The Bishop Speaks

Bishop Louis Vezelis O.F.M.

Jesus Christ's victory over death is commemorated on Easter Sunday.

This victory over death is the direct result of obedience. St. Paul, writing to the Phillipians, says: "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to, but emptied himself, taking the nature of a slave and being made like unto men. And appearing in the form of man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even to death on a cross." (Phil.2, 5-8).

Herein lies the calling and duty of everyone claiming to be a follower of Jesus. Anyone who does not consider these words and does not work to put them into daily practice is a false follower of Jesus. In fact, such a person is not a follower of Jesus Christ.

It matters little what we may think of ourselves or what others may think of us. What really matters is what God thinks of us and His opinion of us finds expression in the way we think, speak and act.

Although Jesus was God in His divine nature, He nonetheless took upon Himself the form of a creature for the purpose of showing how man must live in order to be worthy of God's love.

There is a condition placed upon us by God that must be realized in order to be loved by God.

There is a direct relationship between our Lord's obedience to His heavenly Father and what followed upon it.

This is made clear in the words of St. Paul: "Therefore God also has exalted him and has bestowed upon him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven, on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father." (Ibid. 2,9-11).

The complacency of Christians has been nurtured by false teachers and false spirituality. While remaining in their sins that offend God, these false Christians boldly proclaim their "salvation" as if it were an already attained reality. This is the falsehood inspired by Satan in every heretic heart.

It would seem that the more these heretics claim the Holy Scriptures to be the source of their beliefs _ in opposition to the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church _ the more they ignore the very source of their claimed faith.

Disobedient to God and His Church, these children of disobedience necessarily fail in "working out their salvation in fear and trembling" as St. Paul says in that same Epistle to the Phillipians: "Wherefore, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Ibid.2, 12).

And so that we may not fall into the demonic trap of vainglory and pride, St. Paul reminds us that it is God's grace that works in us and with us: "For it is God who of his good pleasure works in you both the will and the performance." (Ibid.2, 13).

Because we are apt to give in to the sin of murmuring and questioning, we are advised by St. Paul to avoid this grave fault which destroys supernatural faith. He says: "Do all things without murmuring and without questioning, so as to be blameless and guileless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a depraved and perverse generation."(Ibid. 2, 14).

We live in times worse than those in which St. Paul lived only by virtue of the fact that modern technology has found even greater ways to sin and offend God. It would not be an exaggeration to say that we of this last century are living not in dark ages, but in the darkest of all ages. At no time in recorded history have so many innocent children been atrociously murdered inside their own mothers. At no time in human history has it been possible to wipe out entire cities without regard for any life whatsoever. And, let us be honest: at no time in recorded history has organized evil been called `good' and good called `evil.'

St. Paul warned the first Christians of the lurking dangers from false teachers. Yet, today we face the same dangers but in greater numbers.

He speaks of heretics as `dogs,' while the heretic usurpers of the Vatican speak to them as `brethren.' St. Paul warns against `evil workers' who, no doubt appear as the doers of good deeds. And finally, St. Paul warns to `beware of the mutilation.' By this he is referring to the rabbinical-Talmudic heretics who have persevered in their evil with paramount success in our days.

St.Paul tells us: "For we are the circumcision, we who serve God in spirit, who glory in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh…" (Ibid.3, 2-3).

He, St. Paul, was of the tribe of which many of us may make claim if the truth were known: He knows that physical circumcision avails nothing much as the prophets inveighed against the heretics of their day who placed so much importance on bodily mutilation. St. Paul says: "….though I too might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, yet more may I: circumcized the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as regards the Law, a Pharisee; as regards zeal, a persecutor of the Church of God; as regards the justice of the Law, leading a blameless life." (Ibid. 3, 4-6).

It is a sad matter to attest to the fact that so many who would wear the badge of `Christianity' are so far removed from its reality. St. Paul expresses his own lament to the Philippians when he writes: "Brethren, be imitators of me, and mark those who walk after the pattern you have in us." (Ibid.3,17). Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. As for us who call ourselves `Christians' we ought to know that `Catholic' can only mean `Roman'. We have two thousand years of tradition and hundreds of saints of both genders and of all ages to serve as models upon which to shape our thoughts, words and action.

How true is it even in our own day that "many walk of whom I have told you often and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is ruin, their god is their belly, their glory is in their shame, they mind the things of earth." (Ibid. 3, 18-19).

"Enemies of the cross of Christ"! What terrifying words! What words of dire forecast! To be an enemy of the cross of Christ is the same as being an enemy of Christ Himself.

The cross was not only a physical instrument of execution; it became for every man in the world without exception the symbol of salvation.

For, he who turns his back on the symbol of salvation, turns his back on salvation itself. From this we may justly conclude that the Apostate Church has turned its back upon salvation for the simple reason that it has turned its back upon the cross of Christ. Our churches were once sacred structures where God resided; our churches were houses of prayer, and have now been turned into places of pleasure and entertainment. Those who have gone further in disregarding the warnings of Pope Pius XII and have removed the image of the suffering Christ have turned their backs upon salvation because they have turned their backs upon the symbol of our salvation.

The bare cross or the cross with the risen Christ are false symbols. Jesus reigns from the Cross, to be sure, but only in that form whereby His obedience is expressed: He was obedient to His heavenly Father unto death, even unto death on the cross.

This is the obedience that our heavenly Father expects of us, too. Our obedience to His divine decrees and commandments must be the primary motive in all our actions. Yes, our obedience to our heavenly Father must be such that we would be willing to die rather than disobey Him.

Though we must all die one day and we do not know when and how death will meet us, we should hold it a great grace if we find ourselves in a situation to give up our lives rather than to disobey God's smallest command. Of all the deaths a person may endure, the noblest and most fruitful is to die in defense of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

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