Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 9

Stmichael

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Rev 12: 17 – 18

This is the 9th and last day of our Novena to St Michael. We are praying for our persecuted Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

For this last meditation of our Novena, let’s look at what it all means. 

What does it mean to be Christ crucified in the world today?

It means that you are the living representation of that day long ago on Calvary when Our Lord, who was without sin, became sin itself for our sakes. It means that, just as satan poured out his rage against God onto Jesus by acting through other people, he is now pouring out his rage against Jesus on you, and he is doing it once again through his actors in this world; other people. 

Demonic possession is not just the stuff of movies. It happens in real life, all the time, everyday. However, it doesn’t usually manifest itself in spinning heads, flying objects and spitting pea soup. 

When the devil walks in this world, he almost always does it on two feet. When he acts out his hatred and destructive desires, he almost always uses human hands and speaks with a human voice. 

There is no bottom to his hatred, and there is no limit to the cruelty and depravity of his followers. Whatever bad thing they do today, they will do worse tomorrow. 

Christ is crucified in the world today in places where satan’s disciples are freed by circumstance to act out his hatred of Father, Son and Holy Ghost by attacking the living representation of them: Christians. There is no nation or community on this earth that is exempt from becoming satan’s active disciple by virtue of their virtue or their wisdom or their knowledge. 

Germany and the Soviet Union had many of the greatest scientists, most subtle and acute artists and philosophers the world has ever known. And yet they fell prey to satan’s leadership. Rwandans slaughtered with clubs and machetes, but it was fealty to the same satan that drove them to do it.

Only fealty to the Risen Christ can save us from following the darkness away from the Light. The miracle is that by fealty to Christ, we not only save ourselves from falling into the darkness, we become the Light in this world. 

Satan is a ravening hunger that craves annihilation. His followers, many of whom do not believe he exists, are shades of him in both those things. They hunger with a hunger for they know not what and crave annihilation with a compulsive drive. That is why everything they do turns in the end to death. 

It is also why they attack and try to darken the Light of Christian witness wherever they find it. 

The millions of Christians who suffer constant fear, dread of violence and the degradation of second-class citizenship in the world today are, wherever they are, the Light of Christ. When they are reviled, falsely arrested, attacked, beaten, raped, kidnapped, tortured and murdered, they become Christ before Pilate, Christ scourged, Christ mocked, reviled and hung up naked to die in front of a mocking, jeering crowd. 

He Who had no sin became sin for us. He suffers again in His followers who are His living martyrs today. 

If that was the end of the story, it would just be another holocaust in a devil-besotted world that plays host to a genocide glut. But it is not the end. In fact, it is the beginning.

Jesus died on Calvary. He was buried and left to rot in His tomb. But on the third day, He rose from that grave. Not, notice that He was raised, as He Himself had raised Lazarus. He rose. He is God and He arose from the dead on the third day. 

He became what St Paul calls “the first fruits” of the resurrection that awaits us all. 

There is no death. 

Not for those who follow Christ.

Nor for their persecutors. 

The difference lies in what waits for them on the other side.

Those who follow Our Lord to the death are assured of their place in heaven. Those who are reviled, shunned and attacked for Him are also blessed. Rejoice and be glad, Jesus said of people who are slandered for Him, for great is your reward in heaven. 

These people who are Christ crucified in our world today are not victims. They are victors. They are guaranteed eternal life in heaven. 

Ironically, it is the ones who persecute them who are in the most peril. They are laying up an eternity in hell for themselves where they will be the only thing their master the devil has left to torment and hurt. 

It is a scalding thing to look into the eyes of another person and see satan looking back at you. It must be unimaginable suffering to look for eternity into the cold, pitiless, eyes of satan himself. 

We must pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit will walk with them through their passion in Our Lord’s name. Pray that the same Holy Spirit will lift them and their sacrifice for Him up high, where all the world can see it. Pray that He will show us all what we can do to help them and to end this persecution. 

Pray, finally, that we will not fail when our time of persecution comes, no matter how small it may be. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guard us from denying Him, even in the small social ways of going along with the larger culture. Pray that we will follow Him, as our brothers and sisters are doing, and that He, not the pleasures of this world, will be the Lord of our lives. 

All Christians who follow Christ will suffer for Him in this world. There are no exceptions. Some Christians have the privilege of suffering extreme persecution for Him. Others, He does not trust so much. But there can be no peace between the gods of this world and the Kingdom. Not for any of us.  

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Here is the Novena to St Michael for the Persecuted Church, Day 9. Please pray it and ask others to join you.

Glorious Saint Michael,
guardian and defender
of the Church of Jesus Christ,
come to the assistance of His followers,
against whom the powers of hell are unchained.
Guard with special care our Holy Father,
the Pope, and our bishops, priests,
all our religious and lay people,
and especially the children.

Saint Michael,
watch over us during life,
defend us against the assaults of the demon,
and assist us especially at the hour of death.
Help us achieve the happiness
of beholding God face to face
for all eternity.

Amen.

Saint Michael,
intercede for me with God
in all my necessities,
especially

for the conversion of the world, 
that from pole to pole, 
dateline to dateline, 
all will call out Jesus' name. 

