"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Love is what we are all about. Our love of God and His love of us. God's love for us is something we know (or should know). He sent His Son to teach us His way, and to call sinners repentance and conversion, and to die for us so we might live, for and through Him. His love is such that He will not force Himself on us. He extends His hand to us, He follows after us, but He waits for us to clasp His Hand, to walk with Him, to love Him.
"If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you" (John 14:15-17).
So we show our love for God by keeping His commandments, and we know His commands from His Church. " Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:19-20).
No child loves a parent by continually and purposely rejecting their commands, their wishes. No, love is connected with obedience. Fr. Herbert de Launay points out : "In John 3:36 Jesus links belief and obedience. "Whoever believes (Greek: pisteuon, believing) in the Son has life eternal. Whoever disobeys (Greek: apeithon, disobeying) the Son will not see life, but must endure the wrath of God." We can note here that the opposite of belief is disobedience." (Reflections on the readings for May 12, 1996, the 6th Sunday of Easter, Cycle A)
St. Ignatius Loyola, in his "Spiritual Excercises" points out that the soul in consolation is "aroused by an interior movement which causes it to be inflamed with love for its Creator and Lord, and consequently can love no created thing on the face of the earth for its own sake, but only in the Creator of all things. It is likewise consolation when one sheds tears inspired by love of the Lord, whether it be sorrow for sins or becaue of the Passion of Christ our Lord, or for any other reason that is directly connected to His service and praise." (Rules for the Discernment of Spirits, Wk 1)
He goes on to say, "…desolation is all that is contrary (to the above) as darkness of the soul, turmoil of the mind, inclination to low and earthly things, restlessness resulting from many disturbances and temptations which lead to loss of faith, loss of hope, and loss of love. It is also desolation when a soul finds itself completely apathetic, tepid, sad, and separated as it were, from its Creator and Lord." (Ibid)
Thomas A Kempis writes: "You must forget yourself always and in all things, in small things as well as inthose that are great. I (Christ) make no excpetions, but want you to be divested of your self-will in all things. For how can you be wholly Mine and I totally yours, if you still entertain self-will within and outside yourself." (Imitation of Christ, chap. 37)
It is when the soul is in desolation, that we retain self will, that the enemy seeks to separate us from our love of God. And one of His tools is to appear as an angel of light. St.Ignatius Loyola likens him to a military commander who camps nearby and, after looking over the enemy camp, attacks at it's weakest point.
So, it is understandable how, for example, a woman falls into sin and because of that sin finds herself pregnant. Then, adding sin to sin, under the illusion of right, aborts the baby. Hence advancing further into sin. Scripture gives us two examples of a soul in desolation and the affects of faith and love in God.
"And after a little while again the bystanders said to Peter, 'Certainly you are one of them; for you are a Galilean.' But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, 'I do not know this man of whom you speak.' And immediately the cock crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, 'Before the cock crows twice, you will deny Me three times.' And he broke down and wept" (Mark 14:70-72).
"When Judas, His betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood." They said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." And throwing down the pieces of silver in the temple, he departed; and he went and hanged himself" (Matthew 27:3-5).
Peter's love of God brought sorrow for his sin, and he wept and gained forgiveness and grew in sanctity. He didn't even allow himself self pity. Whereas Judas lost his faith, his love of God. He added sin to sin.
An even great sign of self denial for the love of God is Mary. "And Mary said to the angel, 'How shall this be, since I have no husband?' And the angel said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God….. For with God nothing will be impossible.' And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.' (Luke 1:34-35; 37-38).
For Mary, nothing could be more inconvenient, more against her interests. An unmarried woman, pregnant, that was a death sentence. But her faith and love of God allowed only one response. "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."
But the person whose love of God is weak, or lost, begins to speculate. "Well, God wants me to be happy, He love some just as I am." Etc. They come as 'an angel of light' to sow dissention, confusion, etc. "I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded" (Romans 16:17-18).
"As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies which promote speculations rather than the divine training * that is in faith; whereas the aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith. Certain persons by swerving from these have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make assertions" (1 Timothy 1:3-7).
"For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people. For among them are those who make their way into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and swayed by various impulses, who will listen to anybody and can never arrive at a knowledge of the truth. As Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of corrupt mind and counterfeit faith; 9 but they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men" (2 Timothy 3:2-9).
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (2 Timothy 4:1-5).
"Show yourself in all respects a model of good deeds, and in your teaching show integrity, gravity, and sound speech that cannot be censured, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say of us" (Titus 2:7-8).
Remember, we all sin, but sin does not rule us. We are called to a sincere repenting of our sins. To advance in perfection, and to persevere in that struggle to the end. "Many false prophets will arise and deceive many; and because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:11-13).
