FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT - Overcoming Satan.
1. The three steps of evangelization.
The three steps of evangelization had been described by Christ in His Apostolic Commission. This is found in the last Chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew. The steps are clear and simple. Which makes me wonder how come all evangelizations I have been hearing and reading these days do not conform to Christ's formula of evangelization. Everybody have their own private formula on evangelization; whether it comes from the pagans, the protestants or from Catholic bishops.
Fortunately for Catholics, Holy Mother the Church transmits and reviews these three steps during the three cycles of the Liturgical Year; today we are in Cycle B and within the Lenten Season. Mind you, the Church teaches us the complete way to salvation three times every three years in her Liturgy.
So if we are 70 years old, we should have heard the entire plan of salvation based on the three Gospel, more than 20 times. Or we should have heard the plan of salvation more than 60 times.That should make us masters of the Catholic Religion. But this is not the case. Why?
2. When Holy Mother the Church teaches us the three steps in order to be saved, she makes certain that, FIRST; she shows us how Christ did it. SECONDLY; she shows us what Christ said about it. And THIRDLY, she tells us how the Fathers of the Church interpreted it. The first two steps comes from Scriptures, the third comes from constitutive Tradition.
And Holy Mother the Church had been preserving and transmitting this knowledge from the time of Christ up to the present time. On the other hand, the devil had been trying to distort the formula to prevent men from attaining this knowledge. So the Church has good reasons for repeating the complete plan of salvation every year until the end of time so that each man can check if he is doing it right or not.
3. From Advent through Christmas, up to the ninth Sunday in ordinary time (which is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday), the Church gives us an outline of the General Plan of Salvation. Then during Lent, she teaches us in detail the first step called the 'life of repentance'. This is followed by a brief explanation of Faith during Holy Week and Hope during Easter. Then the Liturgy ends with explaining Charity on Pentecost. All of these mysteries are shown in the Life of Christ. The way the apostles lived these mysteries are given in another outline all their own. So, in the Liturgy, we can learn the plan of salvation, first, from the example of the life of Christ. And secondly, from the example of the life of the apostles. It is clear that the apostles simply followed the footsteps of Christ.
From the Liturgy we can learn both the example and the explanation of the Plan of Salvation both from the life and words of Christ. Add to this the explanation of the Fathers of the Church called constitutive Tradition......we cannot go wrong. But remove any element of the above and the whole house will collapse. And that is what the devil wants to do. Sort of remove one screw or nail at a time from the structure and he knows the Church would eventually collapse. Today he had become more daring. He is removing the whole first floor!
The first step of evangelization is ' to make disciple of all nations.' How is this done? By teaching all men the commandments of God as taught in the Old Testament. These commands are easily learned because it is already written in the hearts of men. These commands are just in the natural level and, therefore, can be learned by all men. Christ demonstrated this first step by living the first 30 years of His life 'hidden.' The early Christians imitated it in exactly the same way. They learned and put into practice the commands of the O.T. 'hidden' in the monastic life. This is the origin of monasticism. It is the imitation of the 'hidden' life of Christ.
The second step is to baptize them in the name, etc........After His hidden life of 30 years, Christ went to St. John the Baptist to be baptized. Needless to say, Christ had no need for the 'life of repentance' nor baptism because He was God and there was no win in Him. But, as St. Paul wrote, He had to show us how to do things. After His 'hidden life' and after His baptism Christ goes to the desert.
The third step of evangelization is to teach people what and how to observe the commandments of Christ. Christ clearly commanded to teach His commandments. Not anybody's commands. And what is the first among the many commands of Christ? To over come the devil. This is why the first prayer in baptism is exorcism. And Christ, before preaching, drove away the devil from possessed persons. We cannot preach to someone who is under the power or is possessed by the devil. We have to cleanse the house before the Word of God can dwell. The same thing goes with us. We must, first, completely overcome the devil. We can do this, only, after we have lived perfectly the life of repentance. And after we have received graces and the virtue of Faith. It is grace and Faith that enables us to overwhelm Satan once and for all.
So the first things Christ did after His 'life of repentance' and baptism was to go to the desert and completely overcome the devil. 'Completely' so the devil cannot overwhelm you again. The devil may continue to tempt you but he will not be able to overwhelm you if you follow Christ in today's Gospel by living perfectly the 'life of repentance' thus receiving worthily the grace of Faith in Baptism.
