He Calls While We Slumber


Christ Grieving Over the World
, by Michael D. O’Brien

 

 

I feel strongly compelled to re-post this writing here tonight. We are living in a precarious moment, the calm before the Storm, when many are tempted to fall asleep. But we must remain vigilant, that is, our eyes focused on building the Kingdom of Christ in our hearts and then in the world around us. In this way, we will be living in the Father’s constant care and grace, His protection and anointing. We will be living in the Ark, and we must be there now, for soon it will begin to rain justice upon a world that is cracked and dry and thirsting for God.  First published April 30th, 2011.

 

CHRIST IS RISEN, ALLELUIA!

 

INDEED He is risen, alleluia! I am writing you today from San Francisco, USA on the eve and Vigil of Divine Mercy, and Beatification of John Paul II. In the home where I am staying, the sounds of the prayer service taking place in Rome, where the Luminous mysteries are being prayed, are flowing into the room with the gentleness of a trickling spring and the force of a waterfall. One cannot help but be overwhelmed with the fruits of the Resurrection so evident as the Universal Church prays in one voice before the beatification of St. Peter’s successor. The power of the Church—the power of Jesus—is present, both in the visible witness of this event, and in the presence of the communion of Saints. The Holy Spirit is hovering…

Where I am staying, the front room has a wall lined with icons and statues: St. Pio, the Sacred Heart, Our Lady of Fatima and Guadalupe, St. Therese de Liseux…. all of them are stained with either tears of oil or blood that have fallen from their eyes in past months. The spiritual director of the couple who lives here is Fr. Seraphim Michalenko, the vice-postulator of St. Faustina’s canonization process. A picture of him meeting John Paul II sits at the feet of one of the statues. A tangible peace and presence of the Blessed Mother seems to pervade the room…

And so, it is in the midst of these two worlds that I write you. On the one hand, I see tears of joy falling from the faces of those praying in Rome; on the other, tears of sorrow falling from the eyes of Our Lord and Lady in this home. And so I ask once again, “Jesus, what do you want me to say to your people?”  And I sense in my heart the words,

Tell my children that I love them. That I am Mercy itself. And Mercy calls My children to wake up. 

 

SLUMBERING

I cannot help but think of another vigil, the one Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25.

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom… The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps. Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep. (Matt 25:1, 5)

As Pope Benedict just prayed from Rome, we wait with Mary (for) “the dawn of a new era” and the eventual coming of her Son, Jesus Christ. We wait for the coming of the Bridegroom who has been “long delayed.” It is near midnight, and the world has grown dark.

In our days, when in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel, the overriding priority is to make God present in this world and to show men and women the way to God. Not just any god, but the God who spoke on Sinai; to that God whose face we recognize in a love which presses “to the end” (cf. Jn 13:1)—in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing its bearings, with increasingly evident destructive effects.Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 10, 2009; Catholic Online

Many souls have become drowsy and have fallen asleep, particularly within the Church. For some, the oil of their “lamps” has run out. I received this letter recently from a very prayerful and humble Canadian missionary:

In prayer, I was wondering why people seem to be going on with life as if nothing is wrong. Even people who are following the Lord seem to sense no problems with the future ahead. Maybe I’m going overboard with what I feel is coming down (collapse of society)… Then the words of Scripture come: ‘they were eating and drinking, marrying, etc… when the great flood came.‘  I get it, this Scripture has taken on new meaning for me. But why do some people who follow Jesus seem to be sensing nothing? Is it that some people’s roles are more ‘watchmen or prophets’ that are called to warn? The Lord keeps giving me these little glimpses of what’s to come whenever I start to doubt. So maybe I’m not crazy?? —April 17th, 2011

Crazy? No. A fool for Christ? Most certainly. Because to resist the powerful tide of evil in the world is counter-cultural. To confront and challenge the status quo is to become a “sign of contradiction.” To recognize the “signs of the times” and speak openly about the dangers we face not only as a Church but for humanity as a whole is considered “unbalanced.”  The truth is that there is a growing gulf between the reality of what is occurring around the world, and what many perceive to be occurring. This letter came a few days ago from a priest in Ontario, Canada:

We are certainly living in strange times and one can easily sense the rapid increase of secularism, particularly within the Church  concerning attitudes pertaining to faith practice, the Eucharist and the sacramental life. Many fill their lives with everything but God and it’s not so much that they no longer believe in God, but they’ve in effect, crowded God out. —Fr. C.

Why is it that so few seem to genuinely grasp the parameters of the moral, spiritual, economic, social and political crises that are here and coming? Is it that many don’t want to see? Or can’t see?

