THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for Tuesday, December 20th, 2016
Liturgical texts here
The Annunciation; Sandro Botticelli; 1485
AMONG the most powerful and prophetic words spoken to Mary by the angel Gabriel was the promise that her Son’s Kingdom would never end. This is good news for those who fear that the Catholic Church is in its death throws…
He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his Kingdom there will be no end. (Today’s Gospel)
While I have spoken this Advent of some difficult subjects pertaining to the Antichrist and the Beast—topics which, nonetheless, have everything to do with Advent and the return of Jesus—it is time to shift our focus again to God’s plan unfolding in our time. We need to hear afresh the words spoken to Mary, or to the angels when they appeared to the shepherds:
Do not be afraid… (Luke 1:30, 2:10)
Why, if the Beast may be rising, cf. The Rising Beast should we not be afraid, you might ask? Because this is Jesus’ promise to you who are faithful:
Because you have kept my message of endurance, I will keep you safe in the time of trial that is going to come to the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold fast to what you have, so that no one may take your crown. (Rev 3:10)
So don’t be afraid or shaken when you see shadows fall upon the entire world, and even the Church itself. This night must come, but for those who are faithful, the Morning Star is already rising in your hearts. cf. The Rising Morning Star This is Christ’s promise!
When Jesus walked among us in the flesh, He would often say that the “Kingdom of God is near.” With His first coming, Jesus established His Kingdom on earth through His body, the Church:
Christ dwells on earth in his Church…. “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 699
If that is so, then what the Archangel Gabriel announced is that the Church will never be crushed (and here, we are not speaking of any temporal power and influence, but of her spiritual existence and sacramental presence)—not even by the Beast. In fact…
The Catholic Church, which is the kingdom of Christ on earth, [is] destined to be spread among all men and all nations… —POPE PIUS XI, Quas Primas, Encyclical, n. 12, Dec. 11th, 1925; cf. Matt 24:14
It is precisely through her own passion that the Church will be purified so as to fulfill her destiny: to become like Mary, who is the prototype and image of the Church.
We are given reason to believe that, towards the end of time and perhaps sooner than we expect, God will raise up people filled with the Holy Spirit and imbued with the spirit of Mary. Through them Mary, Queen most powerful, will work great wonders in the world, destroying sin and setting up the Kingdom of Jesus her Son upon the ruins of the corrupt kingdom which is this great earthly Babylon. (Rev.18:20) —St. Louis de Montfort, Treatise on True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin,n. 58-59
But perhaps this sounds confusing. Wasn’t the Kingdom of Jesus already set up 2000 years ago? Yes… and no. Since the Kingdom reigns in and through the Church, what remains is for the Church herself to mature into her “full stature” cf. Eph 4:13 in order to become a purified Bride…
…that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:27)
The Beast, then, is merely an instrument that God ultimately works to the good for the salvation of mankind and glory of the Church:
For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready. She was allowed to wear a bright, clean linen garment… Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over these; they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for the thousand years. (Rev 19:7-8; 20:6)
It is the result, in part, of the necessary purification that the Church must pass through—the persecution of the dragon and the antichrist system of the Beast. But a footnote in the Revised Standard Version of the Bible rightly points out:
The destruction of the dragon must coincide with that of the beast (Rev 19:20), so that the first resurrection with the reign of the martyrs refers to the revival and expansion of the Church after the years of persecution. —footnote on Rev. 20:3; Ignatius Press, Second Edition
You see, the rise of the Beast is not a sign of the end, but of a new dawn. Reign of the martyrs? Yes, this is mysterious language… part of the unfolding mystery of these times. cf. The Coming Resurrection
The essential affirmation is of an intermediate stage in which the risen saints are still on earth and have not yet entered their final stage, for this is one of the aspects of the mystery of the last days which has yet to be revealed. —Cardinal Jean Daniélou, S.J., theologian, A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicea, 1964, p. 377
This final stage is essentially a new fruition of Christ’s Kingdom unlike anything since the Incarnation. As St. John Paul II said, humanity…
…has now entered its final phase, making a qualitative leap, so to speak. The horizon of a new relationship with God is unfolding for humanity, marked by the great offer of salvation in Christ. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, General Audience, April 22nd, 1998
Of course, the necessary interior purification of the Church in order to realize this new horizon also has external consequences upon the entire world. This too is part of God’s plan, as Jesus said, so that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached through the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” cf. Matt 24:14 Many popes have spoken about this hopeful era of peace to come when Christ’s Kingdom will flourish among us:
…by its light even the other peoples can walk towards the Kingdom of justice, towards the Kingdom of peace. What a great day it will be, when the weapons will be dismantled in order to be transformed into instruments of work! And this is possible! We bet on hope, on the hope of peace, and it will be possible. —POPE FRANCIS, Sunday Angelus, December 1st, 2013; Catholic News Agency, Dec. 2nd, 2013
It is God’s task to bring about this happy hour and to make it known to all… When it does arrive, it will turn out to be a solemn hour, one big with consequences not only for the restoration of the Kingdom of Christ, but for the pacification of… the world. We pray most fervently, and ask others likewise to pray for this much-desired pacification of society. —POPE PIUS XI, Ubi Arcani dei Consilioi “On the Peace of Christ in his Kingdom”, December 23, 1922
As I have said before, and will say again: let us prepare, not for the antichrist so much as for Christ, who indeed, is coming (see Is Jesus Really Coming?). Even though Mary was to face the Passion of her Son such that a sword too would pierce her heart, the Angel Gabriel’s words remained in effect: Do not be afraid…. the Kingdom will never end.
Bless you and thank you.
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