CHRIST, OUR MASTER
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
PICTURE our Lord in His sublime and awful Majesty, sitting in final judgment on mankind. God became Incarnate that He might make, through a union with His Humanity, a newly developed Creation. It was to be free from all sorrow and sin, and from all trace of evil, beautiful in its obedient righteousness, radiant in its transporting bliss and joy. There will surely come a day, as He said, when sitting in Judgment, He will separate the sheep from the goats, the good from the bad. He will also separate His true and faithful followers from the nominal and neglectful ones. Hear His own words. "The Son of Man shall come in His Glory, and all the Holy Angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the Throne of His Glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, ' Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.' Then shall He say also unto them on His left hand, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat. I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in; naked, and ye clothed me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited me not. Verily, I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal."
O Lord, most Holy, most mighty, Who hast come in mercy to save, Who will come in Judgment, give us such an awe-subduing sense of that great day, that now, pierced by its terrible scrutiny, we may be aroused to a more faithful conformity to Thy counsels, and more diligent efforts in Thy service.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is God. He claims to have come down from Heaven. He had a preexistent life. He said, "Before Abraham was, I am." He had witnessed the fall of the rebel Angels. He was not merely descended from David. He was David's Lord. He had a Glory with the Father before the world was. While visible upon earth, He was still really in Heaven. To have known Him is to have known the Father. He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him. He is one with the Father, not merely by a moral, but a natural union. Of the Father, He only has complete knowledge. He Himself is known only by the Father. He possesses all things in common with the Father; all power is His. He will not only rouse the dead, but can give Eternal Life. Before Him, all nations will be gathered to final judgment. All men are to honour Him, even as they honour the Father. We are apt so to think of Him on His human side, as almost to forget His Deity. He had wrapped human nature about His Divine Nature that He might act out His Godship through the condition of humanity. There is a danger lest by our familiarity with His Humanity, we forget He is God. It would be well to read through the Gospels and at every mention of His Name worship His Godhead. Before Him, we must put our hands on our mouth and bow our heads in the dust, and cry, "Holy, Holy, Holy." His Deity demands our absolute submission. Have we laid ourselves thus at His Feet, surrendering all we are or hope to be, to Him, to be in time and Eternity His loving slaves?
He is our Master. He is wisdom itself. His words are our laws of conduct. Do we not dwell perhaps too exclusively on His tenderness and compassion? We must not forget His awful, sublime, and imperious demands. There is a tender but a stern side to His character. Consider how severely He rebukes the Scribes and Pharisees. The seven great woes stand in opposition to the seven great beatitudes. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows' houses." He rebukes the spirit of unholy avarice. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves." "Woe unto you, blind guides, who say, 'Whosoever shall swear by the temple, it is nothing; but whosoever shall swear by the gold of the temple, he is a debtor!'" (St. Matt. 23. 15.) How terribly He condemns here casuistical morality. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees! who pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, but have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith;" condemning the absence of faith towards God, and of mercy towards one's fellows. " Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and the platter, but within are full of extortion and excess." Here Christ condemns our outward respectable conformity to the Gospel and lack of inward righteousness.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ye are like unto whited sepulchres, beautiful outward, but within, full of dead men's bones, and all unclean-ness." Respectable in the sight of men, they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! building tombs of prophets, and garnishing sepulchres of the righteous. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" He passed judgment upon Jerusalem for its rejection of Him. There shall not be left, He said, one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. Its destruction should be accomplished with a tribulation such as was not since the creation of the world.
After our Lord's lament over the doom of Jerusalem, He speaks of Capernaum, saying, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted to heaven, shalt be brought down to hell." He sternly warns people against the danger of losing their own soul. He said of Judas, pronouncing His Eternal loss, "It were good for that man if he had never been born." To the man who neglected to put on the wedding garment, like persons who neglect using the Sacraments of grace, He pronounces in the parable the awful judgment, "Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." Concerning the unforgiving debtor, he was to be delivered to his tormentors, till he should pay all that was due from him. To the foolish Virgins, who had neglected to take sufficient oil for their lamps, and came saying, "Lord, Lord, open unto us," He answered, "I know you not." "The Son of Man," He declared, "shall send His Angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire. There shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." He shall say in the final Judgment to them on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels," "and these shall go away into everlasting punishment."
Our Lord, for a time, bears now with the evil world. But as He came to save it, so will He come in Judgment. As there is no mercy like the Mercy of God, manifested in His Church and Sacraments, so there is no wrath like the wrath of the Lamb. We may well tremble at the thought of that awful day, when all the workers of iniquity will be forever cast out.
CHRIST'S UNCOMPROMISING DEMANDS
He bade us take up our Cross and follow Him. His religion was not a "believe as you please, and go as you please" kind. Though He said, "My yoke is easy and my burden is light," nevertheless it was still a yoke. Whosoever did not take up His Cross and follow Him was not worthy of Him. All other duties were to yield to His Service. "Let the dead," He said, "bury the dead." No matter what it might cost, even the breaking up of home ties, men were called to follow Him. "I am come," He said, "to set a man at variance against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." "He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me." He demanded inward righteousness. His demands involved no mere outward discipleship or a mere world's standard of morality. His followers were not only to believe and trust in Him as their leader and Saviour, they must be changed inwardly, thoroughly, in heart and will. They must be born again from above and become new creatures. Their whole inward life was to be changed by help of divine power. They must be converted and become as little children, otherwise they could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Many might seek, but few could enter in. Entrance could only be gained by sturdy and persistent effort. The Kingdom would suffer violence, and the violent would take it by force. He bade men to strive to enter in at the strait gate, for narrow is the gate and strait is the wa'y that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. (St. Matt. 7. 14.) Relaxed temporary efforts will not succeed; there must be perseverance to the end. No man, having put his hand to the plough, may draw back. "Many are called, but few chosen."
While there will be a great multitude brought to glory, there will be vast numbers who will miss the proffered end and be lost.
Again: Concentrate your thoughts on strictness of the Rules given by Christ for conduct of life. His followers were to be separated from the world. Their lives were to bear witness by sacrifice to the temporary character of this world and our hope in the world to come. We were not to lay up, in an avaricious manner, treasures on earth, but treasures in Heaven. We were not to neglect the poor, the sick, the suffering, the Lazarus at our gate. We were to be merciful to our debtors and fellow men. We were to seek to be reconciled to any we had wronged, to forgive from our hearts, to pray for blessing upon our enemies, to keep the rules of the Church, obeying those who sat in the seats of authority. We were to discipline the body by fasting. Our Lord said, " When the Bridegroom shall be taken away from them, then shall they fast." The appetites and passions must be kept under strict control. "He that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." He enjoined the duty of almsgiving. It was to be a part of our worship, not made grudgingly, not to be the mere runnings over of superfluous wealth, but that which cost us something. Our speech must be controlled. It must be simple, straightforward and true. Our "Yea" must be "Yea," and our "Nay, Nay." We were not to be quarrelsome, or to stand upon our mere rights. "If a man take thy coat, let him take thy cloak also." Our lives are to be like the seed that falls to the ground and dies, and through death, brings forth good fruit. Such is our Lord's teaching in the life which He enjoins. As we gaze at the All-Holy Lord, we see how He, in His own life, fulfilled His own words. He was the embodiment of His own Gospel. He was sublime in the fulfillment of His own precepts. There is an awful grandeur in His heroic fortitude and asceticism. He is wonderful in His sinless perfection. He is inflexible in His justice. No personal friendship makes Him withhold deserved rebukes. He says to Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan." He condemns St. John with the withering rebuke, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of." He exposed the casuistry of the Scribes and Pharisees, the rationalizing unbelief of the Sadducees, the feeble worldly morality of Pilate, the beastly sensuality of the fox Herod, the venomous hatred of Annas and Caiaphas. Unmoved and unflinching is His stern denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees. Holy is He in the calmness of His final judgment of the world. A day will surely come when the great separation takes place between the evil and the good, the saved and the lost, a day of division, within the Church herself, of the tares and the wheat, a day which will try the works of the righteous and burn up the wood, the hay and the stubble of their unperfected works, a day when the merely formal and careless and unconverted will find their place with the wicked and unbelievers. Knowing then that the righteous shall scarcely be saved, how should we not try to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
How, in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ, shall we not search ourselves to see what imperfections there may still be in us? One thing is certain, we must die, and after death there is the Judgment. We hope and believe that all Religious, through the mercy and grace of God, may be saved. Only by way of loving warning do we venture to quote here the words of one giving a Retreat to Religious in another Communion. " Have you never entertained some misgivings about any Religious? Have you ever heard such remarks confidentially made about one whom death has carried off: 'What a pity Sister ---- was so hard to live with!' 'What a pity Sister ---- was not more pious and regular!' 'Poor Sister ---- will have some account to give for all the misunderstandings she cost!' 'How regrettable that Sister ---- had that unfortunate weakness!' 'Poor Sister ---- showed some piety, but it was a pity she meddled with other people's concerns, and turned others against her!' 'Poor Sister ---- was not bad hearted, but she had a very disagreeable temper!' Again: 'Poor Sister ---- has gone. We must pray for her. There's an end now to her intrigues!' 'Poor Sister ---- was certainly intellectual, but she was a great critic, and always finding fault, and seeking to reform the Society and others!' Shall I have any or like things said concerning myself?"
O Lord, Righteous, Holy, of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, Who will not spare the guilty who now reject Thy mercy, create in me a holy fear of Thy righteous Judgment and hatred of all deliberate and venial sin. May Thy invincible Will, ruling within me, make me invincible against the wiles of Satan. Strengthened by Thy protection, may I daily seek after perfection and an increasing union with Thee by the indwelling of Thy Holy Spirit!