Fourth Sunday of Easter
Post Easter Let Down. As we continue in the season of Easter many people have come to me with a common concern. It seems that after having a particularly good Lent in which their penances and prayer life seemed to really open them to the grace of the season, which culminated in a very spiritually rich Holy Week and Triduum, they found that in the days after Easter they had unexpectedly fallen into the same old sins and bad habits. It was almost as if the good accomplished during Lent and the spiritual experience of Holy Week had never happened.
Actually, this is a very common experience. Some of it is due to sort of a psychological let down: after experiencing the intensity of Lent and Holy Week and the joy of Easter Sunday, there is a certain sense of sudden deceleration, and a certain emptiness: “now what?”. One might argue that there is something very wrong about this, we should be lifted high with the joy of the resurrection and filled with the grace so abundant in the Easter Season. In a perfect world perhaps, but we live in a fallen world, which, even though redeemed, requires our constant vigilance, discipline and openness to paschal grace to overcome.
It is not a good thing, and may even involve sin, even grave sin. But while recognizing this, we must not let it overwhelm us or lead us to discouragement. After all, Jesus died and rose for these sins too. And the spiritual and moral victories won during Lent are not now lost entirely. Having gone two steps forward you now know what you can accomplish, with Christ’s grace, even if you have temporarily fallen a step or two backward. So we don’t excuse the fall, but we recognize it for what it is, learn from it, and rejoice that the Risen Lord once again offers us the grace of His salvific victory. He says to us, “you see what great things we can do together, and how weak you are when you do not cling to Me; now cling to Me and let us move on to even greater things.”
We learn from our mistakes, and even our repented sins. The better we understand ourselves, our weaknesses and tendencies, the better we can learn to discipline ourselves, avoid the falls and cooperate with the graces. Again, thank the Good Lord for His mercy and the many gifts, natural and supernatural, that he showers down on us, especially in this holy season.
Good Shepherd Sunday. Today, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, is a traditionally called “Good Shepherd Sunday” due to today’s gospel. Related to this the Church calls us in a special way to pray for our priests and for vocations to the priesthood today. Last week it was reported that after 33 years of increases in the number of seminarians, these numbers have now begun to decline: between 2011 and 2013 the number of seminarians has dropped by 2% world-wide, and 5.2% in America. Let us pray for that all Catholic young men and boys, especially those in our own parish and families, will honestly consider whether the Lord is calling them to the priesthood, and that they will be open to that call if it should come to them. And let us also pray for seminarians and priests, that they may have the faith, hope, love and courage to persevere in answering the call.
Speaking of Good Shepherds. Anyone who pays attention to the “culture wars” will not be surprised that the Catholic Church is under assault in San Francisco, a city that has passionately embraced so many of our culture’s worst moral aberrations. In the last few weeks these attacks have risen to a new level as the press, the city government and hundreds of lay Catholics have publicly and viciously assailed their Archbishop, Salvatore Cordileone, because he had the temerity to require that the teachers in his Catholic high schools would actually strive to uphold and live by Catholic teachings. The latest protest comes from a group of about 100 well known Catholics in the San Francisco area, who published an open letter to Pope Francis asking him to “Please replace Archbishop Cordileone.”
Sadly, while these 100 may be baptized Catholics, and they may even go to Mass and contribute large sums of money to the Church, their letter clearly indicates that they either do not understand the teachings of the Church or have rejected them. And they don’t understand that Archbishop Cordileone is simply upholding those teachings, with clarity and courage but also with charity and patience. And I’m afraid they don’t understand one other thing: like the Archbishop, Pope Francis is also a Catholic and will not withdraw his support from such a faithful apostle of Jesus Christ as AB Cordileone.
The last name of this excellent and courageous archbishop means, “heart of a lion”—and that is what beats in the chest of this good shepherd. I hope you will join me in praying for him, that he may remain strong as he continues to teach with the heart of the “Lion of Judah”—Jesus Christ. Perhaps you might like to join me in signing a petition of support for him at https://www.lifesitenews.com. And please pray for the Catholics of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, especially for the conversion of those who so publicly reject the teachings of Christ and His Church. May the Lord give the good shepherd of San Francisco a faithful flock, and defend him and his sheep from the ravaging wolves.
Another Good Shepherd, Requiescat in pace. On Friday April 17, Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago for 17 years, and former president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, died after a long struggle with cancer. Cardinal George was recognized by all as the premier leader of the Church in America, especially intellectual. He was very close to both Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI and was a staunch and active supporter of their effort’s protect and teach the authentic doctrine and practice of the Church. He was also known as a courageous culture warrior, another man with the “heart of the lion” of Judah. He was a great man, and he will be very missed.
Not too long ago Cardinal George wrote: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
On Friday the 17th the good cardinal died in his bed. Let us hope the rest of his prediction is not so accurate.
Let us pray for the soul of this good and holy shepherd. Eternal Rest grant unto him, O Lord. And may perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles