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World-famous works of art hold a unique, timeless message. Homer’s Epic of Odysseus is one such work. The ancient hero seeks his way to Ithaca, where his beloved wife Penelope awaits him. Along the way, he is to pass by an island where beautiful and seductive sirens live. They lure sailors with their singing, who reach dangerous places, are shipwrecked, and perish. Ulysses wants to hear them but doesn’t want to be wrecked. He puts wax on the sailors’ ears, so they can’t listen to them, and he chains himself to the mast of the ship. So, he resists the seduction and saves himself.
It’s a genuinely timeless message. It expresses every man’s situation. He would enjoy as much beauty and happiness as possible, but he would not like to be shipwrecked! But humanity has failed and is failing. Man has fallen for the sirens (seductions). Therefore, the prophet Ezekiel already says in the name of God, “I will take care of my sheep and deliver them from wherever they have scattered to in cloudy and misty times. St. Paul also describes how God gave us: Christ died at the appointed time for the wicked while we were helpless.
So, Jesus became the Good Shepherd for us and rejoiced in man’s salvation: there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than ninety-nine righteous who need no repentance. Man desires happiness (pleasurable experiences). The question is whether what he chooses is true happiness. An alcoholic – does he choose happiness? He does believe that it will bring him joy.
I knew intelligent ladies in one parish who were a terror to business people. The salespeople are on the highest alert when they come into the shop. They steal. They are delighted when they get something illegally. Shame, shame, shame… They’re not deterred by the fact that they sometimes get taken away by the police. We see it with young people, too – how they get carried away by the passions of sensuality and spoil their lives. And now we see it in the elderly too, who should be wise enough by now. They break their lives in open relationships, grow old and then feel empty and alone. The common denominator of their unhappiness – they get swept away by the sirens. To resist, one must chain oneself to something more substantial, like Odysseus to the mast. Man chooses by attraction. If the sirens had been more attractive to Ulysses, he would not have returned to Penelope. Man chooses more beautiful things. An offer from God – the heart of Jesus. What is the attraction? In the interest of love. Man sadly often does not perceive it.
Man cannot choose by attraction. Chinese folk wisdom says: Only a dead fish swims downstream. Fish – like other animals, go upstream driven by instinct and instinct, which they have received through nature from the Creator. Man has a reason and will, and these forces must carry him through the attraction of the sirens. Man, through reason and will, is supposed to be able to resist the forces that pull him downstream. These things are indeed from God, but man is not to remain with them and forget the Giver, the Creator. For the gift does not see the Giver. Lust is thus greater than man’s reason and will. Man wants both to hear the sirens and to return. He does not resist, and so he goes to perdition. The greatness of God is that He seeks man.
Let us not forget that there is the attraction of God’s love, His Heart! In the prayer for the Year of Mercy, your gaze of love freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from the bondage of money; the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in creation; moved Peter to tears after his betrayal, and secured paradise for the repentant thief. Twenty years ago, when I was in Bratislava, we had Sunday evening Masses for the youth. They were the most popular because there were youth choirs and dialogical sermons. When asked why he believed and liked God most, one student replied: What fascinates me about God is his mercy. At the time, none of us knew there would be a Pope Francis and a Year of Mercy.
As you can see, there is nothing new under the sun. The Solemnity of the Sacred Heart shows us that God has been presenting Himself to us for centuries as the Merciful Father. And today’s readings show that it is not centuries, but millennia! Like Ulysses, every age has a choice before it. When Judah, having conquered the Promised Land, said to his people: I offer you life or death, good or evil. Choose the Lord, that you may live long.
In the famous book Salvation History, we read an excerpt from the Diary of a Priest: In the evening, truck park in front of the rectory. The driver rings the bell and asks if there is a Mass. When the priest tells him it is already morning, he timidly asks if he could receive Holy Communion. Seeing how genuinely manly he was in receiving the Lord and giving him the blessing, I realized that he should have given me the gift – the priest said. This driver understood what he had to attach himself to in order not to fail.
Patience is a kind of Christian courage. More accessible, evil is more easily fought, sin is more easily overcome, and corruption is more difficult to endure. It is not ideal. We know how obtuse passivity to evil causes evil to take root and become entrenched. Patients quickly become a cloak for weakness and laziness. Many things can and should be corrected instead of “patiently” endured! It is said that the sluggard will rather sleep patiently on a poorly made bed rather than climb down and fix it.
And yet, there are evils in the world that cannot be removed. To fight against it would be to beat one’s head unwisely against the wall. It is above all disease and accidents. I have a toothache; I will not put off the matter, but will go to the dentist as soon as possible. However, I can prevent neither I nor he from being uncomfortable with drilling or tearing a diseased tooth.
Patience, then, is a virtue that teaches me to bear calmly the evils which I cannot remove. This attitude is reasonable but requires a kind of surrender, a submission, even if uncased. There are moments in a war where the only reasonable way out is to go into captivity. And yet, there are men who even here prefer to choose death rather than surrender. We even admire them for it. If patience is a positive virtue, it cannot be merely a kind of unreasonable surrender but must have a more profound meaning.
The ancient Stoics tried to uncover this meaning. For them, nothing is more desirable than inner peace. The constitutional struggle against evil causes restlessness and, thus, ultimately, a greater evil. “They have broken your jar of oil, they have spilled your wine,” he writes the ancient Stoic, “say, “So much money is my peace worth!”
Even modern people admire patience. Boys read Indian stories in which the heroes don’t move an eye, though they’re tied to a stake. They like to repeat the Cossack saying: “Patience, Cossack, you will be an ataman!” I to the Scout’s decorator “A Scout laughs and whistles in his “A scout is a scout in all troubles.”
Indeed, this reason for patients is insufficient for the Christian who reads the words in the Gospel: Whoever will follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me (Mt 16:24). In daily life, we endure freely and patiently; we suffer many hardships. The student voluntarily studies all night before an examination. After the exams, he patiently takes uncomfortable travel on a crowded train to get to his vacation. To guide these and similar patients to perfection, we must bear the cross “for Christ” with genuine intent, in a religious spirit, to give them a Christian filling.
Gaudier defines the Christian attitude thus: ‘Patience is a virtue. Its aim is not only to alleviate but to put to rest the sadness and mental anguish that seizes us in the difficulties that overwhelm us. We, therefore, endure firmly and magnanimously any adversity. At the same time, God permits it, and we do not falter in the pursuit of perfection, nor neglect our duties, but are guided by sound judgment and the will of God.” God will send sickness and bodily pain to patients with ourselves and our neighbors. We will meet with setbacks in our studies, work, family, and intercourse with people. It is easy to tell ourselves that this or that does not concern us. In close contact, other people’s shortcomings usually sting more than our own. They can just make ridiculous mistakes.
St. Teresa of Jesus, saint, yet she confessed how hard it was for her to endure the rattling of the rosary or the splashing of water in the washing. She knew well that it was not so much the faults of others as her hypersensitivity. In the spiritual life, we quickly lose patience when we see the memories of life keep coming back to us, that we have left behind, bad ideas, how we keep falling into the same mistakes. Strong temptations sometimes return with such intensity that it seems we must succumb to them at any moment. Scruples and inconsolably seeming purposelessness of life can be cured in no other way than by honest and sincere patience.
The so-called angelic virtue also requires much patience for sexual purity. That someone chooses to live a pure life doesn’t mean that the fantasies and evil affections stop. Even great saints have had to endure them after years of ascetic life. Similarly, with other evil inclinations. Keeping dogs on a leash can get tiresome after a while. But there is no other solution if they can’t be tamed. Lacking patience with the faults of a fellow man, families are broken up, societies and associations are broken up, even religious ones. If a new movement arises, it is usually astonished by the enthusiasm of its followers and youthful strength and interest. The trying times, however, come a little later, when the first zeal cools.
He must be patient and would have success among the youth. Patience, however, is also required by the older adults, the old institutions, and obsolete forms of life. Enthusiastic radicals would
..would like to demolish, rebuild, and transform everything at once.
The parable of the Gospel counsels prudence, not to pick and choose
the tares before the wheat is fully ripe (cf. Mt 13:30). Immature novelty often destroys even the good that was there before. A Dutch proverb wittily says: “Do not pour out hastily out of the bath with the baby!”
Patience is said to be a virtue of the saints. It is not severely said. The holiness of movements and persons is tested by patience. Then it will be seen whether it was genuine. That is why, in biographies of saints, they usually keep dwelling on those moments when their patience was most evident. Of St. Remigius, we read that he warmed himself with laughter, his hands on the fire when the entire grain supply burned up in case of hunger. Not a wink of his eye did St. Bernard betray his displeasure when his entire collection of money was stolen to build a new monastery. Over and over again, this theme is returned to Flowers of St. Francis. From Scripture, it will forever remain an example of patience Job with his winged utterance (1,21): naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and nude I shall return. The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!
The greatest among those born of woman
Today we celebrate the solemnity of the birth of St. John the Baptist. This forerunner of the Lord is the only person, after the Virgin Mary, whose birth is celebrated by the Church in her liturgy. Perhaps because the faith of those two was put to the most significant test. Mary was to give birth to her only-begotten Son, the God-man Jesus Christ; John the Baptist was to baptize and announce Him. Both faithfully fulfilled their mission and then humbly receded into the background.
No religious figure influenced his time as John the Baptist did. The Lord Jesus Himself confirms this to us, for He calls John the greatest among those born of women. In the person of St. John the Baptist, the first order of salvation – the Old Testament – comes to a close and culminates. And at the same time, John is the first witness, the signpost of the new order of salvation – the New Testament.
The Eastern Church venerates Jesus’ predecessor John the Baptist, and the Mother of Jesus – the Most Holy Theotokos Mary, as the greatest of men. Their faith was put to the most significant test, and they showed the most profound humility. That those trials were burdensome to the edge of human endurance is evidenced by John the Baptist’s anguish in prison: “Are you the one who is to come? Are you the Messiah? Are you the Messiah if you leave me – your preacher – to rot in prison? “Just as Mary’s motherhood remains a mystery, so too does the fate of the Lord’s forerunner, St. John the Baptist, remain mysterious.
Someone wise called John the forerunner of our uncertainty. How are we to understand this? Let us realize that we, too, are still tempted by John’s doubts: if you, Lord Jesus, are indeed the Messiah, if our world is already redeemed, why is it not visible in the world? Why don’t you finally put an end to the scoundrels, the Bolsheviks, and the latter-day Pharisees? Those wicked husks of men do not fly in your mind; not only do they not burn in your fire, but they often seem to do better than we – your faithful ones!
We, too, are still tempted by John’s religious radicalism. We, too, are still tempted by the desire for a God who hurls lightning bolts at our enemies, the wicked. But to the mind of God, this idea of ours is very far from our minds. Christ the Lord did not come to present His heavenly Father as the destroyer of all sinners but as a merciful and loving Father.
On today’s Solemnity of St. John the Baptist, we are aware of one more remarkable fact. John the Baptist is certainly not one of those fawning and tender figures of saints, surrounded by roses and lilies, as the nineteenth century revealed in them, and some revel in them today. Everything about this man is rough and boyish. His speech is lapidary and austere; his demands are radical. He understands he has been sent from God and is a prophet of God. He is aware that he is to fulfill the role of a herald-a herald of the coming Redeemer.
Let us remember how significant the difference is between the end and the beginning of John’s life. How wonderful, how auspicious was the time of his birth. How astonished, they all said to each other: What will become of this child? For the Lord’s hand is with him! How the boy grows, and his spirit grows strong! Very eloquent is also his name, “Jochanan,” which in Hebrew means “God is gracious.” “God is gracious.” However, at times in his life, it must have been difficult for John to believe in the goodness of God. Like us today, he was surrounded by so much wickedness, so many wicked people. Like us, he had to learn again and again to trust in God’s goodness when he encountered a good person – Christ the Lord.
And what is the highlight of the life of St. John the Baptist? It is in the knowledge that he – Jesus – must grow, I must diminish, fade away. John the Baptist did not keep his disciples either. He sent them all to the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God. Until his death, he persevered in preaching repentance, reformation, and conversion. This repentance of John was easy then, and it is not easy today. It is not just a matter of changing outward habits. It is a change of mindset and, on that basis, a reformation of the whole of life. John the Baptist preached this repentant reformation of mind all his life – and experienced it again painfully himself at the end of his life in prison when he had to accept the Messiah as he was – and, in so doing, had to abandon his idea of himself.
