We enter the third week of Lent. It’s about now that we might begin to slow down, so let me encourage you to maintain your speed, even to throttle up gradually as we approach Easter. If you haven’t committed your resolutions to paper, write them out. Read what you have written early (before breakfast) and often. Next week is Laetare Sunday, and we want to have something to rejoice about. We want to have felt the surge of heart during those quick daily visits to the chapel, the intensity of praying the stations lean with hunger, the joy of giving ourselves to others. So let’s make this next week a good one
Jesus was casting out a demon that was gagging a man’s speech. Imagine the possessed man struggling to speak—gagging, drooling, choking, convulsing. Jesus liberates the man’s speech, and no one could deny Christ’s power. Most rejoiced in it, but some, rather than admit that Jesus was Messiah, attributed his power to Satan. They charge Jesus with collaborating Beelzebul, the Philistine Lord of the Flies. So Jesus states the obvious: how can Satan be divided against himself? But beyond this contradiction, Jesus declares his power greater than that of Satan. “When a strong man fully armed (Satan) guards his palace (a soul given over to him), his goods are secure. But when a stronger man assails and overcomes him, he claims those goods. Jesus is that stronger man, who has assailed the devil in the possessed man, and claimed that man’s soul for his own. Even if people do not want to recognize it, Jesus has conquered and from now on no one can adopt a position of neutrality. “He who is not with me is against me.”
Two Ways: for me or against me
There are only two positions a man can take: for Christ, or against Christ. If you do not gather with him, you scatter. We can have no truck with the world, the flesh, or the devil; we cannot be friends with both God and Mammon. And so St. Paul excoriates Christians who try to have it both ways. “Immorality (the Latin is fornicatio) or any impurity must not even be mentioned among you.” Friends, we are men of unclean lips living among a people of unclean lips. How often do we not only mention impurity but imbibe it in movies and TV programs, in books, magazines, and websites, in conversations and discussions? Most TAC students do their work-study or exercise with earphones in. If any of us are listening to dirty music, base music, evil music, then now is the time to purge this impurity. It is hard to avoid the impurity of our age, but not impossible. No obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, Paul says. In place of these banalities: thanksgiving. Live as children of the light, he says, because if you don’t, you live as children of darkness, subjects of the Lord of the Flies.
Purifying the Filth
The Conclave to elect a new pope will begin soon. The filth of the world, in the words of our Pope-emeritus Benedict, runs through the Church. It seems to me that the next pope must not only defend the Church against the secularism battering her from the outside. He must reform and purify her from the inside. It is not enough for bishops today to simply maintain the faith—every bishop today must be a reforming bishop. It is not enough to be a good priest today—priests must roll up their sleeves and purify filth from the Church, beginning with our own souls. It is not enough for laypeople to be good Catholics—you must be saints. We must all refuse to touch, or look at, or speak of, the world’s filth. Our Lady will show us the way. “Blessed is the womb that bore you,” cried a lady in the crowd. “Blessed rather,” Jesus pointed out, “Blessed she who has heard the word of God and kept it.” Our Lady replied to the angel, Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum,” and never renounced that vow. She will help us keep our vows, because she is the Immaculata, the all-pure one. She will help us to keep a good and holy Lent.