Out of love, we are never alone in our struggles to come closer to God. "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:18).
In prayer, in the Eucharist, He will be with us, to strengthen us in our faith and love. So, out of love we follow and obey. And out of love, He strengthens us and is with us. All we need to do is reach out to Him by dying to ourselves. All we need to do is grasp Him as He has grasped us. He is standing at the door waiting patiently to be let into out hearts. He is waiting for us to follow Him. When we do, then we can truly say to Christ, "My Lord and my God."
When Alexander was put to death in 115 at the order of Trajan also, another Roman prelate was chosen the 7th successor of Peter. He was Pope Saint Sixtus I who also served ten years. He ordered that the corporal be made of a linen material and the sacred vessels used in the Mass be handled only by consecrated ministers. That brings up an interesting point when you think that after 1900 years of honoring this, it was basically thrown out after Vatican II when the Eucharistic minister fad stormed churches and parishes everywhere and everybody and their sister were handling the sacred vessels that henceforth had been reserved for consecrated hands only as Sixtus decreed. He died in 125 at the hands of Trajan's successor Hadrian and was buried in the acropolis of Alatri in Rome.
Sixtus was followed by Pope Saint Telesphorus, the second Greek to rise to the throne of Peter. During his eleven year pontificate he composed the Gloria in Excelsis Deo" and instituted the seven week fast before Easter as well as decreeing that each priest had the privilege of celebrating three Masses on Christimas. He also inserted new prayers into the Mass as the liturgy of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass began to flourish. The number of deaths increased as well as Hadrian hunted the Christians down including Telesphorus who was put to death in 136.
Pope Saint Hyginus was elected for the next four years and he, too, died a martyr in 140 under Titus Antoninus Pius who was actually lenient toward Christians compared to his predecessors, but radicals sought Hyginus out and had him killed. During his four year papacy he determined the different prerogatives of the clergy and defined the grades of the ecclesiastical hierarchy as well as instituting the use of godparents at baptism to assist the newly-born into the Christian community. He also decreed that all churches be consecrated.
He was followed by Pope Saint Pius I, the first in an illustrious line of Popes named Pius. He enjoyed the longest reign of the Popes to that point, reigning over the Church for fifteen years. Pius is credited with establishing the date of Easter on the first Sunday after the March full moon. Disagreements had arisen over the time of Easter. The Eastern Christians - those from Asia - observed it according to the Jewish Calendar in the month of Nisan on the fourteenth day. Being a set date, it could have fallen on a Monday, Wednesday or whenever; whereas the Western Christians, following the traditions of Peter and Paul, held to the Sunday after Good Friday. Many ill feelings developed as paranoia and fear crept in. The Western sect suspected the eastern sect of being in cahoots with the Jews and fought all overtures for compromise; likewise the eastern followers suspected influence from Rome and rejected reconciliation. The rules he set down for the conversion of the Jewish people are looked on as very important in the manner in which the Church carried this evangelization out.
Pius was succeeded by Pope Saint Anicetus, the first Syrian-born Supreme Pontiff whose papacy lasted eleven years who confirmed the decrees established by Pius of the celebration of Easter according to the tradition of St. Peter. Anicetus also decreed that the clergy not have long hair. He died under the persecution of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius Antoninus.
His successor was the 12th in the line of Peter, a man from Fondi who took the name Pope Saint Soter. During his nine year pontificate he forbade women to burn incense during the congregation of the faithful and ratified matrimony as a sacrament, making it valid only if blessed by a priest. He is best remembered as the "Pope of Charity" for his many kind acts to those persecuted Christians as well as the Romans who had him put to death in 175 at the hands of Antoninus.
The thirteenth successor of Peter was Nicopolis-born Pope Saint Eleutherius whose papal reign lasted fourteen years until he also died a martyr in 189 during the cruel regime of Antoninus' son Commodus. Pope Eleutherius not only sent Fugatius and Damian to the British Isles to convert the Britons, but abolished some Jewish customs concerning the purity and impurity of food which were still being observed by some Christians. It served to be one of the final severences between the Old and the New Covenants.
These customs needed to be universal in form for there was much speculation as to what was right and what was wrong. Arguments ensued and had the Popes not stepped in and decreed various edicts, it would have scattered the faithful into separate churches not in union with Rome. Though this would happen through the centuries, the strong stature of the early Popes helped curb violations which not only persisted but also erupted into physical conflicts in various villages. This was not what Christ had intended. To curtail this Pope Saint Victor I, the 14th successor to Peter and immediate successor of Eleutherius, called the first universal council together in 191 A.D. This was not one of the Ecumenical Councils for that would not come until 325 at Nicaea. To Victor's chagrin the council voted unanimously in favor of the Eastern tradition. In retaliation, the Pope threatened to excommunicate the Asian and African bishops. That is when Saint Irenaeus, who was dearly respected by both factions, stepped in reminding Pope Victor that Saint Polycarp, a bishop and Pope Anicetus had differed on the same thing but remained united and separated in peace, So also in Galatians 2 Peter and Paul disagreed but Peter, through prayer and discernment, condescended to Paul's views. This wisdom curtailed the excommunication threat and accord was reached. Here the wisdom and humility of a holy Pope helped save the Church. During Victor's ten year pontificate he decreed that, in Baptism, any kind of water could be used in an emergency.
All through the history of the Church there has been disagreement and discord but that is why Our Lord set up His Church with papal authority so there would be no mistaking the Will of God. Despite this there was and continues to be defections. In those first centuries, those who remained steadfast were persecuted as Christians were murdered in every manner of torture. Only John died a peaceful death. All the other Apostles succumbed as martyrs --lambs slaughtered for the sake of the Lamb, as did countless Christians from Jerusalem to Rome where over two million were killed under the reign of Nero. Yet, the fruits multiplied as Carthaginian historian and Christian theologian Tertulian records: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity."
Like those early times when persecutions tested the mettle of the faithful remnant Christ was forming through His chosen ones, so also today the fortitude of Christ's little remnant is being tested in the face of tremendous opposition from both inside and outside the Church, and within the ranks of the remnant. In the early stages these trials opened new vistas of grace and a strengthening of faith and the Church itself which made it possible for the emergence of the golden age of liturgical practice which would establish the full liturgy of the Mass in Latin for centuries to come.
So also, in these end times of the second millennium, despite all opposition and persecution, His Church and those among the faithful remnant will be victorious for Christ will be with us even to the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:20) and through their merits, will usher in the Reign of the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
In the next part of this on-going series, we will delve into the struggles of the early Church as well as transition of the Mass from Greek to Latin and the influence both pagan and Christian Rome played in the early centuries in propagating the New Sacrifice.
NEXT WEDNESDAY: Installment Nine: The Blood of the Martyrs replenish a flourishing Church
On this the Lord's day, how greatly comforted is His Most Sacred Heart because in many places honor is given me - His Mother. Let all who so honor me give unto me their hearts which shall become the flower by which I am crowned. It is this crown of humble, contrite hearts I offer to the Triune Divinity, constantly interceding for my children.
I again ask you to pray with your heart. In any heart where bitterness and anger persist, God's light cannot dwell. You must abandon yourself to God, seek only His Will and accomplish it in faith.
Beloved little children, give all praise to God Who alone judges hearts, and is always ready to forgive a sincere heart. Pray much as Pentecost approaches that all who now doubt my words shall be converted and believe. Pray also that all who once believed and have fallen prey to satan's snares may yet seek the True Light.
O! I solemnly tell all the world - you do not see the gravity of your sins. The Lord is greatly offended and His Justice is prepared. Recall often that nothing happens in the universe unless God permits it. Thus His signs are all around you, as warnings and also as a promise of His faithfulness. Lift up your heart and you shall understand the signs.
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
Yes, tell all the world how happy I am that here in this place there are true golden angels of prayer whose fiat is as incense constantly rising to the throne of God. These are truly my angels and I protect and guide them. But, O! How many, many could be my angels of prayer but are tepid, lukewarm souls who do not understand my words of urgency!
I tell the people of this land, and of every place where there are gathered my true little ones who offer themselves totally to the Divine Will, that they are the instruments which hold back the full Justice of God. By their prayers, sacrifices and willingness to suffer persecution, scorn and ridicule, they allow the Chalice of Divine Mercy to be poured out upon the world. It is little humble ones of great faith, total abandonment and clear love which place my Immaculate Heart around their land.
Let every nation know that I plead unceasingly before the throne of God for the souls of that country. But I must have many in my little army who are willing to help me, their Mother.
Dear children, as you prepare yourselves for tomorrow's great feast, I ask you to once again renew your consecration to my Son through my Immaculate Heart. I ask you to meditate on this glorious mystery when my Divine Son ascended to the right hand of the Father. Soon, very soon, He shall come again and it shall be a time of rejoicing for all who are true to my Son's Church. But for so many of my children, it shall be a time of terror that cannot be described, for they shall be swept into the abyss of hell for all eternity.
O! Be as these pure, chaste angels of prayer. Let prayer flow from your hearts. I promise you, dear children, that in such places the Justice of God shall be less severe, for the Cup of Mercy shall have been poured out. Persevere. Do not doubt or fear!
I love and bless you! Thank you for responding to my Call!