Posted by: Thomas Richard | April 7, 2021

The Way of the Cross – Easier Than the Impossible Alternative

“If a man is not a socialist at age 20, he has no heart; if he is not a conservative by age 40, he has no head.”  This interesting generalization has been attributed as a paraphrase of Winston Churchill.  Scholars reject this, finding older sayings having the same general idea, phrased one way or another to fit the language of their time and culture.  But there is a basic truth, I believe, in the notion at the heart of this:  unworkable ideologies ought to give way, in the human heart, to realistic wisdom – in time, and in maturity.

I heard another quotable common proverb once, relevant to this topic, that goes like this: “Some people never outgrow stupid.”  That’s pretty harsh – even flippant – but it does fit an observation of some very wise spiritual authorities in the Church, concerning the tragic abandonment of our intended vocation in Christ, by many.  He calls us to seek and to find even to the fulfillment of truth, wisdom, and most crucially of holy love (divine Charity).  Yes, sadly – tragically –  many men and women fail to seek, and to persevere earnestly in seeking that life in Christ that He came and gave His all, to give to us.  St. Paul found it, and pointed us to what should be the conscious goal of us all: maturity in Christ.  Seeking with prudence, we are called to persevere: 

… until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ… (Eph 4:13 )

Yes this is our vocation!  Maturity in Christ!  It may not be commonly attained, in this life, but it is our vocation – and His grace is sufficient, if we will but remain, and grow, in Him.

The Way of the Retarded Soul

This falling by the wayside, on the path to spiritual fulfillment, has been called the fall of a “retarded soul.”  The Lord intends, with His grace, that we grow in the life of Christ!  But many give up the ascent into Him, rather than progressing in the spiritual life from a beginning in spiritual childhood, into (with God’s grace) a spiritual adolescence, and continuing (with God’s grace) into a spiritual maturity.  Many others do occasionally “fall back,” then repent, stand up, recover, and begin again, earnestly striving to keep faith and grow!  This would be noble, and meritorious.  This, we remember, St Peter himself did several times in Scripture. Jesus foretold him of this, as the Cross and Peter’s great personal trial drew near: 

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”  He said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me.” (Lk 22:31-34)

But a definitive and grave “falling by the wayside” is something else.  It may begin as an impossible compromise that the Christian makes, a compromise of the call of Christ and the call of this godless world.  This Christian does not want to abandon God or the world!  He wants them both.  He wants to keep on good terms with both, rejecting neither, offending neither, rocking no boats nor burning any bridges nor turning his back on either God or mammon.  But such two loves cannot co-exist.  With these there is and can be no compromise.  There is no “half-way” between hell and heaven, nor between righteousness and evil.  There can be, and is, on the journey in this world to and into Christ, a journey of increasing purity of love, and firm rejection – purgation – of what is unclean, impure, unholy, evil.  Both may exist in the soul, in this journey – temporarily! – but there can be no enduring compromise, no toleration, only patient and resolute struggle in what is a war between good and evil, as God gives us the light to see and judge the darkness and overcome it in His grace.

No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Luke 16:13)

The truth of the above passage can be more like a brick wall blocking the road, than a mild “Warning”, or a stronger “Stop!” sign.  Contradictions cannot coexist!  Sadly, hypocrisy can “coexist”, at least for a while, and for the lovers of this world, hypocrisy does seem to solve the “religion problem.”  Religious hypocrisy – as if God cannot spot a liar a mile away! – is a preferred “solution” to the crisis brought by the actual teachings of Christ: “You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Such a person can fall, then, away from the way of the Cross – and Life – and in fact choose the self-gratifying love of the things of this world even to the actual rejection and contempt of God.  He may keep up appearances in Church and with his church friends.  He may not admit this interior choice even to himself.  But cloaked in religious hypocrisy and pretense, he has chosen to abandon the path of struggle and ascent, instead to float downstream in self-satisfactions and temporal delights.  This is the way of the retarded soul.

Having rejected God in his heart, he has opened himself to all the lies, the duplicity, the absurdities and insanities of satan.  He has no problem redefining marriage to whatever today’s culture declares to be good. He has no problem redefining “gender” to be whatever the person decides in his inner sense.  “Who am I to judge another?”  Any absolute imposition by an irrelevant “god” (or biology!) is of no significance – we can remake and redefine ourselves, our “partners,” our personal “truth”.  Since there is no “god” there are no absolutes or imperatives, except what the awakened and modern community decides.  Hence, they proclaim, we are free.  This is the way of modern, godless man free of foundation or anchor, free of root, transforming light or living water; his way is death.  This is the way of the retarded soul: seeking himself, he has found slavery, seeking himself, he is an easy victim of the liar and the father of lies.

When such a person takes leadership in government, he works toward only more government: more control and power over others, and more comfort and prestige for himself.  In his mind it is just and reasonable that he lead and control and rule over others!  Any who believe that they don’t need his rule only prove his point: they are incompetent and unintelligent (“the deplorables”); he was born to lead; they, to serve.  This is the professional politician: he rules for the love of ruling.  

When such a person is religious, his ambitions and goals are directed into the world of religion.  If and when he gains for himself a leadership position – and thus power – in a church, he works and plans for more power, comfort for himself and control over others.  He also “rules for the love of ruling.”  This of course merits the just judgments of Christ upon the “scribes, Pharisees and hypocrites” of His day.  This is the “clericalist,” the “professional religionist,” of our day.

Mt 23:4  They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger.
Mt 23:5  They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,
Mt 23:6  and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues.
Mt 23:13  But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.
Mt 23:15  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you traverse sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.

To Conclude: Seek Righteousness While it is Day…

I say all this as a warning, because many false teachers have gone out among us.  Do not follow those who know not where they are, or where they are going.  “Let them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Mt 15:14)  Do not be led by those who are not themselves being led by the Lord, the Teacher of Truth, the Holy Spirit.  I conclude with words of St. John, which must be heard prayerfully, carefully, deeply:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already.
Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them.
We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 Jn 4:1-6)


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for this blog message, so sorely needed in the Church and throughout the world. How few are truly listening as our Mother Mary did, to all Jesus said and did! How few remain in His Word, pondering all in their hearts as Mary did — and doing the Truth heard from Him — as Mary did!

    John stood at the foot of Jesus’ Cross and heard those precious words from Jesus to him and to us all: “Son, Behold your Mother”. Pope St. John Paul II spoke these words: “…When one moves away from the Mother, sooner or later he ends up keeping distant from the Son as well…” A crisis of faith continues.

    The Beloved Disciple John obeyed Jesus and took Mary into his Life. Like Mary, John did the Truth he heard from God and continued to remain in His Word. He wrote the Truth he heard in his first letter, as you quoted it:

    “We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 Jn 4:1-6)

  2. Thomas, this is a sobering and true blog entry. Test the spirits. Listen for the voice of God. Strive to be holy while it is still day. Behold our Mother Mary. She will always point to Jesus.

  3. Thomas. Thank you for this blog with such a powerful message. I agree that there are so many out there who say they are are faithful to Catholic religion
    but do not exhibit that in their chosen leadership role and life.
    Barbara


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