Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
SEXAGESIMA SUNDAY, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
On this Sunday, the second before Lent, the Gospel for the day gives to us the parable of the sower for preparatory instruction and meditation. Our Lord is the sower who goes out to sow His seed, the word of God, concerning the mystery of redemption. Our hearts are the ground upon which the seed falls. The natural qualities of the soils illustrate the varieties of human hearts upon which the seeds of the teaching of Lent will seek root; and at the same time offer explanations of failure or success in bearing fruit.
The lesson of the parable is that we are responsible for laborious and careful preparation of our hearts before we enter Lent. The Church will serve as Our Lord's agency for the sowing. The seed will be the teaching which will be the same for all. He that hath ears to hear will hear. The Church will teach. If we fail to hear, the responsibility will be ours. The Church never fails.
It is well to have this clearly understood by those within and by those out-side the Church. It will save the timid who ought to know better, and the doubting who have never known, from the suspicion or the accusation that the Church fails to reach the modern person. The Church never fails. The Church has never failed. The Church has reached the primitive, the mediaeval and the modern person.
Whenever a primitive or a mediaeval or a modern person has failed to reach the Church, the failure is their own failure. The Church never fails. In every age her seed has borne fruit. It is bearing fruit today. Thousands beyond count will be reached by the Church in this Lent of 1938. Thousands beyond count will fail to reach the Church. The fault will be their own.
This does not mean that the Church is unmindful or unconcerned. On the contrary, the Church is observant, and understanding, and patient. The Church carefully guards the faithful and persistently seeks the faithless. The Church knows the faithless better than the faithless know themselves; better than the worldly wise know them. The Church long, long ago diagnosed their spiritual condition. Through age-long practise the Church acquired the technique of dealing with all sorts and conditions of men.
In the beginning the Church was given perfect understanding of all things. Nothing is new to the Church. Nothing surprises the Church. The Church has known every possible variety of human beings. The Church has full knowledge of the limitation and frailty and inconsistency of human nature. The Church knows all the temptations and the sins and the passions and the regrets of those whom she seeks to save. The Church knows the longings and the aspirations and the potential good in each and every human being. The Church not only sees each as he is; the Church sees each as he is capable of becoming.
The Church is more solicitous for the one that repents than for the righteous (?) who need (?) no repentance. The Church has a laboratory and a clinic for every kind of spiritual sickness and moral disease. The Church has the in-exhaustible store of the seed of the Word of God. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but that Word shall not pass away.
We are all of us, Christians and non-Christians, on trial every Lent as the Cross shines forth in mystic ray. No one of us will be given a test beyond our capacity. But each of us will be given a test accurately measured within our capacity. That test will be the standard of an honest and good heart. Some undoubtedly will go farther than others, but all of us can submit ourselves and can pray, "Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me; and lead me in the way of everlasting."
Whatever we are, Christian or non-Christian, human honesty allows no exemptions from this test. The honest, humble and brave man who submits him-self to it, whatever wickedness he may find in himself, may in confidence address to God the prayer, "Lead me in the way everlasting."
Lent presents a course of self-testing which can hardly be rejected. If it is accepted in good faith and intention, the spiritual ground will be good. To each and every man will be given an honest and good heart to lay at the foot of the Cross as a tribute to the Crucified Saviour.
Affectionately in Our Lord,