A wise and experienced priest once told me the following story: ‘When I was a boy, our annual birthday celebrations included measuring the height of the birthday boy at the door. With the whole family present, my mother estimated how much the birthday boy had grown since his last birthday. And Mom always knew to add words about other, more critical growth. About growth spiritually, about growth toward better behavior. I wish they all had such a wise mother! “- The priest ended his story.
And this is the heart of the conversion that St. John the Baptist proclaimed. It is about always reforming one’s life; it is about inner, personal growth – always for the better. Conversion does not mean a reversal, a blip, a once and for all. So it is perhaps only a decision to correct. Making that decision, giving up all kinds of bad habits, and acclimatizing virtues to good habits take a long time! It takes practically a lifetime. This is the continuous realization of John’s life program: Jesus must grow in me, and I must decrease and continually wipe out my pride and selfishness.
The Lord Jesus is still coming to us. The Lord Jesus is still announced, but many times still unknown. He is still hidden in the word of the Gospel, in a tiny gesture of love, in the sign of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. We still have time to learn to live in love. We still have time to overcome our insecurities and doubts with Saint John the Baptist. We still have time to learn to trust fully in the Lord Jesus so that one day He can usher us into eternal life where there will be no more weeping, and we will rejoice with St. John the Baptist forever and ever.
From its beginning, the Church has had to fight against wicked, erroneous, even insidious, and subtle attacks against the purity of the teachings of the Lord Jesus. These have been the errors of the Nestorians, the Monophysites, the Arians, Americanism in our time, and the Jehovah’s Witness movement. The Lord Jesus, in His omnipotence, foresaw and therefore prepared not only the apostles but us for it.
That is why this Gospel is not losing its relevance, and we must reflect on it. The Lord Jesus says. “Beware of false prophets: they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits…” (Mt. 7:15-16).
With these words of the Lord Jesus, Matthew wants to warn us about Christian preachers of the Gospel who misrepresent them to us. They seem, and so they pretend, to belong to the community of Christ – the flock, they look like sheep, but in reality, they are ravening wolves. That’s because they are not proclaiming the message of the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus warns us that we must not be flippant in accepting doctrine just because it sounds religious, is pleasing to women, or mentions the name of God or the Lord Jesus. On the contrary, we must be vigilant because not everyone who flaunts the doctrine of Christ and salvation is a proclaimer of Christ because he does not mediate salvation.
We are witnessing magazines being published in foreign countries that are being spread even among our believers, which often do more harm than good. Believers enjoy them simply because they mention the name of Jesus and write the word of God, yet it is poison to the soul of the believing reader. Alternatively, books with a religious tinge are published in our country. Yet, a somewhat knowledgeable Christian finds after the first few pages that it is a fraud, a deliberately planned mockery of the faith, or for weak Christians, for those who are looking for a way to God, such books show a wrong, erroneous attitude towards belief in God.
Among such books are those published by Zenon Kosidowski, What the Prophets Told and What the Evangelists Told. Frankly, it’s rubbish, a pity to give some euros to them…
Therefore, believers must be careful in selecting books and judging them. The words of the Lord Jesus that “by their fruits, ye shall know them” are especially true here. This is a sure distinguishing mark. During the Second Vatican Council, the Church abolished the so-called Index of Forbidden Books and gave the faithful freedom to select literature, etc. But the Church lays it on our hearts to feel responsible for what we read.
We can speak on the subject – you know them by their fruits – in sessions, talks and the like.
Today, we have to realize that where the Church does not officially stand, where lay people speak about religion in our country without the bishop’s approval, there we are in danger of what the Gospel warns us about. Many of you have told me on more than one occasion that what they have heard has made them angry or offended them over The Cross in the Snares of Power series. The older ones who remember something know that 90 percent of it is a lie. And the younger ones need to realize that editing and dubbing can work a modern miracle. That is to say, to shake things up, and assemble items in a way that suits them; figuratively speaking, they can make an angel into a devil.
