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A person who decides to leave the simple Way of Christ, of regular prayer, faithfulness to the sacraments, and simple goodness, is like a foolish man who decides to leap off a moving train which is on its way to Heaven. He will not be able to climb back on, unless he receives power directly from Heaven, or mediated through the prayers of someone who cares for him and his salvation.
A person who chooses to leave a life of simple goodness, regular prayer, and faithful reception of the sacraments is as if jumping off a moving train which is on its way to Heaven. There is no other way to Heaven - and it is impossible to climb aboard the train again, without receiving help. That is why sinners are foolish as well as sinful.
We give glory to the Father, and fulfil His plan for us, through the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Jesus Christ is made Really Present to us under the appearance of bread and wine, we are made present to His one Sacrifice, once offered on Calvary. It is re-presented here, so that we in our generation can benefit from its saving power and receive the "Sacrament of salvation".
During the Mass, the whole Church is united in praising God the Father, through, with and in Christ, in the Holy Spirit. All the Saints of Heaven are adoring the one true God Who has brought them to His heart, for all Eternity. We too can hope to enter Heaven if we receive the Sacrament of salvation, and remain faithful.
Christ died and rose again, to save sinners. He has called men, through the ages, to serve as priests in His Church, to save sinners. If, in their preaching, their celebration of the Sacraments, and their pastoral work, they are not saving sinners from the consequences of their sins, they are failing in their duty. It is not enough to be kind, yet to be off-hand about doctrine, feeble in efforts to draw people from sin to holiness.
Those Catholics who never frequent the sacraments, or never pray, or live trapped in mortal sin, are in great spiritual danger, with no sure hope of being carried across the Abyss to Heaven when they die. It's as if a man is walking surrounded by clouds thrown up through his own sinful ways, clouds which hide from him the sight of the Abyss in front of him, and the Heaven which lies at the other side. Unless he repents, and sees where he is heading, he will fall into the pit.
Most Catholics have heard the phrase, "The Real Presence"; but few have thought it through. Those who do so are aware the Almighty God, the Son of God, chooses to be Really Present in a special, sacramental way, in each of our Catholic churches! Those who know this kneel, bow, and adore Christ. Those who don't know, or don't care, chat and laugh as if in a pub or a cafe.
It is possible to receive little benefit from the sacraments. There are some elderly Catholics who have practiced the Faith for decades, but who are spiritually immature, and lacking in virtue. If they believe they have been harmed or insulted they shriek with indignation. This is because they have not practiced sincere prayer, and have failed to practice the virtues and to advance in sanctity.
It would be easy to say, of a view over a city, by night: "Oh, how beautiful - but how marvellous it must look in the daytime!" And so it is, with the Godhead. We have been given a glimpse, so to speak, from within the darkness of earthly life, through Jesus, and the sacraments and prayer; but all who enter Heaven are enthralled by the beauty of the glory of the Blessed Trinity, as are the people they have helped to bring there by their intercessions.
Just as the land which is not watered by spring rains becomes dry, causing subsidence and dangerous lesions in the road, so a spiritual life not fed by the sacraments becomes weak. Those most likely to fall into the pit are those preoccupied by earthly troubles, those careless in their everyday life, and those unable to go to church who sink into depression or despair.
After every Confession, every new start on our spiritual journey, we ought to move straight ahead, on the Way to greater sanctity. This means we should fix our eyes on Christ; with His help in the sacraments and in prayer we can avoid those routes which lead only to sin, in alienation from God, here and in eternity.
Some Catholics believe that Purgatory is no more than a peaceful ante-room before Heaven. There are deep caverns of Purgatory, however, where those who led sinful lives but were saved at the last moment by the Last Sacraments are permitted by our merciful God to do the penance they failed to do on earth. They enter Heaven, later on, in humility and gratitude.
It is true that Holy Souls in Purgatory are safe in God's care, and certain to go to Heaven when they have been made ready to enter. But some are so long in Purgatory that they look on, over and over again, as other souls speed away to Heaven. It's as if those guilty of grave sin, but saved at the last moment of life by the Last Sacraments, have to watch one train after another go to Heaven without them. Their purification is very lengthy. They, especially, need our prayers.
Whenever we make choices that lead us away from God it's as if we leave the safety of our home-town to wander off into a vast desert where there is neither shelter nor refreshment. Only by coming 'home' to the Church and the sacraments can we find peace, nourishment, the companionship of Christ, and the hope of Heaven.
The Church is like a city with St. Peter's basilica at the centre. There are demons outside the city, attacking people, as they cry out for mercy. Yet there are angels guarding the city and its inhabitants. The Church is guaranteed God's help and protection, through the power of the sacraments, the wise guidance of the Angels, the frequent blessing by the Clergy, and the prayers of the Baptised.
Christ is deeply touched when we thank Him for the spiritual benefits He has brought, as well as for everyday helps. He is glad if we appreciate our Baptism, and other sacraments, and if we remember to celebrate the anniversaries of such events.
From the life of Christ on earth, and from His death and Resurrection, has come a surging river of grace, which is the Church with her Sacraments. If we swim in that river, we can be carried to Heaven; but if we separate ourselves from her by our dissent and disbelief it's as if we climb out of that river - to sit on the banks, and then complain.
There is no need for concern about the Pope's decision to assist Anglicans who want to become Catholic whilst retaining some of their 'heritage'. He knows that Anglicans do not have valid orders, and that special measures are necessary rather than leave many Christians without all the Sacraments. The Holy Spirit, pictured in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome as a dove, in a Scriptural image, is guiding the Church today, just as in past ages, through all the Popes of the ages - and despite the personal sins of individual Popes.
A market-stall can be seen as an illustration of the generosity of God - except that all His gifts are free. They are always available. It is through prayer and the sacraments that anyone can receive these gifts. He is full of love for us, and delights in giving us His Spirit, His Son, and encouragement, forgiveness, and hope.
Whoever wants to be at peace with Christ need only take a few simple steps to emerge from misery and isolation. We need only make a gentle confession, regretting our sins, but determined to stop sinning, and wanting to be freed by the graces of the sacrament. Then we can go to Mass and Holy Communion, knowing we have been made worthy to take part!
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