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Sermons and Conferences

1993 3/03 Spiritual Exercises Days 15-19 S2

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

MP3 Disc 1 Received from Breslin

These Sermons were taped by Daniel Peper who
traveled and taped Fr. Hardon from 1990 to 1995

Day 17 of the Spiritual Exercises: The Public Ministry of Jesus (continued)

  1. Meditation 49: Christ Calms the Storm
  2. Meditation 50: Christ Walks Upon the Waters
  3. Meditation 51: Christ Sends the Apostles to Preach

Day 18: Preludes to the Passion of Christ

  1. Meditation 52: The Transfiguration
  2. Meditation 53: The Raising of Lazarus
  3. Meditation 54: Palm Sunday
  4. Meditation 56: Choosing a Way of Life
  5. Meditation 57: Amending One's Way of Life

Meditation 49:Christ Calms the Storm

For all of us to cope with - life. And the only one who can finally calm that storm is Christ. Not to know that is not to know our Faith.

I’ve been telling the people coming to the class that the Missionaries of Charity are spending two semesters on the Real Presence; that we believe that Christ, the same identical Jesus who calmed the storm at sea is here on earth - right here in the chapel. And I repeat what I said at the beginning: Everything in the world is meant, it of course has its own function…but theologically speaking, the world provides all the analogies, all the analogies for our Faith. Analogy means comparison; a comparison which by understanding nature and comparing nature with what God has revealed we can understand the mystery that, in this case, Christ revealed when he calmed the storm at sea.

Now some people’s lives are more stormy than others, but every person who wants to serve Christ is going to live a stormy life. That’s a safe statement. You don’t get scared - you don’t panic. You don’t run away from the storm and run for cover. No.

Christ is Asleep

Christ is asleep. Over the years how many people whom I’ve counselled; trials, humanly speaking, unbearable trials; “Where is God? Seems to be asleep.” No.

First of all, it isn’t just that Christ - though we can safely see he was dead tired. Anybody who is fast asleep in a thunderstorm at sea might be very tired. For me, the most inspiring passages, I think I’ve told you more than once, in the gospels, speak of our Lord, and he was tired. (?) That’s the mysticism I understand. I can lecture on ecstasies and raptures; I’ve never had one. But being dead tired, that I know. That’s Christ; he became man to get dead tired. But then we can also say, he remained asleep to make sure that the disciples would be in a panic and wake him up. So then, what did Christ tell them? Did he praise them or rebuke them? Rebuke them, for having little Faith. In other words, this is the Lord of the ocean, the Lord of the winds and seas. He’s asleep, as the disciples saw him, as man. Is God ever asleep? No. Is God always around? Sure. Trust him.

The Miracle after the Doubt

And then, of course, the miracle after the doubt.

The miracles of Christ have two purposes; every miracle has two purposes. The immediate purpose, of course, was that Christ might work the miracle, form the acts of charity, healing, calming the storm, even raising the dead. The second reason was to provide foundation for our Faith; in other words, that the man called Jesus of Nazareth was and is the living God. And he not only worked miracles. Never say when Christ worked miracles. Never say that. Never say when Christ was on earth. Never say that. It just isn’t true. Christ is on earth and Christ works miracles.

Meditation 50: Christ Walks upon the Waters

You notice these meditations are selective. But over the years of teaching both St. Ignatius, theologically and giving the Exercises, these are meditations that St. Ignatius, himself favoured, chose.

And remember what happened? Christ walked on the waters. And leave it to Peter. He didn’t have to say this, “Lord, if it’s really you”… he shouldn’t have said it… “If it’s really you, would you tell me to walk on the water?” Oh, did Christ ever have a sense of humour.

First of all, there’s one doubt. Peter shouldn’t have said in the first place, “If it’s really you.” Then he began walking on the water. He shouldn’t have looked down. That’s always a mistake! Should have kept looking at our Lord. He panicked and he began to sink.