We, believers, are not forbidden to watch this. Nor do we need to get upset about it, but on the contrary, we are therefore to study more, ask questions, or even invoke discussion at the appropriate level, where texts will not be censored and what is to be said will not be ordered in advance.
We know that all of them, even the deluded ones of today, we’re proud, full of hatred, and two-faced. They wanted to reform others and forgot themselves. We must learn to persevere even in humility about faithfulness to Christ. The old motto says: “Truth will prevail! Every error shall perish.
There is much anger among us. Setting a bad example, soliciting sin, and failing to punish sin reflect poorly on those around us and robs us of grace.
The Gospel passage warns us of this: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot and turn against you and tear you to pieces” (Mt. 7:6).
Every believer must be aware that the gifts he has received from God – reason and free will – are meant to help him discern. We are all called to proclaim the Gospel. This means that we are responsible for it our surroundings. What is needed is not only words but, above all, examples. Our approach to fulfilling the obligations imposed on us by our faith is like an open book for unbelievers.
They, too, know the words: “Verba movent, exempla trahunt”! – “Words move, but examples attract”!
Therefore, let us remember what the Lord Jesus means by the simile of the pearls and the swine. It was known to the Jews that what was sacrificed in the temple did not belong elsewhere. For example, meat from sacrifices to dogs or swine was not allowed to be thrown. From this, we can deduce the following: Just as it was useless to give unclean pigs inedible pearls for food, there is no point in presenting the truth to people who are not ready for it or have no desire or willingness to accept it. He who proclaims the pure must not pollute it, allow it to be contaminated. For if the gospel preacher were to proclaim the teachings of the Lord Jesus exaggeratedly and thoughtlessly, he would do more harm than good.
Holy things are the truths of faith and all the means of grace the apostles received for the good of the faithful. Therefore, they are not to be bestowed unnecessarily on people who would only make a mockery of them or would somehow bring them into contempt. Perhaps this place also gave rise to the fact that the Church has from time immemorial hidden sacred things from the Gentiles.
What follows is the so-called Golden Rule of love of neighbor, which shows without long paragraphs what lies at the heart of the Christian attitude towards other people: whatever you want people to do to you, do also to them.
We talked about how just as we can forgive others, we should expect others to forgive us. That is the charge of biblical morality. True love for God is proven precisely by love for our neighbor.
The Gospel passage ends with the appeal that whoever follows Christ should not follow the way of the masses. The Lord Jesus explained this with the symbolic simile of the two gates. The wide gate through which the masses pass who reject the words and teachings of the Lord Jesus, or do not take his truths seriously, leads to damnation. From this group, the believer must break out, step out even though it is difficult when there are many enticements, such as stating that ro is what the majority does, that it is not so bad, and so on.
The Christian must pass through the other gate, the narrow one that leads to eternal life.
The Lord Jesus means to emphasize another of The lessons that He had previously expressed. Only by the narrow way can one pass into eternal life. The young man could not renounce his riches. The Pharisees of their pride. Herod and Herodias, each other. So, these did not go through the narrow gate. Through it, we see John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, and Joseph going, doing the will of God, doing what God requires of them.
From the Gospel, it follows for us to be aware of our duty as Christians, disciples, and confessors, to proclaim our faith in its purity, to protect it from the accretions of that which has nothing to do with religion, that which devalues faith. At the same time, the text of the Gospel warns us that in life, it is difficult to proclaim the Gospel, that is, to go through the narrow gate. But we know from the teaching of the Lord Jesus that this too has meaning and significance.
The text leads us to reflect on ourselves. The questions are offered and await an answer: what path am I following? Is it comfortable and wide, or is it narrow? Yes, we realize that it is not what we like, what is more comfortable, that matters, but what is more beneficial to us. And because we want to praise God and see the meaning of our lives not only here on earth, we understand this gospel as a signpost, a pointer, or possible guidance or correction on our life’s journey, that we want to align our direction with what the Lord Jesus requires of a disciple of Christ.
Let us remove the offense from our ranks! A frequent and thorough examination of our conscience will always help us refine our relationship with Jesus and thus walk more fully and confidently into eternity.