THE NOW WORD ON MASS READINGS
for March 16–17th, 2017
Thursday-Friday of the Second Week of Lent
Liturgical texts here
JADED. Disappointed. Betrayed… those are some of the feelings many have after watching one failed prediction after another in recent years. We were told the “millenium” computer bug, or Y2K, would bring the end of modern civilization as we know it when the clocks turned January 1st, 2000… but nothing happened beyond the echoes of Auld Lang Syne. Then there were the spiritual predictions of those, such as the late Fr. Stefano Gobbi, that foretold the climax of the Great Tribulation around the same period. This was followed by more failed predictions regarding the date of the so-called “Warning”, of an economic collapse, of no 2017 Presidential Inauguration in the U.S., etc..
So you might find it odd for me to say that, at this hour in the world, we need prophecy more than ever. Why? In the Book of Revelation, an angel says to St. John:
Witness to Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. (Rev 19:10)
THE SPIRIT OF PROPHECY
A celibate priest, a monk, a nun, consecrated virgins, etc… they are “prophets” by virtue of their intrinsic vocation, which essentially says they are forsaking something of this world for the next. Their lives become a “word” that points to the Transcendent. So too with parents who generously open their hearts to life, thus proclaiming values beyond the material. And last are the men, women, and young people who not only proclaim and defend the truth, but abide in He-who-is-Truth through a real and living relationship with God, deepened by contemplative prayer, sustained by the Sacraments, and evidenced through their lives.
The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, World Youth Day Message for 2005, Vatican City, Aug. 27th, 2004, Zenit.org
But this is only one aspect of prophecy. The other is to convey “what the Spirit is saying” to the Church: the word of God. These “prophetic revelations,” says Pope Benedict,
…help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith. —”Message of Fatima”, Theological Commentary, www.vatican.va
Although in Jesus “the Father has spoken the definitive word about mankind and its history,”  that does not mean that the Father has ceased speaking altogether.
…even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 66
STONING THE PROPHETS
Part of that grasping comes by way of the charism, or grace, of prophecy. After all, in St. Paul’s list of the various gifts in the Body of Christ, he puts “prophets” only second to the Apostles.  And “Christ… fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy… but also by the laity.”  That, at least, is official Church teaching. But today, the cynicism and outright quenching of the Holy Spirit, often by the episcopate itself, has not only stunted the development of this gift in parishes, but made discernment that much harder as prophecy (and prophets) have frequently been cast out into the darkness (along with the “charismatics” and “Marians”). Indeed, the rancid fruits of the Enlightenment have been consumed by many in the Church: rationalism has trumped mysticism; intellectualism has displaced faith; and modernism has silenced the voice of God.
They said to one another: “Here comes that master dreamer! Come on, let us kill him….” (Today’s first reading)
…the tenants seized the servants and one they beat, another they killed, and a third they stoned. (Today’s Gospel)
If we are not to be found guilty of stoning the prophets either, then we must reclaim the childlike heart that is necessary to receive the Kingdom, and all its varied graces.
