July 17, 2016—The Eighth Sunday after Trinity
The news this week has been consumed with the attack by militant Moslems on innocent tourists in Nice, France, and with Donald Trump’s V.P. pick. Our son and his girlfriend were in Nice the day of the slaughter; you can imagine the anxiety we felt on hearing this shocking news. Fortunately for us, they had left Nice to go Paris that afternoon. If not, I might be giving a eulogy for them this morning, not a sermon. The war, and that’s what it is, hit close to our home this week. And for patriotic Americans who are good citizens, who vote, there is nothing like election year politics to absorb the mind in a fury of nothingness. Presidential politics can become for some a kind of obsession that consumes all our waking hours, leaving us one IQ point lower for each hour we spend analyzing the latest polls. I’m not sure who poses the greater danger to the mental health our nation, ISIS and Al Qaeda or MSNBC and Fox News. Either way, it has been a strange week. Between the soldiers of the caliphate trying to murder us and the presidential candidates vying for our votes, many find it hard to think; let alone think of anything else.
You are excused, therefore, if you forgot the anniversary of the most important event of the 20th century. I’m referring to the wondrous events that occurred in Fatima, Portugal, July 13, 1917. It was on this day 99 years ago, that the Virgin Mary appeared to three young shepherds: Lucy, Francisco and Jacinta. And she revealed to them three secrets that would explain the history of our violent century along with a promise of peace and the means to achieve it. If you do not know the story of Fatima, I urge you to study up on it. If you do know it, then you know that the Catholic Church receives this vision of the Virgin Mary as authentic, and her message from God is a vital word for the whole world. I’m not going to elaborate on the secrets of Fatima today. I will on the week of October 13 say much more about it; that week is the anniversary of the great “miracle of the sun”, a miracle witnessed by 70, 000 people. When Mary appeared to the shepherds on July 13, Lucy, age 10, asked her to do something to prove to the people that they were not lying or making up a story about seeing her. Mary told them to tell the people that if they would return to this field on October 13 that she would, at noon on that day, prove to them all that the message that she had delivered to the world through the little shepherds was true. On noon of October 13, 1917, Mary did what she said she would do. It is simply the most astonishing event of modern times.
But the purpose of the event was not to astonish many with evidence of God’s omnipotence by making the sun dance in the sky for ten minutes. The purpose was to affirm the message of July 13. That message was a simple one: hell is real and many people are there, and many more are going there unless people repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ.
There is probably no part of the gospel, by gospel I mean the teachings of Jesus, more scoffed at, mocked, ridiculed, debunked, ignored and denied than is the doctrine of hell. The modern age just won’t hear of it. The modern age is in love with itself. Like Narcissus, who couldn’t keep from staring at himself in a mirror, he so loved his own image, we assure ourselves that because God is by divine nature unconditional love, God would never punish anyone eternally. Well, at Fatima, the mother of God appeared to inform a world at war, a world about to meet the evils of the Russian revolution, that despite the wishful thinking of modern theologians, hell is very real and that if the world continues to embrace atheism and to reject the gift of the Holy Eucharist, the real presence of Christ, the Savior, among us, that war upon war will continue as punishment for sin, that entire nations will be wiped out and that the violence of the kind we witnessed in Nice this week will continue. It will continue until we renounce atheism and become Christian nations again. When we stop ignoring Jesus Christ and acknowledge him as our king, peace will break out and things will get better. The grace of God that flows to the world thru the heart of his mother Mary will assure it.
But, you say, “We can’t do that we’re a democracy, we have freedom of religion and free elections and everyone can believe whatever she wants to believe, our strength is in our diversity. Blah, blah, blah.” Tell that to him who can make the sun dance.
People wonder, why is all of this happening to France? Is France innocent? Terrorism didn’t begin on 9/11. Terrorism began when the French Revolution set up the guillotine in Paris and used it to systematically kill bishops, nuns and priests and impose atheism on a once Christian culture. Napoleon then spread that revolution all across Europe. God is angry at the nations of what once was Christendom for what we have done. God has given us his Son to be our king, and we have rejected him. What else should we expect?
The lesson of today’s gospel is beautifully simple and direct. “Only one thing is necessary,” Jesus said (Lk.10.42). The one thing we need and cannot do without is Jesus. Jesus alone has the power to save our souls from the fires of hell. Unless we escape the fires of hell, what have all our efforts in this world been for? The sum total of our best efforts is worthless, unless they are redeemed by his love. There is nothing that lasts beyond the grave that has not been sanctified by his grace. Christ alone can do this for sinful humanity. His death on the cross sealed the deal. He is our sanctification. That’s why we who love him call him, “Our Savior”. In calling him “Our Savior”, we are not suggesting that there is another who saves. We’re simply acknowledging him for who he is: he is the one from whom sinful humanity receives true life, life that lives even beyond the grave.
That’s what he meant when he said to Martha, “Only one thing is necessary”. In the short term, we all have our responsibilities and we have to keep our word, we have chores that need to be done, obligations to others that need to be met. People count on us. We have to be there for them. But unless we embrace the Son of God and follow him in the way of love, as Saint Paul put it, we become nothing more than a “noisy gong or sounding brass.”(1Cor.13.1). Christ offered up his entire life, suffering and all to God and so must we if we wish to follow him into eternity. He made himself the perfect offering for our sins. When we unite ourselves and all we do to him in his self- offering to God, we have the assurance that God accepts us because whatever is in him, who is God’s son, is fully sanctified.
What I’m saying is that in the long run, the only thing in life that really matters is whether or not we are united to Him. No matter how much you do in this world, you do not want it said at your graveside, “He was a stranger to Christ.”
The Moslems are going to continue to fight us as they have done since their demonic inception in the sixth century. Whoever dubbed them the “religion of peace” never opened a history book. And unfortunately in this age of 24/7 news coverage, there is no escaping presidential politics. But this sad story does have a happy ending. 99 years ago this week, Mary, the mother of our Lord the mother of our church, the mother all the baptized promised this: “My Immaculate heart will triumph.” She meant that the miracle of the Incarnation that God wrought in her sinless womb, the birth of God’s only Son, is the lynchpin that ties mortality to eternity and it will not be undone by evil men. In other words, God sent his mother to remind and to reassure us that history is his, and that Jesus Christ whom God raised from the dead and who sits at God’s right hand cannot be defeated. In him God has given us the victory (1Cor.15.57).
In an age of terror, remember the words of Saint John, “Perfect love casts out fear.” Jesus Christ is the perfect love of God incarnate among us who is forever among us in his Word and Blessed Sacrament. Trust in him and stay in him. “Only one thing is necessary” for us to win this war and that is for a majority of us to believe in him and to follow him in the way of perfect love. Get your loved ones, your friends and neighbors back into Church on Sunday mornings. On our knees, before his altar of love is the way to victory. This is where we will win.