My friends, that’s no figure of speech. We’re only as strong as we are convinced. The primary strength is in the mind, in the mind! Only convinced people have a strong will. The will is only as strong as the mind, and the mind is only as strong as it’s convinced that it has the truth.

I think I told you: Faculty meeting at Western Michigan in Kalamazoo when I was teaching on the faculty. I told you this didn’t I? Faculty meeting, I wondered what the occasion was, case full of beer and pretzels. I don’t drink beer. So then as soon as the meeting was over I realized. The head of the department told me, “Hardon, this meeting is for your benefit”. Well, my third semester at Western Michigan. Well, what’s up? And the same head of the department - I won’t quote what he said. “Hardon, you are so blankety, blank, sure of yourself. We can’t stand it!”

The poor PhD’s…educated ignoramuses! And of course the problem was, by the third semester, I had more than one half of about a thousand students registering for the faculty. Seven men in the department. By the third semester there were over five hundred students in my classes. Another word, of course, is envy. So I heard them talk and rant. I enjoyed it immensely. I was kind, of course, and understanding. I could appreciate their points.

But, back to the subject. It is conviction in the mind. And, of course, at first if people don’t know you, they think, maybe, you’re a fanatic or some kind of a weirdo. This kind of a conviction is only psycho-pathological.

When they found out, speaking then back to my experience, and this is not just there, but elsewhere too. They find out that you know what they know, plus. You know more than they do. And there are some things you just don’t doubt. And the students, let me tell you, they just loved it. Somebody who can give them the truth! Then your mind is filled. There’s only one food for the mind, that’s the truth. Everyone else is starving. That’s what our nation is. It is a starving society. Hope you believe me. Starving for the truth.

I don’t hear anything. Am I supposed to hear something?

The Need of Courage in the Apostolate

Well, in the middle of page ninety-four: The need of courage in the apostolate.

Now remember courage as such, is in the will. But, the foundation of courage is conviction in the mind. We are only as courageous in our wills; in either undertaking what Christ wants us to or enduring what he also wants us to suffer, only on the measure that we are convinced. And this is not psychology. This is experience. The martyrs, one after the other and not a few of them, as you know, even rejoicing.

Remember what Lawrence said when being baked? “Turn me over.” The one side of him was baked enough. Or Thomas More when the bishop, who had apostatized under Henry VIII, came to argue with Thomas More in prison. “More, don’t be dumb. All you’ve got to tell the King is that you back his divorce from Catherine.” And More, he smiled, he says, “Look, the only difference between you and me is that I’ll die earlier than you will, that’s all.” So what’s the fuss? What’s your worry? You’re going to die too. The bishop, needless to say, was never canonized. The layman was.

But, it’s conviction. And by the way, Thomas More should be read. Harvard University, I think, has completed the last of the publication of all of Thomas More’s writings. Four hundred years have been in manuscript; somewhat archaic English, but thrilling! And what we need is a Thomas More today to defend the Papal Primacy; a layman telling a bishop. Now he didn’t say, “Your excellency, what’s the fuss? You’re going to die, I’m going to die. I’m going to make it first.” But then he said, “I’m going to be sure of my salvation and not so sure of yours.” Thomas More had a sense of humour too.

Meditation 51: Christ Sends the Apostles to Preach

Then Meditation Fifty-one: Christ sends the apostles to preach.

Now clearly, this fifty-first meditation is really thematic for the whole of the Exercises. Because that’s the whole purpose of making the Exercises; that we might better dispose ourselves to be more effective channels of grace to other people. Remember, that’s what an apostle means: Being a channel of grace to others; to everyone and I mean everyone even momentarily enters our lives. And of course, we will be only as effective channels as we ourselves are united with God. But you follow the logic. Sanctity is not selfish. Am I clear? Not to become more humble, more patient, more this, more that, so I become more holy. Forget it. No. The purpose of acquiring these virtues and becoming more holy is that I then, might be used by God more effectively than I could be or would be if I were not as closely united with God.

