Ascension of Our Lord
Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, May 29, 2014)
Prædicate Evangelium omni creaturæ.
Preach the Gospel to every creature.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,
The final words of Saint Mark’s Gospel chosen by the Church to be read during Ascension’s Mass recount how the eleven Apostles are sent forth on mission.
The earthly sojourn of Jesus is drawing to its end. The Incarnate Son of God’s visible mission has reached its completion. It is now the Apostles’ turn to proclaim Jesus Christ’s good news, the Gospel, and to proclaim it to all creatures. A great novena opens up for the Apostles which will close on the morning of Pentecost’s feast with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost. During these days the Apostles are not to leave Jerusalem, but are to wait there for the Paraclete Whose visit has been promised by the Father (cf. Acts 1:4) and Who will light up and warm up still quite lukewarm hearts and soul. Jesus does not ignore the limitations of those to whom He entrusts the evangelizing of the world. Prior to sending the Apostles forth on mission, He upbraids His disciples “with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again” (Mk 16:14).
Are the words of Jesus still up to date?
On this very day Jesus still sends forth on mission, He sends us forth on mission. Let us turn towards the Father and ask that those who have become adult Christians when they received the anointing of the sacred chrism during confirmation should receive a renewed outpouring of the Holy Ghost, so that like the Apostles we may become true witnesses of Christ again. Mission lands are opening up in front of us: Omni creaturæ, all creatures.
To proclaim Christ does not mean shackling man under the burden of commandments, it means liberating him from his passions. More than three centuries were needed so that societies of the antiquity should understand what an extraordinary grace the visit of God is for man. Today we have to follow the same way, which begins by our own conversion. Are we really convinced that choosing Christ is making the right choice? Have we therefore truly chosen Christ? Last, do we believe that proclaiming Christ means serving our neighbours?
Today’s world is a world of dictatorships: dictatorship of a single man, dictatorship of the most powerful men, dictatorship of a majority. Saint Thomas Aquinas has given a paramount criterion for political discernment: the common good. The various dictatorship regimes are evil insofar as they propose to promote the good of a part only of the group. A good political regime should discern and promote the common good of all the members of the group.
It is difficult to discern in today’s political life a will to promote common good. The law rather aims at supervising a maximal permissiveness, as it offers to each and all to assuage their passions while at the same time seeking to minimise consequences for others, thus avoiding to make too many disgruntled persons. A new mankind is being shaped which brushes aside all of those who stand in its way or are burdensome: unwanted or crippled children, elderly people, social misfits where are to be found so many young people who will find but in alcohol, drugs or suicide an answer to their misery. Society is serenely assured to be well within its rights and will restrict itself to record the fact into soulless statistics, thus concealing behind anonymous figures those who are its own victims and who are not to be mentioned.
Even as societies jettison man, should not man jettison these societies and choose anew man and his good? Preach the Gospel to every creature! That is Christ’s answer.
The Apostles around the Lord were but eleven. That is not much. The disciples of Jesus accounted for at most a few hundred persons. That is not much either, for a Roman Empire which encompassed the whole Mediterranean basin. Yet, with the help of the Holy Ghost and in obedience to the marching orders received from Christ, the Apostles undertake to proclaim the Good News which will be accompanied and confirmed by the signs granted by the Lord.
Today’s world is not that different from the decadent Roman Empire, especially as concerns morals and the family. Refusing to give children or adolescents any authentic reference point has been, is and will be the weapon of all and sundry dictators. Faced with those, Christians must be counter-revolutionary insofar as they refuse to be dazed by the artificial proliferation of ideas, but rather dash them against Christ and reality so as to discover what really underpins them.
How could we still listen to the champions of relativism, those who will receive with starry-eyed wonder any stupid idea, the sole merit of which consists in antagonizing customs inherited from so many centuries of Christianity and that have shown their mettle, and who condemn with the utmost harshness to be silenced those who advocate what was yesterday only still called truth, or the foundations of our society?
There is no longer, as they say, any truth, any certainty. That is a lie: there is the Gospel. “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, Christ asks from all His disciples. Young people, grown-up men and women, all creatures have a right to the truth. They have a right to know God.
Shall we be courageous and answer their expectation? In these days let us join the Apostles in the Cenacle. Let us unite in their prayers and let us ask for each other the grace of the Holy Ghost. Jesus will not fail to hear our prayer. May He not have someday to upbraid us with our lukewarmness and our incredulity.
May Mary, the Woman who believed, walk with her children on the path. Let us be apostles, let us be courageous witnesses unto the ends of the world of Him in Whom we believe.