Obtain for me a favourable outcome
in the matter I recommend to you.
Mighty prince of the heavenly host,
and victor over rebellious spirits,
remember me for I am weak and sinful
and so prone to pride and ambition.
Be for me, I pray,
my powerful aid in temptation and difficulty,
and above all do not forsake me
in my last struggle with the powers of evil.

Amen.
 
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 8
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 7
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 6
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 5
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 4
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 3
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 2
Novena for the Persecuted Church, Day 1

Pope Francis: Following Jesus Requires Sacrifice

As we move into the post Christian world, we are going back to a time when the Way was indeed “narrow” and “few were chosen.”

The cheap grace of following the world in Jesus’ name is not grace at all. It is a lie we tell ourselves to keep from having to “chose this day whom” we “will serve.”

Sadly, it is also a delusion. Trendy jesus, pragmatic jesus and all the other false messiahs these theological snake-oil salesmen are selling having nothing to do with the real Jesus Christ Who was crucified on Calvary and calls each succeeding generation of Christians to “pick up your cross and follow Me.”

Following the real Jesus exacts a price. As the Light is smothered by the ever-encroaching darkness of humanity’s fealty to its own passions rather than the living God, the price for those who do not accede to the darkness goes up exponentially.

We may be willing to be friends with those who serve other gods, but they will not be friends with us. We may find our careers truncated, our friendships forfeit, our lives troubled in many ways when we follow Christ. He told us this would happen. If the world hates you, remember that it first hated me, He said.

The anger directed at us is just a side-blow, a glancing near miss of the object of the real hatred, which is satan’s hatred for the Savior of Humankind. Those who attack people for following Christ, even if they only do it with rudeness and exclusion, are the unwitting pawns of this evil.

Our task is always to be the witting servants of the good. God has no use and no desire for “unwitting pawns.” We can blunder into following satan, but we always chose to follow Christ.

Life in Christ is an intentional, moment by moment, living out of the faith. It can only be done through grace, and that grace does not come from us. There is no intelligence, courage or intuition we possess in and of ourselves that can equip us for following Jesus in a post Christian world.

The capacity to follow Him is a free gift of divine grace. He equips us to run the race that is before us if we ask Him daily and trust Him constantly. When we fail, all we have to do is reach out to Him and ask for forgiveness. That’s all there is to life in Christ: Just say “yes” to Him, and keep saying “yes” as each new challenge arises.

This is the Living Lord Who stood before Pilate, endured the blows and humiliations, hung from the cross and died. He understands everything He is asking of us because He has already endured all of it and far worse for us. He can help us on the Way as someone who has walked it Himself.

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little g gods, the Real God, and Finding Your Way Home

Deacon greg

I want to congratulate Deacon Greg Kandra

He has managed to make the devil mad at him. 

How do I know this?

Some of the devil’s hate mail to the Deacon has been landing in my box here on Public Catholic. Not much, mind you, but it is mindlessly nasty stuff. 

How did a kind and intelligent man like Deacon Greg Kandra inflame the devil so much?

He stood in front of a camera and said that the Catholic Church loves gay people, but that sex belongs in Holy Matrimony, between a man and a woman. He included both gay and straight people in this injunction concerning sex outside of marriage.

The reason for the hate mail is that, by stating this 2,000-year-old consistent teaching of the Church, and indeed, up until the last few years, all Christian churches, he crossed swords with one of the false gods of this world. 

For many people and indeed a growing number of churches, god the (little g) god, resides halfway between their waist and their knees. His worship is random sex, his vestments are contraceptives and his sacraments are azt, penicillin, abortion, et al.

Sadly, many of the “Christian” churches are in the process of walking away from the real God to follow after this little g god of our age. They’re drop-kicking the commandments off the front steps of their churches and replacing them with “statements” they write themselves full of meaningless gibberish about “inclusiveness and tolerance,” which basically mean that their little g god follows the world in pelvic region worship and eschews the Christ of the Cross. 

Down the road we have other churches which give a lot of lip service to the commandments involving the pelvic regions of the human body, but twist the Scriptures in much the same way their heretical brethren do on other matters. Their little g god is the almighty $ sign. 

I’ll talk more about that later. The point for now is simply that little g gods are being worshipped in lieu of the real God in many of our churches. 

Whatever your sin, you can go find a little g god worshipping church to tell you that (a) it’s not a sin, and (b) the people who claim it’s a sin are in fact sinning when they say it. 

Spiritual warfare

However, that’s not enough. The devil who is the real little g god behind all these false idols, is a ravening hunger that craves annihilation. He can not rest so long as there is one matchstick of light and truth out there, anywhere. He doesn’t attack the little g worshipping churches. It doesn’t matter to him if he’s snared them with their lust for sex or their lust for money. Their light is cold and dead and they are his.

What he attacks — and as the world grows darker, his attacks become more focused — is any beam of the light of the real God, anywhere. 

I don’t think it’s an accident that the Church which is under the most aggressive attacks today is the Catholic Church. The devil appears to hate the Catholic Church above all others. Why should this be so?

After all, the Church is full to the top with sinners. We’ve got all-too-human priests trying to shepherd a laity that aborts, divorces, lies, steals and watches porn. All of humanity is represented somewhere in the Catholic Church, including every single human sin. 

So, why would a Church like that make the devil mad? 

Because, this Church, for all its failings, does not put a little g god on its altars. Its sacraments are conduits of grace and the real presence of the living Christ. This Church will not tell people that their sins are ok. It does not comfort them and sustain them and support them in their sinfulness as it leads them down the wide path to their own eternal damnation. This Church, for all its many faults, is not in league with the devil.

Unlike the rapidly multiplying fallen churches out there, the Catholic Church does not encourage people to sin. It tells them their sins can be forgiven, but they must repent of those sins from the heart and try to change their ways. The Catholic Church doesn’t teach sin, it forgives sin. 

And for that, it is hated. For that, it is attacked. For simply saying that the Church is following Christ with its teachings, even little people like me can get smacked with a few brickbats. 

Sometimes, I get the by-blows of attacks that are really aimed at someone I admire. In this case, that someone is Deacon Kandra who had the honesty to tell people that the Church loves them and stands ready to support them in their life in Christ, no matter their sexual orientation, but that their sins are, in fact, sins, which need the forgiveness of God.

These poor, sad souls who come swooping in over the internet to drop their load of anger need prayer. They are lost and their fallen churches with their little g gods are even more lost. I am talking about pastors, and even whole denominations who claim to be shepherds of souls, but who deliberately lie to people about the state of their souls in order to be popular in the here and now. 

This is sad beyond sad. 

We need to do two things.

Silhouette woman praying

We need to examine our own hearts and cast out everything that comes between us and Christ. We need to pray for forgiveness and the grace to follow Him faithfully through the minefield of this world. 

Then, we need to pray for our fallen brothers and sister who are being misled by little g god worshipping pastors and churches. We also need to pray for these churches and pastors. They are in grave peril.

We need to do this because rewriting a church’s mission statement doesn’t change anything but the church’s mission statement. The reality of sin and death, salvation through the cross and eternal hell still exist. Coming onto this blog or staging demonstrations that involve yelling and insulting and throwing tantrums to demand that God change the way things are doesn’t accomplish anything, either.

These things may feel like they are accomplishing something. They can bully other people. Enough of this kind of thing can get laws changed. It can even push whole denominations into denying themselves and re-writing who they are. But no amount of wind-milling temper tantrums can change the ultimate order of things. 

God is God and we are not.

Little g gods are just reflections of our worst, most venal selves in action. Following them leads us wandering in circles in the wilderness of life. 

However, we don’t have to be lost. If fact, we are only lost if we chose to be. There is an easy-to-follow, readily-accessible, true compass that will lead you home. That true compass is the 2,000 year old consistent teachings of the Catholic Church. 

Pope Francis: Satan Always Rips You Off

 

Live for yourself! Lookin’ out for number one! Do unto others before they do it to you first! Greed is good.  Survival of the fittest.  He who has the gold, rules. 

These sentiments are how we make a little hell of our time here on earth. They enable us to lie, steal, cheat and destroy everything that gives real satisfaction, meaning and purpose to our lives.

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The underlying worldview for so many of the abuses trendy fringies are pushing on our society have at their base a Me Only, I’m All That Matters value system. This leads us to believe that children are not people but commodities that we can design, kill, exploit, abuse and indoctrinate at our pleasure. It’s the force that empowers the infidelities, battering and incests that change home from a sanctuary into a place of dread.

Divorce

We want what we want when we want it, and we are so verbally gifted that we can make up stories that allow us to convince ourselves that our wants and desires are somehow a manifestation of the common good. We are destroying ourselves from the inside out as a people, a nation and a culture with the excesses of I want it and I will have it and I don’t accept any argument to the contrary.

Narcissism reigns in a devil-dominated world.

Adam and eve

“Eat of the fruit, and you will not die,” Satan told the woman in his famous first lying truth. “You will not die,” he said. He didn’t add that one word; he didn’t say, “today.”  “Take, eat, and you will not die today.”

“God is a liar,” he implied, and the woman along with the man after her, bought the lying truth.

We have not progressed in our centuries of “progress” from that initial sin. We still listen to the lying truths of Satan, and we are still destroyed by them.

Glittery promises of something that passes for life abundant are what he offers. Do as you please. Lie to yourself and anyone stupid enough to listen to you about the harm your selfishness does. Lie to everyone around you, including, ultimately, yourself, and do as you please. Do it, not because it’s right or fair or because you are being honest with anyone, including yourself, about the consequences. Do it because it pleases you to do it and you are the only arbiter of right and wrong that you accept.

“Satan is a liar and the father of lies,” Jesus told us.

Despair The other end of the devil’s empty promises is a nothingness, an absolute zero, that only those who’ve looked off into that eternal futility can imagine. 

Pope Francis touched on this today during one of his wonderful morning homilies. “We must say that with Satan, the payback is rotten,” he said,  “He always rips us off, Always!”

