Wherefore Think Ye Evil In Your Hearts?
18th Sunday after Pentecost
Last week we examined the need for us to
replace hatred with love. Not the superficial and ultimately
meaningless love of the modern world, mind you. Worldly love ranges
from gooey sentimentality to downright lust, and they call it all
‘love’. The worldly kind of love often shows itself as a very strong
emotional drive, a ‘feeling’ of warmth and solidarity with our
fellow man. And like all feelings, it must be measured according to
After all, what are ‘feelings’? They are the expression of our lower appetites which drive us relentlessly to feed those appetites. They’re not bad things necessarily. In fact, usually they’re very useful. If I feel cold, I am driven to put on a hat and coat. If I feel thirsty, I search for a drink. If I feel tired, I lie down and go to sleep. And so on. God made us with these feelings for a purpose, so that we may know when, for the good of our health, our physical and even spiritual well-being, to feed these lower appetites of the body. But it’s up to us to recognize when it’s time to NOT give into these feelings. For example, not only do our feelings tell us we’re cold, tired and thirsty, but they also, mercifully, let us know when those feelings have been sufficiently satisfied. That way, we don’t lie in bed all morning indulging our desire to do nothing, until the greater desire forces us to get up and gorge ourselves on food and drink until it’s time to go back to bed. How quickly would our lives become a wallowing mess of self-indulgence. We also use our reason to control our feelings by recognizing the circumstances in which we should not indulge them. We know, for instance, not to eat meat on Friday, not to have marital relations when we’re not married, and so on. So yes, feelings might regulate our lives to a certain extent, but it is ultimately our reason that must dictate what that extent might be.
Feelings, then, should not control our lives. Control lies with something else God gave us, our reason and our will. By our reason we know what’s good for us and what isn’t. We know not to take that third martini on Saturday night, we know not to chomp down on that hamburger on Friday night. In turn, our reason must then control our will, which instructs our bodies to ignore those feelings we may be having about that third martini, and follow the higher path of our God-given intellect.
The devil’s only commandment, “Do what thou wilt shallt be the whole of the law”, tells us to ignore our reason and our will, and follow instead our baser instincts, our ‘feelings’, so that if we want something, then by golly, we’re entitled to it no matter what, and we’re going to have it, come what may. The Christian message of self-denial is, unfortunately, far less appealing. The Rolling Stones actually got it right that one time when they bemoaned the fact that “you can’t always get what you want.” As Christians, this is something we must acknowledge not reluctantly, but with the resigned acceptance that, even if we could always get what we want, we still shouldn’t.
The reason is obvious. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by our base animal instincts, we are refusing our God-given role of humanity. If we follow every whim and desire we have, we would no longer be human beings, but merely animals, acting on instinct and whatever whim that drifts past. And those whims, because we freely choose to follow them (unlike the animals), can sometimes be sinful. In fact, the seven deadly sins are the direct result of giving in to our animal instincts whenever we get the urge. The three most obvious are Gluttony of course, Sloth and Lust. In many ways, these three are interchangeable in their nature and their effects, and of course in our relationship with each of them. I hope then, for the sake of propriety, you’ll apply for yourselves my analogies of gluttony and sloth to the far more dangerous and serious sins against the Sixth Commandment.
In fact, it’s precisely because of the dangers of lust that the Church is so anxious to provide us with the opportunities to combat our gluttony and sloth. For example, she has appointed a weekly penance, one that until Paul VI was binding under pain of mortal sin, and that was our Friday abstinence. We must not eat meat on Fridays. Why not? Is the Church just swinging its weight around, making sure we obey whatever commandments she happens to think of in order to subjugate us to her authority? No. Not at all. She is our loving mother, Holy Mother Church, and she does her best to keep us out of trouble. How? By making us practice self-control, by giving us laws by which our lower appetites are curbed by a higher authority. She backs up our intellect and will with her own authority, and she punishes us if we defy her. Just as our own mother used to tell us when we’d had enough cookies and candy, the Church gets us into the habit of realizing that we must place limits on what we do.
To go back to those most dangerous sins against the flesh, it is not the Church but God himself who has laid down the law. Just as he allowed us the pleasure that comes to us from a good meal or a sound night’s sleep, so too is he the source of the pleasures that properly belong in the realm of marriage. And just as we’re not allowed the enjoyment of a good and hearty meal on a fast day, so too there are restrictions as to when and how we may enjoy those other pleasures. We know the rules. They are based on the need for the world to procreate and for the family unit to be the solid basis and best environment for the raising of the children that are the product of those actions.
Enter the Devil. He has persuaded the world today of his own commandment to do whatever you want whenever you want to, ignoring any restrictions imposed by God. The more the better. It’s not about children—the world has devised all manner of pills and devices to prevent them from being conceived, and if that doesn’t work, the devil has persuaded the modern woman that she even has the option of killing them before they’re born. The result is that today, the satisfaction of lustful desire has been glorified, and has become the end in itself. Ironically though, there are today fewer offspring than ever before, offspring who would normally be the result of these natural desires.
When we follow the Devil’s law, we defy not only God’s law, but even the natural law. We pervert even more our own already fallen human nature, and find ourselves on a never-ending quest to seek out newer, more innovative ways, more perverted ways, of twisting God’s creation. It’s as though we’re sucked into a whirlpool, spinning faster and faster out of control, as we seek to subjugate the glories of God’s creation to our own fallen nature.
This eddy has already swallowed up the Church of Vatican II. And like Our Lady of La Salette reminds us, “As the Church goes, so goes the world.” Nations everywhere, including our own, are gradually being swept by the current towards the acceptance of every imaginable sin against the Sixth Commandment. To be quite frank, we’re already way past any limits that I ever imagined. The answer, as the same Blessed Virgin pointed out at Fatima, and as we were reminded last week, the answer lies in the Rosary. Just as hatred of our enemies is removed simply by the act of praying for them, so too do the powerful mysteries of our Redemption keep us constantly in mind of what awaits us after this life and what we must do in order to attain it. God didn’t die for the monkeys. He died only for mankind. If we want to lower ourselves to the level of the apes who obey nothing but their own urges, we will find ourselves sitting next to them on the day of judgment. The only difference between us and them (but it’s a big one) is that God will gently pat them on the head and thank them for following their nature as he made them, and then send them on their merry way to wherever monkeys go when they die. But we will be judged, because we have free will. We freely choose whether to follow our fallen human nature with its love of self, or our God-given reason that calls us to the higher love of God, a love that is expressed by obeying his commandments. We had better hope and pray we get that gentle pat on the head as he opens the gate of heaven for us. Over and over again in the Rosary, repeat the words to our Blessed Mother, “pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”