to give the Sacraments. But He didn’t, He ordained the male priesthood to act for Himself. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, to redeem our humanity. If the Sacraments are not necessary, then the Incarnation was in vain. Just 10 days ago Our Lord laid His life down for us to have salvation, salvation that is administered through the Sacraments: “Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Pray, my dear faithful, that priests and church leaders may remember the self-sacrificial love of their Good Shepherd, who was willing to lay down His life for His flock. It is rightly to be noted that in the above passages about “fear”, that it was the men who were the most fearful. These men were filled with human prudence which had blinded them spiritually to the light of Faith, blinded them to the Scriptures. It seems the same today in certain members of the Church - human prudence has blinded many spiritually to the light of Faith, blinded them to the importance of supernatural life over the material life, blinded them to the reality of the eternity of the soul and the mortality of the body, and blinded them to the necessity of the Sacraments for salvation. What we are lacking today in the Church is Saints: men and women of faith and holiness. And so that you see that these ideas are not just mine, but the idea of the Church, look at the life of the great St. Charles Borromeo. He was a man of remarkable intelligence as he was responsible for the writing of the Catechism of the Council of Trent. He was archbishop of Milan during the plague of Milan in 1576 that killed 23,000 souls in just that city. Though there was a strict lock-down imposed on the population by the civil authorities, yet He multiplied the daily Masses so that all could more easily attend Holy Mass and receive Communion. To a clergy tempted by fear, he exhorted them to remember their obligation in laying down their lives in imitation of their Divine Master to bring His love and grace to souls. He led several penitential processions through Milan to appease God’s anger and wrath from the sins of his flock. He had built altars in every neighborhood for people to attend Holy Mass and receive Holy Communion. He tended the sick himself and encouraged his priests to administer all the Sacraments to the sick, to all faithful, and especially to the dying. There was nothing he was not willing to do to make sure his flock received the Sacraments. And note, though he was daily in the close and direct proximity of the infected, as a sign of divine blessing of his spiritual work, not one of his household was bothered even by anything as small as a headache. Where can one find today the great love of souls that animated the heart of this Saint? Where is his saintly zeal for the distribution of the Sacraments today? Let us pray to God to raise up priests of the same caliber as St. Charles Borromeo!
Our Lord Jesus Christ is truly risen! Today as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, we run to the throne of God’s Mercy which is the Confessional, through which the Sweet Blood of Our Divine Savior is applied to our soul. If the Sacrament of Confession is the throne of God’s Mercy, if we priests are supposed to “smell like our sheep”, then why is it so hard to find Confession? But as for you faithful, DO NOT FEAR THE CONFESSIONAL. Unlike the media that blows up the menacing clicker of lives lost to the coronavirus, no Church Confessional has a clicker counting off mortal sins. God’s Mercy is infinite and our sins are but a drop in the ocean of His Mercy. Today as we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday, we remember that the Sacraments are the greatest treasures that the Church has. But the Church is not just a museum of the beauties and graces of her Divine Spouse, the Church is also a hospital for us sinners and the Church and her Sacraments must be open just as the hospital is open. How ridiculous it’d be if a hospital closed during an epidemic. So why is the Church, the hospital for sinners now closed. On this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us fervently pray that the treasures of the Church which are the Sacraments again be publicly accessible to us all asap!
My Dear Faithful, do not be afraid, Our Risen Lord does not abandon your soul. Though the disciples and some leaders may be fearful, Our Risen Lord, in His Mercy still comes through the closed doors of the Church and enters the upper room of your soul. x 2 You do not need to say: "Who will roll away the stone?" The Angel of the Lord will roll away the stone and allow Our Lord to present His Risen Body to you. Though the Sacraments are the ordinary means of grace, when you have been unfortunately forbidden access to them, with your faith in Our Risen Lord and the desire to receive Him, your guardian angel will roll away the stone and allow your Risen God to appear to you. And just as the Lord came through closed doors, the Spiritual Body of Our Risen Lord makes Himself present to you in your Spiritual Communions. Be consoled that Our Lord remains with us as He said: “Behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.”
Just as Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary of Jacob were the Apostles to the Apostles: announcing to them the Resurrection of Christ, so you are called to announce to the Church leaders and the world, and remind them that Our Lord is risen, be not afraid! Remind them that the Sacraments are necessary for salvation. And, we who may have been blinded by "human prudence" and locked the doors, need to now open the closed doors of our hearts to God's Mercy. His Mercy is accessible, let us not be negligent of this opportunity to open the doors, to open to God the doors of our heart, to open to the faithful the doors of the Church of Our Risen Lord by the Sacraments. Our joy in the Risen Christ should be manifest, especially in these times when the devil and the world try to take our away our happiness.
My dear faithful, rejoice this Easter Season in the Resurrection of Christ which points to our own Resurrection as we follow Christ in keeping the Commandments. Rejoice on this feast of Divine Mercy knowing the infinite love of God Who laid down His life for us. Pray to Our Risen Lord that He dispel the fear in our hearts, that He open our hearts to faith and knowledge of Him in the Scriptures. Pray that your priests remain faithful to laying their lives down for the spiritual mission of the Church for the salvation of souls. Let us rejoice this Easter season, and pray for God’s Mercy so that our faith be enlightened by His Grace, that our charity be enkindled, and pray that all fear and worry may be dispelled so that we can rejoice in Our Lord’s Resurrection and in the infinite love of God. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.