John McQuirk.

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land." Men till then said : wretched are the meek,
for they shall be trampled upon. "Blessed are they
that mourn, for they shall be comforted." They


who mourn for sin shall be consoled with pardon;
afflictive submission to Divine Providence shall be
assuaged. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst
after justice for they shall be filled. They who seek
grace and salvation will receive it; or the suffering
for justice sake will be rewarded.

There is, then, an essential opposition between
the perfection as required by the ten commandments
or the beatitudes, and the perfection which human
wisdom proposes. Whence comes this essential
difference, this incomparable superiority of the law
as declared by Him over the law as it existed before
He began to preach, but from His Divine mind?
Here and there in pagan antiquity may be found a
random saying corresponding more or less with the
teachings of Christ; but this would only show that
men had not been altogether deprived of the light
of primeval revelation, or that reason, shattered by
the fall, was capable in brief and lucid moments of
rising at least to a meagre knowledge of the per-
fection inculcated by the Gospel. A blind man who
had never opened his eyes upon colors may talk
of them from the knowledge he has gained by listen-
ing to others, so human nature, blind as it was,
could yet talk now and then of Gospel perfection
from what it had heard from primitive revelation.

The improvement or development of the moral
law as enunciated in the sermon on the mount over
its prior condition was the result of the Divine Wis-
dom of Christ. The superiority of the law of the
Kingdom and the loftiness of the beatitudes pro-
posed to elect souls, proclaim the Divinity of its
King; and that He came no less to exalt human


nature with His teachings than to redeem it with
His blood. The end of His ministry — the glory of
God on earth and His revelation, the sought union
of the soul with God, His paternity over men, and
their brotherhood, all bespeak the Kingdom which
He has established in the world and in the souls of

This, then, is the amazing character of the King-
dom which Christ came to establish — spiritual in its
nature, all embracing in its scope, perpetual in dura-
tion, which shall only cease when He comes as its
Head to judge and to pronounce eternal sentence
upon its subjects. No one but God could have con-
ceived such a Kingdom. To no one less than God
would human nature have subjected its soul. To no
mere equal will men submit themselves, as Christ
requires. No one less than God could have expected
or promised Himself such worship. Men will not
sacrifice their freedom and responsibility to a mere

God seems to depend upon no human means for
the success of this immortal Kingdom which is to
cover the earth and to be set up in the souls of men,
and which, to be successful, must subdue the heart
and mind, and will of men. He has the most un-
shaken confidence in His ultimate triumph : 'T will
build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not
prevail against it," "Fear not, little flock, for I have
overcome the world," are His inspiriting words to
his followers. Yet there is no constraint brought
to bear upon the freedom of the will : man is free
to believe: he is free to refuse. His belief is the
result of the mysterious influence of Divine grace.


It alone makes a conquest of the heart, respects yet
overcomes the will and impels obedience to the
faith. This grace is given to every one unto salva-
tion; it is the light which enlightens every one born
into the world. The seed is cast upon the earth :
If it finds genial soil, it is fruitful and produces
fruit: if not, it proves barren.

We comprehend not the secret working of grace
upon the will of men.

We cannot explain how the seed germinates into
the flower, or fruit, or plant, or tree; how the earth
opens and receives it and caresses it, until it unfolds
its hidden virtue in its proper fruit; so we cannot
understand how the seed of the word of God by
the influence of His grace is received into the soul,
which opens to it its ready embrace, until it becomes
the instrument of its salvation. The seed of the
Gospel blossoms into faith, hope and charity.

Christ in imitating nature shows that He is its
Lord. He is conscious that the creature will do
the will and accomplish the purpose of its Creator.
The cultivator of the earth with unfaiHng trust
casts the seed into the furrows prepared for it; he
may water and cherish, but the increase will come
unsought ; he has no misgivings. Thus Christ treats
the souls of men : His grace will do in the super-
natural what His power continually effects in the

The power of God is seen not only in the exis-
tence, but in the workings of all His creatures. The
physical world shows it in its obedience to the laws
which He has placed upon it. The operative mind
of God is legible in the moral world, disclosing


throug'h successive changes the laws of His provi-
dence, leading society to its true destiny and gradu-
ally revealing to it a higher development. The same
power of God is shown in the souls of men by
Divine grace and the intuitions of conscience. We
know not how grace overcomes the will without
coercing it. Yet we do know its empire, and, at
the same time^ are conscious of our freedom.

