Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Our Lord was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. The enemies of Our Lord said, "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils."
Our Lord confounded these enemies by the question, "If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beelzebub."
There was no answer to that. The devil was gone out. The dumb spake. What his first words were we do not know. We trust that he gave thanks. That would depend upon the character of the man.
We do know what Our Lord said. He taught the lesson of the dangers which result from an empty heart. The devil may be banished. The heart may be swept and garnished. Yet the danger of a seven-fold return of devils worse than the first remains. The last state may be worse than the first. The miracle may not bring a lasting blessing. It will only do that if they that hear the word of God keep it. Everything will depend upon that.
Whatever other and wider applications of the parable of the empty heart may be, there is no question about the value of the personal application. Nor is there any uncertainty about the necessity of the warning to us all. The casting out of devils frees the heart that has been swept and garnished to become a shrine in which the word of God may dwell. It must be wholly possessed by God. Into such a heart no devil can enter and dwell. This is the blessing assured to those who, having heard the word, keep it.
How do we keep the word of God? We learned our first lesson about this in the Catechism. "What is required of persons to be baptized?" "Repentance whereby they forsake sin; and Faith whereby they steadfastly believe the promises of God made to them in that Sacrament." This is the working requirement for each Sacrament that follows.
At Confirmation we heard and answered the question, "Do ye here in the presence of God, and of this Congregation, renew the solemn promise and vow that ye made, or that was made in your name, at your Baptism?" Then the Bishop prayed for us, and laid his hands upon us. Our bodies were made temples of the Holy Ghost.
In the Sacrament of Penance, by the power and commandment given by God to His ministers, we received the absolution and remission of our sins. Grace was renewed, our souls were cleansed and our hearts were made fit for the indwelling life of Our Lord.
In Holy Communion we received the most precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and were made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him. Our Lord has provided for us at every step in the way the means whereby our hearts are filled with heavenly grace and benediction. Never for a moment are they empty. Our Lord never leaves us with an empty heart.
"In the world," He warns us, "ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." "I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil." Whatever the tribulations may be, the Christian will meet them with a quiet mind. He has heard the word of God, and he will keep it.
"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Affectionately in Our Lord,