The Holy Father contrasted the selfish way of living that the devil promotes with the generous and loving way of life that Jesus exemplified. He taught that those who live just for themselves, are, in the end, like Judas, in that they lose everything, including their eternal life. He pointed out that Judas “was an idolator, attached to money … this attitude of selfishness developed into the betrayal of Jesus … he who isolates his conscience in selfishness, loses it in the end.”

Every single one of us is tempted to put ourselves first, always and in everything. We are natural born self-lovers. But those who try to explain us with an over-arching theory of survival of the fittest as our only motivation find themselves stumped almost immediately by the enormous sacrifices human beings make for other people.

Stmore

St Thomas More

I am not talking only about the things mothers will do to protect their children, or fathers who give their lives to protect their families. I am also referring to people who give their lives for total strangers, or those who, like St Thomas More, give their lives for the love of Christ.

There is much more to us than you can find by dissecting us in an anatomy lab. We, alone of all the creatures on this planet, are moral beings. We understand what evil is, which is why we are capable of committing it. We, again alone of all the creatures on this planet, are responsible — to ourselves, to one another, to our society, our world and ultimately to God.

God numbers the hairs of our heads. He remembers things we do that we forget ourselves as soon as we do them. We are not just grass that lives for a while and then withers and dies. We are part of eternity. As such, what we do balances on an eternal scale.

“Satan is a liar and the father of lies,” Jesus said. The first such lie was and is that God Himself lies to us. From the Garden to today, the lie is the same. “Do as you please. Because God lies when he tells you that if you eat of the fruit of your desires with no thought to the consequences to others, that you will surely die. That is not true. God just wants you to be unhappy. You will not die.”

That is the same lie he told the woman and it is missing the same word now as it was then. It is missing the word today.

You will not die … today.

From CNA:

Pope Francis sends a kiss to someone in the crowd at the May 8 2013 general audience in St Peters Square Credit Stephen Driscoll CNA

.- Christians who buy into Satan’s temptation to live selfishly get swindled, while those who live life as a “gift” to others are immersed in love and the Church community, Pope Francis said.

“And, we must say, with Satan the payback is rotten. He always rips us off, always!” the Pope emphasized as he contrasted the kind of selfish living that the devil promotes with the generous way of living Jesus exemplified.

“When a Christian begins to isolate himself, he also insulates his consciousness from the sense of community, from a sense of the Church, and from the love that Jesus gives us,” he explained.

“Instead, the Christian who gives his life, what Jesus calls ‘lost,’ finds it and finds it in its fullness,” the Pope preached May 14 in his homily on John 15.

A group of employees from the Vatican Museums and some students of the Pontifical Portuguese College attended the 7:00 a.m. Mass in the chapel of St. Martha’s residence.

The Pope concelebrated the Mass with the Colombian Archbishop of Medellín, Ricardo Antonio Restrepo Tobón.

The Holy Father explained that wanting to live just for oneself is like Judas, who “in the end loses” his life. (Read more here.) 

The Year of Two Living Popes and One Unchanging Faith

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Popes Benedict XVI, John Paul II, and Francis

Does anybody remember that this is the Year of Faith?

It’s certainly been a historic year so far.

Our beloved Benedict, Pope Emeritus, handed the Church forward to his successor, Pope Francis. The Year of Faith has become the Year of Two Living Popes. 

It is one faith; one holy and apostolic Catholic faith. For those who will stop to think about it, that is a miracle in itself. Benjamin Disraeli, when asked what proof he could offer of God’s existence, replied, “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”  To that I would add that if anyone doubts the divinity of Jesus Christ, I would offer them the Catholic Church and its 2,000 year history of faithful teaching.

The Catholic Church has persisted through the fall and rise of more than one empire. It has survived the venality of some of its own popes. It has come through plagues, famines and times of great wealth. And it has, through all of it, kept the teachings of the Gospels intact and unblemished.

I don’t think there has been an day or an hour in all this great swath of history that the Church has not been under concerted and powerful pressure to re-write the Gospels to suit the passing moral fashions of the time. I think the reason for this is simple: The devil is real. There is a malicious personality out there who wants to destroy us through our own predilections to immorality.

We are not so much engaged in a war as we are the objects of a war. This malicious personality wars against us by aligning itself with our own fallen natures. It attempts to subvert us in our path to our ultimate calling as sons and daughters of the living God. We are the object of war making based in a hatred that is outside time.

But this evil, which seems so powerful and omnipresent to us who are in the soup of this life, is almost nothing in the halls of eternity. It is a vanquished foe whose only hold on us was broken at the cross. All we have to do is turn our faces away from the darkness and walk into the light.

The Catholic Church is the light, shining in the darkness of this world. Despite the undeniable fallenness of the people who govern it, the Church itself does not falter when it comes to providing the sacraments and teaching the teachings that show us the way to heaven.

This Year of Faith and two living popes — one reigning and one emeritus — is historic. But it is also part of the flow of the Church through history. Pope Benedict handed the Church forward and the Cardinals chose Pope Francis to take it up.

People who unwittingly are the mouthpieces for the devil yammer about how the Church must “change” its core teachings about life, love, sexuality and the common good or be found guilty of being “out of step with the world.”

Out of step with the world haters

Let’s think for a moment what they are demanding. What does it mean to be “in step” with the world?

