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For the Preservation of the Deposit of the Faith
For the Kingdom of God to come!
Exclusive Representation of the Nativity Scene.
by Father John Gregory of the Trinity, O.D.M.
The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid? My enemies that trouble me have themselves been weakened, and have fallen. If armies in camp should stand together against me, my heart shall not fear.2 The true servants of God have this assurance. This certitude grows in the measure that we serve God and accomplish His every will. On the other hand, there is no peace for the wicked,3 for those who do not serve God.
See the assurance of the Saints, the peace of soul they enjoyed. They were certain that God would assist them in all their ways, as Holy Scripture affirms: He hath given His Angels charge over thee; to keep thee in all thy ways.4 This is on condition of being servants of God; let us not forget it. In order for the Lord to be our light, the rampart that protects us from our enemies, we must be united to Him. The more we are united to God, the easier life becomes with God’s help.
Why is there so much suffering and misfortune on earth today? We see so much sadness and despair, murders, thefts; crimes are on the increase everywhere. People say: “We don’t know what will become of us… It has become appalling! I wonder where we are headed…” Yes, humanity has abandoned the path of God.
Our Lord says, Take My yoke upon you, for My yoke is sweet and My burden light.5 The world has rejected the yoke, the constraint of God. People no longer want the commandments, the laws of God; they want to be free. Today, they preach only freedom, but it is a freedom that turns into slavery. By rejecting the yoke of God, we become slaves of Satan. The words of the Lord, the Way, the Truth, and the Life,6 are not a lie: My yoke is sweet and My burden light.
Through His commandments, His laws, God offers us the easiest way. Those who serve God have joy in their soul, peace and contentment. They already begin an anticipated heaven on earth, even in their sufferings, sorrows and annoyances. For those who love God, all things work together unto good.7 Seeing the hand of God in everything, they are happy to suffer.
Sometimes we encounter invalids who have been suffering since their childhood. However, a divine joy can be seen in their eyes, because these people accept their condition and submit to the Holy Will of God. An interior joy compensates for the human joy they do not have. Although God has reserved a life of suffering for them, we nevertheless observe a profound joy in these people. This is a proof that the joy of God surpasses all the joys that men would like to obtain for themselves outside the Will of God, by rejecting His yoke.
So many people do not want any restraint; they regard God’s commandments, His Divine Will, as a hindrance. It is the devil who puts this idea in people’s minds. More than ever, we hear people say: “You must be emancipated, you must be fulfilled. Remove all constraints from your life, anything that might harm your self-fulfillment.” They speak only about self-fulfillment! It is a satanic word. Fulfillment outside the Will of God, to live like absolute pagans – what an error!
The fulfillment of a Christian is to accept the yoke of the Lord, to suffer with Christ. It is a fulfillment in the depths of the soul. People believe that they are fulfilling their soul by freeing themselves from the yoke of the Lord, whereas that amounts to taking the road to misery.
That is where this modern philosophy has led: our poor world is in sorrow and suffering of all kinds, in one war after another. Look at what is happening everywhere. There are clashes between individuals, and in societies there are continual conflicts. In every country there is nothing but insurrection, revolt, riot, revolution, strikes, assassinations. And the tortures inflicted on so many Christians! It is just as Our Lady said in the Secret of La Salette: “All order and all justice will be trampled underfoot; people will see nothing but homicides, hatred, jealousy, lying and discord, without love of country or family.”8 Hatred is a distinctive trait of hell.
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.9 When we have love in our heart, when we love our neighbor as ourselves, we are of God. But if in our hearts we have hatred, rage, the spirit of revenge, resentment, bitterness, jealousy… all these base feelings are the characteristic specimens of hell. Satan is sheer hatred. Having lost the Supreme Good, in his rage he craves to take it away from the children of God, from those who still have the joy of living in friendship with God. He specializes in falsehood and deceives those who listen to him. Unfortunately, the best people sometimes get fooled. The devil presents his merchandise in all sorts of beautiful colors the better to deceive; he conceals his venom in honey. He is not going to present it in its true light! It is the characteristic of a lie to present itself in disguise.
Our Lord, however, has never deceived those who want to serve Him. Read the lives of the Saints. Their lives, and even all their sufferings, make so much sense! Throughout their life, God accompanied them with His divine blessing. On the other hand, look at the lives of those who want to serve the earth or the devil. They experience so many disenchantments, disillusions and disappointments! So much despair! And often they come to a very sad end.
The life of those who want to serve God is a perpetual enchantment, as Monsignor Ambroise Leblanc, o.f.m., (1884-1959) said: “My life has been a perpetual enchantment.” I like to recall him as an example. When I heard these words from the lips of Monsignor Leblanc spoken with such conviction and joy, I recognized that he was a real Saint. I did not need to know more than that. Only a Saint can speak like this, especially when we know that he was interned in Japanese concentration camps.
In his prisons Saint Paul said, I overflow with joy in all our troubles.10 He did not say, “I am joyful,” but, I overflow with joy. I overflow with joy in all our troubles, not in good times, when suffering and tension are somewhat diminished. Certain people would like God to give them some respite to get away from it all. No, let us say like Saint Paul: I overflow with joy in all our troubles. That is the proof of great love. But to attain it, we need faith. My just one lives by faith,11 says the Apostle.
In another epistle of Saint Paul we read, Brothers, I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us,12 the extraordinary reward which God, in His infinite goodness, reserves for us. My brothers and sisters, we need to be reminded often that we are destined for an eternal reward that will never end, a reward beyond anything we can imagine. What God is asking of us now is very little compared to what He wants to give us in Heaven.
Sometimes we tend to complain about our little aches and pains, our little sufferings, the little sacrifices that are asked of us. We lack intelligence, we lack faith. And because our faith is not sufficient, because it is not ardent enough, we are not very generous. Some people have said to me, “I will not do too much harm, just in case it is true that there is a hell. I will try to do a little good, just in case there really is a Heaven.” Those who reason this way are more numerous than we might think, but they do not always dare to express it.
Jesus asked the father of the child possessed by the devil: Do you believe that I can heal him? – Yes, Lord, I do believe, but help my unbelief… increase my faith.13 Let us repeat this invocation often: “Jesus, I believe that You are in the Eucharist, but increase my faith. Make it living, ardent, active.” If we really had faith in the Eucharist, our conduct would be quite different, especially in the world. The indifference of people towards the Holy Eucharist is appalling. People do not bother to go to Communion; and when they do, they take Communion as if they were eating a simple piece of bread. If souls came to God, if they received Holy Communion with more faith, there would certainly be miraculous transformations.
In our life we often have very little courage, because our faith is not sufficient. We must ask God for faith, but we must also act. My brothers and sisters, every time you pass in front of the Blessed Sacrament, make a genuflection, as the Blessed Virgin requested in our Holy Rule. But you should not genuflect in a routine way, with a half-hearted genuflection. By acting automatically, we get used to holy things and end up abusing them.
We continually receive inspirations from the Holy Spirit. God asks us to do this or that, inspires us to perform acts of charity, acts of patience, meekness, humility, acts of mortification, but all too often we turn a deaf ear. That is how we lose grace.
Saint Augustine says, “Fear, fear, my brothers, that you will let grace pass you by and that it may not return.” Grace is a bit like a bird. If you let go of a little bird that you managed to catch in your hands, you can be sure that you will never get it back. It will fly far away so that it will not get caught again. You may catch another bird, but not the same one.
It is likewise with grace: the one given to you today will not come back. Maybe another grace will come, but that is not certain. Corresponding to one grace attracts another one that you will need later on. Why do some people find it so hard to make it through their trials and get discouraged? Why do these people not have actual grace? It is because they have been unfaithful sometime in the past, and they do not have the grace they need now. That grace should have been there, it had been given to them, but they abused it, they were unfaithful.
This is the explanation of people who, unfortunately, after years in the service of God, lose the light, lose grace and abandon their vocation. Let us not imagine that all those who cause scandal have always been bad religious or bad priests. They went to the altar with pure souls, sincerely wanting to serve God. But then, after twenty-five or thirty years of priesthood, they defrocked. They went off to lead a worldly and sometimes scandalous life. It is rather strange, but it appears that those who have lost grace fall lower than the others. They do not even practice religion anymore. They fall into deeper darkness, because they received more graces from God and abused them.
God gives His grace to everyone, but He gives it especially to the humble. Saint Peter says, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.14 Let us ask for the grace of God with humility. Without Me – without My grace – you can do nothing.15 This is precisely what today’s Gospel teaches us. Our Lord says to Peter, Put out into the deep, and lower your nets for a catch. Simon Peter answers, Master, the whole night through we have toiled and have taken nothing, but at Your word I will lower the net.16
The Apostles had fished in the dark all night long without catching anything. This is the image of all our initiatives – sometimes even good ones – enterprises without the light of God. There are so many human enterprises inspired by a lot of self love! We think we are prompted by the Holy Spirit, but it is not always what God is expecting of us. Outside of His Will, these projects are doomed to fail.
The next day, at the Master’s word, the Apostles caught such a great quantity of fish that their net was breaking. And they beckoned to their comrades in the other boat to come and help them. This is the image of activities in conformity with the Will of God. When we obey God, He grants us His divine blessing. Do not forget it.
We must obey the commandments of God, the Holy Gospel, our Rule, everything that is asked of us by our superiors. You may say to me, “My faith is not great enough.” Let us make acts of faith: “My God, I believe that it is Your Holy Will for me to do such and such a thing that is asked of me. I want to believe it, my God. I beseech You, give me the grace of faith. I believe, but increase my faith.” Our Lord commands us to pray without ceasing.17
Saint Alphonsus Liguori says, “He who prays is saved; he who does not pray is damned.” He is adamant. We need God’s grace, and grace comes through prayer and humility. It is already an act of humility to pray. The humble soul knows that he needs divine help, while the proud soul thinks he can manage all by himself.
Let us be prayerful souls so that we may become what God expects of us and relish the joy promised His true servants. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, and of the Mother of God. Amen.
Sermon by Father John of the Trinity,
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – June 30, 1968
1(Fr. John Nicholas Grou, s.j., L’École de Jésus-Christ – The School of Jesus Christ (Société Saint-Augustin: Lille, 1884), Vol. I, pp. 261-262.)
2Psalm 26:1-3 – Introit of the Mass of the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost.
3Isaiah 48:22; 57:21.
5St. Matthew 11:30.
6St. John 14:6.
7St. Paul, Romans 8:28.
8Melanie Calvat, Shepherdess of La Salette, The Apparition of the Most Blessed Virgin on the Mountain of La Salette, September 19, 1846 (Magnificat: St. Jovite, 1989), p. 19.
9I St. John 4:16.
10St. Paul, II Corinthians 7:4.
11St. Paul, Hebrews 10:38.
12St. Paul, Romans 8:18.
13St. Mark 9:17.
14I St. Peter 5:5.
15St. John 15:5.
16St. Luke 5:1-11.
17Cf. St. Luke 18:1.
O my Saviour! It is my fault if until now I have not had this experience. Does a Master such as You deserve to be served out of fear? Should He even be served out of interest? With all that You deserve and all that You have done for me, can I not give myself entirely in Your service out of love and gratitude? Should I be surprised that a yoke I do not love seems hard to me, and that a burden I carry only with reluctance overwhelms me?
Change my attitude, O God! Substitute love for fear; purify and perfect my hope with the fire of charity; broaden my heart, which self-love has always kept narrow. Then, the more I am burdened, the faster I shall run in the way of Your commandments;18 the more I shall rejoice in the happiness of being subjected to Your yoke. All is possible, all is easy, all is sweet for love. I know it; I have experienced it with creatures; grant me the grace to experience it with You. Amen!
Fr. John Nicholas Grou, s.j.
* * * * * * * *
It is sweet not to have to moan under the slavery of sin, nor suffer the cruel remorse that follows it; to be safe from the terrors of the other life which so alarm a guilty conscience; to enjoy the peace and security of innocence; to bear the consoling testimony that not in vain does one strive to please God, and to nurture the hope of possessing Him eternally: these are the fruits of a pure and holy life. Are not all these goods shared by those who bear the yoke of the Lord, and who make it a law not to deviate from His commandments in any way?
Why then do so many Christians complain about the harshness of this yoke and the weight of this burden? It is because they are Christians in name only and by exterior profession, it is because they do not have the true spirit of Christianity and do not even know it; it is because they do not seriously undertake the practice of evangelical morality and do not lend themselves completely to grace.
To taste the sweetness of the Lord’s yoke, you must take it on completely, and take it on with good grace, without wanting to grant anything to nature. The more you diminish this burden, the more you are weighed down by what you keep; and, on the contrary, the more you are resolved not to remove anything from it, you walk with all the more ease… It is love alone that can inspire such a resolution.
Fr. John Nicholas Grou, s.j.
* * * * * * * *
Unfortunately, far from returning to God, men have rebelled against Dio benedetto: they have transgressed His holy Law, they have blasphemed His holy Name and given themselves over to all sorts of vices. Would it be surprising if He gave them harsh, merciless masters and barbaric laws whose yoke will be unbearable? We can say nothing, but we can foresee it, because God has always punished those who disobey His Law.
Bl. Melanie Calvat
* * * * * * * *
“The Heads, the leaders of the people of God have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has obscured their minds; they have become those wandering stars that the old devil will drag along with his tail in order to make them perish. God will permit the old serpent to cause divisions among rulers, in every society and in every family; people will suffer physical and moral pains; God will abandon men to themselves, and will send chastisements which will follow one another for over thirty-five years. Society is at the eve of the most terrible scourges and the greatest events; people must expect to be ruled with a rod of iron and to drink the cup of the wrath of God.”
Our Lady of La Salette
* * * * * * * *
What return can I make for all these countless favors? Oh, if only I could serve Thee all the days of my life! If only I could render Thee worthy service, even for a single day! For Thou alone art worthy of all service, honor and eternal praise.
Thou art truly my God, and I Thy poor servant, who am bound to serve with all my might, nor should I ever weary in Thy praise. This is my wish and desire; whatever is lacking in me, I pray Thee to supply.
It is a great honor and glory to serve Thee, and to despise all else for Thy sake; for great grace will be given to those who have willingly entered Thy most holy service. They will discover the sweetest consolations of the Holy Spirit, who for Thy love have renounced all the delights of the flesh. They will win true freedom of mind, those who for Thy Name’s sake have entered upon the narrow way and set aside all worldly interests.
O loving and gentle servitude of God, in which man finds true freedom and holiness! O holy subjection of the religious life which makes man pleasing to God, equal to the Angels, terrible to the devils, respectable to all the faithful! O slavery worthy of being desired and embraced forever, since it merits us the highest good and assures us eternal joy.
Imitation of Christ, Bk. III, ch. 10, nos. 4-6