Surviving Sodom and Gomorrah
With everything evil swirling up and around us, we could be capsized in the vortex of vice and vile that threatens to suck us under, to totally destroy our very existence. There is only one lifeboat we can cling to and that is the buoy of prayer, anchored in Christ and His True Church. It is later than we think and, as St. Paul admonishes, it is time to 'Get sober!'
"The Christian life is not simply a matter of 'do's' and 'don'ts.' One must 'think upon these things,' the things of God, prayerfully. Those who are serious about escaping the fire and the brimstone will sacrifice some of their time spent in more trivial pursuits to spend time with Jesus, listening to Him, speaking with Him in prayer, contemplating His life and teachings in the Gospels. Get away from the TV. Take up your Bible, sit down, and begin the most exciting adventure of your life by pondering the Gospels. Escape from Sodom and Gomorrah!"
Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's sermon for Septuagesima Sunday, he prepares us for this time of Septuagesima leading up to Ash Wednesday. We are officially in the time of preparation for fasting and penance liturgically and literally. The need for this turning to prayer and sacrifice is made more urgent in what has been manifested in the world and modern church just in the past few weeks. Truly it seems Sodom and Gomorrah have taken a back seat to the vile antics exhibited and boasted in America today, and worldwide for that matter. Truly civilization is far worse than that dreaded time in the Old Testament when two of three cities were totally destroyed. We must shun the moral decay of society and cling to Christ and all He has handed down through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as practiced from the first Pope Peter through Pius XII, the last Pope to uphold the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother the Church, which taught that Christ our Lord, and He alone, is the portal out of this storm to the narrow straits of salvation as Our Lord Himself and His Saints have assured and passed on devotions and guidelines to navigate us through the torrential typhoons threatening us today. [bold and italics below are editor's emphasis.]
The desire to win the race, to capture the prize, is a necessary part of human nature. "So run as to obtain it," says St. Paul (1Cor.9:24). But strive only for those things, he says, which are worthy of your desire: "Whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things" (Phil.4:8).
Father Louis J. Campbell
Those who do not "think upon these things" cannot see beyond some earthly goal, like becoming the latest rock idol, or winning big at the lottery. If nothing else attracts attention, you can always push the extreme limits of modesty in dress, or exhibit the most shockingly lewd behavior. It's all there today. And those who have no clear goals of their own can have it all, second hand, of course, by sprawling comfortably in front of the TV. "Woe to them!" says St. Jude of those who have no love for spiritual things, "for they have gone the way of Cain…" (Jude 1:11).
Someone has said that America is Nineveh, not Sodom. This, however, remains to be seen. When the great city of Nineveh was under God's judgment and about to be destroyed, the prophet Jonah preached to the inhabitants of the city, and at the command of the king everyone did penance for his sins, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. God saw their repentant hearts and Nineveh was spared. But the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, found to be corrupt and full of unnatural vice, were destroyed in a torrent of fire and brimstone, as Lot and his family fled. We cannot promise ourselves that America, reveling in sinful and immodest displays and increasingly tolerant of sins against nature, will not suffer the same fate as Sodom.
"It's later than you think!" says the wise man. So how does one survive as a Christian in a society that is in a state of advanced moral and spiritual decay? The season of Septuagesima, which we begin today in preparation for Lent, says to us, "Get sober! It's time to 'think upon these things' with St. Paul. It's time to abandon the broad road that leads to destruction and find the narrow way that leads to life."
The "narrow way" begins with Jesus Christ, Who is the door by which we must enter: "Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All whoever have come are thieves and robbers; but the sheep have not heard them. I am the door. If anyone enter by me he shall be safe, and shall go in and out, and shall find pastures" (Jn.10:7-9). Faith in Jesus Christ, the "door of the sheep," is the absolute and necessary beginning of salvation.
In the second place, we must choose to remain with Him, or abide in Him: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it remain on the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he shall be cast outside as the branch and wither; and they shall gather them up and cast them into the fire, and they shall burn" (Jn.15:4-6).
In the third place, we must be obedient to His commands: "As the Father has loved me, I also have loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full" (Jn.15:9-11).
The spiritual life begins and ends with Jesus Christ: "'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God, Who is and Who was and Who is coming, the Almighty" (Apoc.1:8). Jesus is our way out of Sodom and Gomorrah, our ticket to the Kingdom of God. Get your ticket now! Enter by faith through the Door, Jesus Christ!
The Christian life is not simply a matter of "do's" and "don'ts". One must "think upon these things," the things of God, prayerfully. Those who are serious about escaping the fire and the brimstone will sacrifice some of their time spent in more trivial pursuits to spend time with Jesus, listening to Him, speaking with Him in prayer, contemplating His life and teachings in the Gospels. Get away from the TV. Take up your Bible, sit down, and begin the most exciting adventure of your life by pondering the Gospels. Escape from Sodom and Gomorrah!
This easy way of prayer was taught and practiced in the earlier ages of the Church, especially by the monks, who called it lectio divina. Anyone who can read can practice this "meditated reading" of the Scriptures, especially the Gospels, for beginners. Call upon the Holy Ghost before you start. Read a little and pause a while for it to sink in, then read a little further, always ready to pause if the Lord seems to be speaking, although without words. The Rosary, especially the Scriptural Rosary, may be prayed in this way also. Pause to think of the mysteries. Get to know the Lord, your "Door" to eternal life!
St. Paul says: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly: in all wisdom teach and admonish one another by psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing in your hearts to God by His grace. Whatever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him" (Col.3:16,17).
St. Bernard of Clairvaux speaks to those who have entered upon the narrow way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, the Door:
Jesus, the very thought of Thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.
But what to those who find? Ah, this,
Nor tongue nor pen can show-
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
For the Proper of Today's Holy Mass - Missa "Circumdederunt me", see Septuagesima Sunday
February 8, 2004
vol 15, no. 39
"Qui legit, intelligat"
Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons