Lent is a time to renew our baptismal calling to fast from the world and to draw closer to Christ. It is a time to put aside the fool’s gold of this world and embrace the true gold of Heaven, that we may be eternally enriched.
The fact is that many of us are running headlong into sin, seeking the wealth and plaudits of the world, and forgetting that anything we can gain in this life—wealth, acclaim, popularity, or honorary titles—will avail us nothing in the end. Why are we Catholics putting stock in such empty pursuits?
St. John the Evangelist tells us, “Love not the world, nor the things which are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn 2:15). The Apostle James reminds us that “the friendship of this world is the enemy of God.” So why are we forfeiting the friendship of God just to gain the friendship of this world? Did not Christ tell us, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36)? The doctrine of Christ is that we die to the world and join Him on the Cross. This teaching is beautifully expressed by St. Paul who says, “I am nailed to the cross with Christ” (Gal 2:19). To endure the suffering of the Cross is necessary for salvation, as taught by the Savior Himself: “Whosoever does not carry his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Mt 14:27).
Christ came to deliver us from the world and to call us home to His everlasting Kingdom, but this will be done strictly through suffering. He went before us to open the way, but unless we follow Him His sacrifice avails us nothing. The way to Heaven is to strip oneself of worldly interest and to press after Christ with our crosses. Like the Apostle Paul we must “suffer the loss of all things, and count them as dung, that [we] may gain Christ” (Phil 3:8). We are called to join with Christ and to endure the rejection of the world, remembering the words of the Savior: “If the world hate you, know that it has hated Me before you” (Jn 15:18). And it is the cross of persecution that glorifies God most and procures the greatest blessings. “Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in Heaven” (Mt 5: 11, 12).
The world will reject this truth as it has for two thousand years, though this rejection has reached unparalleled heights in this last hour. Satan today is waging his final battle against the Church, and what is his plan but to undermine the Cross of Christ? And what is the Cross, but the sacrifice of Calvary planted in our midst—the Mass.
Christ underwent His sacrifice on Good Friday, but at the Last Supper He instituted this sacrifice as an ongoing event that would continue into eternity. The Mass is not a symbol or mere commemoration of Calvary, but is the actual event of Calvary, mystical and unbloody, re-enacted on the altar. Each Mass is one and the same sacrifice. The priest is merely the instrument (an alter Christus) through whom Christ perpetuates His sacrifice among us. Hence Christ has planted His death in our midst. St. Paul says that each time the priest follows the commemorative formula of Christ to elevate the bread and chalice, he shows forth “the death of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:26)—which is why the Crucifix is above the main altar in the churches, since it reminds us of what we are attending.
Why does Christ want to continually die among us? The answer is because He loves us and wants us to die with Him. St. Paul says that in our baptism we are baptized into Christ’s death. Through our baptism we take on the robes of the Passion and walk the path of mortification because we are members of His Body and are called to be one with Him. That is, we are called to die with Him: die to self and sin, die to the vanity of the world. But this will not be without reward. Those who follow Christ into death will keep their lives eternally: “Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it remains alone. But if it die, it brings forth much fruit. He that loves his life shall lose it; and he that hates his life in this world, keeps it unto eternal life” (Jn 12:24, 25).
The Mass then is Christ’s way of sanctifying His people that we may learn to die to the world and walk with Him in the holy Way of the Cross. This helps us to understand why the devil unleashes so much fury against the Cross: it is our salvation. What we have witnessed in the past fifty years is a conspiracy to discredit the Mass with change. The lewdness and body exposure of women in Church are the insulting scourges that violently beat and lacerate Our Lord’s pure body. The denials and false protestations coming forth from the pulpit are the sharp thorns which modernists drive into Our Lord’s sacred head with the mallet of intellectual pride. The excessive talking and celebrating in Church is a replay of the jeering crowd that danced around the Cross, as they celebrated the suffering of Our Lord.
The Mystical Body of Christ is truly passing through its Passion, but the followers of Christ needn’t despair because Christ has provided the remedy to conquer this temptation: the Cross itself. The Cross has been the standard of victory of the saints and martyrs throughout the ages. If there is a lesson we learn from The Passion of the Christ, it is that Jesus Christ can take a punch. When they stripped Him of His garments and cloaked Him with a purple rag, He didn’t drop dead with the first blow, but endured many hours of abuse. Likewise, when modernist innovators stripped Our Lord of His royal, liturgical garments (the Tridentine Mass) He didn’t just expire, but has continued with us, fulfilling His promise that He would remain with His Church “even to the consummation of the world” (Mt 28:20).
The faithful of all times are called to join with Christ at His Tabernacle in imitation of the Blessed Virgin and St. John who remained at the foot of the Cross amid denial, turmoil, and sacrilege. Their example sets the stage for the true apostles of the last days who are laboring to remain faithful under siege. Fleeing the Cross and hiding underground accomplishes nothing. Our calling as Christians is to openly walk “with Him and in Him,” to defend Him in the public arena, and not leave Him hanging before His enemies. We are called to share in His Cross, so that we may one day share in His Resurrection. “If we suffer, we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12).
Let us resolve then to do just that, knowing that the Way of the Cross is a holy path marked out for us by the Savior that will lead us to be with Him in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Photo credit: Leopold Layer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons