Sunday, July 15, 2012

Looks Can Be Deceiving

I am reading a book at the moment entitled "End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life" by Fr. Charles Arminjon and published in the 1880's.  St. Therese of Liseux read this book when she was 14 years old and said that it changed her life.  The first section of the book deals with the end of the world and the Anti Christ.  The next section deals with the resurrection of the body.  At one point, Fr. Arminjon discusses our inability to judge one another, and that we are often misled by each other.  From the book:
Most men, even the wisest and most enlightened, are easily outwitted and deceived by others. They do not discern the innermost depths of souls, and cannot reach what is secret and interior in them; hence, it happens that they generally form their judgments on appearances, on what is visible and exterior. Again, it follows that good men are often treated with undeserved severity, that they are unappreciated and injured in their reputation. On the other hand, the wickedness of a large number of men remains unknown, they everywhere enjoy public esteem and trust, and the world accords them that consideration and praise which is due to the just alone. So a judgment is necessary that exposes every pretense, unmasks all hypocrisy, and lays bare hidden ruses and all false and base virtues.

In our world today, things are often not as they seem.   Certainly that is true in movies and entertainment, where nothing is real except the heartache and misery that is the lives of far too many in that industry.  Politicians are always deceiving us, pretending to be something they're not, keeping their true nature hidden, as in the case of former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, who presented himself as a fine upstanding young man when the truth was, while he was in his congressional office, he was exchanging pornographic text messages and tweets with young women despite the fact that he was a married man.  He is only one of literally hundreds of politicians down through the decades who were not the person they presented to their constituents.  We think of President Bill Clinton and his affair with a young intern in the oval office, or Gov. Elliot Spitzer of New York who fought against "corruption" as he saw it, yet at the same time was deeply involved in using prostitutes and even using government resources to procure their services.  The list is never ending.

We are all guilty of hypocrisy to one degree or another.  It is a part of the fallen human condition.  We even lie to ourselves in refusing to look honestly at who and what we are.  That is one of the reasons why Examination of Conscience and the Sacrament of Confession are so important.  We use God's Law and the teachings of the Church as a mirror and hold this up to ourselves.  Anything in us that is not in conformity to God's Law and the teachings of the church is sin.  We do not go by the standards of what the world defines as "good", because that will lead us off the track every time.

The readings from today's Traditional Latin Mass, the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, put the fear of God into me and made me realize just how easy it is to deceive others and even ourselves as to our true spiritual condition.  We must be fighting every moment against our fallen nature and never let pride enter in.  Pride is the most poisonous spiritual weapon in Satan's arsenal.  Pride means we start looking at ourselves and saying, you know, I'm not so bad.  In fact, I'm pretty good.  Pride is the original sin of Satan when he said, "Non Serviam" (I will not serve).  Pride is saying to God, I don't need you, I can do this on my own.  We may actually fool ourselves and others into believing we are something we aren't, but we are not fooling our Creator, and someday we will have to come to terms before the throne of Christ with who and what we truly are and face the sin we refused to acknowledge during our time on this earth. 

Below is the Epistle for the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

Rom. 6 : 19-23 - Brethren: I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
To be a part of the sinful world around us means to  be in servitude to Satan.  Satan lures us in by appealing to our pride and desire to feel good about ourselves, and he will give immediate satisfaction in following him.  With Christ's way, as he told us, "narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and few there be who find it."  We must always remember the sin we came out of and the deadness of soul that we experienced before receiving the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

The gospel is Matthew 7:15-21
At that time: Jesus spake unto his disciples: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
The words that pierced my heart are "Not every one that saith until me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."  We must never assume we have it made and that we are on the sure road to heaven.  As a very wise priest once said to me, Satan is rarely in the problem.  He is almost always in the solution.  Satan doesn't care what your problem is.  His tactic is to lead you to the wrong solution, and one very wrong solution is to think that while still here on this earth, we are assured of our place in heaven.  Be always mindful of your fallen human nature, which will be with you until the day that you die.  Constantly cry out to our Lord and to our Blessed Mother to keep you on that straight and narrow path which leads to heaven.  Don't ever think for one moment that you can make it on your own strength.  As the Apostle Paul said, "Pray without ceasing."  (I Thes. 5:17)

From the Breviary Readings today:

A Homily by St. Hilary the Bishop

The Lord warneth us that we must rate the worth of flattering words and seeming meekness, by the fruits which they that manifest such things bring forth in their works ; in other words, that we should look, in order to see what a man is, not at his professions, but at his deeds. For there are many whose sheep's clothing is but a disguise of wolfish ravening. And so the Lord asketh : Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. In which words the Lord teacheth us that men are a like case ; evil men bring not forth good fruits, and hereby are we to know them. Lip-service alone winneth not the kingdom of heaven, nor is everyone that saith unto Christ, Lord, Lord, an heir thereof.

What use is there in thus calling the Lord by his title Lord? Would he not be Lord of all the same, whether or not we called him so? What holiness is there in this ascription of a name, when the true way to enter into the kingdom of heaven is to do the will of our Father, who is in heaven? Saith the Lord Christ : Many will say to me in that day : Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy Name? Already here doth the Lord rebuke the deceit of the false prophets, and the feigning of the hypocrites, who take glory to themselves because of the power of their words, or their prophesying in teaching, or their casting out of devils, or such-like mighty works.
Because of all these things they promise unto themselves the kingdom of heaven, as though in their words and works any good thing were their own and not rather the mighty working of that God upon whom they call; for it is reading that bringeth knowledge of doctrine, and the Name of Christ that driveth out devils. That which is needed on our part to win that blessed eternity, that of our own which we must give, is to will to do right, to turn away from all evil. to obey with our whole heart the commandments laid on us from heaven, and so to become the friends of God. It should be ours, rather to do God's will, than to boast of God's power. And we must put off from us, and thrust away, such as are by their wicked works already estranged from his friendship.

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