Photo from The Passion of the Christ
SINCE my trip to the Holy Land, something deep within has been stirring, a holy fire, a holy desire to make Jesus loved and known again. I say “again” because, not only has the Holy Land barely retained a Christian presence, but the entire Western world is in a rapid collapse of Christian belief and values, and hence, the destruction of its moral compass.
Western society is a society in which God is absent in the public sphere and has nothing left to offer it. And that is why it is a society in which the measure of humanity is increasingly lost. At individual points it becomes suddenly apparent that what is evil and destroys man has become a matter of course. —EMERITUS POPE BENEDICT XVI, Essay: ‘The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse’; Catholic News Agency, April 10th, 2019
Why has this happened? The first thought that comes to mind is that it is because of our wealth. It’s harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The West, blessed beyond imagining, glimpsed herself in the mirror of success and fell in love with her own image. Instead of humbly thanking and glorifying the One who exalted her, the Christian West grew fat and complacent, selfish and narcissistic, lazy and lukewarm, thus losing her first love. In the void that Truth was to fill, a revolution has now risen.
This revolt is spiritual at root. It is the revolt of Satan against the gift of grace. Fundamentally, I believe that Western man refuses to be saved by God’s mercy. He refuses to receive salvation, wanting to build it for himself. The “fundamental values” promoted by the UN are based on a rejection of God that I compare with the rich young man in the Gospel. God has looked upon the West and has loved it because it has done wonderful things. He invited it to go further, but the West turned back. It preferred the kind of riches that it owed only to itself. —Cardinal Sarah,Catholic Herald, April 5th, 2019
I look around and find myself asking the question over and over again: “Where are the Christians? Where are the men and women who speak passionately about Jesus? Where are the elders who share their wisdom and devotion to the Faith? Where are the youth with their energy and zeal? Where are those who are not ashamed of the Gospel?” Yes, they are out there, but so few in number, that the Church in the West has factually and literally become a remnant.
As the narrative of the Passion was read at Mass throughout Christendom today, we heard one instance after another how the path to Calvary was paved with cowards. Who was left among the throngs standing beneath the Cross but one Apostle and a handful of faithful women? So too, we see the cobblestones of the Church’s own persecution being laid daily now by “Catholic” politicians who are voting for infanticide, by “Catholic” judges who are rewriting the natural law, by “Catholic” Prime Ministers who are promoting homosexuality, by “Catholic” voters who are putting them into power, and by Catholic clergy who say little or nothing about it. Cowards. We are a Church of cowards! We have become ashamed of the name and message of Jesus Christ! He suffered and died to set us free from the power of sin, and not only do we not share this good news for fear of being disapproved, but we enable wicked men to institutionalize their evil ideas. After 2000 years of overwhelming proof of God’s existence, what in the hell, literally, has gotten into the Body of Christ? Judas has. That’s what.
We must be realistic and concrete. Yes, there are sinners. Yes, there are unfaithful priests, bishops, and even cardinals who fail to observe chastity. But also, and this is also very grave, they fail to hold fast to doctrinal truth! They disorient the Christian faithful by their confusing and ambiguous language. They adulterate and falsify the Word of God, willing to twist and bend it to gain the world’s approval. They are the Judas Iscariots of our time. —Cardinal Sarah, Catholic Herald, April 5th, 2019
But we laymen, perhaps most especially we laymen, are cowards too. When do we ever speak about Jesus at work, college, or in our streets? When do we ever take those obvious opportunities to share the Good News and message of the Gospel? Do we mistake criticizing the Pope, bashing the “Novus Ordo”, holding Pro-Life signs, praying the Rosary before Mass, baking cookies at the CWL, singing songs, writing blogs, and donating clothing as somehow fulfilling our responsibility as baptized Christians?
…the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified… and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed. —POPE ST. PAUL VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 22; vatican.va
Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels. (Mark 8:38)
I wish I could sit here feeling good about myself. I don’t. Those sins of omission are a long list: those moments I hesitated to speak the truth; the times I could have made the sign of the Cross, but didn’t; the times I could have spoken up, but “kept the peace”; the ways in which I buried myself in my own world of comfort and noise drowning out the promptings of the Spirit… As I meditated on the Passion today, I wept. I found myself asking Jesus to help me to not be afraid. And part of me is. I stand on the front lines in this ministry against a growing tide of hatred toward the Catholic Church. I’m a father and now a grandfather. I don’t want to go to prison. I don’t want them to bind my hands and take me places I don’t want to go. This is becoming more of a possibility by the day.
But then, in the midst of these emotions, deep within my heart, is rising a holy fire, a cry that is still hidden, still waiting, still pregnant with the power of the Holy Spirit. It is the shout of the Resurrection, the cry of Pentecost:
JESUS CHRIST IS NOT DEAD. HE IS ALIVE! HE IS RISEN! BELIEVE IN HIM AND BE SAVED!
I think it was there in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem last month where the seed of this cry was conceived. Because when I walked out of the Tomb, I found myself saying to whomever would listen to me: “The tomb is empty! It’s empty! He’s alive! He’s risen!”
If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! (1 Corinthians 9:16)
I do not know where we go from here, brothers and sisters. All I know is that someday I will be judged, not on how well I was liked on Facebook or how many bought my CD’s, but on whether or not I brought Jesus to those in my midst. Whether I buried my talent in the ground or invested it wherever and whenever I could. Christ Jesus my Lord, You are my judge. It is You whom I ought to fear—not the mob beating at our doors.
Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
And so, today, Jesus, I give you my voice once more. I give you my very life. I give you my tears—both those of my sorrow for having been silent, and those that fall now for those who do not yet know you. Jesus… can you extend this “time of mercy”? Jesus, can you ask the Father to, once more, pour out His Spirit upon those who love You that we may become true apostles of Your Word? That we too may have the opportunity to give our lives for the sake of the Gospel? Jesus, send us into the Harvest. Jesus, send us into the darkness. Jesus, send us into the vineyard and let us bring home a bounty of souls, stealing them from the clutches of that infernal dragon.
Jesus, hear our cry. Father hear your Son. And come Holy Spirit. COME HOLY SPIRIT!
There are values which must never be abandoned for a greater value and even surpass the preservation of physical life. There is martyrdom. God is (about) more than mere physical survival. A life that would be bought by the denial of God, a life that is based on a final lie, is a non-life. Martyrdom is a basic category of Christian existence. The fact that martyrdom is no longer morally necessary in the theory advocated by Böckle and many others shows that the very essence of Christianity is at stake here… Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. —EMERITUS POPE BENEDICT XVI, Essay: ‘The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse’; Catholic News Agency, April 10th, 2019
This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops. —POPE SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Homily, Cherry Creek State Park Homily, Denver, Colorado, August 15th, 1993; vatican.va
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