Ever sit around watching a college basketball game? Two guys of the same team go for a rebound and you can hear shouting from either the bench or the coach (or maybe even you shouting at the TV), “Same team!”
We see a lot of division in Christianity these days. By the way, for the sake of what I’m going to be talking about, when I say Christian, I mean Catholic. There is only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church after all. That’s what I’m referring to.
There is division in the Church today. I think that much of this has been done on purpose by our great enemy. Satan has always sought to divide us from our Father. The next best thing he can do is to divide us from each other as well. He has been remarkably successful. And honestly, we’ve kind of sat around and let him do it.
One of the greatest devices, I believe, that Satan uses to divide us from one another is preference. Specifically, he has used our own selfishness and the notion of individuality against us. He has successfully made us into an individual people.
Now, I want to be clear. Yes, we are individuals. We have our own personalities and we are unique in and of each individual person. But when it comes to the people of God, the Church, our individuality should give way to and fit in to the Church. Not the other way around. We don’t get to try and make the Church fit into our individuality. St. Paul wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 12.
Let me illustrate my point. My wife and I have been spending a lot of time recently talking about the Mass. To be honest, some of it has been debate and argument but some of it has been constructive as well. Here’s what I mean. Prior to about 1970, the Church only worshipped in one way. The Mass was the Mass and remained largely unchanged since around the 3rd century when the language changed from Greek to Latin. Then, Vatican II and the liturgical “reform” happened. I keep beating this drum and I know that can be tiring to hear this repeated. But some things bear repeating until it begins to really sink in.
I want to be clear about this as well. This is not some polemic against Vatican II. While there were problems with the council, this is not meant to be a critique. I’ve read the documents of Vatican II. The documents themselves, while in some instances a bit vague, are nevertheless pretty darn good. I’m referring specifically about the documents involving the desired liturgical reform, Sacrosanctum Concilium. To be fair, liturgical reform had been talked about and in the works for many years. Change was in the wind prior to the Council so it’s a bit unfair to blame it all on the Council.
Back to the point of this article.
Prior to my official conversion, I had spent years (literally) studying the worship and history of the Church. What I found was remarkable consistency in theology, practice and worship. For the vast majority of the history of the Church, there was tremendous unanimity in the Church on these things. For the last 50-60 years, however, there has been remarkable inconsistency in theology, practice and worship. These things should not be.
I studied the Novus Ordo and the Latin Mass. Now, to be fair, until recently, I could not read Latin. But I looked at both of them and have looked at both of them in great detail. I have also personally experienced both of them quite a bit. I believe I can say this without equivocation. The two Masses are incredibly different in many ways. Some of the same language is used (of course one is in Latin and the other in English or whatever vernacular) but the Masses are vastly different in almost every other way. Again, I want to be clear. I am not saying that the NO is somehow illegitimate. I don’t believe that. What I do believe, and I believe experience has shown the Church, is that two different religions emerge from the two different Masses.
We can see this in simple things like studies that have been done and the statistics that have emerged from them. One thing I’ve learned in my current job is that data matters. Data doesn’t lie. And the data is quite clear on this point. Since the so-called liturgical reform that came out of Vatican II, the Catholic Church has all but disintegrated. By that, I mean the traditional Catholic Church as She had been for almost two thousand years.
I submit to you that those in the NO and the traditional Latin Mass are indeed not on the same team. Below is a link to an article posted at 1Peter5 (onepeterfive.com) which will give you an idea of the differences.
This is but scratching the surface:
The modern Church has largely abandoned the traditional faith and practice of the Church. What has emerged over the last 50-60 years is a Protestantized Catholic Church that has become largely tied to the tenets of Modernism (see Pope St. Pius X’s encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis”). We can see this is simple things like the number of “Catholics” who either support abortion or simply just shrug their shoulders about it. We can see this in the number of “Catholics” who either openly support same sex “marriage” or just keep their mouths shut about it. We can see this in the number of “Catholics” who do not believe one of the central tenets of Catholicism: the real presence of Christ’s body, soul and divinity in the Eucharist. We can see this in the number of “Catholics” who almost never attend the Mass and, when they do, either don’t care what is happening or don’t understand what is happening. And the list could go on…
The modern Church has largely abandoned the traditional faith and practice of the Church.
Is this merely a matter of preference? It was said to me recently from someone that they didn’t “like the Latin Mass because it’s not really my spirituality.” And again, “I don’t really like it.” We have allowed our preference for our own comfort to dictate our worship. We have placed ourselves and our own personal desires in the place of Christ and His Church.
Our Lord says, in Mark 3:31-35, Luke 8:18-21 and Matthew 12:46-50, that His “mother and brethren are those who hear the word of God, and do it.” So we ask ourselves…are we on the same team? How do we know if we’re on the same team? How do we know how to do the will of God?
Fortunately, for Catholics, we have a way to know if we are on the same team.
It’s called Tradition.
The Church has always said the same things. The Church has always taught the same things. The Church’s doctrine has not changed. The Church has always done the same things. The Church’s worship has never changed.
At least not prior to the 1960s and 70s.
So, would you like to be on the same team? Then, we need to do what our team has always done. We need to believe what our team has always believed. We need to practice the way our team has always practiced. If not, I submit that we are indeed not on the same team.