There’s a profound pragmatism in our Faith and I can give you forty-five years in the priesthood. Oooh! At table this evening I asked about when my brother here from the university; priest that I taught theology, left the Order, is at large and I heard that he’s still in Detroit. Well, knowing these people, I know the too many pressures to which priests especially are subject to in our day. My heart goes out to them. And one of my in fact I’m one of them, if I can speak of one favoured apostolate, is working with priests and being a channel of grace to priests. And you people more than you’ll ever know until eternity, we need you. When I say this, sometimes people think I’m exaggerating. I’m not. I honestly believe you people are giving me more than I’m giving you. Honestly.

In other words, we are a channel of grace to others in the measure in which we ourselves are united with God. And notice the power that Christ gave his apostles; power over demons and sickness. And do we ever need this power today when the devil is really at large. And sickness.

Man flew in from Boston this afternoon, came from the airport; we talked for two hours. There were six other people with him and then to the five o’clock flight; he was not going back to Boston, or Chicago. A layman. I could talk, if not for two hours, at least one hour; one of the largest computer companies in the world which he is manager. And a friend of his in Detroit thought it would be good for the two of us to meet. And he’s in the computer…the latest, the very latest multi-million dollar technology of ….and he showed the little….had a disc, and he said, “Now, on this disc are eight million words.” And I thought but in other words, so of course I was very happy to get this and I will have to write things up, because what I know about computer technologies… So he described it, for the use of the Church.

When I was teaching at the University of Ottawa, a friend of mine who was Chairman of the Department of International Education at the university there told me: By the twenty-first century, many if not most of the universities of the western world will be closed. Education will be mainly by technology, including computer technology.

What he demonstrated was breathtaking. That is just the beginning. Being Catholic, can the Church use this? Well, I’m sure it can. So there’s a layman…took time out from his business to fly here and tell this to me so that I could share it with those who are in the Church who can put this - I say it’s breathtaking, another term for it is mind-boggling, technique. And not just that he has so much on his one tape in print, but it’s also visual; it’s also audible, and even as you’re looking at a page a voice is explaining what this means, and on the same, call it, page or screen about twelve inches around then there are just…you got to know what you are doing…and explanations. And of course, can the Church ever use this? Of course, and believe me, if we don’t do it, you know who will use it? The enemies of the Church!

So Christ sends the apostles to preach power over demons and sickness.

Prudence and patience. And those two virtues go together. Prudence is in the mind and patience is in the will. And even as you’re praying, asking your Lord to enlighten you, remember there are three basic questions that we should ask our Lord: First, Lord what do you want me to do? Secondly, how do you want me to do it? That’s the “how” which is the virtue of prudence. Those two words go together, prudence and “how”. So many good people, generous people, prayerful people, zealous as can be, but they just lack prudence. Hear what I’m saying: They just, well, good people, but you just close your eyes or close your ears when you listen to them. Oh no, oh no! You just don’t do it that way, so prudence is knowing how. And thirdly, how much will I have to suffer? What do you want me to do? How do you want me to do it? And how much will I have to suffer…anticipate suffering. This is what patience is all about. Remember? And patience is not just voluntary suffering, as it were post-factum. So I’m suffering now so I resign myself, so I’m patient. No. Patience is anticipated voluntary suffering. Am I making sense? In other words, I ask God what he wants me to do when I foresee, how well I foresee, what I’ll have to pay for it. So what do I do? What am I tempted to do? To walk away.

These are three basic questions that as we go through the Exercises we should keep asking our Lord. And no two of us have the same, call it, vocation from Christ. And even no one of us; different situations, as we call them casually, that God puts us into. The Lord is expecting things of me now that he did not demand say five years ago. So prudence and patience.

Preludes to the Passion of Christ

Then the eighteenth day: Preludes to the Passion of Christ.

As we’ve said, the Spiritual Exercises are divided into four basic divisions called weeks. The second of which is the Public Ministry of Christ. And the eighteenth day is the prelude to the nineteenth day. And the nineteenth day is the heart of the Spiritual Exercises, which is the Retreat election.

