THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for January 13th, 2015
Opt. Memorial of St. Hilary
Liturgical texts here
WE have entered a period of time in the Church that will shake the faith of many. And that is because it is going to increasingly appear as though evil has won, as though the Church has become completely irrelevant, and in fact, an enemy of the State. Those who hold fast to the whole of the Catholic faith will be few in number and be universally considered antiquated, illogical, and an obstacle to be removed.
Today’s first reading explains why. St. Paul writes:
‘..you crowned him with glory and honor, subjecting all things under his feet…’ Yet at present we do not see “all things subject to him,” but we do see Jesus “crowned with glory and honor”…
That is to say that Jesus’ victory over death upon the Cross opened the gates of Heaven. But evil is like a long train that has yet to fully pass through this world. Jesus opened the doors for every single human to get off board, but sadly, many don’t want to… and thus it is a train that continues to leave a trail of death behind it. And so, as Christians we wait at the cross-ing until the last car of evil passes through this age. For as St. John wrote:
We know that we belong to God, and the whole world is under the power of the evil one. (1 John 5:19)
That is to say that man still has free will, and thus, Satan still retains a foothold in the human heart. As the apostasy crescendos in our time, so too will Satan’s power. But as we read in Revelation 12, towards the end of this age (not the world, but this age), that Satan’s power is going to first be limited (and concentrated into the Antichrist), and then utterly removed for a time.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it… It took its position on the sand of the sea… To [the beast] the dragon gave its own power and throne, along with great authority… Then I saw an angel come down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the abyss and a heavy chain. He seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, which is the Devil or Satan, and tied it up for a thousand years. (Rev 12:9, 13:2, 20:1-2)
And it is not that mankind will not have free will during the coming Era of Peace. However, freed from the constant persecution of the powers of hell, and filled with the Spirit as in a new Pentecost, the Church will enjoy a period of rest and unparalleled sanctity in preparation for the return of Jesus at the end of time.
The Teachings of the Catholic Church, published by a theological commission in 1952, concluded that it is not contrary to our faith to…
…hope in some mighty triumph of Christ here on earth before the final consummation of all things. Such an occurrence is not excluded, is not impossible, it is not all certain that there will not be a prolonged period of triumphant Christianity before the end. —The Teaching of the Catholic Church: A Summary of Catholic Doctrine (London: Burns Oates & Washbourne, 1952), p. 1140; cited in The Splendor of Creation, Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, p. 54
Thus, brothers and sisters, do not be shaken at the powers of hell, that contorting the divine image in men’s faces, can do no more to your soul than snarl. Do not be shaken by the phantoms of darkness that threaten you with death, which has become the gateway to Life. Do not be shaken by the Cross, which is the symbol of your persecution, for it has taken root and become the Tree of Life. Do not be shaken by the Tomb, once darkened with despair, that has become the incubator of hope. Do not be shaken by the thunder and lightning, the shaking of the earth and the roar of the oceans, which signal the cry of labour and birth of a new creation. Do not be shaken that you feel abandoned, weak, and powerless before the powers of evil, for it is precisely in your obedience to Christ that you will share in the triumph over Satan’s kingdom on earth… and reign with Him.
…when the trial of this sifting is past, a great power will flow from a more spiritualized and simplified Church. Men in a totally planned world will find themselves unspeakably lonely. If they have completely lost sight of God, they will feel the whole horror of their poverty. Then they will discover the little flock of believers as something wholly new. They will discover it as a hope that is meant for them, an answer for which they have always been searching in secret.
And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals. But I am equally certain about what will remain at the end: not the Church of the political cult, which is dead already with Gobel, but the Church of faith. She may well no longer be the dominant social power to the extent that she was until recently; but she will enjoy a fresh blossoming and be seen as man’s home, where he will find life and hope beyond death. —Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI), Faith and Future, Ignatius Press, 2009