This is not about preference. This is about submission to Truth. This is about submission to our Lord and what He has left for us. Christ founded the Church. She is built upon the Apostles and the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Anything outside that is not the Church. I don’t know about you, but I want to be among the brethren of our Lord. I want to do the will of God, as it has been revealed to us in Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition.
Lent is one of those things that people tend to go one way or the other on. I think a lot of people like the thought of Lent but not the reality of it. What I mean by that is that I think a lot of people, even those who “observe” Lent, miss the point. Generally, people “give something up” for Lent and those things are usually kind of small things, like chocolate or social media or soda or something.
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with doing those things, I feel like that kind of misses the point of Lent. I mean, you can give those things up but if you’re not also using the season of Lent to mortify your flesh, repent of your sins, give alms and prepare for Easter, then you’re just dieting. Discipline is a good thing, but we also must make sure that we’re doing these things for the right reasons.
Which takes us to our readings for today,
Epistle: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11.
We’ll start with our gospel reading. Jesus had a kind of Lenten experience in our gospel reading today. He was “led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.” I remember reading that and thinking, “Well, that’s not very nice.” Aside from not being nice, it just seems, at first glance, to not make much sense. We might think, “You went out to the desert just to be tempted by the devil? Why would you do that?” Well, there is a why and we’ll get to that.
It should be noted that verse 2 tells us that Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights (that’s a really long fast) and, the sort of tongue in cheek, “afterwards he was hungry.” Ya think?! If this were you and you’d just been fasting for 40 days, how weak would you be? How ready to compromise so you could just eat? If it were me, I’d be like, “Whatever, just give me a cheeseburger. I’ll do anything.”
The tempter comes to Jesus and, first, attacks His identity. “If thou be the Son of God…” I think this is one of the most common attacks of Satan. He attacks at the core of who we are, exactly as he does with Jesus here, because that’s where we are the weakest. And he says to us, just as he does with Jesus, “It’s okay. Just this once; just do this one thing. It’ll be okay.”
Jesus rebuffs the tempter by standing on the written Word of God, ironically quoting that man lives by “every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.”
But that’s not enough. The tempter comes again, attacking at the core of identity again. And again, he says, “Just do this once; just do this one thing. It’ll be okay.”
Jesus’ response is interesting. Look at verse 7. He says, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.” Note that Jesus is clearly claiming to be God by saying this. He is God, even over the devil. I wonder if sometimes we believe that God is God over everything except the devil, as if God can’t really stop the devil from doing whatever the devil wants. I assure you that is not the case. God (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) is clearly in control, even if we don’t fully understand that.
Back to the text. Still, it’s not enough. The tempter comes back again at Jesus, trying to get Jesus to do what he himself had done; trade eternal glory for temporal pleasure and pride. He says, “All this can be yours. Just give in to your desire for the pleasures of the world. Give in to pride. Just do this once; just do this one thing. It’ll be okay.”
I mean, let’s be honest with ourselves. This is how Satan attacks us also. Just do this once; just do this one thing. It’ll be okay. Typically, temptations don’t start out in a spectacular way. Typically, it starts with something small like:
Sleep in a bit more, don’t get up and pray.
Watch that TV show that is morally corrupt, it’s just a show after all.
It’s okay to have that extra drink or two, you’ve earned it.
That word isn’t a big deal, everyone says it.
And so on…
And when we give in to the little things, one by one they add up and the slope becomes slippery. Once we make one moral compromise, it becomes so much easier the next time. The enemy hasn’t changed his tactics since our first parents in the garden. He wants us to do what he himself did. He wants us to focus on the now and trade eternal glory for temporal pleasure and pride.
Now for the good news and the why.
Jesus did this in order that we may also stand firm in His triumph. Jesus had to experience every temptation so that, in triumphing over all temptation, He could both show us the way and walk that way for us. Where Adam (and us) failed, Jesus has succeeded (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-48).
This is exactly what the Apostle Paul is reminding us of in our Epistle reading. “In the day of salvation have I helped thee..” Jesus has conquered. We will have trials to undergo (as did St. Paul). Perhaps those trials will be hard ones. But Jesus has prevailed and, if we are in Him by faith, we will also prevail. Jesus has prevailed. And so must we, by clinging to Him.
How do we do that? How do we cling to Him so that we have confidence in the time of trial? Consider the Gradual/Tract text for today from Psalm 90:1-7, 11-16.
“He that dwelleth in the aid of the Most High shall abide under the protection of the God of Jacob.” (italics mine)
He is our protector and refuge.
He is our God, in whom we trust.
He has delivered us from the snare of the hunter of souls.
He has overshadowed us with His might and gathered us under His wings.
He has saved us from the arrows, the darkness, the invasion of our souls and even of the “noonday devil.”
Thousands may fall; our very civilization may crumble but it shall not come nigh us.
He has given His angels charge over us to keep us in all our ways.
We, with Christ, shall walk upon the asp and glory in His crushing of the serpent’s head. Of whom shall we be afraid?
We that hope in Christ will be delivered.
He has protected those who know His Name.
He will hear us.
He is with us in tribulation.
He will deliver us.
He will fill us with length of days in His presence for all eternity for He has shown us His salvation!
Oh, brothers and sisters! As we enter Lent, let us do penance. Let us fast and weep for our sins. Let us throw ourselves on the mercy of God and His Christ and trust in Him.
For He has overcome!