The grace of God is necessary to illumine the
mind and to move the will to the acceptance of the
truth. All those who receive this are said to be of
the truth. 'Tf ye were of the truth, ye would re-
ceive my word; but because ye are not of the truth
ye receive not my word." This principle acting in
the souls of men may be likened to the principle of
God's power in nature : the power is the same ; the
principle is adapted to the different nature of that
in which it acts. No human agency suffices :
"Blessed art thou, Simon, because flesh and blood
hath not revealed to thee My divinity which thou
hast professed, but My Father Who is in heaven,"
His light and grace. *'No one cometh to the Son
save the Father draw him." "Nor hath any one
known the Father at any time, save the Son; and
him to whom He hath revealed Him." As in heaven
we shall need the light of glory to see God, so here
on earth we need added to our nature the divine
gift of grace to know and to embrace the truths of
divine faith. Hence it is not by the persuasive
words of human wisdom that the Apostle would
preach the faith, but by the showing and might of
the spirit. By the grace of God poured out on all
flesh and the inspirations of the Holy Ghost the


Kingdom of God is diffused in the souls of men and
throughout the world. Its mysterious subduing in-
fluence, gentle in its working, like the forces of
nature, is yet efficacious in results and shows itself
in the changed belief, virtuous habits, and reformed
life of individuals and communities. Without its
sovereign power the Kingdom of God would have
never made its way in the world, nor pervaded
human hearts, arousing them to cast aside deeds of
darkness and works of shame, stimulating them to
the knowledge and love and imitation of its Divine
Founder and ever-present Ruler. Thus it is that in
ways all its own Divine grace moves the hearts
of men, leading them into the invisible yet real
Kingdom of God on earth, as their purification and
novitiate for everlasting membership in the heav-
enly Jerusalem in company of angels and saints,
with whom they shall enjoy God forevermore.

Jesus Christ is enthroned in the Church or the
assembly of the faithful by His promised continual
presence ; not only, according to His own words,
amidst two or more assembled in His name, but
His throne is erected in the soul of every one of His
subjects. They are baptized in His name, in them
He lives to be their praise or their reproach; in
death He takes them to Himself or casts them from
Him. He is their guide, counsellor, and judge. He
is there as the asserter of His law and pleasure, to
sanction them in right doing, to condemn them in
wrong doing. He is not away off while His law
and counsels are present : they are ever present to-
gether. His law and will are truly living, not a
dead or useless letter. Nor could His subjects feel


otherwise, while they beheve Him to be the ever-
Hving and everywhere present God, their Creator
and Sovereign Ruler, Whose knowledge and power
pervade all persons and things. As men justly ac-
count the voice of conscience as God speaking in
their soul, so they feel that Jesus present knows
every thought and word and deed which is theirs;
the inmost recesses of their souls, the deepest depths
of their consciousness. Before His August Majesty
thus enthroned within them, do they bow in faith,
in adoration, in love, in sorrow for their sins and
faults, and beg grace to avoid them. He is indeed
the very God of their souls by every right and title,
in Whose presence they continually do walk and
dwell, n they deviate from His law and good
pleasure they feel His merited censure, as they feel
the censure of God. In them there is no discrimina-
tion, and most justly, between God and God incar-
nate. No human king could lay claim to worship
aught like this : to no one less than God could
humanity prostrate in such unutterable adoration.

He is to all men "the way, the truth, the life,"
and this declaration finds a responsive echo' in the
depths of the soul and conscience. "I am the vine,
ye are the branches : unless ye abide in Me, ye shall
have no life in you." Thus He not only points out
true life and its source, but declares that He is the
life in which every man must partake and be nour-
ished for eternal salvation. "He that abideth in Me
and I in him hath everlasting life, and I will raise
him up at the last day."

