Victims of genocide
PERHAPS the most short-sighted aspect of our modern culture is the notion that we are on a linear path of advancement. That we are leaving behind, in the wake of human achievement, the barbarism and narrow-minded thinking of past generations and cultures. That we are loosening the shackles of prejudice and intolerance and marching toward a more democratic, free, and civilized world.
This assumption is not only false, but dangerous.
In truth, as we approach 2014, we see our world economies teetering on the brink of collapse due to the self-indulgent policies of the Western world; genocides, ethnic cleansings, and sectarian violence are on the rise in the Eastern world; hundreds of millions are starving worldwide despite enough food to feed the planet; freedoms of average citizens are evaporating globally in the name of “fighting terrorism”; abortion, assisted-suicide, and euthanasia are continuing to be promoted as “solutions” to inconvenience, suffering, and perceived “over-population”; human trafficking in sex, slavery, and organs is on the rise; pornography, in particular, child pornography, is exploding all over the world; media and entertainment are increasingly transfixed with the most base and dysfunctional aspects of human relations; technology, far from bringing about the liberation of man, has arguably produced a new form of slavery whereby it demands more time, money, and resources to “keep up” with the times; and tensions between nations armed with weapons of mass destruction, far from abating, are bringing humanity closer to a Third World War.
Indeed, just when some presumed that the world was moving toward a less prejudiced, caring, equal society, securing human rights for all, it is taking a turn in the other direction:
With tragic consequences, a long historical process is reaching a turning-point. The process which once led to discovering the idea of “human rights”—rights inherent in every person and prior to any Constitution and State legislation—is today marked by a surprising contradiction. Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death… This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people—even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the “right” ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life”, n. 18, 20
These realities should give pause to every human being of goodwill, whether an atheist or theist, to ask the question why—why, despite humanity’s best efforts do we find ourselves caught time and again in the vortex of destruction and tyranny, only on larger and larger global scales? More importantly, where is the hope in all of this?
Over 500 years before Christ was born, the prophet Daniel foresaw that the world would indeed pass through cycles of war, dominance, liberation, etc. cf. Daniel Ch. 7 until at last the nations succumbed to a terrifying global dictatorship—what Blessed John Paul II calls “totalitarianism.” cf. Dan 7:7-15 In this regard, Christianity has never proposed a “progressive ascendancy” of the Kingdom of God whereby the world is gradually transformed into a better place. Rather, the Gospel message continually invites and announces that the radical gift of human freedom can choose either light or darkness.
It is profoundly telling that St. John—after witnessing the Resurrection and experiencing Pentecost—would write, not about the nations eventually, once and for all, becoming followers of Jesus, but how the world would ultimately reject the Gospel. They would, in fact, embrace a global entity that would promise them security, protection, and “deliverance” from the demands of Christianity itself.
Fascinated, the whole world followed after the beast… It was also allowed to wage war against the holy ones and conquer them, and it was granted authority over every tribe, people, tongue, and nation. (Rev 13:3, 7)
Neither did Jesus ever indicate that the world would at last accept the Good News thereby putting a permanent end to discord. He merely said,
…the one who perseveres to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matt 24:13)
That is to say, humanity will experience the ebb and flow of Christian influence until, at last, Jesus returns at the end of time. There will be a constant war between the Church and the anti-Church, Christ and antichrist, one dominating more than the other, depending upon the free choice of humans to embrace or reject the Gospel in any given generation. And thus,
The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. —CCC, 677
Even the “era of peace” spoken of in Revelation 20, when the saints will experience a kind of “sabbath rest”, according to the Church Fathers, cf. Dear Holy Father… He is Coming! retains the human capacity to turn away from God. Indeed, Scriptures says that the nations fall into one last deception, thus, bringing about the “historic triumph” of Good over this “final unleashing of evil” and initiating the New Heavens and New Earth for all eternity. Rev 20:7-9
In essence, the heart of the woes of our times, of all times, is man’s persistence in rejecting God’s designs, in rejecting God himself.
The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other “lights”, that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Easter Vigil Homily, April 7th, 2012
Why can’t modern man see? Why does the difference between good and evil, after 2000 years, “remain in darkness”? The answer is very simple: because the human heart generally wants to remain in darkness.