It is tempting for some to regard the entire genre of Christian mystical phenomena with suspicion, indeed to dispense with it altogether as too risky, too riddled with human imagination and self-deception, as well as the potential for spiritual deception by our adversary the devil. That is one danger. The alternate danger is to so unreservedly embrace any reported message that seems to come from the supernatural realm that proper discernment is lacking, which can lead to the acceptance of serious errors of faith and life outside of the Church’s wisdom and protection. According to the mind of Christ, that is the mind of the Church, neither of these alternative approaches—wholesale rejection, on the one hand, and undiscerning acceptance on the other—is healthy. Rather, the authentic Christian approach to prophetic graces should always follow the dual Apostolic exhortations, in the words of St. Paul: “Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophecy,” and “Test every spirit; retain what is good” (1 Thess 5:19-21). —Dr. Mark Miravalle, theologian, Private Revelation: Discerning with the Church, pp.3-4
TURN ON THE HEADLIGHTS
Think of the Deposit of Faith as a car. Wherever the Car goes, we must follow, for Sacred Tradition and Scripture contain the revealed truth that sets us free. Prophecy, on the other hand, is like the headlights of the Car. It has the dual function of both illuminating the way and warning what is ahead. Still, the headlights always go wherever the Car goes—that is:
It is not [so-called “private” revelations’] role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 67
We are living in such a period when the darkness is very dark indeed, where…
…in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of dying out like a flame which no longer has fuel. —Letter of His Holiness POPE BENEDICT XVI to All the Bishops of the World, March 12, 2009; www.vatican.va
It is precisely at the end of the second millennium that immense, threatening clouds converge on the horizon of all humanity and darkness descends upon human souls. —POPE JOHN PAUL II, from a speech, December, 1983; www.vatican.va
In the parable of the ten virgins, Jesus spoke about a time in the Church when many would fall asleep and be awakened at night.  But the five “wise” virgins would be ready: they had enough oil in their lamps to be able to navigate the darkness. If they are wise, then perhaps it is the oil of wisdom which they carried—oil that was acquired by listening carefully to the voice of the Good Shepherd. When they awakened, they flicked on the headlights of Wisdom, and they could find their way….
Now, anyone who has the Catechism and a Bible in the “glove compartment” has the Map (Sacred Tradition);  they know from whence they came and where they are going. But brothers and sisters, I don’t think any of us fully comprehends the extent of the darkness and the twists and turns that are directly ahead of the Church. The Catechism speaks of a coming trial which will “shake the faith of many believers.”  Even now, many are being shaken by the dense fog that seems to have descended on the Vatican where strange alliances with those promoting an anti-gospel and anti-mercy are being forged. Pope Paul VI called it “the smoke of satan.”  And so, “fog lights” like the following can be helpful at moments like these:
Pedro Regis (just one example of today’s visionaries)
Dear children, the day will come when many who are fervent in faith will retreat in the face of persecution. Strengthen yourselves in the Words of My Son Jesus and with His Divine Presence in the Eucharist. In many places, the Holy will be cast out, but in the hearts of believers the Flame of Faith will always stay alight. The enemies are planning the destruction of the Church of My Jesus and will cause great spiritual havoc in many souls, but the True Church of My Jesus will stay firm. It will be a little flock, but it will be this faithful little flock that will fulfill the Promise of My Son Jesus: The powers of hell will not prevail. My Son Jesus will guide it and all will receive great reward. Courage. My Son Jesus needs you. In the midst of tribulations, Hosea did not back down, but stood firm announcing the Message that God had entrusted to him. Imitate the prophets. Listen to the Lord. He wants to speak to you. Proclaim the truth, for truth alone will free mankind from spiritual blindness. Go forward in defence of truth. This is the message I give you today in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. Thank you for having allowed Me to gather you here once more. I bless you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. Be at peace. —Our Lady Queen of Peace to Pedro Regis, March 14th, 2017
Now, I am not afraid to discern these words, and in fact, to be edified by them. For there is nothing in the text that hasn’t already been stated in the Gospels, nothing that contradicts Sacred Tradition. Moreover, this particular seer has a more rare level of approval from his local bishop. These words, allegedly from Our Lady, cast a helpful light on the road ahead, one that should help all of us to “understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith.”
Still, one should never expect perfection from this or that seer. That is simply not the litmus test that the Church has ever applied to her prophets. As Benedict XIV pointed out,
…union with God by charity is not requisite in order to have the gift of prophecy, and thus it was at times bestowed even upon sinners; that prophecy was never habitually possessed by any mere man… —Heroic Virtue, Vol. III, p. 160
St. Hannibal, who was the spiritual director of Servant of God Luisa Piccarreta, warned that…
…people cannot deal with private revelations as if they were canonical books or decrees of the Holy See. Even the most enlightened persons, especially women, may be greatly mistaken in the visions, revelations, locutions, and inspiration. More than once the divine operation is restrained by human nature… to consider any expression of the private revelations as dogma or propositions near of faith is always imprudent! —a letter to Fr. Peter Bergamaschi; Newsletter, Missionaries of the Holy Trinity, January-May 2014
So, the failed predictions I mentioned at the beginning have not left me jaded, disappointed, or feeling betrayed for the very reason that my faith is not in their prophecies nor in the people themselves, but in the Lord who never fails. For “one who prophesies does speak to human beings, for their building up, encouragement, and solace… Test everything; retain what is good.”  What is there to be afraid of if you are faithful to Christ’s teachings in Tradition, basing your life on them, while drawing “encouragement and solace” from Heaven, even if the message is serious? There is nothing to be afraid of—unless your faith rests in the prophet rather than Christ.
Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a barren bush in the desert… Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green… (Yesterday’s first reading)
Fr. Stefano Gobbi
In that freedom of discernment, then, many today are returning to the “Blue Book”, which contains the messages of Our Lady allegedly conveyed to the late Fr. Stefano Gobbi from 1973-1997. It bears the Imprimatur stating “There is nothing contrary to faith or morals in this manuscript.”  The messages contained are more relevant and powerful than ever, mirroring the exact events taking place in the Church at this hour. But what about his failed prediction? Does that not make him a “false prophet?” As said above, the Magisterium does not necessarily draw conclusions in this way.
Such occasional occurrences of flawed prophetic habit should not lead to the condemnation of the entire body of the supernatural knowledge communicated by the prophet, if it is properly discerned to constitute authentic prophecy. —Dr. Mark Miravalle, Private Revelation: Discerning With the Church, p. 21
For example, who could ratify in full all the visions of Catherine Emmerich and St. Brigitte, which show evident discrepancies? —St. Hannibal, in a letter to Fr. Peter Bergamaschi who had published all the unedited writings of Benedictine mystic, St. M. Cecilia; Newsletter, Missionaries of the Holy Trinity, January-May 2014
Was Jonah a false prophet? The Lord instructed him to proclaim that, after 40 days, He would destroy Nineveh. But the people repented, altering the course of history: the prophecy and prophet were both true. But so is God’s mercy and patience. Indeed, this is precisely what Our Lady allegedly stated could happen regarding the events spoken of in her messages to Fr. Gobbi:
…these evil plans can yet be avoided by you, the dangers can be evaded, the plan of God’s justice always can be changed by the force of His merciful love. Also, when I predict chastisements to you, remember that everything, at any moment, may be changed by the force of your prayers and your reparative penance. —Our Lady to Fr. Stefano Gobbi, #282, January 21st, 1984; To the Priests, Our Lady’s Beloved Sons, 18th Edition
They had weighed him down with fetters, and he was bound with chains, till his prediction came to pass and the word of the Lord proved him true. (Today’s Psalm)
I confess, there is nothing more perplexing to me than those Catholics who publicly attack Medjugorje, a place which has produced more vocations, conversions, and healings than almost any other phenomenon or movement on earth since the time of Christ. As I have often said, if it is a deception, I hope the devil comes and starts it in my parish! Yes, let Rome take its time discerning. 
Either declare the tree good and its fruit is good, or declare the tree rotten and its fruit is rotten, for a tree is known by its fruit… For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God. (Matt 12:23, Acts 5:38-39)
Recently, Catholic media have been quoting the Bishop of Mostar and his unusually strong negative stance toward the alleged seers and phenomena—as if this is an authoritative decision. However, what most media failed to state is that, in what amounts to an unprecedented move by the Vatican, his stance has been relegated to merely…
…the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion. —then Secretrary for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, letter of May 26th, 1998
Again, as I asked in On Medjugorje of Catholics who want to see this place mothballed: “What are you thinking?” Indeed, in a communiqué to Sr. Emmanuel of the Beatitudes community, Cardinal Bertone said that, “For the moment, one should consider Medjugorje as a Sanctuary, a Marian Shrine, in the same way as Czestochowa.” 
