Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1928.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Presently all the Christian world will be assembled at the foot of the Cross.
Today I would emphasize two points. The first is this. The supreme suffering of Our Lord lies in the fact that He is in the world and the world knows Him not. He comes unto His own, and His own receives Him not. It is the rejection of those whom He comes to save which is the essence of the agony. So long as sin and unbelief remain in the world, the situation remains the same. The Son of God is crucified afresh. What can Christians do about it?
Repentance and Faith are the only remedies for the disorder. Repentance and Faith are the high points of Satanic attack.
The methods of attack are very subtle. The root of repentance is being undercut by the denial of the reality of sin. Under the guise of moral freedom, ancient immorality is exploited as modern morality. It is not only the sense of sin but sin itself which is explained away. When once this argument succeeds, then redemption and repentance means nothing at all. The Cross becomes as foolishness.
How is all this to be met by Christians? In the first place by refraining from excited comment. There is nothing new in it. And then again, in spite of all that can be said, sin never fails to have ugly consequences. Sin works ruin sooner or later. In the long run every one finds out that the whole thing has been a mistake. Then the wounded are brought to the Church. At last they understand what redemption means. Repentance comes to have a practical value.
All the while the only thing that practising Christians can do is to be faithful to their duties and true to their standards. There is, it is true, tremendous pressure from the world. But it cannot compare with the pressure of the Church. The Church has always overcome the world. She always will. She has the doctrine of the forgiveness of sins and the power on earth to forgive them. She has the one, true, pure, immortal Sacrifice to offer for the sins of the whole world. She has the means of Grace with which to strengthen and refresh the souls whom she has absolved. Her Head has overcome the world and the gates of hell cannot prevail against her. Christians may confidently exalt as they humbly trust her. This is one thing that they can do.
And the other is this. Christians are always to remember that the Church is not a human society seeking the truth, but a Divine Society defining it. The Church speaks with Divine authority. What the Church teaches, the Bible confirms. The Church's voice is a living voice. To be loyal to her teachings, faithful to her Sacraments, obedient to her discipline and devout in the practise of her devotional life is to be assured of protection against heresy and schism. For the voice of the Church is infallible. Within her walls is certainty and peace.
Christians need not and cannot persuade unbelievers by controversial methods. There is but one way to translate the Christian Religion in terms that may be understood. And that way is through Charity. "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." "They took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus."
This is the witness to the Passion required of each and every one of us.
Affectionately in Our Lord,