THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for October 17th, 2017
Tuesday of the Twenty-Eighth Week in Ordinary Time
Opt. Memorial St. Ignatius of Antioch
Liturgical texts here
AFTER a warm cordial greeting to the Romans, St. Paul turns on a cold shower to awaken his readers:
The wrath of God is indeed being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. (First reading)
And then, in what can rightly be described as a prophetic “map”, St. Paul describes a progression of rebellion that would ultimately unleash the judgment of the nations. In fact, what he describes is remarkably parallel to the period of time beginning 400 years ago, until our current day. It’s as if St. Paul was, unknowingly, writing for this precise time.
Of those who “suppress the truth”, he continues:
For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made.
At the beginning of the so-called Enlightenment period four centuries ago, science was beginning to emerge with new powers and discoveries. But rather than attribute the marvels of creation to God, men—falling into the temptation and error of Adam and Eve—believed that they too could become like God.
… those who followed in the intellectual current of modernity that [Francis Bacon] inspired were wrong to believe that man would be redeemed through science. Such an expectation asks too much of science; this kind of hope is deceptive. Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it. —BENEDICT XVI, Encyclical Letter, Spe Salvi, n. 25
Indeed, the “great dragon… that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan” Rev 12:9 began one of his final assaults on humanity—not in the form of violence (which would develop later)—but philosophy. Through sophistries, the dragon begins to lie, not with an outright denial of God, but a suppression of the truth. And thus, writes Paul:
…although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened.
What a deception! False “enlightenment” appears as light, and error is to be taken for truth. Indeed, we can observe, in hindsight, how vanity has poisoned men and darkened their reason. Like an eclipse in slow motion, one errant philosophy after another has obscured more and more truth about God and man himself: rationalism, scientism, Darwinism, materialism, atheism, Marxism, Communism, relativism, and now, individualism, have gradually blocked out the light of divine Truth. Like a ship that goes minutely off course, it only finds itself utterly lost thousands of miles across the ocean.
St. Paul perfectly elucidates the consequences of this vain reasoning:
While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes.
How many things in our times fit this description! Do not birds and four-legged animals have more rights than an unborn baby? And has not our generation exchanged the glory of God for the “likeness” of an image of mortal man? That is, hasn’t a sexualized “selfie” culture—ie. individualism and the worship of the body—displaced worship of God in many souls? And does not a massive portion of the population stare mesmerized into a television, computer, or smartphone screen instead of contemplating the face of God? And of the exchange of God for the “likeness of an image of mortal man”, isn’t the technological revolution rapidly replacing labourers with machines, producing robots for sex, and computer chips to interface with our brains?
St. Paul continues, as if he is seeing into the future…
Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever.
Indeed, the pinnacle of the Enlightenment period could rightly be considered the sexual revolution—an anthropological earthquake whereby sex—which is a “sign” and “symbol” of the interior communion of the Holy Trinity—was severed from its procreative function; marriage was no longer deemed an essential building block of society, and children were considered an impediment to pleasure. This revolution set the stage for the last “ism” whereby man and woman would become severed from themselves—from the understanding and reality of their very natures:
God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Gen 1:27)
In the fight for the family, the very notion of being—of what being human really means—is being called into question… The profound falsehood of this theory [that sex is no longer an element of nature but a social role people choose for themselves], and of the anthropological revolution contained within it, is obvious… —POPE BENEDICT XVI, December 21st, 2012
In seeking the deepest roots of the struggle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death”… We have to go to the heart of the tragedy being experienced by modern man: the eclipse of the sense of God and of man [that] inevitably leads to a practical materialism, which breeds individualism, utilitarianism and hedonism. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, n.21, 23
Individualism. That is, without any kind of reference to God, to moral absolutes or the natural law, the only incentive remaining is to do that which brings the most gratification in the moment. Now, I am god, and everything at my disposal, including my body, is meant to serve this intoxicating drive for pleasure. And thus, St. Paul reveals the stunning end of this progression that began with a denial of God… and ends with the denial of one’s very self:
Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another… they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Rom 1:26-27, 32)
…we see… the celebration and even exaltation of the vulgar and the blasphemous, mocking God’s beautiful plan in how He created us, in our very bodies, for communion with one another and Himself. God is roundly mocked in our very streets, and it is met with approval and applause in our community—and yet, we remain silent. —Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, Oct. 11th, 2017; LifeSiteNews.com
Later, in a letter to the Thessalonians, St. Paul briefly summarizes this progression of rebellion against God’s designs. He calls it an “apostasy” from truth that reaches its climax in the appearance of Antichrist…
…who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thess 2:4)
Don’t you see, brothers and sisters? Antichrist is hailed by the nations precisely because he embodies everything that generation has come to embrace! That “I” am god; “I” am the object of worship; “I” can manipulate all things; “I” am the end of my existence; “I am”…. It is a relativism…
…that recognizes nothing as definite, and which leaves as the ultimate measure only one’s ego and desires… —Cardinal Ratzinger (POPE BENEDICT XVI) pre-conclave Homily, April 18th, 2005
Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thess 2:11-12)
However, in case the Romans—or we—would rise up in self-righteous indignation and condemnation, St. Paul immediately reminds:
Therefore, you are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment. For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things. (Rom 2:1)
This is why, dear brothers and sisters, God warns all of us to “come out of Babylon”, to “depart from her, my people, so as not to take part in her sins and receive a share in her plagues, for her sins are piled up to the sky…” Rev 18:4-5
I do not know God’s timeline… but St. Paul’s progression suggests that we are drawing dangerously close to the pinnacle of human rebellion—that great apostasy from God.
Who can fail to see that society is at the present time, more than in any past age, suffering from a terrible and deep-rooted malady which, developing every day and eating into its inmost being, is dragging it to destruction? You understand, Venerable Brethren, what this disease is—apostasy from God… When all this is considered there is good reason to fear lest this great perversity may be as it were a foretaste, and perhaps the beginning of those evils which are reserved for the last days; and that there may be already in the world the “Son of Perdition” of whom the Apostle speaks. —POPE ST. PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, n. 3, 5; October 4th, 1903
At that period when Antichrist shall be born, there will be many wars and right order shall be destroyed on earth. Heresy will be rampant and the heretics will preach their errors openly without restraint. Even among Christians, doubt and skepticism will be entertained concerning the beliefs of Catholicism. —St. Hildegard (d. 1179), Details concerning the Antichrist, According to Holy Scriptures, Tradition and Private Revelation, Prof. Franz Spirago
…the foundations of the earth are threatened, but they are threatened by our behavior. The outer foundations are shaken because the inner foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that leads to the right way of life. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, first session of the special synod on the Middle East, October 10th, 2010
If foundations are destroyed, what can the just one do? (Psalm 11:3)
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