Of course, in the case of Christ He completely overwhelmed the devil in one sitting. In our case, it might take us hundreds of victories and years of battle before we can completely overwhelm the devil. And only after that can we obey the rest of the commands of Christ.
Let us pause here and see what is happening to the Church today. Are we imitating Christ as portrayed in today's Lenten Gospel by, first, perfectly imitating His hidden life. Secondly, by receiving the grace of Faith through baptism. And thirdly, as a consequence, to be able to completely overwhelm the devil? Why are we still overwhelmed by the devil?
5. The attack on the first step of evangelization - the 'life of repentance.'
At the beginning of the History of the Church, God imprisoned Lucifer in the bottomless pit; but allowed the low rank devils to test the Church. So these little devils, like termites, did their job of gnawing at the Church. Their target - the softest stage in the spiritual life....the 'life of repentance.' There was Arius, Pelagius doing the termite's job, with great damage. The great saints however, like St. Athanasius, did a splendid repair job.
Then the evil generals, as prophesied were, eventually released from the bottomless pit in these days. They were ambitious. These would be the most evil days. They were aiming at destroying, not mere panels, but whole floors by abolishing the whole 'life of repentance.' And they were aiming at the head, the Pope. Unable to prevail against the true Popes, the devils established their own popes called anti-popes to declare that the 'life of repentance' is not needed because God is compassionate and merciful. There were more than 40 anti-popes helped by cardinals, bishops and priests declaring the compassion and mercy of God but omitting His fearful Justice. It is Protestantism coming back with a vengeance.
This growing violent attack on the Church had done much damage that the next line of saints and holy Popes could not repair the Church. The Council of Trent could not; neither the First Vatican nor Second Vatican Councils.
St. Francis was seen by a Pope supporting a collapsing Church in the 1200. The demolition of the first floor, the foundation, became intense from the 1700s. There were hardly any saints to help the Popes repair the damage. Lately, Pope Benedict XVI tried holding up the collapsing Church amidst the silent apostasy surrounding him. Then suddenly it all fell over his head.What a great fall!
6. What happened?
Briefly, the whole first floor collapsed. The whole 'life of repentance' was abolished by the men of the Church. These men are the stewards whom the Master punished by taking the vineyard (the Church) away from them.
As a result of the abolition of the 'life of repentance', the effects of baptism, which is grace and Faith, disappeared from the soul. Without Faith, the soul becomes easy prey to the devil.
7. The attack on the Church which begun with Arius and Pelagius was an attack on repentance; a heresy that will prevent a soul from repenting and reaching Faith. The attack of Martin Luther was, also, on repentance. Luther took away confession and repentance. Modernism took away the concept of sin. The Bishop's Synod of 2012 omitted the topic of repentance even though Pope Benedict's instruction was to tackle it as the crux of evangelization. It was gone and contradicted during the Bishop's Synod of 2014. And Pope Francis, in his consistory homily this February misinterpreted the Gospel on the Leper and attributed his cure, not from his repentance and Faith which the leper showed by going to Christ, worshiping Him and saying a perfect prayer. Pope Francis attributed the cure on the compassion of Jesus abolishing completely the role of conversion and Faith on the part of the leper.
The word 'repentance' is still whispered in the Church. But the dogma and the practice is nowhere. The first step of evangelization taught by Christ has completely been abolished by man.
8. The Synod - the Sign of the times.
Seeing how the 'life of repentance' was slowly eroded in the past centuries, we saw in the last Synod of 2014 Satan completely overwhelming a third of the cardinals and bishops. Two thirds still stood their ground against Satan. But the world wide view of the Church shows that majority of the bishops are overwhelmed by the devil. The headlines show news, like in Austria and Germany, where whole bishop's conference overwhelmed by the devil. And one by one like dominoes parishes, dioceses and whole bishop's conferences are falling under Satan's rule. Satan, indeed, had entered the Catholic Church and had spiritually possessed cardinals, bishops and priests. This was, after all, prophesied by the events of Good Friday; when Satan entered the first bishop chosen and trained by Christ, Himself, Judas.
How would you describe a cardinal or bishop who tells you that you can commit adultery, entertain desires for the same sex and receive Holy Communion because He Who is in the host is compassionate and merciful and will not mind entering a soul filled with sin? They must have the wrong God. Well, without repentance and Faith you will certainly believe anything, including that the devil is god.
Seeing the leper repentant and believing, Christ became compassionate and healed him. Seeing Judas unrepentant and unbelieving Christ said; 'It would have been better if he were not been born.