The Greek playwright, Euripides, gave us the famous line, "Whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad." More real than the mythical Greek deities, the devil, when he is preparing to destroy, at first deceives, then destroys. Our Lord says of the devil: "He was a murderer from the beginning, and has not stood in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie he speaks from his very nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
The devil deceives by working on the pride of men, just as he did with Adam and Eve. Blinded by their pride, men lose their sense of right judgment. Their self-righteousness sets them apart from others, convincing them that they alone are right and others wrong. They fulminate against those whom they perceive as their enemies. In the end, if they are not defeated by their opponents, either they sink further into madness, or they go out in a spectacular self-destructive blaze. May they learn humility from their mistakes and turn to God for forgiveness.
This is our world today. Fallen from grace, it is a world gone mad, and is set to tear itself apart. The Muslim world, deceived by the false religion of Islam, is working itself up into a mindless frenzy, and will soon wield its sword in jihad against the western nations, and against its ancient enemy, the Church of Rome. The Vatican is a prime target.
The United States with its allies, convinced of its mission "to make the world safe for democracy," and stumbling over its stumbling stone, Jerusalem, is ready to bomb the daylights out of Iran and any other nation that gets in the way. The Prophet Zechariah warns, "And it shall come to pass in that day that I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone to all people. All that shall lift it up shall be rent and torn: and all the kingdoms of the earth shall be gathered together against her" (Zacharias 12:3).
Two cultures with irreconcilable differences - Islam and the West, once Christian, now a Judeo-Christian beast with two heads. Why don't they just leave one another alone? Well, of course, oil!
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say, "Well, at least we have a quiet and peaceful oasis among us Catholic Traditionalists, who are busy bearing one another's burdens, and united by the bond of charity in our zeal to preserve what is left of the true Catholic faith." Unfortunately, such is not the case, and many of us are just as mindlessly self-righteous, angry and vindictive as anyone out there. One would think we never heard of the Christian life, Jesus Christ, or His atoning Sacrifice upon Calvary's Cross.
St. Paul's description of the works of the flesh reads in part: "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are… enmities, contentions, jealousies, anger, quarrels, factions, parties, envies… and suchlike. And concerning these I warn you, as I have warned you, that they who do such things will not attain the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
When we witness these things we know one thing for sure - the devil has a hand in it. He is about his satanic business, prowling throughout the world like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). And when we employ his methods - deceptions, accusations, condemnations, name calling, hatred, revenge - we announce to all the world that we are his agents. Such behavior we do not learn from Jesus Christ. And when we observe these things we are not looking at the Holy Catholic Church.
The Lord tells us what the Christian life is all about: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who calumniate you. And to him who strikes thee on the one cheek, offer the other also… But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, not hoping for any return, and your reward shall be great, and you shall be children of the Most High, for he is kind towards the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, therefore even as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your lap. For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you" (Luke 6:27-29;35-38).
This is the program for our Christian lives. We actually have to do this, says St. Paul in today's Epistle: "Do you not know that those who run in a race, all indeed run, but one receives the prize? So run as to obtain it" (1 Corinthians 9:24). We actually have to practice charity, just as we have to chastise our bodies and bring them into subjection. Athletes have to train. Would-be Olympic champions have to keep to a rigorous program, or they will fall on their faces - "and they indeed to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one" (1 Corinthians 9:25).
Our training program is of a different nature, but no less rigorous. Deny yourself the pleasure of making that nasty comment, or writing that nasty letter. Deny yourself the luxury of seeking revenge against those who hurt you. "Blessed shall you be," says the Lord, "when men hate you, and when they shut you out, and reproach you, and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and exult, for behold your reward is great in Heaven. For in the selfsame manner their fathers used to treat the prophets" (Luke 6:22,23).
Our Lord gives us these sobering words at the end of today's Gospel: ""Even so the last shall be first, and the first last; for many are called, but few are chosen" (Matthew 20:16). Are we to be among the chosen, or only among the many who are called, but are unprepared for the kingdom of Heaven?
St. Paul puts the cap on it for us: "For you have been called to liberty, brethren; only do not use liberty as an occasion for sensuality, but by charity serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. But if you bite and devour one another, take heed or you will be consumed by one another. But I say: Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh… The fruit of the Spirit is: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, modesty, continency. Against such things there is no law. And they who belong to Christ have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires" (Galatians 5:13-16;22-24).