The biblical term is “sheep without a shepherd”. It is a term is heartbreaking pity. If you want the sense of it, think of King Lear looking at the pathetic figure of Edgar groveling naked in the mud, or the wretchedness of Gollum that stayed Bilbo’s hand. That’s what these stories should evoke for our wretched brain-dead culture. That Rome actually has to pause to reassure people that, no, the world will not end 12/21/12, is itself pitiable for our poor dumb race.
The other day, I was talking with somebody about the doctrine of hell and the fact that, in antiquity, the great fear was of the Second Death, not the first one. Somebody was talking about how Catholics–modern Catholics–are “controlled by the Church through the fear of hellfire”.
It is to laugh.
My reply was that I sincerely wish the 20th and 21st centuries *had* been times in which people took the everlasting fires of hell seriously. They would have been vastly less bloody has the engineers of the New Orders in this world taken seriously the eternal horrors that await them in the next one if they don’t repent. It is one of the strange paradoxes of massive sin that the more horrible the sinner is (and, not unrelatedly, the more ghastly a society becomes) the more certain such people are that they are Just Fine and in no need of repentance. The average Catholic is, as Sherry Weddell notes, a de facto universalist, not sick with fear over the fires of hell. The main place you now meet people fretting over the Apocalypse is in New Age Circles. That doesn’t mean there is no Apocalypse. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. It just means that we have no idea what we are looking for any more because we believe crap and not the Faith of Jesus Christ.
Revelation sums it up this way: “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19* Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.”
Advent is a good time for that.