The Ten Just Men
The names of the two cities, Sodom and Gomorrha, are well known to us. These two words are a perfect synonym for a debaucherous and dissolute life, the kind of life the people on earth were leading at the time of Abraham, which evoked the just wrath of our Father in Heaven. Also well known to us, is the Old Testament story, whereby God, in all His justice, finally destroyed these two cities.
But there is another, less common story in connection with Sodom and Gomorrha, which can also be found in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis it is told how Abraham recognized Our Lord in the form of three men and, according to the eastern law, invited them into his house. There, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, served and entertained their guests.
Afterwards, the three men informed Abraham and Sarah that, within a year, they would bear a son (Isaac), although it was no longer biologically possible for them. And because Abraham “should become a great and powerful nation and that all the nations should be blessed through him”, God confided in him His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrha, “in order that Abraham could instruct his descendants to keep the way of the Lord by doing what was just and right” (Gen. 18).
But something occurred then which no one could have imagined! Drawing nearer to God, Abraham asked Him, “Would you really let the innocent perish with the guilty? There might be fifty just men in the city. Wouldn’t you rather spare the city for the sake of those fifty just men, who live there? God answered Abraham, saying, “If I found fifty just men in Sodom, I would forgive the entire city for their sake.” It is truly amazing how much sympathy Abraham showed for the people of Sodom and how often he interceded for them!
Later on, Abraham began anew and said, “I undertook to myself to talk with God, even though I am but dust and ash…maybe there are five lacking from the fifty just men. Would you really destroy the city because of these missing five?” God answered him, “Even if I could find only 45 just men, I would not destroy the city.” In this way, Abraham continued to negotiate with God until the number was down to but ten... “Don’t be cross, O Lord, if I speak one last time. Perhaps there are only ten just men to be found in Sodom.” But God answered, saying, “Even for the sake of these ten, I would not destroy the city.”
And so it was that the people of Sodom and Gomorrha were, once again, saved from destruction because of Abraham’s pleas. In the end Sodom and Gomorrha were actually “rained down upon with fire and brimstone”. (Gen. 19) But this did not take place until the vices of the cities became more horrific than ever before and Lot, a nephew of Abraham, was commanded by God to flee Sodom and Gomorrha together with his family.
Looking at this example of Abraham pleading to God, we begin to see more and more how valuable intercessory prayers are. What an enormous significance they must have in the eyes of God! Even in our lives situations come up, in which we feel completely powerless to act. Whether the situations be those in which we could help someone, or could give some positive motivation, or maybe we could even prevent some great evil from taking place. Sometimes we really struggle with the conclusion that help is not only very often unwanted, but also brusquely refused at times.
But praying is something we can always do- we should never underestimate the power of prayer! For example, if parents plead to God that He may bless, protect, and give the necessary graces to their children, or if we pray for the conversion of poor sinners and of those who have been lead astray, or if we pray for the Catholic Church and all the affairs concerning her (which are in connection with her present crisis); not one prayer is left unheard! Not one cry to God is in vain and, sooner or later, every sigh of prayer will be heard by Him! But we must not believe that God would be ungracious and unmerciful if no one was to pray. Such an assumption would be absurd. No, the worth of our intercessory prayers lies therein, that God is much more prepared to help us when we pray because He then sees how much we cherish and long for His help.
There was recently a priest, traveling in a different country, who spoke of a conversation he had held with a group of Faithful, whom he was visiting. During the conversation, they came to ask him how big the parish was where he was stationed. But, because his parish was so small, he explained, half apologetically, that it only consisted of about ten people. At that point, one lady asked him why he spoke of his parish as if he were ashamed of it because of the small number of Faithful. It could be that those, in his parish, were the “ten just men” spoken of in the Book of Genesis!
We, who disclaim the corruptive “reforms” of the Vatican II Church and hold on to the handed down teachings and practices of the Catholic Church, probably ask ourselves, what significance our opposition actually has. We can change next to nothing, being just a tiny handful of believers. One has the impression as if all of our efforts couldn’t possibly bear any fruits and all of our struggles are for nothing. Is it even worth trying to continue? For some of us, it seems that we missed the bus a long time ago and that we are fighting a battle which is already lost. Why should we continue to vainly waste or strength?
But let us not only keep in mind the ways of this world. As it is written, “The wisdom of the world is foolishness before God” (1 Cor. 3:19). The attributes, which count before the eyes of God, are very different than those of our earthly society. Before God, it does not depend on the quantity or size, but instead on the quality of a person’s position towards God and the honesty and intensity of his commitment to Him.
As it were, very few people could be found under the cross of Christ. These were the true souls, who steadfastly held to Christ, the meek Lamb, even in the darkest hour of His life on earth. But perhaps, by doing so, they could make reparation for the crowd’s scornful cries and blind hate towards Jesus. What we do know is that, because these few were able to persevere with Christ under His cross, they were able to give Him much consolation.
Interesting is that, looking through history, we see this same scene continue to repeat itself, long after the death of Christ. There are many people who openly oppose Christ or don’t take God and their Faith seriously, entangling themselves in moral dangers. Then there are others, who make up a much smaller group of souls, to whom Jesus and the Faith are kept sacred and who strive to live better for Christ. It is these souls who, through their own excess of genuine love (which is far beyond that of an average person), try to “balance” the lack of love towards God and our neighbor! And it is these precious souls who are the “ten just men” of old. It is they who, in our present time, plead to God for grace and mercy for themselves and others and these souls alone, through their spotless moral lives, practice the love of Christ.
Consider how many blessings were called down upon the human race just by the members of the contemplative orders, through their lives of prayer and abstinence. They neither took charge of spiritual guidance, nor oversaw schools or hospitals, nor did anything else except keeping busy behind their monastery walls. They prayed and offered sacrifice- everyone according to his vocation- and, thereby, unlocked a treasure of graces for the whole world!