“In step” with the world, as they define it, means that people are only human when those who have the power to do so define them to be human. It means that vast numbers of people may be killed at any time, for no reason at all.

Being “in step” with the world means that women and children are commodities to be bought and sold, raped and worked. It means that reducing women and children to objects and then using their rape, torture and murder as entertainment is a “right” that transcends any claims to their human dignity. Being “in step” with the world means that women’s bodies can be harvested for their eggs that are then sold online. It means that women’s wombs can be rented as surrogates.

Being “in step” with the world means “designing” babies that we will find good enough for our celestial selves to raise. It means discarding tens of other babies in this process to get the one perfect one we want.

Being “in step” with the world means destroying marriage, doing away with family as a unit that creates, nurtures and supports young human beings. It means that multinational corporations can pillage and destroy without restraint.

I could go on, but the point is that being “in step” with the world is being “in step” with decay, death and destruction. Being “in step” with the world is the exact opposite of what the Church is called to do.

The Catholic Church is not called to make the world comfortable in its sins. it is called to lead the world to redemption from its sins. 

The world may and does excoriate the Church for “being out of step” with its many killing machines. It may and does excoriate Catholics for following their Church. It may and does try to force us out of public life and silence our witness.

But the world will not prevail.

White crucifixion

Jesus said, “On this rock, I will build my Church. And the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” 

This is the Year of Faith. It is also the year of two living popes.

But this year is, as all years are, the year of the One and only Jesus, Who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Join the Discussions of the Year of Faith

Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.

What if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

 Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me.”

What would the world look like today if Jesus had said yes to Satan?

What if, when Satan offered Our Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, Jesus had said yes?

What if, like the Saturday Night Live skit, dJesus, Our Savior had used his powers to force people to bend their knee to Him?

These questions strike to the heart of other questions. Why does God allow people to rape, torture and murder innocent children? Why would He allow cancer? Why doesn’t He stop us from harming one another so viciously?

Why, in short, does He tolerate a creation that rejects Him and what He has taught us to do and so often goes in the opposite and entirely cruel and destructive direction?

If He is God, why does He allow so much suffering?

I have heard people say things like this when they were in the extremities of pain and loss. Their question was not so much an accusation as it was a kind of prayer, a cry from the depths.

On the other hand, it has become fashionable in certain circles for privileged people to ask questions like these as a method of self-justification or simply as a way to attack faith. This  nonsense of blaming God for our sins is becoming an increasingly accepted way to brush aside personal responsibility for our actions. Instead of acknowledging what we have done wrong, we point out that someone else is doing just as bad or worse.

Who better to blame for all the sins of humanity than a God who has the power to stop us from harming one another and will not do it? So, the fashion of the day is misplaced blame. We hold God accountable for human depravity.

But what would happen if God stopped us from sinning? What would have happened if Jesus had been the kind of conquering messiah the Jewish people wanted? What, in short, would happen if God was more like us?

I am the first to admit that if I was God every rapist and child batterer on this planet would be a pile of ash. Poof! And they would be on their slimy way to hell.

But God doesn’t operate that way, even when we wish He would.

He was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where he was tempted by the devil for forty days. Jesus ate nothing all that time and became very hungry. 

Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus said “No” to Satan’s offer of worldly power. He turned His back on the temptation to use His power for Himself, even for something as simple as turning stone to bread to eat when He was hungry. He said no to all of it, and by doing that took the first steps to the cross.

Our eternal salvation began with that series of “nos” to the prince of darkness and his tempting offers to make right with might.

The truth is that even when God directs us, he always leaves us the choice of saying no to Him. He sets before us life and death, and then He lets us chose. He gives us a radical type of freedom that allows us to literally do our worst, including mocking, criticizing and attacking Him.

When Jesus said no to the control of earthly kingdoms, He was also saying no to the use of force to convert us.

God’s Kingdom is made of free people who freely chose to follow Him. The narrow way is narrow precisely because so many people would rather go the way of power and license, of selfishness and greed rather than give themselves to a Lord Who chose suffering and death over all earthly power.

Why the cross? Why did Jesus have to suffer and die on the cross; beaten, tortured, mocked, naked and humiliated? Why was this necessary to save us? Why didn’t He just reach out and save us with a magical touch?

From the beginnings of Christianity to now the cross has been a scandal. It is the subject of mockery from today’s evangelical atheists just as it was the subject of mockery by the Romans. The Romans saw the cross as ignoble. It was shameful, a disgrace, to die in such a manner; proof that the person who suffered it was from the scum classes of society and essentially worthless. The idea that Christians claimed such a victim as their god was, to them, ludicrous.

Today’s atheists are not so class conscious. They hang their critiques on a distaste for the whole affair. They sneer at the bloodshed and suffering and rebuke Christians for what they claim is a morbid worship of death.

But in truth the cross was the greatest gift of love ever given to humankind. The cross was not the only way God could have saved us. But it was the only way He could have done it and left us free.

Frank Weathers, who blogs at Why I Am Catholic, published an interesting post a few days ago. He commented on the Saturday Night Live skit, DJesus, that mocked our Lord by casting him as a violent, vengeful killer who wreaked havoc on everyone who ever crossed Him. Frank raised the question, “What would things be like if Jesus had been this vengeful god the skit portrayed?”

