Saturday, April 26, 2014

Red Sky In The Morning, Catholics Take Warning

It doesn't take much for  faithful Catholics and Christians in general to see storm clouds brewing on the horizon. The faith we took for granted mere decades ago is now giving way to a growing sense of unease. Though we in the West have not been subjected to the extreme persecution resulting in martyrdom, we have however been subjected to a persecution through legislation and coercion from society at large. Hobby Lobby, Brendan Eich of Mozilla and Dominican Sister Jane Dominic Laurel are just three cases where law and public opinion have had a dire effect on Christianity in our society. I don't have to go into detail about these cases and others, for those of us who do not have our heads in the sand are fully aware of what has happened and where it could possibly or will lead us.

Today, being a Christian in this country is risking ridicule, being mocked or called backward and or hateful. There has always been a certain amount of bias against us in the past though it was more or less benign, but today it seems to be reaching a fever pitch. I will agree however that probably most citizens in this country couldn't care less what our faith is as long as we don't force ourselves and our faith upon them. Live and let live as they say. Yet over the last few years there has been a faction of our society that regards any criticism of certain 'accepted'  issues such as gay unions, abortion, contraception and the like as hateful speech and they have sought to silence us and for the most part they have succeeded. Not only is our speech being censored but our thoughts as well as our conscious. So where do we go from here?

The persecution and ridicule will get worse for Catholics. I believe that with my whole heart. I feel it, see it and can almost taste it. The question for us is, will we be ready for the onslaught and will we be able to hold on to our faith? To be Catholic means to have a thick skin and not let all the criticisms bother us. If we already cower in the corner when conversations turn to criticizing the Church for the above aforementioned issues how will we defend our faith when conversations turn confrontational and in your face? If we are accused of hate speech for professing certain Catholic beliefs that are unpopular will we recant? Deny? Babble some defense that we were wrong and apologize for being offensive?

Standing up for our faith in the face of criticisms, even small ones, makes us stronger. If we are embarrassed and clam up because our faith is a contradiction to the world, what will we do when stronger and more serious persecutions become commonplace? As in temptations, the more we overcome temptations to sin, the stronger we become to fight off more powerful temptations that will come in the future.

Right now, those who are bent in the direction of evil are feeling confident considering the inroads they have made over the years against Christianity and the Catholic Church. They persecuted the early Church and we being members of the Communion of Saints will also be and are persecuted. We either follow the Master or we don't.

We really can't keep silent about our faith since we have been told to go and teach all nations. That leaves us right out in the open for ridicule and mocking or worse. Try talking about the Church's teaching against contraception, or even extramarital sex and see the reaction you get, even in the company of other Catholics. Sister Jane is well aware of the consequences.  Spitting and condoms thrown at us will be the least of our concerns in the coming years.

How would we handle an invasion of yelling dissenters entering our parish church during Mass? What if there are people protesting outside your church as you file in for Mass, with profanities and such? Imagine going to work and being confronted by another who knows you are a practicing Catholic, they yelling how hateful you are or a bigot? Are we ready for this and worse? I believe much worse is at hand. Am I ready? I pray to God I am. It will not be by our own strength that we resist, but by God's. We are now battling the demonic and their willing partners; people we deal with in everyday life and yes, even Catholics. It is a spiritual battle between good and evil that necessitates spiritual strength on our part and that strength only comes through prayer.

I believe that the Catholic Church will be seen as the root of all the evil and hate in the world as time unfolds. Those of us that are faithful to the Church will be seen as participants in this so-called evil and we will become a liability to anyone who associates with us.The companies that employ us will see faithful Christians as a detriment to doing business, as in the Eich case, and we may find ourselves out of a job with "Catholics need not apply" in a help wanted listing. Buying food and other necessities may be difficult as businesses will fear being boycotted for pandering to Catholic 'hate mongers'. And this will just be the beginning if we are reading the storm clouds correctly and I believe we are.

There are Catholics who feel relatively untouched by what is happening around us, however, they forget that what happens to one member of His body affects the whole body. I have read comments where there are those who pooh pooh the notion that we are being persecuted and that we have no idea what real persecution is. They are right. I don't know what extreme persecution for my faith is like, but we can open our eyes and recognize it when Christians are dying for holding on to their faith. There are many Catholics residing in cocoons with no idea what is happening on the outside. I feel pity for those that are not preparing themselves for what I believe is coming and they will be the ones that are the hardest hit when the boom falls.

It is difficult to see how our Freedom of Religion could be in the process of being decimated in a nation of Constitutional law and we would never have believed it a few decades ago yet things are moving fast in that direction. Let me very clear about one thing. I am not proclaiming the end of the world, but what I am proclaiming is the end of our life in the faith as we know it, at least in this nation and our northern neighbor, Canada.

Be prepared. How? Be holy and perfect as the heavenly Father is holy and perfect. Receive the sacraments frequently, especially the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Read scripture and above all pray for the strength to be strong in your faith when we are confronted by those seeking our destruction. Above all, do not lose heart or despair. As our Lord said,
"Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for my sake: Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is very great in heaven. For so they persecuted the prophets that were before you".

If and when the time comes remember these words,

" But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.…"

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Did Satan Know and When Did He Know It?

I've always been a bit confused by Satan in his dealings with Christ. We know that Satan is familiar with scripture for the temptations with which he assaulted our Lord in the desert prove that. What I not sure of is if Satan knew of God's plan for man's salvation, specifically, how it was to be accomplished. Did Satan know that if Christ died in our stead that he would defeat death and Satan's hold over man? Was Satan's pride so great that he was at a loss as to see how to defeat Christ's mission in our world? In reading the Gospels it seems apparent that Satan was confused and wasn't sure what to do about Christ. Consider the following points that I present and see what you think.

At the very beginning of Jesus' life Satan tries to have Him killed by Herod in the massacre of the innocents of Bethlehem.

Afterwards instead of trying to have Jesus killed, Satan tries to destroy Jesus' plan of salvation while in the desert by tempting Him. Had he succeeded in tempting Jesus' human nature to sin, then it would have been all over. Satan hoped to use the Lord's weakened state from hunger and thirst from 40 days in the desert against him.

Jesus entered Nazareth and while in the synagogue he read to the people about the messianic prophesy in Isaiah and told them that the prophesy was being fulfilled in Him. That admission riled up the crowd. I believe that Satan at this point put it in their heads to kill him so they brought Him to the edge of a cliff to throw Him off. We are told He walked through their midst and left Nazareth unharmed.

 In John 8:31 we read that Jesus debated with Jews who had believed in Him and Jesus finally says to them “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” This was blasphemy and both the unbelieving Jews and those that did believe in Him picked up stones to kill Him. Again, He escaped.

In John 10:22-23 He tells the Jews that "I and the Father are one." thus making Him equal to God which again is blasphemy. The Jews pick up stones to kill Him but we are told he escapes again.

When Jesus predicted His death in Jerusalem Peter took our Lord aside and said, "God forbid it, Lord. That shall never happen to you!" Here Jesus tells Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's." 

Why would Satan induce Peter to say such a thing? Did Satan finally realize that the death of Jesus is what would save man? Satan seemed to change tactics again. Instead of trying to have Jesus killed Satan seems to have tried to change Jesus' mind and used His friend Peter by appealing to His emotions and keep Him from going to His death thus saving man. Satan seemed very unsure of Himself regarding God's plan at this point. It wasn't until the very end that we see Satan trying his utmost to prevent Jesus' death for by then I believe Satan now understood God's plan of salvation came with the sacrifice of His Son and he tried to prevent it.

The very man that had power of life and death over Jesus was Pilate. I find it very unusual to see that Pilates wife was troubled by dreams of this holy man, Jesus. So much so that I believe Satan induced these dreams as a last ditch effort to keep Jesus from being sacrificed. Pilates wife did everything in her power to persuade her husband not to have anything to do with Jesus. To no avail. 

And finally, through all the pain and suffering that Jesus was going through while nailed to the cross, He was continually tempted to "come down from the cross and save yourself!" I cannot imagine the fortitude it took on our Lords part NOT to come down off His cross for he surely could have done it. Yet had he come down from the cross our Lord's mission would have been in vain and Satan knew it then. 

So did Satan actually know Christ had to die to save man or did he not know? The best answer I can give is that he didn't know for sure, that is why we see Satan trying to have Jesus killed and at other times trying to keep Jesus from going to His death.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Is Holy Week a Winding Down or a Beginning?

Having entered Holy Week we begin to anticipate the ending of the Lenten strictures that we have placed on ourselves since Ash Wednesday and to the culmination of our spiritual freedom gained for us by Christ on Easter Sunday and the Resurrection. Hopefully everything that we have practiced for the past several weeks (prayer, almsgiving and fasting) has helped us to prepare for the greatest feast of the Church year. But is Lent only a time to prepare for Easter or for the beginning of a new, more full, spiritual life as a Catholic as the year continues on past Easter?

