In this Gospel the Church teaches us something of the Passion of Our Lord. About this time of the year a certain
part of the world is going crazy with carnival; people imagine it great fun when they put on masks, dance, and walk about in processions. But the Church wishes her children to think of the Passion of Our Lord, and on these days she asks them to be more zealous and fervent.
Sin is the cause of the Passion of Our Lord; we crucify Our Lord again and make Him an object of mockery. We
have not the same customs here that exist in Europe at carnival time, but by degrees they are creeping in here, too; let us consider the great damage it does to the young people of those countries, and draw from it a lesson which will be very useful to us. We can also judge from it what would be the consequence of following similar indulgences at any time of the year. These applications can be made to our picnics, moonlight excursions, and dances. On the approach, of the carnival the Church redoubles her prayers, and puts on the garb of penance, because so many sins are committed; for this reason, too, the saints of the Church, the friends of God, do more penance that God may be kind to the people who are indulging in these excesses. St. Francis de Sales used to call the carnival days hours of pain and grief to the Church. What disorders, dissoluteness, unlawful relaxations are committed in those days! St. Vincent Ferrer used to think of the approach of those days with horror, for, with unbounded license, people would commit sin after sin without giving themselves time to think. St. Catharine of Sienna was accustomed to cry out with groans, "Oh, what an unhappy time! what a diabolical time!" Day and night she would invoke Our Lord. When the carnival is open you may well say that heaven is closed. The reprehensible things about the carnival are things that are considered dangerous at all times, such as masquerade balls and theatres. St. John Chrysostom considered the theatre the worst place, where the vilest spiritual diseases may be contracted. St. Augustine called the theatre of his day the pomp of Satan. St. Cyprian speaking of it says it is the innovation of the devil; apply all this to picnics and balls too. Now, my good young people, whom would you rather believe; would you rather believe your own passions that drag you into considering these things small matters; would you rather believe our modern, loose Christians, who consider the theatre the school of virtue? Or would you not rather believe those great doctors whom I have quoted, who studied much, and who were enlightened by almighty God? You will say that you always criticise the title of a play before you go. That is nonsense; you know that the name of a play does not give a clue as to whether it is moral or not. What about masquerade balls? The dance is one of the greatest occasions of evil, especially for young people. A youth that loves the ball-room will sooner or later fall into grave sin.
"He who jokes with the devil," says St. Peter Chrysologus, cannot reign with Christ." St. John Chrysostom declared vehemently against dancing; he says it is the innovation of the devil, and those who engage in it cannot escape the snares of the devil. All the saints have said the same thing. During these days of the carnival, especially, let us not form part of the world that has gone crazy, we may say.
There is no objection to modest recreation nor to simple enjoyments. Endeavor to compensate Our Lord Jesus for so many sins committed during this time. With great love, visit a church where the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, pray, and receive from Him spiritual joy of which the world knows nothing. In this way you will not put your salvation in jeopardy nor will you, as often happens, ruin the health of the body, as is frequently the case. I myself have seen on the last days of the carnival a funeral procession, and on asking for whom such display was made, was told that it was the funeral of a youth of sixteen years. A few days previously he had taken part in the carnival procession; he had gone to the theatre and to a masked ball. Here he had become overheated, caught cold, contracted pneumonia, and in a few days died. Had he obeyed his parents, had he been reasonable in his enjoyments, he might have saved his life.
