The vast silence of God amidst the disorder of mankind is astonishing. Day by day, his commandments are forgotten, his truths blasphemed, and the prerogatives of his rule transgressed, yet the sun shines upon the scoffers, the rain waters their fields, and the earth is stable under their feet. He sees all, and he acts as though he did not. He considers all things and says nothing at all.
I am mistaken. He does speak. His goodness, his generosity, his very silence are so many voices inviting sinners to repentance. Yet as our hard hearts are deaf to these kinds of speech, he makes another voice resound, a voice that speaks with precision and authority, a voice that calls us to repent. He does not speak to judge us; he speaks to warn us, and it is this voice of warning that echoes in all our pulpits. This is the voice made known to us in our Gospel, a voice to serve as nourishment during our time of fasting and as a support for our weakness: “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4). Today I propose to prepare you worthily to receive that immortal food. But, O God, what use will my words be if you do not open hearts and dispose minds to welcome your Holy Spirit? Descend, then, O Divine Spirit and prepare your own way. And you, O most holy Virgin, lend us your charitable aid, so that the work of your beloved Son may be accomplished in our hearts. This we pray you humbly, in the words of the angel: Ave Maria…
Although Jesus Christ is the Lord of lords and the Prince of the kings of the earth, and although his reign is entirely free and sovereign, he wished nevertheless to give an example of moderation and justice to all kings who depend upon his power, and so he voluntarily subjected himself to the rules he had made and the laws he had established. In his Gospel, he ordained that gentle ways should precede rigorous ones, and that sinners should be warned before they are judged. He practiced what he prescribed, for “inasmuch”, as the Apostle says, “as he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness, he first calls upon all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30-1). That is to say, before mounting his tribunal to condemn the guilty with a rigorous sentence, he first speaks in the pulpits, to draw them back to the narrow path by means of charitable warnings.
In this holy time of penance, we should pay special attention to this fatherly voice. For while it deserves profound respect at all times, and while listening to sacred discourses is always one of the most important duties of Christian piety, it has ever been a wise practice to consecrate a time especially for them, so that, if such be our blindness that we abandon almost the whole of our lives to vanity, there should be at least a few days during which we hear the truth that would counsel us charitably before our sentences are levied, and which comes to enlighten us before we are measured against it and brought low.
Come, then, O holy truth! Make known your accusation of our evil ways, light up this dark and shadowy age, shine in the eyes of the faithful, so that those who do not know you may hear you, those who do not think of you may look upon you, and those who do not love you may embrace you.
This article is taken from a chapter in Sermons in Times of Crises: Twelve Homilies to Stir Your Soul with an Introduction and Commentary by Rev. Paul D. Scalia, which is available from TAN Books.