Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart
Friday of the 28th Week in Ordinary Time
Knights of Columbus Board Meeting
October 8, 2021
Ignore Warnings at Your Peril
Perhaps you have been in a public building when the fire alarm went off. Usually, we think that it is either a false alarm or a fire drill, but not an actual fire. Yet, such an attitude can be dangerous, even fatal. Year ago, I was in a hotel when the fire alarm sounded, and to my peril, I ignored it. An annoyed firefighter knocked at my door and ordered me downstairs where I joined my nonplussed fellow residents on the street. That fire alarm was for real.
So also is the warning that the prophet Joel delivered to us this morning! After calling the people to don sackcloth and to forsake food and drink, Joel utters these disquieting words: “Alas, the day! For near is the day of the Lord, and it comes as ruin from the Almighty.” That doesn’t exactly sound like “chicken soup for the soul”, does it? Hearing such a dire warning, we might say to ourselves, “Joel meant that only for the people of his own day, not for us” – or – “That warning was meant for people today who are involved in wickedness” – or – “The Lord has issued a wake-up call but in the end he will relent.” In these and other ways, you and I can react to the Lord’s warnings as if they were a false alarm or as if they were meant for somebody else. How easy it is for us to fall into the sin of presumption! When the Lord speaks to us in the Scriptures, he addresses each of us and all of us!
Thus, you and I need daily to examine our consciences, acknowledge our sins, and make a good and sincere Act of Contrition. As we reflect on our propensity to sin, we must recognize our personal responsibility and our weakness, and also the ways in which the deceiver, the evil one, insinuates himself in our lives. God forbid that any of us would ever be possessed by demons, like the man whom we met in this morning’s Gospel. Even so, we play into the devil’s hands when we fail to ask for deliverance from his clutches. Thus, the Lord taught us to say: “Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
“By the Finger of God”
In the Gospel, we encounter Jesus who does indeed deliver us from temptation and evil, and cleanses our hearts from sin. Our belief in the power of Jesus’ mercy is bolstered by today’s Gospel episode in which Jesus delivers a man from demonic possession. But Jesus’ miracle is almost swallowed by the space which the Evangelist Luke gives to the objections many in the crowd raised against Jesus and his miraculous powers. They claimed that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebul, prince of demons. We need to take that claim seriously because again today such claims are raised. Secular culture tells us that religion is a bad thing, an oppressive force, and that the very remedies that our soul needs are things we should reject. These secularists urge us to ignore the warning signals our consciences give. They would deter spiritual firefighters from ever arriving on the scene.
Jesus handily refuted the objections raised against him, and in so doing, he strengthens us against the false claims against religion today. It is as if the Lord himself is urging us to make use of the remedy he provided for us when he said to the Apostles, “Whose sins you shall forgive, are forgiven.” How convinced we must be of the power and goodness of the sacraments! In the Sacrament of Penance, e.g., Jesus frees us of sin by “the finger of God”, that is, by the Holy Spirit, and he does this no less than when he walked the earth. This is how our souls are swept clean. I find that making a general confession once a year is a good way of submitting myself to the Lord in both candor and contrition. A priest friend of mine says that, after he has makes a general confession, he comes out feeling “squeaky clean” … and I’ll admit it’s a pretty good feeling!
But it doesn’t last long, apropos of the Lord’s teaching at the end of the Gospel. There Jesus gives us another warning, namely, that forgiveness of sin is not enough. Once our inner room, our soul has been swept clean, the devil and his minions are only too happy to move in again and dirty things up! Thus, a clean soul is not yet enough.
Abyss of Charity
This brings us to the Collect of today’s Mass, a Votive Mass of the Sacred Heart, where we prayed, “Clothe us, Lord God, with the virtues of the heart of your Son, and set us aflame with your love, that conformed to his image, we may merit a share in eternal redemption.”
In other words, we are asking the Father to send the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts the love of God, the redeeming love flowing from the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which spiritual writers describe as the “abyss of God’s love”, its bottomless well. After our hearts have been swept clean of sin, we need in short order to open them to the open heart of the Savior, by daily Mass whenever possible, Eucharistic Adoration, Lectio Divina, and simply by quiet conversation with the Lord, that precious time when we allow Jesus’ Sacred Heart to speak to our hearts. The charity of Christ also increases in us when we extend ourselves in charity, giving not only of our time, talent, and resources, but indeed of our very selves to those who cannot repay us “measure for measure”.
Our founder and patron, Blessed Michael McGivney, understood this well. As a parish priest, he was a man of penance and prayer and spent himself tirelessly for his parishioners and his fledgling Order. This priest, who welcomed the Lord’s cleansing mercy into his own soul, now extends that cleansing mercy to us and helps us to open our hearts to the only love that can fill the void at the depth of our being – and teaches us how to increase that love in ourselves by practicing with ardor the first principle of the Order, namely, charity. Through Blessed Michael McGivney’s intercession, may we be free of sin and filled with the charity of the heart of Christ who lives and reigns forever and ever! Amen! Vivat Jesus!