February 6, 2008
Ash Wednesday
vol 19, no. 37

Bearing Fruit in Patience

Lent is the ideal time to plant seeds of holiness on good ground. If we follow what the Church has always taught in cultivating and nourishing virtuous traits, good fruit is not only possible but inevitable. However we must be patient and follow God's will. If we do not, the fruit could be bruised by impatience or, even worse, rot away because of procrastination.

      Editor's Note: In Father Louis Campbell's bonus sermon for Ash Wednesday first written in 2003, he shares the fact that Lent is the time we should work on three points that help us on our journey towards sanctity: (1) pray every day, (prayer); (2) practice self-denial, (fasting); and (3) do good deeds, (giving unto others). If we are not firmly planted in 'good ground,' we could be slowed down by the demons of "no hurry" which are running rampant in the postconciliar church today. God is patient, but there's a limit to even His patience in waiting for so many Catholics to plant, cultivate and produce fertile soil in order to allow God's will and word to bear abundant fruit in us. If we do not have the nourishing time of Lent to till the soil of our souls, weeds will choke out any possibility of good fruit.

    In the parable of the Sower and the Seed from Sexagesima Sunday, certain questions arise. First of all, am I capable of understanding this parable? Most of those who were listening to Jesus that day did not understand it. Jesus even had to explain it to the Apostles, who had the gift of faith. Through our baptism we also have been given that precious gift, and provided our faith is still intact in these faithless days, we should be able to understand.

    The second question is: Am I "good ground," or am I like the surface of the moon - arid, infertile, and incapable of supporting life? The answer is that only the Blessed Virgin Mary and perhaps a few of the saints were good ground from the beginning. The rest of us have hard work to do to turn the dry, hard and sterile ground of our wounded human nature into rich and productive soil. Only then will the seed of God's word bear fruit in our lives. Fortunately, the Church has provided us with an easy to understand method for preparing the ground, especially during the approaching season of Lent, but for every day of our lives. There are three important points to the program: prayer, self-denial, and good deeds (prayer, fasting and almsgiving).

    We all agree that prayer is important. Praying is like cultivating the soil, digging away with pick, shovel and hoe at the hard ground of your soul. And it has to be done every day to keep the soil manageable and ready for the Sower, Who is God. The First Point: Pray every day!

    But cultivation is not enough. Poor soil must be fertilized. This is where self-denial or mortification comes in. Many "pray amiss," says St. Paul, so they don't receive answers to their prayers. They have tilled the soil, but they have not enriched it with the proper fertilizers. The best they can expect is weak, spindly plants that produce little fruit. Without observing the fasts, without practicing custody of the senses, without some self-denial even in the things that are lawful, the soul remains weak and a prey to faults and temptations, unprepared to stand before the Just Judge on the Last Day. Second Point: Practice self-denial!

    The third point is equally important. No seeds can sprout and grow without water. Good deeds are like water to the soul. But which good deeds? The Church has provided us with a list - the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

        The Corporal Works of Mercy:
      • to feed the hungry;
      • to give drink to the thirsty;
      • to clothe the naked;
      • to shelter the homeless;
      • to visit the sick;
      • to ransom the captive;
      • to bury the dead.

        The Spiritual Works of Mercy:

      • to instruct the ignorant;
      • to counsel the doubtful;
      • to admonish the sinner;
      • to bear wrongs patiently;
      • to forgive offenses willingly;
      • to comfort the afflicted;
      • to pray for the living and the dead.
Examine this list and you will find many things you can do every day to fulfill the third condition for becoming "good ground". Third Point: Do good deeds!

    Jesus warned His disciples to "beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," by which He meant their teaching (Mt.16:6;12). We must beware of the leaven of the New Church, where prayer has become superficial, self-denial has become self-fulfillment, and good deeds are often done to please the world. There Catholics are given a false assurance of salvation, a feeling that a good God wouldn't send anyone to hell, if indeed, it existed. This is why there is little awareness of sin, and confessions have almost disappeared in some parishes, and yet the whole congregation lines up for Communion Sunday after Sunday.

    As an example of superficial prayer we could mention the boring "General Intercessions" of the New Mass. Even the priest's prayer, The Divine Office, now called the Liturgy of the Hours, has been made much shorter and simpler, with the psalms degutted of passages considered unsuitable for the "Nice God" of the New Religion, Who is always kind and non-judgmental.

    Three little demons were once lined up before the devil as they prepared to go out on their first assignment tempting human beings. "What will you say to them?" the devil asked. "I shall tell them there is no God," said the first little demon. "Well," said the devil, "creation itself demands the necessity of a Creator God. Only a few will believe you." The second little demon said, "I shall tell them there is no judgment." "Not bad," the devil said, "Many will believe that, but you could do better." The third little demon said, "I shall tell them there is no hurry." "Excellent!" said the devil, "They will all believe that." In the New Church there is no hurry.

    Our best example in the matter of preparing the ground is our Lord Himself. Jesus was always at prayer and in communion with the Father, and He urged His disciples to likewise persevere: "Watch, then, praying at all times, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that are to be, and to stand before the Son of Man" (Lk.21:36).

    Jesus is also our best example of self-denial. From His forty-day fast in the desert to His death upon the Cross He endured every suffering and persecution for the sake of the Kingdom of God, having "nowhere to lay His head" (Lk.9:58). His advice to us: "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake and for the gospel's sake will save it. For what does it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul?" (Mk.8:34-36).

    Finally, Jesus is our best example of good deeds. St. Peter says in Acts: "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and he went about doing good and healing all who were in the power of the devil…" (Acts10:38). But His greatest deed was to die a cruel death upon the Cross, giving His life for the redemption of sinners, among whom we are numbered. This should give us courage to take up our crosses daily and follow Jesus. But don't let that little demon tell you there is no hurry! Do it now!

    "Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly… 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).

Father Louis J. Campbell

Ash Wednesday
February 6, 2008
vol 19, no. 37
"Qui legit, intelligat"
Father Louis Campbell's Sunday Sermons