Medjugorje? Only good things are happening at Medjugorje. People are praying there. People are going to Confession. People are adoring the Eucharist, and people are turning to God. And, only good things seem to be happening at Medjugorje. —POPE JOHN PAUL II to Bishop Stanley Ott of Baton Rouge, LA; from Spirit Daily, October 24th, 2006
The point is this: the monthly messages coming out of Medjugorje are not only consistent with the “prophetic consensus” of Our Lady’s approved apparitions throughout the world…
Medjugorje is a continuation, an extension of Fatima. Our Lady is appearing in communist countries primarily because of problems that originate in Russia. —POPE JOHN PAUL II to Bishop Pavel Hnilica; German Catholic monthly magazine PUR, cf. wap.medjugorje.ws
…but more importantly, they are consistent with the teachings of the Church and provide the “oil” necessary to fill the faithfuls’ lamps at this time: prayer of the heart, fasting, a return to the Word of God and the Sacraments. In other words, go back to the Map!
BE NOT AFRAID!
When it comes to the gift of prophecy, we need to hear again the words, “Be not afraid!” If God is still speaking to us through His prophets, does He not also, then, provide the grace, knowledge, and wisdom to discern their prophecies?
To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit… to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits… (1 Cor 12:7-10)
Why, then, are we so hesitant in promoting, fostering, and listening to this gift of the Spirit in the Church? As Theologian Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar said of prophetic revelations:
One can therefore simply ask why God provides them continuously [in the first place if] they hardly need to be heeded by the Church. —Mistica oggettiva, n. 35
“Strive eagerly to prophesy,” said St. Paul, “but everything must be done properly and in order.”  Pope St. John XXIII—often prophetic himself—gave wise instruction on this subject, particularly concerning the Marian apparitions, which are so prevalent in our times:
Following those Pontiffs who for a century recommended that Catholics pay attention to the message of Lourdes, we urge you to listen, with simplicity of heart and an upright mind, to hear the salutary warnings of the Mother of God—warnings still relevant today…. If [the Roman Pontiffs] have been constituted guardians and interpreters of Divine Revelation, contained in Sacred Scripture and Tradition, they also have a duty to recommend to the attention of the faithful—when after mature examination they judge it opportune for the general good—the supernatural lights which it pleases God to freely dispense to certain privileged souls, not to propose new doctrines, but to guide our conduct. —Papal Radio Message, February 18th, 1959; catholicvoice.co.uk
If ever the Church needed the headlights on, it is now. And God will give the light:
‘It will come to pass in the last days,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh. Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.’ (Acts 2:17)
In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. —Cardinal Ratzinger (BENEDICT XVI), “Message of Fatima”, Theological Commentary, www.vatican.va
So pray, then, asking the Lord to give you wisdom to discern His voice in communion with the Church, and to respond in the way you should go—trusting always in His permissive Will, even as the path becomes very dark in your personal life, and in the world…
God can reveal the future to his prophets or to other saints. Still, a sound Christian attitude consists in putting oneself confidently into the hands of Providence for whatever concerns the future, and giving up all unhealthy curiosity about it. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2115
Whatever happens, happens.
Knowing about the future
does not prepare you for it;
knowing Jesus does.
—a “word” in prayer
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- POPE JOHN PAUL II, Tertio Millenio, n. 5
- 1 Cor 12:28
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 904
- cf. Matt 25:1-13 and He Calls While We Slumber
- cf. 2 Thess 2:15
- Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 672
- Homily during the Mass for Sts. Peter & Paul, June 29, 1972
- 1 Corinthians 14:3; 1 Thess 5:21
- Rev. Donald Montrose, Bishop of Stockton, Feb. 2, 1998
- Fr. Gobbi has also been accused by some of the heresy of “millenarianism” through the messages which speak of a coming “Era of Peace.” However, this is incorrect. His teachings are consistent with Magisterial statements that expect a “triumph” of Christ and His Church before the end of the world. See Millenarianism—What it is, and is Not
- cf. On Medjugorje
- relayed to Sr. Emmanuel on January 12, 1999
- 1 Corinthians 14:39-40