Christ's 40 days in the desert prepared him for his mission of salvation for mankind. It was not a preparation for one particular day after the 40 days as Easter is for us, but a preparation  for living the rest of his life. For Christ, almsgiving, fasting and prayer were constants in his life even after having left his own lenten desert. We need to ask ourselves whether Easter Sunday will end our Lenten practices for spiritual renewal or will it continue  past our own time in the desert, past Easter, until we come face to face with our Father?

Happy Holy Week

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

His Mercy Endures Forever

This is the first time in memory where I can truly say I have found joy in Christ. To be honest, I never understood the concept of joy and even now I am not sure I can even convey exactly what it is, but I now know what it means to have it and to experience it.  If Lent is a time meant to reflect on our lives, our relationship with our Lord, our admission of imperfection and our repentance, then I have experienced it in a way that I have never have before. I have stared in the eyes of His enduring mercy this Lent and the joy is indescribable.

Since Ash Wednesday I have gone to confession twice with the goal of making a biweekly confession a habit beyond Lent. It is a practice I have fallen out of and I mean to rectify that. As much as I look forward to Easter every year, it is the Sunday of Divine Mercy that my eyes and soul are set upon. Imagine all temporal punishment due to sin wiped out in one fell swoop. That is what awaits those that seek His mercy on this Sunday. For more information visit Divine Mercy Sunday  website.

Have you ever gone to confession greatly troubled because of serious sins committed and in making your confession other grievous sins were not remembered because your mind goes blank? In Father Z's website WDTPRS , he discusses this at length, but the upshot is as written in his excerpt:

 "Keep in mind that when you make a good confession, to the best of your ability, even the sins that you have forgotten are forgiven.  If you remember them later, include them in your confession, by all means.  But don’t worry that you have to have a perfect, machine-like memory.  Just do your best and all your sins are forgiven."

Though I have known that truly forgotten sins are forgiven my memory sought to keep accusing me of these sins committed decades ago. I could not shake these memories even though I had no doubt that I had been forgiven for these sins, yet the accusing finger of my memories refused to relent. I felt alienated from God, His love and His mercy in particular and could not get past these 'accusations' and progress in my relationship to God was severely hampered.

I have always found confession difficult because of the shame, humiliation and the guilt associated with my sins. Now remembering these past, forgotten sins filled me with dread even though I had been previously absolved. Since I went to confession for the first time this Lent I have walked around everyday considering what to do about my memories. The thought of going back to confession and confessing the forgotten sins of long ago all but killed me with shame. I also knew however that if I didn't go back and talk to my confessor about them that I would not have any peace whatsoever. Last Saturday I finally got up the courage to face my fears and went back to confession.

I cannot describe to you  the terror I felt waiting for my turn in the confessional. I began by confessing the sins I had committed since my last confession two weeks ago and then told my confessor what I was about to do. After explaining to him of my memories I told him I wanted to tell him of  the forgotten sins that wracked me to no end. I broke down. Completely. The first thing I blurted out was "Please Father! Please do not judge me for what I am about to tell you!". He calmly answered that he was not here to pass judgement on me and prodded me to go on. That is all I needed. I emptied myself completely. Once I started there was no stopping me. While I had been waiting to enter the confessional I had fervently prayed to our Blessed Mother for strength to overcome my fear and I can tell you this without a doubt, that she was there with me while I poured my heart out with countless tears. I could hardly speak yet my guilt poured out. Then I listened quietly.

The first and the most beautiful thing I heard coming from this priest of God after confessing my horrid acts of the past was: "Have no doubt of God's love for you and His love for His children is beyond all comprehension and that His mercy is poured out on you. You are so loved my Him at this moment that God cannot refuse you His mercy." He then went on and explained that sometimes our memories bring temptations and that they are NOT from God but from Satan. These temptations are meant to bring us to despair and lose sight of God's love. As he said, there is no confessed sin that God's love and mercy cannot forgive and to be glad in this knowledge and have no doubt of it. I was glad but more than that, a joy settled on me and a peace I don't believe I have ever felt in my life. Such a weight has been lifted that I cannot understand how I could have borne it all this time without my soul and spirit being crushed.

It is true of what is said that only the greatest of sinners know the the extent of God's mercy. I know it is true for I have received it. Beyond all measure. The joy I feel today is such that no matter what happens in our world or in my little life I know I belong to God and nothing can take me from Him. Take my advice and do not ever allow fear, shame and humiliation keep you from His loving presence in the sacrament of Penance. You cannot live with your guilt no matter how strong you think you are. Perhaps Satan did try to make me despair by forcing these memories to come to the forefront but it didn't work out the way he wanted. I am free today. Truly free.  Go to confession and let Him remove your guilt so that you may truly live and have real joy in our Lord.