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Vol. II, Jul. 1996

 

"Defenders of Holiness"

Dear Brothers in the Priesthood!

If we contemplate the Divine Word in Sacred Scripture or the Divine Liturgy, if we are near to God in prayer or confronted with the difficulties of human life, we come to the conviction that it is a special grace granted by God, to believe in the holy Angels, to trust in them as our fellow servant and to realize here and then their presence and help. They introduced Abraham in the Will of God and taught us how they act, what they want, what they want and reject. The need of collaboration we see clearer yet in Chapter 19 of Genesis with Lot.

1. Lot shows the same attention as Abraham (cf. Gen 19,1-3): He knows the wanderers are tired, may have found no nourishment on the way; any rest and refreshment helps them. The angels reject first, they manifest their intention to spend the night in the street for whatever reason. That is for Lot more reason yet to invite them with insistence: He urged them strongly! They are in need, they are poor, and they are without help. That he does not know them makes no difference; it reveals his pure intention may it be out of love for God Who takes care of him also, be it out of respect for the tradition of his people: he declares himself their servant and offers them the necessary for them and the possible for him.

Like Abraham, he does not know that his guests are angels of God. They hide themselves under the mantle of the most common and teach us with that, that they want to be asked, really, sincerely: Turn aside, I pray you! ... he urged them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. God and His Angels must be asked (cf. 2 Cor 72), the devils, on the contrary, must be ward off (cf. Mt 12,43 f.; Ef 4,27).

God and His Angels are very attentive; by the least hesitation or resistance they withdraw themselves as a true and perfect lover who does not impose himself (cf. Cant 5,3 ff.!). This is true if perfection is at stake. It is however different, when the salvation is in risk!

2. Scarcely, the Angels entered his house, the men of Sodom came whipped by the concupiscence. (cf. V. 4 ff.) Lot went out of the door to the men to implore them to desist from their perverted desires; he tried to bring them back to reason.

This is without doubt a good intention. Christ came to look for the sinners to convert them. But it may come to a point where the free will becomes fixed in the evil and where a conversion remains very improbable. Some words of Jesus may be understood in this sense (cf. Mt 12,31 about the sin against the Holy Spirit; Mk 8,15: Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod; Jn 13,27: What you are going to do, do quickly).

The holy Angels with their own purity and clarity of mind see when the point of an possible and impossible conversion has come. At that point they enter without discussion and a surprising resoluteness: The Angels of salvation become necessarily also Angels of separation:

They save Lot, put forth their hands and brought Lot into the house to them, and shut the door! They cast away the enemies by causing confusion among themselves, as often counted in Scripture: They struck with blindness the men who were at the door of the house, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves groping for the door.

This is the first and immediate reaction. Here at least, it is not all the solution. The Angels insist that Lot with his family go away from the city of the sinners so that they can go on to the punishment of the city. The Angels use force with the faithful in order to save him: Lot lingered; so the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him forth and set him outside the city. ... they said, "Flee for your life; do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley; flee ... lest you be consumed." (V. 16 f.)

As the intelligence of the Angels is sharp, so the will is all resolute! We are familiar with this tone of the Angels from the guidance of St. Joseph (cf. Mt 2,13. 20) and St. Peter (cf. Acts 12,7 f.). The earnest of the Angel's guidance is proved by the result of Lot's wife disobedience: Lot's wife behind him looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (V. 26)

3. Is this behavior of the Angels not surprising? Is their district not in the reign of grace and in the Church, among the saints and where men strives for sanctity?

And we priests, what does Lot have to tell us, a layman and husband?

We have to recall that Pastores dabo vobis reminded us of the sanctity of our vocation with the words of Jeremiah: I will give you shepherds after My own heart! (Jer 3,15; Pdv 1) The heart must be healthy, movable for the principle of life, the soul and following the same rhythm in harmony with the whole body; it is totally and exclusively in the service of the life of the body, undivided. The love of the priest must be undivided towards God, his principle of life, and towards the Church, which he serves - like Lot. But sin is couching at the door; its desire for you (Gen 4,7); besides being chosen from among men we live in the world and are exposed to temptations! The Church shows us the holiness of the priest and still is realist enough to recognize our humanness. Because of the sanctity of the ideal her judgment is similar to that of the Angels; they seem really to be fellow servant, working together for that is what the Church determines as the Law:

Canon 1394 - §1. ... a cleric who attempts even a civil marriage incurs an automatic (latae sententiae) suspension; ...

Canon 1395 - §1. Outside the case mentioned in can. 1394, a cleric who lives in concubinage or a cleric who remains in another external sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue which produces scandal is to be punished with a suspension; and if such a cleric persists in such an offense after having been admonished, other penalties can be added gradually including dismissal from the clerical state.

§2. If a cleric has otherwise committed an offense against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue with force or threats or publicly or with a minor below the age of sixteen, the cleric is to be punished with just penalties, including dismissal from the clerical state if the case warrants it.

If the priest is member of a religious community, the delict of can. 1395 §2. can lead to the dismissal from the religious Institute also (cf. can. 695 §1.)

Can. 977: The Absolution of an accomplice in a sin against the sixth commandment of the Decalogue is invalid, except in danger of death.

4. The Word of God is truly eternal; it never looses its actuality. What the angels defended in Sodom, they fight for till our days, and the priests have to be their fellow servant in this battle. The soul of the priest must be - like the Angels - purer than the rays of the sun so that the Holy Spirit not abandon him and so that he might say: "It is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me" (Gal 2,20) ... Precisely he who needs it the most is the one who most often is exposed to inevitable occasions in which he can be contaminated, unless he renders this inaccessible with assiduous sobriety and vigilance. (Directory, 60, note 190; cf. nn. 57-60)

Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC