So I was praying the Rosary yesterday in a modest little church with a modest little Blessed Sacrament chapel and was struck right away by the First Sorrowful Mystery, which is the Agony of Our Lord in the Garden. The fruit of the mystery of the Agony in the Garden is sorrow for sin.
Look at those words again: sorrow for sin.
Not sorrow for just MY sins, but sorrow for all sin. And this, it seems to me, is where the world is in big, big trouble. If we read the Old Testament we see the same course of events repeating itself over and over again. People turn away from God, there is chastisement, the people repent and do penance, and God in His mercy forgives them and takes them back. But in every instance there must first be the acknowledgement of sin by the people and then penance. We see this both in individual contexts, as with David, and on the macro scale as with Israel over and over again. God does not and will not forgive sins unless there is a genuine turning away from the sinful activities. God does not and will not accept empty, hollow, dishonest faux-repentance, and certainly won’t forgive an unrepentant people.
In visiting with people of late, it is very, very clear to me that there is basically ZERO sorrow for the sin beyond the individual level, and there is LESS THAN ZERO willingness to do penance and make reparation to Our Lord for the sins of the state, the broad culture, or for anyone other than one’s self. Beyond that, the notion of penance itself has been watered down to nothingness. There are people running around living lives of utter decadence, ease and superficial happiness who will look you in the eye and swear up and down that they are living a life of penance because they pray every day, don’t eat red meat on Fridays, and donate a little money here and there. Let’s break that down. First, how is conversing with God penance, exactly? How would you feel if someone told you that conversing with you was an act of mortification for them? As someone who was recently told that very thing in so many words, and has heard that fairly consistently for most of my life, it isn’t exactly fun. But then, Our Lord hears that from HIS OWN PEOPLE constantly. Hmmm. If nothing else, I guess I’m in good company on that point.
Next is the fasting thing. Let’s be clear. The red meat fast is a good thing, but if you just order the Sea Bass, you know, the kind that melts in your mouth like butter from the sea, instead of the steak, is this really an act of penance? Are you REALLY making reparation to Our Lord for your sins and the sins of the world? No. At best the red meat fast makes you stop and think for just a moment about our Lord and His Passion. That is good, but if you dive into a meal that is otherwise sublime – just without one particular kind of food – this really isn’t penance in any honest sense of the word.
Finally, almsgiving. Almsgiving that doesn’t break the bank is fun. Especially when done in secret. That is one of the great joys in the well-lived life.
In the Third Secret of Fatima, which is being played out before our very eyes (the Fatima visionaries saw a bishop in white who they thought MIGHT have been the pope but were very confused about, which now makes perfect sense, whereas up until just a couple of weeks ago no one could make heads or tails of what that meant), an angel appears in conjunction with a great tribulation crying, “Penance, Penance, Penance!”
I’m afraid that a supernatural terror like that is what will be required to make anyone in this culture actually ponder the terrible, terrible crimes that have been committed against Our Lord and do any penance for them at all. Hundreds of millions of dead babies. The cult of sodomy. The destruction of the economic and financial systems and the resulting theft and deprivation of rightfully owned property and wages. The liturgical sacrilege of the Novus Ordo within the Church, and of all of the false religions and political cults all over the world that either pervert or deny Truth. It just goes on and on and on.
I, for one, will not wait until there is a giant angel with a flaming sword standing over me screaming, “Penance, Penance, Penance!” I love Our Lord now. I’m sorry not just for my own sins, but for the sins of the entire world right now.
What can I do, Lord? What can I do to console You as You suffer in the Garden? I know that most of these people are never going to wake up. I know that most of these people regard You as an abstract philosophical construct, a legalistic point of contract law, and a gift horse, and thus it will never occur to them that maybe You just want them to come to You in the Garden and ask to take on some of the burden of not just our own sin, but the sins of others, and to share in Your suffering – which is the real definition of the word “penance”. When you love someone and you see them suffering, you should want to take it. We can’t take all of it, but we can, like Simon of Cyrene, help. The merit comes not from the load of the penance we bear in and of itself, because we are talking about an infinite quantity. Infinity minus x still equals infinity. The merit comes in the movement of the soul in REAL CHARITY in desiring to share in Christ’s sufferings through REAL penance just for His sake, and for the sakes of our neighbors, who we love not because of any quid pro quo, but because Christ loves them too. I don’t personally like very many people, truth be told, nor is personal affection on my part required. But I am willing to suffer and do penance on their behalf because Our Lord loves them and desires their salvation, and so that is good enough for me. If it consoles Him, then that is what I want to do, because I love Him.
People, no matter who is elected pope, no matter what happens, none of this is going to be resolved in any way, shape, manner or form unless and until people start doing actual, real penance for the unspeakable, unprecedented sins of the world today. As in real, profound mortification and suffering, joined to Our Lord’s Passion. Think prison. Think total loss of property and wealth. Think martyrdom. This culture not only refuses to do any real penance for the enormous sins we have committed against Our Lord, heck, we refuse to even acknowledge that any sins have been committed at all.
This isn’t going to end well in an earthly sense. There exists no cardinal who can fix this as pope. All I’m praying for is that the next pope isn’t a Marxist-homosexualist who hates God, hates His Church, hates the Mass, and hates Our Lord in the Eucharist. Given those criteria, pickins are slim, people. My advice to one and all is to embrace serious repentance and penance now motivated by true love for Our Lord (filial fear) and for neighbor, and not to wait until the motivation is abject terror rooted in selfishness and servile fear. Let me echo one more time the words of the angel in the Fatima vision: PENANCE! PENANCE! PENANCE!
Go to Him in the Garden now, and beg Him to let you help carry the Cross. But understand, if you ask this of Him, HE WILL LET YOU DO IT, and there will almost certainly be no earthly reward, only a heavenly one.