And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. (John 3:19)
There is nothing complicated about this, and that’s why the hatred of Christ and His Church remains as intense today as it did 2000 years ago. The Church beckons and invites souls to accept the free gift of eternal salvation. But this means following Jesus, then, along the “way, truth, and the life.” The way is the path of love and service; the truth is the guidelines on how we are to love; and the life is that sanctifying grace God freely gives us in order to follow and obey Him and live in Him. It is the second aspect—the truth—that the world rejects, because it is the truth that sets us free. And Satan desires to keep humanity enslaved to sin, and the wages of sin is death. Hence, the world continues to reap the whirlwind of destruction insofar as it continues to reject truth and embrace sin.
Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy.—Jesus to St. Faustina; Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n. 300
WHERE IS THE HOPE?
Blessed John Paul II prophesied that the convulsions of our times are in fact leading us to the “final confrontation” between Christ and the Antichrist. cf. Understanding the Final Confrontation So where is hope in the future?
First of all, the Scriptures themselves have foretold all of this in the first place. Just knowing that fact, that until the end of time there will be such convulsions, leaves us rest assured that there is a Masterplan, mysterious as it is. God has not lost control of creation. He calculated from the very beginning the price His Son would pay, even at the risk of many refusing the free gift of salvation.
Only at the end, when our partial knowledge ceases, when we see God “face to face”, will we fully know the ways by which — even through the dramas of evil and sin — God has guided his creation to that definitive sabbath rest for which he created heaven and earth. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 314
Furthermore, the Word of God foretell’s the victory of those who “persevere to the end.” Matt 24:13
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. ‘The victor I will make into a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will never leave it again.’ (Rev 3:10-12)
We have the advantage of looking back at all the victories of God’s people in past centuries when Christianity itself was threatened. We see how the Lord, time and again, supplied His people with grace, “so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work.” (2 Cor 9:8)
And that is the key: to understand that God allows the tides of evil to push ashore in order to bring about a greater good—the salvation of souls.
We must begin to see the world with the eyes of faith, removing the spectacles of pessimism. Yes, things looks very bad on the surface. But the deeper the world falls into sin, the more it yearns and groans to be delivered! The more a soul is enslaved, the more it yearns to be saved! The more empty a heart becomes, the more ready it is to be filled! Do not be deceived; the world may appear to reject Christ… but I have found that those who most vigorously oppose Him are often those who are wrestling most with the truth in their hearts.
He has placed in man a longing for truth and goodness that only He can satisfy. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2002
This is not the moment to be timid, but with great humility and courage to enter into the hearts of men with the light of love and truth.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father. (Matt 5:14-16)
This is why the Holy Father is telling the Church once again that we must enter the streets; that we must get “dirty” again, rubbing shoulders with the world, letting them bask in the light of grace flowing through love, rather than hiding in refuges and cement bunkers. The darker it becomes, the brighter Christians should be. Unless of course, we ourselves have become lukewarm; unless we ourselves are living like pagans. Then yes, our light remains hidden, covered over by layers of compromise, hypocrisy, avarice, and pride.
Many Christians are sad, in truth, not because the world appears hellbound, but because their way of life is threatened. We have become too comfortable. We need to be shaken, to recognize that our lives are very short indeed and a preparation for eternity. Our home is not here, but in Heaven. Perhaps the greatest danger today is not that the world has become lost in the darkness yet again, but that Christians are no longer shining with the light of holiness. That is the worst darkness of all, for Christians are to be hope incarnate. Yes, hope enters the world every time a believer truly lives the Gospel, because that person then becomes a sign of the “new life.” Then the world can “taste and see” the face of Jesus, reflected in His true follower. We are to be the hope this world needs!
When we give food to a hungry person, we re-create hope in him. So it is with others. —POPE FRANCIS, Homily, Vatican Radio, October 24th, 2013
So let’s begin again! Today, decide for holiness, decide to follow Jesus wherever goes, becoming a sign of hope. And where is He going in our world of darkness and disorder today? Precisely into the hearts and homes of sinners. Let us follow Him with courage and joy, because we are His sons and daughters sharing in His power, life, authority and love.
Maybe some of us don’t like to say this, but those who are closest to the heart of Jesus, are the biggest sinners, because He looks for them, he calls to all: ‘Come, come!’ And when they ask for an explanation, he says: ‘But, those who have good health do not need a doctor; I have come to heal, to save.’ —POPE FRANCIS, Homily, Vatican City, October 22, 2013; Zenit.org
Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sakes and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Deus Caritas Est, Encyclical, n. 39
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