We, the human race, also form, together, a society. The religious and moral loss of many, who separate and distance themselves from Christ, must also be “balanced out” by the growth of others. If not, then we will be faced with such a catastrophic problem as has never been seen before and one which will be impossible to resolve. Do we really want to risk pushing the limits of God’s patience?
There was recently an orthodox Christian, who inquired about the modernism in the Vatican II Church and the reasoning behind our deep loyalty to the sacred traditions of the Catholic Church. He then came upon a very interesting conclusion. He believed that if we, so-called Traditionalists, ever were to die out then our society would finally have a huge problem worth worrying about! That being said, we must simply agree with him.
It is safe to say that God is expecting us to be, and stay, perfectly faithful to Him. In the Offertory of the Mass on the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we read how our crucified Lord says the following word through the psalmist: “As I look out to see if someone has compassion with Me- no one comes. I search for a comforter- but I find none” (Ps. 68, 21). Let us, therefore, persevere all the more faithfully under the cross of Christ, together with Our Lady, St. John, and the other pious women. Because, in the most unlikely times, it becomes more and more difficult for one to preserve the true Faith and to remain loyal to the Catholic Church without giving in to false or lazy compromises! Then, if we are able to prove ourselves here on earth, maybe we can contribute- in a small way- to Christ’s work of redemption by living the role of the “ten just men”.
Let us not pride ourselves in anything. By no means should we be sticking our noses in the air! Instead, let us simply look at this as our holy obligation, or rather, as a fortunate opportunity to prove our love for Christ, since we too are guilty of enough indifference, unkindness, and sin. The world offers us, in the form of an anti-Catholic society, allurements to override God’s laws. But let us not be overcome by these temptations, keeping in mind the aftermath of an immoral life!
The media, with all its power, is likewise trying, in every way possible, not only to discredit any characteristics of Catholicism, on which our entire history is based, but also to have it publicly rejected. We must continue to hold high the flag of our sound Catholic reasoning and to be careful not to be thrown off track by the criticism of Christ’s adversaries. All around us is the genuine Catholic Faith being systematically macerated and “demystified” by the so-called “modern” reasoning- keep in mind that science will never be able to comprehend the eternity and dignity of God!
Aside from the media, the Vatican II Church is also conducting a disgraceful process of pitiful flattery towards the “spirit of the age” and the other anti-Catholic forces. Let us not be infected by this sellout of the Truths of Faith and the dangerous virus of irreverence. Instead let us try to comprehend, with a believing eye, the divine Mystery of those things which are supernatural and sacred! The “new Rome” is, firstly, concerned about making sure not to upset the representatives of the Jewish and Moslem religions. But, at the same time, it does not even think about recoiling from the abandonment of its own historical, as well as, Christ-centered identity. We must simply try to keep out of any politically-limited contemplations of Faith and reject the supremacy of liberalism, ecumenism, and the so-called “interreligious dialogs” (which practically always end with the side of the “Catholics” giving in) about the Catholic religion! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and for all eternity! Do not be lead astray by false teachings.” (Hebr. 13, 8f)
As it is, if we don’t make any forbidden compromises with sin, heresy, or apostasy, then we really can stay under Christ’s cross and console Him, as was mentioned above. At the same time, it would be an alarming severance from Christ if we, knowingly, tried to search for the proximity and approval of the Vatican II Church, which denies and, when possible, persecutes the handed down treasures of our Faith. How can someone submit oneself to these modernistic and destructive forces of any sound Catholicism and then still believe that he stands true to the Catholic Faith? That would be indeed, my dear members of the SSPX, an enormous contradiction and a crucial error!
Have then the pious souls, who persevered under Christ’s cross on Good Friday, asked the Sanhedrin, who condemned Jesus to death, for the validity of their loyalty to Christ? Or did they negotiate Church Law with Christ’s enemies? And would the Sacrifice of the Mass in the early Church ever be defiled by being celebrated in the liturgical and dogmatical community of the Jewish High Priests, Annas and Caiphas?
No, every tactical act or politicization with the Faith also alienates us from Christ. By doing so we would no longer stand completely on the side of Christ and His Church. No matter how unimportant we are in the eyes of the world, remember that God sees us differently. Let this thought, along with prayer and the complete surrender to God’s Divine Providence, impart in us the strength and endurance to never be lead astray by devious temptations.
Furthermore, it is often asked what the definition of “success” really is. A wise, Christian journalist once gave an explanation with the following example: If a manager or advertiser wants to sell a product to 100 people and at the end only sells it to 10, his job is considered unsuccessful – he will be fired! Now if this journalist were to explain the Catholic teaching to 100 people and if in the end only one person was convinced of the truth of Christ, then he would consider his efforts a great success, for he lead one soul to God!
In this way does Jesus Himself, as the Good Shepherd, pursue every one of His lost sheep. “And if it be so that he should find it, amen I say to you, he rejoices more over that one found sheep, than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.” (Matt. 18:13) Let us, therefore, continue to improve our way of thinking and let us try to see reality through the eyes of Jesus, Who is without end and all-wonderful.
And let us also remember, keeping charity in mind, not only to pray for our friends and comrades in Christ, but also for the enemies of Christ and for the poor souls who continue to remove themselves from the way of salvation. May God give us all His grace and mercy and may He also, when we are in need, give us another chance to turn away from evil and to turn towards Him, the divine Redeemer, Jesus Christ! Then God’s judgment can only be turned away from the entire human race, when we provoke Him by our numerous violations of His holy commandments, as well as by the shameful injuries we have imparted upon the unfathomable love of Christ.
Fr. Eugen Rissling (translated into English by Amanda Bloch)