I think another way to ask that question is, What would things be like if Jesus had said yes to Satan in the wilderness?

The answer is probably along the lines of Jesus as He is portrayed in the SNL skit, only much worse than anything we can imagine. People of the first century were accustomed to gods who hungered for power — over each other, and over human beings. Humanity had long worshiped various deities who craved death and demanded that their followers slaughter their children, captives and other helpless ones as sacrifices to them.

How is that so different from our current culture of abortion, euthanasia and meaningless wars? St Augustine said these early gods were in fact demons. If he was right, then it appears these same demons are working through people today. They have not changed their tactics. They have only changed their names and their arguments.

God doesn’t allow suffering. He allows us our freedom and we cause the suffering. God doesn’t rape and torture. He doesn’t send drones, tell lies and ignore the elderly, sick, poor and helpless in our midst. We do that.

What God does is allow us to choose who we will serve. Jesus was born in a stable and died on a cross to open a path to salvation and eternal life for us. He suffered all this because by suffering it  He could both redeem us and leave us free to reject the redemption He offered.

God lets us chose. He sets before us life and death and then He lets us chose. That is the way things are because on that day so long ago, Jesus made His own choice. He said “no” to satan and turned His face to the path that led Him to the cross.

Remember: Thou Art Dust

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth … 

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

I am going to die.

You are going to die.

Public Catholic has enough regular readers that it is a statistical certainty that at least one of us, perhaps more, will die this year.

Our souls, as the Scriptures say, will be required of us.

We have unbelievers who post on this board who tell us that nothing awaits us when we close our eyes on this world, that we will simply drift into the nothingness of non-existence, go back to the dust from which we came, and cease.

Our ending, according to them, will be our end.

But this, quite simply, is not true. I doubt very much that the nonbelievers who say it actually believe it. They use it as a ruse to hide behind when dealing with the existential miseries that their bankrupt philosophy imposes on them. It is an odd and sad outlook on life that finds its comfort in a studied hope for annihilation.

The truth is, there is no death for us. We are immortal beings who will live on past our bodies. Most of us sense this in a deep and incontrovertible way that can either comfort or torment us, depending on what we do with this innate knowledge of our own natures.

God is real. I have felt and known Him. I experienced His Presence in my life as an inpouring of love that I neither expected or sought.

But — and this is something that so frightens unbelievers that they invariably become angry when you say it — the devil and his evil are also real. It is not fashionable to say that. I’ve had members of the clergy chide me and tease me for believing it. But I do not doubt the reality of a malicious personality that hates the light and craves annihilation. I have felt his presence, too.

“If you eat of the fruit, you will not die” he told the woman, and like all really effective lies, this one was partial truth. You will not die … today. That was the truth of it. Turn your back on God. Defy Him. Do your own thing. And you will not die … today.

God lies, Satan told the woman, just as he tells us today. God lies to you when He says “Thou shalt not kill, lie, steal, commit adultery or covet.” He doesn’t mean it when He says “Put no other gods before Me.”

He lies. Because he doesn’t want you to have the pretty things of this world, to be able to enjoy the sexual pleasures He created for you, to live as you choose with your own free and preeminent will. He lies, and you are a fool for listening to Him.

Because you are not dust. You are the Lord of creation, the master of your fate, the god of your own life. There is nothing to fear because there is nothing that matters. At the end of our days, there is nothing but nothing. We stop. And we rot. We are carrion meat that walks for a time. So we should, again as the Scriptures say, eat, drink and be merry.

Like all effective lies, this one contains a bit of truth mixed in with the untruth. “Eat and you will not die … today.”

“Ignore God now and there will be no reckoning … today.”

Because you are dust, and you will die, regardless of how you live. You can run ten miles a day and your heart will still stop at some unknown time in your future. You can eat spinach and beans and forego fast food and steak, but your arteries will still cease to pump blood on some day you don’t know yet.

You can break every moral precept in the Scriptures, and you will not die … today. You will live for a time and you may even appear to triumph over those who do not indulge their darker natures as you do. There will be no reckoning … today.

But God is real. He gives us every opportunity to turn to Him and live life His way. He lets us choose. He sets before us every day life and death, and He lets us freely choose which of these we want.

That is what Lent is about. It isn’t a matter of giving up candy or foregoing wine for forty days. It is not about wearing ashes on our foreheads like religious jewelry or meatless Fridays.

Lent is about conversion. It is about renewal by means of awareness that we need to be renewed. The penances of Lent are signposts to guide us to a knowledge that we are but dust and we have sinned, but that we are also immortal beings who will one day stand before the God Who made us.

Lent is a time of turning again to the roots of our being. It is going back to the garden and acknowledging that we too “are naked and ashamed” before God. We, too are, to paraphrase St Peter, “sinful men and women.” But instead of crying out as Peter did, “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” We can say, “come close to me Lord, for I am your broken child.”

The difference is the cross. The difference between despair and trust is the certain knowledge that we are bought at a terrible price and we do not have to be masters of our own fate. We do not have to feel our way blindly through life with no idea of what is right and wrong. We do not have to die an eternal death. We can have life, and have it abundantly. Because of the cross.