He not only points out the way : but He is the
way that leads to glory. "He that follows Me


walks not in darkness but in light." "He that will
come after Him, let him take up his cross and fol-
low." ''Narrow is the way that leads to life, and
few find it : broad is the way that leads to perdition,
and many pursue it." His is the bloodstained path
that martyrs after Him and before Him trod, and
which Saints and virgins have ever looked upon as
their portion, and the necessary means of reaching

He not only points out the truth ; He answers not
the taunt of Pilate, "what is truth," but in life and
death He declares that He is the truth, the living
truth, and that to know God and Jesus Christ,
Whom He hath sent, is true wisdom and light and
life. This is the truth that shall make men free;
free from the bondage of sin and the tyranny of
Satan; free with the freedom of the Children of

Thus He rules the mind, the will, the hearts of
men. With them no loyalty or love is intense
enough or divine enough to requite His sovereign
love and mercy. No purpose of the will too un-
shaken, no sacrifice toO' costly or painful to observe
the law which expresses His will or the least detail
of His sovereign pleasure. No truth can prevail
against, or be entertained, even for a moment,
against that which proceeds from His lips. His
word is sovereign truth for the minds of men; His
love melts their affections and holds captive their
hearts ; His law is the criterion of their thoughts,
wishes, and actions; His life is the exemplar upon
which His faithful and fervent followers, especially
those who devote themselves to perfection, study to


conform their lives. Such is the Empire which Jesus
holds supreme in the souls of men: no mind but that
of God could have conceived it; no power less than
Divine could have realized it.

The Kingdom of God on earth will only cease
when it gives way to the Kingdom of God in glory.
And this will be on that day when Christ, its Divine
King, will come to judge the world and to separate
forever His elect from the reprobate and to award
to each their eternal doom. "And you shall see the
Son of Man coming in the clouds of Heaven with
great power and majesty," said He to the high
priest asking Him ''if He were the Son of God."
"This Jesus Whom you have seen ascend into
heaven shall come as ye have seen Him go," said
the Angels to the Apostles on the day when in their
presence He ascended into heaven. Even as Angels
sang the glory of His entrance into the world, so
shall He return on that day surrounded with myr-
iads of the blessed spirits, and with such royal mag-
nificence as will beht the Son of Man to Whom, as
the Messiah, the Eternal Father has given all judg-
ment. He will come crowned with all kingly glory
and attended with every circumstance that shall
proclaim His eternal Priesthood and Kingship,

Before Him shall be congregated all the sons of
men, the living and the dead. "He shall come to
judge the living and the dead." The uncounted
myriads of human creatures shall at His summons
come forth to receive at His hands according as
they have done, good or evil. Men of every gen-
eration, and of every time, and of every race, and
of every faith and of no faith, just and unjust — all


that have ever existed since Adam to the child born
at the moment of the Archangel's trumpet, shall be
there. "For we must all be manifested before the
tribunal of Jesus," as subjects before their King.

How different, however, will be the investigation.
The temporal King only investigates the external
deeds of his subjects, but the eternal King will
search the secrets of hearts, and scrutinize our in-
most souls, and bring to light what before was
never known or heard of. Every thought, and
word, and work shall be laid open. "Men shall ren-
der an account of every idle word." The provi-
dence that numbers the hairs of our head, which
notes the fall of a sparrow, which does not allow
a cup of cold water given in His Name to go un-
rewarded, will turn our hearts inside out to the
assembled world. Thus shall be revealed our works
of virtue or our deeds of vice — the good that we
have done or left undone; the evil we have done or
not hindered.