By the way, we do hear in the eighteenth day before his Passion, Christ made sure he would give his immediate followers, and give us the encouragement we need -- and do we ever need it -- to know the Christ who we are following is indeed a Christ who suffered in his life, who expects us to suffer in our lives.

But, this is the Christ who then rose from the dead. In other words, and I cannot be too emphatic, this is not just suffering because you’ve got no option; the suffering with Christ is not mere resignation. As we’ve said more than once, and we say more when we deal with the Passion as such, but Christ could not possibly sin. So we cannot say that Christ resigned himself to suffering, because he was not a sinner. Christ chose suffering. And the word is: chose suffering. You talk this language, and you’re put down as a psychopath. We’ve got to know what we are talking about.

Meditation 52: The Transfiguration

So the first of these meditations it was on the Transfiguration. Christ made sure he was transfigured before his passion, so that the disciples… you remember who were the three disciples, Peter, James and John; the same three, remember, who later on fell asleep on him in Gethsemane…. to prepare them for his passion. In other words, that what he foretold he would fulfill; that having suffered he would rise from the dead. In other words, that his suffering was totally, utterly voluntary. I cannot stress that word too much; admitting repeating it would make it more clear. Well, the Lord can’t make more clear what the word voluntary means when we speak of voluntary suffering. And if you’re going to work for the extension of Christ’s kingdom, my friends, there is just no option. You don’t have to look for suffering. Oh, no! You don’t have to ask for it. Oh, no! You’re going to get it! And, from your dearest friends. And then the beauty is, you love it!

So that was fifty-two: Transfiguration.

Meditation 53: The Raising of Lazarus

Fifty-three: The raising of Lazarus. Again, call it Christ’s logic. He was preparing his disciples, and really is preparing us too. How the same Christ who then was soon to be crucified and remember, right after John describes Christ having raised Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees got together, almost the next verse, following Christ raising Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees met and said: This is too much, this cannot go on. If we let this go on the whole world will follow him.

Oh, how blind pride can be. How blind envy can be.

So raising Lazarus from the dead. That’s fifty-three, right? The prelude to Christ’s own resurrection.

Meditation 54: Palm Sunday

Then fifty-four: Palm Sunday. Talk about planning everything; Christ directive to the disciples.

And I think it might be well if, somebody would remind me, I like to, maybe, distribute copies for those of you that were not in Ann Arbor; copies of those two pages, remember, that I gave you people on Sunday in Ann Arbor; just blasphemous, just misinterpretation. You know the right word, just blasphemously twisted. You know the gospels that Christ and remember the lead, you got a copy of that? The lead title of that section, two pages is: “The Mass is not a sacrifice.”

Where do you go from there? That’s the end of the Catholic Church. Yet, what are we seeing, what are we hearing? One Catholic church after another looking like a Quaker meeting house. And I’ve been told in Rome - the people in Rome tell me: Never in the history of at least those who inform me has Rome had more petitions for declaration of nullity for ordination when ordained to the priesthood. After they were ordained, “I didn’t know what I was being ordained to!”. And Rome after analyzing this is giving some priests a declaration of nullity. Been ordained, what are they being ordained for? To do what? To offer Mass. But if you say, and the bishop give the imprimatur, the Mass is not a sacrifice. Where is the priesthood, there isn’t any. Without the priesthood there is no Catholic Church.

Now Palm Sunday: Christ directives to the Apostles. And then, and even that, the triumphal entry. Now how much Christ is teaching us Ignatius is putting us, you might say, through one passage after another. In other words, Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday; remember, that was the first day for us now of Holy Week. And the same people, whether they were the same or not, doesn’t matter. Shouting, singing, “Hosannah to the Son of David!” Bring palms for Christ being paraded through the city of Jerusalem.

Before the end of the week, they are shouting, “Crucify him!” Do we ever need that, or do we ever need that! If there’s one thing we cannot do, we just cannot, we cannot trust human beings. We cannot! The only man we can absolutely trust is the man who Faith tells us is our God. And not just others who will betray us. But who is our worst betrayer? We are our worst enemy.

O.K. Now the nineteenth day. Is that correct? That would be fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen; that’s for next Monday. See what we’re doing: Three degrees of humility and the Retreat election. Remember in an earlier meditation we reflected on the three classes. Our three classes, our three levels of you might say of openness with God regarding obstacles between us and the total service of Christ. Some people remove these obstacles more generously than others. However, the degrees of humility build on the three classes. We first have got to remove the debris. That’s the three classes.

As I tell people, everybody should have two rooms: one in the house and one in the mind. You’ve got to regularly clean house, clean our minds. Things can accumulate that shouldn’t be there. Junk! And there’s only one mistake we can make, because it’s my mind that has these ideas. Gosh. They can’t be so bad, otherwise I wouldn’t have these ideas. So I tell people, the most dangerous people on earth are educated unbelievers. The most dangerous people on earth are educated unbelievers. Educated, not just to the “T”, but to the “Z”. They’ve got all the answers but they don’t have the Faith; they have no foundation. They write volumes, fill libraries with books. People like Immanuel Kant, or Nietzsche, or Hegel. They’ve destroyed the souls, I can safely say this, of millions. So, we’ve got to clean first and this is now building in terms of generosity with Christ.

First degree of humility: we need to avoid mortal sin. And by the way, well, you’ve got to pay to get away with still believing there is such a thing as mortal sin. What’s a mortal sin? Sodomy, fornication, adultery, murder? When the bishop of a large diocese introducing Lent in his diocese comes out with a liberal paperback where the opening article is on the Fundamental Option. Remember? Fundamental Option. There are now three kinds of sin. Used to be only two kinds, mortal and venial. But no, there is now mortal sin, serious sin, and venial sin. What’s a mortal sin? The habit of committing what we used to call mortal sins. One, adultery is not a mortal sin. Did you know that? I’d rather die than have to say this, except say it I must. Is it is true and the truth is also to know what errors in the world. If I’m saying something I’d better know, other than like everybody else we would just be swept over our feet.

So the first degree of humility is avoiding mortal sin. Second degree: venial sin. Third degree: where there is no sin involved. I just want to be generous with God.

Meditation 56:Choosing a Way of Life

Then fifty-sixth meditation and fifty-seventh. The Spiritual Exercises are aimed especially at fifty-six and fifty-seven. This applies to all of us. You’ve already chosen a state of life, or way of life, then we must confirm that decision. Is this area important today? Married people. Yes. Before God, I choose marriage; this is my way of life. I want it. I don’t just live it. I want it. Or in my case, choosing celibacy. You’ve got to know what you’re choosing. And then, for those of us who have not yet made a decision on a way of life, a state of life, that’s what the Exercises are for; to make the decision. By the time we got to this section in a long retreat in the novitiate, a number of novices left the novitiate. We didn’t talk during the retreat, so we couldn’t even tell them good-bye. They just, well, disappeared. And that’s for every one of us.

Meditation 57: Amending One’s Way of Life

Fifty-seven: Amending one’s way of life. If there’s one thing you must all be convinced of, if you’re not convinced of this, you’re not making the Exercises. You must be convinced, absolutely certain, that your life needs amendment. Without that, forget it. Remember we are all sinners. And even if we don’t know, thank God, any grave sins we’ve committed (?) in the recent past, we are not as faithful with God as we should be. Amendment means removing sin, and I speak first to myself. We all need amendment. That’s right.

You know St. Benedict, back in the sixth century when he founded the Benedictine Order and in effect influenced the whole western spirituality; one of the vows that he required his followers to take was the daily conversion of life. Daily conversion. Looking back at the past day and telling our Lord: I haven’t done as well as I should; thank him for what I’ve done with his grace which was good…


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