Lent is a time of penance and reflection in which we take an honest look at ourselves and our tawdry righteousness. Lent is for turning back to the One who can save us from ourselves. We are preparing to go to the cross where we will stand in solidarity with the rest of humanity, united in our sinfulness and our great need of Him and His redemption.

Lent is not about giving up candy and meatless Fridays. It is rather our gentle foretaste of Gethsemane.

Pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary for America

Our Lady appeared in  Rwanda before the 1994 Genocide. 

The apparitions began in 1981 in a village named Kibeho and continued through 1989. Our Mother warned the people of Rwanda of the coming genocide and urged them to turn away from evil with repentance, prayer and fasting. She specifically urged them pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

This is a special prayer formulated around the seven major sorrows of Our Lady’s life. Our salvation is based at least in part in her willingness to suffer alongside her son. She gave Him to us in a very real way at the Wedding of Cana where she asked Him perform His first miracle. This action set Him on His ministry and the path that both He and His mother knew would lead to the cross.

“My hour is not yet come.” Jesus told her when she asked Him to help with the wine. “My hour” meaning the road to the cross. It was a wedding. He was probably happy. Having a great time. And His mother was asking him to leave all the joys of normal life and begin the long painful ministry that would lead to His torture and death. Then, as at Gethsemane, He did the human thing. He tried to postpone. “My hour has not yet come.”

But His mother ignored Him. “Do as He tells you.” she told the wine stewards. And Our Lord obeyed her. He did what His mother asked.

Think, for a moment, what courage it took for this mother to give her son to the ages. Think of the young Mary, taking her baby to the Temple for the first time. Her tiny baby boy. Imagine how proud and thrilled she must have been. Then Simeon tells her that “this child” will be the cause of much wrath and that He will be pierced by a sword that will pierce her soul, as well.

How hard that must have been, to have her joy dashed with this prophecy. But she needed to know. God answered Simeon’s prayer by allowing Him to see the Messiah before he died, and at the same time, used him to prophesy this terrible future to Mary.

She knew what she was doing when she asked Jesus to perform that first miracle at Canna. She also knew exactly what He meant when He said, “What does this have to do with us? My hour has not come.” She was woman, all women, the new Eve, undoing the harm of the old Eve by not failing this terrible test. “Do as He tells you,” was a prophetic instruction to the stewards and an instruction to us as well as them. “Do as He tells you,” she told the stewards, and her words echo down the centuries to us today. “Do as He tells you,” she says to us.

It was also a commissioning. She didn’t argue with Jesus. She just turned to the stewards and told them to do as Jesus told them. Our Lord responded by doing what His mother wanted. He began his ministry at that moment. She gave Him to us by this act, set Him on the path of ministry that led to our salvation.

This is the how the Seven Sorrows of Mary are the story of our salvation, bought with blood, suffering and sacrifice. Jesus turned His back on the human temptations to use His power for worldly glories during his forty days in the desert. His mother sent Him forward into His ministry at the Wedding at Cana. And He, by His actions there, sanctified marriage and made it a sacrament of love.

These Seven Sorrows are what Our Lady instructed the people of Rwanda to pray when she appeared to them at Kibeho from 1981 to 1989. She warned them, specifically, of the carnage and bloodshed to come if they didn’t pray, fast and repent.

God was there, even in this harbinger of hell that was the Rwandan genocide. He sent His mother to warn the people of Rwanda and to give them a way out.

I believe the message of Our Lady of Kibeho is a good one for Americans today. We stand in the shadow of six months of senseless slaughter by sad individuals acting in service to the devil. We will talk later about mental health services and legal reforms. But anyone who thinks the devil hasn’t had his hand in this is simply not seeing the obvious.

I am going to pray the Seven Sorrows of Mary for the families who’ve lost children to these murders this past six months, beginning with the parents and families in Connecticut. I am also going to pray for America. 

We all need to repent our support of violence, whether it’s in video games, movies or music. We need to repent our hate-filled invective against other people who simply disagree with us. We need to repent the violence and the murder in our hearts when we allow the culture wars to push us to hate. We need to repent the broken marriages and shattered families, the tantrums and curses and cruelties we commit and tolerate.

Without conversion, America will commit suicide. It is in the process of doing that now. We are Christians. We have the only solution, the only salvation there is. We need to live it daily and hourly. Only after we cleanse ourselves can we hope to share this great Hope with others.

You can find directions for praying the Seven Sorrows of Mary here, if you would like to join me.

 

Christian Persecution: It is Time for Christians to Stand Together

Do you read the stories?

Christians burnt alive, beheaded, stabbed, crucified, shot, gunned down. Christians tortured, imprisoned, raped, sold into slavery. Christians unable to work, forbidden to worship, forbidden to train new priests. Bibles, crucifixes, religious medals banned.

Have you lived the discrimination?

Christians mocked, ridiculed, belittled, slandered. Christians constantly forced to defend their faith in the face of aggressive jerks who feel an entitlement to force their way into private conversations, push themselves onto web sites and chat rooms to denounce the faith and belittle anyone who has the temerity to refer to Christ in public.