As I said last night in my first address at a local church here, few realize that we are living in a “time of mercy,” according to Our Lord’s revelation to St. Faustina. That is to say, few realize that this time will end, and that perhaps, we are closer to “midnight” than many realize. [1]cf. The Last Judgments

…I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of [sinners]… Speak to the world about My mercy; let all mankind recognize My unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of justice. While there is still time, let them have recourse to the fount of My mercy; let them profit from the Blood and Water which gushed forth for them..Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, Jesus to St. Faustina, n. 1160, 848

While there is still time…”, that is, while souls are still awake and listening. In that regard, Pope Benedict’s words during Holy Week are in and of themselves a “sign of the times”:

It’s our very sleepiness to the presence of God that renders us insensitive to evil: we don’t hear God because we don’t want to be disturbed, and so we remain indifferent to evil.”…such a disposition leads to “a certain callousness of the soul towards the power of evil.” The Pope was keen to stress that Christ’s rebuke to his slumbering apostles – “stay awake and keep vigil” – applies to the entire history of the Church. Jesus’ message, the Pope said, is a “permanent message for all time because the disciples’ sleepiness is not problem of that one moment, rather of the whole of history, ‘the sleepiness’ is ours, of those of us who do not want to see the full force of evil and do not want to enter into his Passion.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Catholic News Agency, Vatican City, Apr 20, 2011, General Audience

 

THE HEART DISASTER

As radiation particles from Japan continue to fallout; as bloody revolutions continue to roil the East; as China rises to world supremacy; as a global food crisis continues to escalate; as unparalleled storms and earthquakes continue to shake the world… even these “signs of the times” seem to have awakened relatively few. The reasons, as outlined by the Holy Father above, are essentially because hearts have fallen asleep—many simply don’t want to see, and thus, cannot see. This is most evident in hearts that continue to live a life of sin.

Pay attention to this, foolish and senseless people who have eyes and see not, who have ears and hear not… this people’s heart is stubborn and rebellious; they turn and go away… (Jer 5:21, 23; cf. Mk 8:18)

Even though this “sleepiness” has occurred throughout ‘the entire history of the Church’, our time carries a unique harbinger:

The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin. —POPE PIUS XII, Radio Address to the United States Catechetical Congress held in Boston; 26 Oct., 1946: AAS Discorsi e Radiomessaggi, VIII (1946), 288

Like a cataract that builds up over the eye making everything “foggy”, unrepented sin builds up over the heart preventing the eyes of the soul from seeing clearly. Blessed John Henry Newman was a soul who did see clearly and offers to us a prophetic vision of our times:

I know that all times are perilous, and that in every time serious and anxious minds, alive to the honor of God and the needs of man, are apt to consider no times so perilous as their own. At all times the enemy of souls assaults with fury the Church which is their true Mother, and at least threatens and frightens when he fails in doing mischief. And all times have their special trials which others have not. And so far I will admit that there were certain specific dangers to Christians at certain other times, which do not exist in this time. Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think… ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it. The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. And at least a shadow, a typical image of the last times is coming over the world. —Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890 A.D.), sermon at opening of St. Bernard’s Seminary, October 2, 1873, The Infidelity of the Future

What would a “typical image of the last times” look like?

…there will be terrifying times in the last days. People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power.  (2 Tim 3:1-5)

Jesus summarized it as such:

…because of the increase of evildoing, the love of many will grow cold.  (Matt 24:12)

That is, souls will have fallen dead asleep.

And thus, even against our will, the thought rises in the mind that now those days draw near of which Our Lord prophesied: “And because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). —POPE PIUS XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor, Encyclical on Reparation to the Sacred Heart, n. 17 

And where love has grown cold, where truth has been snuffed out like a dying flame in our times, “the very future of the world is at stake”:

To resist this eclipse of reason and to preserve its capacity for seeing the essential, for seeing God and man, for seeing what is good and what is true, is the common interest that must unite all people of good will. The very future of the world is at stake. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Address to the Roman Curia, December 20th, 2010

Whoever wants to eliminate love is preparing to eliminate man as such. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), n. 28b

 

THE EVE OF DIVINE MERCY

And so, we have arrived at the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday. Jesus said that this feast of His mercy would be for some “the last hope of salvation” (see The Last Hope of Salvation). The reason is because our generation, marked in the last century by two world wars and on the brink of a third, has been so hardened by sin, that for some, the only possible path and hope of salvation is to make a simple and honest appeal to God’s mercy: “Jesus, I trust in you.” In a commentary on the words Jesus had spoken to her, St. Faustina gives to us now, at this late hour in the world, stunning clarity to Pope Benedict’s warnings, and Jesus’s invitation to trust in Him:

All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. But poor is the soul who has shut the door on God’s mercy, even at the last hour. It was just such souls who plunged Jesus into deadly sorrow in the Garden of Olives; indeed, it was from His Most Merciful Heart that divine mercy flowed out. Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, Jesus to St. Faustina, n. 1507

These souls who brought Jesus such sorrow are also the souls who have fallen asleep. Let us pray with all the strength we can muster that they will feel the Master shaking them, indeed, waking them as this time of mercy comes to an end:

“Do not be afraid! Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ!” Open your hearts, your lives, your doubts, your difficulties, your joys and your affections to his saving power, and let him enter your hearts. —BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, The Celebration of the Great Jubilee, St. John Latern; words in quotes from John Paul II’s first address on October 22nd, 1978

May we who are striving to keep our “lamps full of oil” [2]cf. Matt 25:4 ask, in expectant faith, that the “ocean of graces” Jesus promises to pour out on Divine Mercy Sunday will indeed fill our hearts, heal them, and keep us awake as the first strikes of midnight approach a slumbering world.

The threat of judgment also concerns us, the Church in Europe, Europe and the West in general… the Lord is also crying out to our ears… “If you do not repent I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” Light can also be taken away from us and we do well to let this warning ring out with its full seriousness in our hearts, while crying to the Lord: “Help us to repent!” —Pope Benedict XVI, Opening Homily, Synod of Bishops, October 2nd, 2005, Rome.

 

 

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1. cf. The Last Judgments
2. cf. Matt 25:4
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