What a vast, stupendous undertaking either as
viewed in the uncounted myriads each of whom is
to undergo this all-searching, all-disclosing scrutiny,
or as viewed in the complex, complicated labyrinth
of human consciences as ruled by divine or human
motives, God-fearing or defying, lawful or unlaw-
ful passions, interests eternal or temporal! None
but omniscience could be equal to such an investiga-
tion, as none but omnipotence could effect the resur-
rection that shall precede it. No creature mind, no
intelligence less than that of our Divine King, the
Incarnate Wisdom of the Father, could be equal
to pronounce the sentence that shall proclaim the


eternal weal or woe of every soul, that sentence that
shall stand infallible and irreversible throughout the
unending ages of eternity. For the exigencies of
such trial, a trial fraught with issues of such tre-
mendous import and eternal consequence, upon
which hangs the fate of immortal souls, there is
required soul-reaching omniscience and unfailing
unerringness ; and these belong to God alone.
Wherefore, Christ our King, claiming this as His
own, cannot be aught else than God ; God made man
to save immortal souls at the price of His blood and
death. We, as His creatures, redeemed with His
blood, are His adopted sons and subjects in His
kingdom here below, one day to be the inhabitants
of His eternal kingdom in the life to come.

This Kingdom of God is not confined to the
bounds of the world or the limits of time ; it is eter-
nal. Into it we shall be invited on the last day,
when Christ shall say to the just, "Come, ye blessed
of My Father, possess the Kingdom which was
prepared for you from the beginning of the world."
"No fornicator, or unclean, or covetous person
(which is a serving of idols) hath inheritance of
Christ and of God." — Eph. x, 5. Unless we are
united to God in this life, and die with that union
unbroken, we can have no share in that Heavenly
inheritance. "Unless a man be born again of water
and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of
God," says St. John iii, 5.

The Kingdom of grace must go before the King-
dom of heaven and glory: whose soul the grace of
God does not irradiate the glory of God can never
illumine : quenched for it is the hope of eternal bliss,


kindled for it are the fires of hell, the eternal an-
guish and despair of the reprobate. Grace is "a
fountain of living water, springing up into life
eternal" ; the lack of grace must be a curse resulting
in a living death and undying misery.

Begin now at length to be the faithful subject of
the Infant King Whose entrance into the world
we to-day celebrate, in order that one day you may
inherit the eternal Kingdom which this Father of
the future life comes to bestow, and which He has
pledged to bestow upon all those who shall have
approved themselves His faithful followers and
children. Let this season of His coming, as all days
of our life, be spent in innocence and Christian
thought. Ponder His own words : "The Kingdom
of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field ; which
a man having found, hid it, and for joy thereof,
goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that
field." — Matt, xiii, 44. Nothing is to be compared
in value to and everything is to be sold or sacrificed
for the Kingdom of God, and its eternal treasure.
Enter into the mind of the Apostle, "I count all
things to be but loss and count them but as dung,
that I may gain Christ." — Philipp, iii, 8.

While here below it is our duty to pray, and, as
far as in us lies, to labor that our Divine King may
rule over the souls of all men ; that His empire may
be diffused to the ends of the earth : that he may
overcome His enemies, that they may acknowledge
His Divine Kingship and eternal authority, that all
may embrace the knowledge and salvation which is
to be found in Him alone, God blessed forever.
That they who already profess the faith and are


illumined by its light, but by their works and man-
ner of life deny it, may even now cast aside the
works of sin, and show their Faith no less by exam-
ple and manner of life.


We now see through a glass darkly: but then
face to face. Now I know in part: but then
I shall know even as I^am known. I Cor. xiii, 12.

There is nothing more frequently urged as an
objection against the truth of the Catholic Church
than the mysteries which she calls upon her chil-
dren to believe. Far from such mysteries invalidat-
ing her claims, they ought rather to go far towards
establishing her divine authority : for if she comes
from God as His oracle and representative on
earth, it is but reasonable to expect that she will
bear upon her some tokens of the mysterious nature
of Him Who has sent her; and that, coming from
Him Who dwells in light inaccessible, which to us
must needs be darkness, she should also manifest
some of these mysteries that surround His throne.

The catechism defines a mystery to be a revealed
truth which we cannot comprehend. Now, there are
many mysteries, besides revealed mysteries, which
we cannot comprehend. There are secrets in this
world, even within ourselves, and around us, above
us, below us, part of us ; in fact, everything is a mys-
tery to us; so that it is not alone the truths which
God has disclosed that we find mysterious, but even
the most ordinary phenomena of this life.



As to things of this hfe, there is scarcely any-
thing that is not incomprehensible, at least to some.
Knowledge is relative to the person and its object.
What is incomprehensible to one, is not incompre-
hensible to another; that may be incomprehensible
to the ignorant, which is not to the educated or en-
lightened; that may be incomprehensible to a child
which is not incomprehensible to his teacher; that
may be incomprehensible to one man, which is not
to another endowed with greater ability or qualified
by superior education.

To a higher order of intelligence than human,
truths that are absolutely impervious to us may be
plain and manifest. And what to this higher order
of intelligence may be mysterious, might not be to
an order of intelligence still higher. And what may
be mysterious to the highest intelligence, angelic or
otherwise, which God has created, is not mysterious
and cannot be tO' God Himself.

That God cannot require us to believe mysteries,
is one with saying that God cannot create a being
with less intelligence than Himself; which is only
saying that God cannot create at all. For if God
cannot create an intelligence less than His own, His
creative power must be exhausted, which is saying
that He is not infinite. And if He cannot create
any being but one equal to Himself, there is either
no God at all, or there must be more Gods than one.

As, however, God can create, but cannot create a
being equal to Himself, the being created must be
" less than Himself. From the nature of God, there-
fore, and from the nature of His creative power,
it must be that there are objects which one rank of


intelligence can comprehend, and another rank of
intelligence cannot comprehend. Hence in the very
possibility of things, there must be mysteries ; and
it can be no argument at all against our holy Faith
that it teaches mysteries.

As God is infinite, — so great that He cannot be
greater, — and as man and all creatures are finite,
it necessarily follows that, when this Infinite Being
comes to reveal Himself to our limited capacity, we
cannot comprehend Him ; and that is the very mean-
ing of mystery ; the inability of a mind limited in its
very nature to fathom or explore truths which in
their essence are illimitable. And these truths must
be countless.

Even in heaven the unaided human intelligence
would be unable to see God; it will require what is
called the light of glory. The human eye in dark-
ness cannot perceive surrounding objects; without
the light of the sun, it is blind; so the soul before
God will need this light of glory to see Him. Here
below we see things darkly, says St. Paul : then we
shall see them as they are, by this new light.

We are content to get along in this life with a
very little knowledge of this world; so no deep
knowledge of the truths of religion and of the mys-
teries of God is necessary to enable us to qualify
ourselves for the life to come. It is not necessary,
therefore, that we should scrutinize and explore the
secrets of the Godhead. He who cannot understand
himself, will never compass what is so clearly
beyond him. There is, then, nothing more reason^
able than that there should be mysteries. There is
nothing more reasonable than that we should believe


in them, — it must be the very height of the loftiest
reason to beHeve Him Who cannot deceive or be
deceived,^ — "Whose word is the same yesterday,
today, and forever, and whose record is, hke the
God Who gave it, from generation to generation."

Why, sometimes people talk as if they understood
everything; as though there was no mystery at all
in the world, as if, forsooth, there was anything but
mystery. Those objects with which apparently we
are the most familiar, are replete with mystery.
What do we know of the nature of time? Do we
even know what it is ? W hat is more familiar to us
and to our tongues than space? Space which seems
to surround us on every side, which travels with us
wherever we go, never diminishing, never terminat-
ing, always interminable, boundless, endless, infinite,
suggestive of the immensity of the Deity Himself !
Who can tell what it is ? Yet there is nothing more
mysterious that God has created. Put your mind
to fathom it, and you will find that your reason is
confounded by imagination so that it is all but im-
possible to distinguish their respective parts in the
attempted solution of this ever present, impenetra-
ble mystery. Of time we can only say that it is
succession ; that it did not exist in eternity, but first
came with creation. But how meagre and unsatis-
factory is this ! that we should know no more of that
which is never absent from us from birth to death,

Online LibraryJohn McQuirkSermons and discourses (Volume 3) → online text (page 12 of 43)