Have you seen the bigotry?

Christianity and Christ Himself, belittled, slandered, mocked, reviled and constantly lied about in a repetitive way by people who evidently feel an entitlement to leapfrog into any discussion or situation and unburden themselves of their verbal offal.

Have you seen this? Are you aware of it? Do you understand what it means?

We are at a fulcrum. If we do not stand for Christ now, here, in America, there is a tsunami of persecution out there under the water, waiting for all Christians, everywhere, including here.

It is time, it is past time, for us to stop sniping at one another over our narcissistic God ownership issues.

I am a Public Catholic. People who hate Jesus, or people who hate the Catholic Church, often seem to view me as the receptacle for their hatred and spleen. I think I may have heard every repetitive, factually inaccurate bit of pamphleteering claptrap anybody ever used to attack Christianity, Jesus, or the Catholic Church. I’ve heard it all. Several times a week. For years.

I do not reply in kind. I try to answer what are unreasonable attacks with reason. I use facts against lies. I do my best to answer gently and to keep on answering, even if it means I have to say the same things over and over again.

I never, ever, ever try to poke holes in other Christian’s beliefs. I do not feel called to deliver long-winded analyses as to why their particular denomination is wrong. I don’t do it because I think this kind of behavior is both nonsensical and destructive.

I am going to say this as clearly as I can:

There is only one Jesus.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

I’ve said before on this blog that I think that if we had the power to judge, no one would ever go to heaven. We’d all condemn one another to hell. I believe that’s the truth of it.

We are fallen people, living in a fallen world. These attacks on one another at a time when we need to unite and stand together are a symptom of the burden of original sin that we all carry. They are, to be blunt, the devil’s work, his weapon against us that we use on one another. If we are arguing over these silly things with one another, we are also wasting time, energy and intellect that we could be using to speak for Christ.

Almost all the attacks on the Catholic Church which I have to deal with are based on claims that are factually untrue. The same goes for the many attacks that I hear against Christianity as a whole and Jesus in particular.

I believe that in both instances — the attacks on the Church, and the attacks on Christianity — the people who do it are really acting out their own narcissism. If they were even slightly interested in the truth they would have checked these things out themselves.

Christianity is aggressively attacked all over the world, including here in America. It is ignoble that we are arguing over whose church is the best while Christians are dying for Jesus in Africa, the Middle East, Indonesia, and parts of Asia.

Millions of Christians will go to sleep tonight under the blood moon of Persecution. Christians in America allow Jesus to be mocked reviled and slandered and duck their heads in shameful silence. The courts push every mention of Christianity to the corners of life. The HHS Mandate puts the government itself in the business of forcing the church to abandon its teachings or face crippling government fines.

What does it take to get our attention?

If we don’t stop bickering among ourselves and stand for Christ as one redeemed Christian people, we may well be the generation that lets freedom of religion pass from the face of the earth.

It is time, it is past time, for us to grow beyond our narcissistic claims of God ownership on behalf of our various denominations. It is time for Christians to stand together.

Slander Is Murder With Words

Slander is murder with words. It can lead to social death for its victims.

It’s also a mortal sin.

You can go to hell for it.

Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m talking hell. Eternity in torment. Unending separation from light, love, hope and mercy.

If what I’m saying is true, and 2,000 years of Christian teaching says that it is, then there are a lot of people who are placing their own immortal souls in danger for the bitter pleasure of destroying other people with words.

I’m not talking about venting to your best friend or your spouse over your dreadnought of a boss. I’m also not talking about idle gossip. What I mean here is the deliberate, malicious verbal destruction of another person for gain, pleasure, entertainment or self-righteous self-satisfaction. I mean slander.

We, as a society, have become so inured to slander that we actually indulge in self-righteous anger at those who won’t join us in our verbal slasher parties. I’ve had long, circular debates with people who email me all day demanding that I call the president a communist or the anti-Christ. I’ve been challenged because I refer to those who think abortion should be legal as “pro choice” unless I am given evidence that they are, in fact, pro-abortion. I’ve lost count of the times someone or other has jumped on me because I refuse to say more than I know about another person’s beliefs or motives.

I could go on and on with this, but the specifics of my experiences don’t matter. I just use them to illustrate the obsessively aggressive nature of  the slander-with-us-or-else crowd.

When did being pro-life devolve down to the level of calling other people ugly names? When did it stop being about the sanctity of human life and become about us vs them? When?

When did opposing or supporting a political figure because of his or her policies cease to be how we engage in public debate? When did calling public figures names become more important than discussing the issues?

When did lies — and these things are lies — become so easy for us?

I’m not talking to the atheist/secularist crowd. I’m talking to Christians; to the people who sing Holy, Holy on Sundays and claim they serve a Risen Lord.

We do not have the privilege of indulging our fallen natures in public discourse. The dark satisfaction we get from slandering another person to the point that it becomes a form of social murder is straight from the pit. It does not make us righteous before God and it certainly does not bring the Light to the darkness of our world.

Do not allow yourself to become so angered by the vast injustices of our world that you fight those injustices in ways and with tactics that align you with the darkness. Do not fight satan with satan’s weapons.


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