LESSON: MARK 13:14-23
“False Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24
These are choice, earnest, but also terrible words that these preachers of works will push such teaching into the people with such outward glitter and emphasis that even the saints who stand fast in the faith will not be able to guard themselves against it, but will join in error with the rest. This is indeed what happened. The dear fathers, Augustine, Jerome, together with St. Bernard, Gregory, Francis, Dominic, and many others, although they were holy, nevertheless all fell at times into error, as I have often demonstrated elsewhere.
Their error was the error of their time. Together with their contemporaries, they tied Christianity to certain external practices, and they pushed matters so far that they adopted such practices outwardly in their lives. We see this in the books of St. Bernard. He writes very poorly in reply to questions on the monastic vocation. But when he writes freely out of his inner Christian spirit, he is a fine preacher whom it is a pleasure to hear. This is also the case with Augustine, Jerome, and Cyprian, the fine Christian martyrs. When they were asked a question about the Law or external ordinances, whether one should observe them this way or that, they flopped right into things so that they came very close to being misled.
This is still one of the chief objections we hear from our opponents. “Could so many holy men and teachers have erred, and could God have forsaken the world to such an extent?” they ask us. They do not see how this passage really turns them topsy-turvy.
PRAYER: We know how easy it is, heavenly Father, for even outstanding believers and teachers to fall into error. Guide us by Your Holy Spirit into the truth and keep us in it, through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.