But let us return to the Gospel; while Jesus was in the vicinity of Jericho, a poor blind man who sat by the wayside begging, hearing the approach of a great crowd, asked what this might be. They told him that the Great Prophet, the Son of David, was passing by. Then he raised his voice as high as he could, and cried out,
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." Can you not easily see in this poor blind man the figure of a poor sinner? How terrible is the blindness of sinners! They know that by sinning they lose God, that God who created them and redeemed them; they know that they have lost the right to heaven; they sin frequently and without any remorse. What blindness thus to insult almighty God, in whose presence they commit these sins; that God who could annihilate them or could at any moment precipitate them into the flames of hell! Sometimes, by the grace of God, the blind sinners open their eyes to the real state of their souls; they see their misery and their danger, and return to God while it is yet time, and break the chains that hold them bound to the servitude of the devil. Then they ask themselves: Who is this Jesus who is passing by? The truth will suddenly shine on their souls. This is the Saviour of souls, the healer of the blind and of all diseases, especially of the soul. Then in earnest they will raise their voices to Our Lord and cry out in humility and compunction of heart,
"Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me." But you know that the world does not like these exhibitions of piety, the fashionable world does not want to be disturbed by these cries. The passions so natural to our frailty and increased by indulgence, are urged on by the devil, who gives us occasions of sin. Our old companions who continue in their evil course would like us to do the same; these lay their hands on the mouth of the sinner that he may not cry out, and tell him that he should be ashamed to make such an outcry. This is the inner voice that we feel; the voice of conscience that admonishes us and the voice of the body that speaks of enjoyments that are the death of the soul. How the sinner hates to be disturbed by these contending claims! The good voice is hated by the sinner, and he tries to silence it. Again he shuts his eyes and listens to the wicked voice, so that joyously and carelessly he goes on sinning. He has abused once more the grace of the voice of God speaking to his soul. Sinners become ashamed of having ever been modest and pure in word and action, ashamed of ever having loved God, and ridicule the holy maxims of the Gospel. What blindness and perversity this is! Should any of my hearers be of the number of those who have been blind, let them arouse themselves by prayer, and then the grace of light will also come to them. How tearfully and sadly St. Augustine describes these dreadful days of his own blindness,
"I went from one disorder to another, from one precipice to another, like one that was blind." When Jesus heard His name called in that strong way. He stopped, and gave orders that they should bring the poor man to Him. "
What wilt thou that I should do for thee?" asked Our Lord with the most loving condescension.
"Ah, Lord, you see what I need. I am a miserable blind man, give me the light of my eyes." What a beautiful prayer, how short, how affectionate it was, what great good it accomplished. This same petition we too should continually make.
"Lord, that I may see." This spiritual blindness, ignorance, and darkness must be removed; we must be able to see clearly. Give me intelligence, that I may know things rightly, that I may from my earliest days know the wickedness of sin, for now in my blindness it looks so attractive and so beautiful. Lord, make me see the great danger there is in the world, that I may be on my guard and not fall a willing prey to the wiles of Satan. Lord, let me know what company I must avoid, let me see the foolishness of thinking much of riches, excepting in so far as I may be able to use them for the good of others. It is vanity to indulge the appetites of the flesh and to desire that which, if consented to, will bring upon me great punishment. Let me, Lord, see the vanity of wishing for a long life; give me the grace to be contented with a short one and so to labor during it that I may enjoy the heavenly sight of paradise. The good Lord answered the prayer of the blind man, saying,
"Thy faith has cured thee," and immediately the eyes of the blind man received their sight. Filled with joy he followed Our Lord, giving Him praise, and all the people who saw the great miracle also gave praise to God. See, my young people, what grateful recognition you owe to almighty God for the corporal and spiritual light of your body and soul. How often has God given the power of vision to your soul! You certainly remember the darkness in which your soul was cast when you fell into mortal sin. Bodily blindness may bring some good to the soul, for then we cannot see the dangerous occasions which might lead us into sin; the alluring aspect of the objects of our passions cannot be seen by us, and hence cannot excite our imagination; but the blindness of the soul gives the devil power over us.
As soon as God enlightened your soul you saw the dangerous situation in which you were. He stretched out His hands to raise you up, and what appeared to you so beautiful and attractive now looked so hideous that you were terrified, and willingly fled from it. What a great grace this was to you! He made you know what was good, and gave you grace to love it.
Thank almighty God for these spiritual gifts, praise Him for being so good to you. We cannot sufficiently appreciate what God has done for us in giving understanding and light to our soul; but we will know it when, after witnessing the damnation of many souls, we will at last find ourselves in heaven.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900