Since the trip to Fatima, I have found myself reflecting time and time again on the central message: Pray and offer sacrifices for sinners. This is summed up in the ‘Fatima Prayer’ that Our Lady asked to be said at the end of each decade of the Rosary: O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy.
It is hard to fully grasp the central message of Fatima and how terrible sin is because of the permissiveness of our age. Today’s Office of Readings homily attributed to St Macarius and entitled ‘Woe to the soul where Christ does not dwell’ does precisely this. I wouldn’t lead with this for a Sunday homily because of the extent of its negative perspective; yet its message is a useful counter balance to the loss of the ‘sense of sin’ that characterises our era.
When God was displeased with the Jews, he delivered Jerusalem to the enemy, and they were conquered by those who hated them; there were no more sacrifices or feasts. Likewise angered at a soul who had broken his commands, God handed it over to its enemies, who corrupted and totally dishonoured it. When a house has no master living in it, it becomes dark, vile and contemptible, choked with filth and disgusting refuse. So too is a soul which has lost its master, who once rejoiced there with his angels. This soul is darkened with sin, its desires are degraded, and it knows nothing but shame.
Woe to the path that is not walked on, or along which the voices of men are not heard, for then it becomes the haunt of wild animals. Woe to the soul if the Lord does not walk within it to banish with his voice the spiritual beasts of sin. Woe to the house where no master dwells, to the field where no farmer works, to the pilotless ship, storm-tossed and sinking. Woe to the soul without Christ as its true pilot; drifting in the darkness, buffeted by the waves of passion, storm-tossed at the mercy of evil spirits, its end is destruction. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ to cultivate it with care to produce the good fruit of the Holy Spirit. Left to itself, it is choked with thorns and thistles; instead of fruit it produces only what is fit for burning. Woe to the soul that does not have Christ dwelling in it; deserted and foul with the filth of the passions, it becomes a haven for all the vices. When a farmer prepares to till the soil he must put on clothing and use tools that are suitable. So Christ, our heavenly king, came to till the soil of mankind devastated by sin. He assumed a body and, using the cross as his ploughshare, cultivated the barren soul of man. He removed the thorns and thistles which are the evil spirits and pulled up the weeds of sin. Into the fire he cast the straw of wickedness. And when he had ploughed the soul with the wood of the cross, he planted in it a most lovely garden of the Spirit, that could produce for its Lord and God the sweetest and most pleasant fruit of every kind.
Garfield’s “high standards” are unaffected by the contemporary world!