• The school’s annual Advent Lessons and Carols is this Sunday, December 15, at 7:00 PM. All students are required to attend. A reception for all will follow.
• Students are dismissed for Christmas break on December 20, at 12:30 PM. No one may leave early, since that week is also their first semester exams.
• Report cards will be emailed home before Christmas.
• Congratulations to our school’s Robotics Team, which took a huge Second Place in their first competition at El Camino College last weekend!!!
• Students return after Christmas vacation on Sunday, January 12.
• The next soccer game is Tuesday, December 17, at 3:00 PM, at Vanguard University [55 Fair Dr, Costa Mesa, CA 92626]
May the peace of God…keep your hearts.
For most people today this exhortation of St. Paul, which we heard in today’s epistle, might seem to be nothing but an unattainable dream. There doesn’t seem to be any peace in the hearts of so many. And today, on this Gaudete Sunday, we are commanded by the Church to rejoice. As the Introit for today’s Mass says: Gaudete in Domino semper, “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Peace and joy are two words which we hear a whole lot of during this time of year. “But how could I have peace and joy in my heart?”, one might ask. “There are so many problems in the world, so many problems in the Church, there are bills to pay, and so on. The only thing in my heart is heartburn!” Yes, even here in Southern California, where everything’s "perfect", peace and joy in one’s heart seems for many to be nothing but a dream. Why is this?
Psychologists, who usually disagree on just about everything, seem to agree that one of the biggest cause of mental disorders is fear. Doctors also tell us that one of the causes of so many health problems is stress, which is just another form of fear. Fear, as St. Thomas Aquinas teaches us, is one of our passions, or emotions, which kicks in when we are confronted with an evil. We fear the loss of our job; we fear threats to our country; we fear not having enough money to live as we would like; we fear bad health; we fear death. The list is endless. In fact, if you were to sit down and try to trace back to its roots all the grief you have in this life, you will usually find there some kind of fear.
As an emotion, fear is part of our natural makeup, which means that, like all our emotions, in itself, fear is neither good nor evil; it depends on how we use it. And all fear increases with love. The more we love one thing, the more we fear its opposite. The more the old Scrooge loves money, the more he fears losing it. The more the hedonist loves pleasure, the more he fears being denied access to that pleasure. The person who has an inordinate love for this life here below is filled with the irrational fear of growing old, and so tries anything and everything to look and feel younger, from buying a new corvette to Botox. And the more we are in love with ourselves, the more we fear anything that stands in the way of our own will. So, we can see that the reason why the peace of Christ is absent from the hearts of most people is ultimately because their love is disordered. That is, they either love the wrong things, or they love certain legitimate things more than they ought. And from this disordered love springs a consequent irrational fear; and instead of the peace of Christ reigning in their hearts, there is nothing but restlessness and misery.
Now such irrational fear is not just a potential mental disorder or health hazard, and it not only blocks the peace of Christ from our hearts, it can also be a sin. For our Blessed Lord did not simply recommend, but commanded us not to fear: Do not fear those who can kill the body, and we are not invited but commanded today to rejoice. And if we must not fear those who can kill us, and death is the greatest natural evil, then it follows that we ought not to fear anything else in this life, or at least not to any great degree.
But there is one thing we ought to fear: Fear Him Who can destroy body and soul in hell, said our Lord. Fear separating yourself from God by sin. That is, fear God with a filial fear, the way a child fears a good and loving father. God is the One we ought to love above all else. Consequently, the one thing that we must fear, with a fear in comparison with which all other fears look like nothing—the one thing we must fear is offending God by our sins. This is the fear which flows from charity, the fear which is a Gift of the Holy Ghost, the fear which makes us poor in spirit, the fear which is “the beginning of wisdom” [Ps. 110:10] as Scripture says.
We are told today to “rejoice because the Lord is near.” And yet for the past several weeks we were told in the Gospel of nothing but doom and gloom, the end times and the final judgment, images which provoke fear. The two messages might seem contradictory. How can we be full of peace and consider the final judgment at the same time? But the peace of Christ and the filial fear we ought to have for Him are not contradictory; rather, they both flow from the love we ought to have for Him. Remember, filial fear is not a fear of death or the pains of hell—though a certain amount of fear of these can be good. Filial fear caused by the love of God. Because we love Him so much, we fear ever being separated from Him, and therefore cannot even imagine every doing anything to offend Him. This kind of fear we ought to have. In fact, we need to have this kind of fear if the peace of Christ is to reign in our hearts. It might seem kind of ironic, but if we have a good filial fear of God, all the irrational fears we might have (fear of dying, of getting sick, of losing our job, of the next papal election)—all these will disappear. Why? Because a true love of God and the fear of offending Him, which flows from that love, puts all things in perspective. It allows us to see that what we thought were great evils, were nothing at all—nothing, that is, in comparison with the greatest evil and the only one we should ever fear, namely being separated from God.
St. Theresa of Avila summed this up so well, when she used to say: Let nothing trouble you. Let nothing frighten you. All is fleeting. God alone is unchanging. Patience obtains everything. He who possesses God is in need of nothing. God alone suffices. And St. Pio summarized it even more briefly with his famous words: Pray, hope and don’t worry.
We are told in today’s Communion verse: Take courage and fear not. And elsewhere Scripture teaches us that love casts out fear. May this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass increase in us divine charity and the one and only fear we ought to have, being separated from God; and so banish from our hearts all other fears, that the peace and joy of Christ might reign there forever.
• For all the benefactors of St. Michael’s Preparatory School, living and deceased.
• For all the students and families of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.
• For all faculty and staff of St. Michael’s Preparatory School.