Signs of the Times (Yield, Merging Buses Ahead)

My readings and TV watching this week have pointed me towards reflections on “the end times”.  Only the Father knows of course, but there is a case to be made that Christ’s return is in the relative near future.  What does the Church say about it?  I refer those interested to 673-677 of the Catechism.  I don’t reprint it here because it’s not easy reading.  675 begins with “Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.”  And in 677: “The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendency, but only through God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil…”.  So to the believing Catholic, if you feel that things are deteriorating for people of faith in our culture, it should be reasonable proposition to you.  But to expound on the point of my thesis….

Currently on EWTN there is a Lenten mission series titled “Thirst for Truth, Battle for Souls”, led by Frs. William Casey and Wade Menezes of the Fathers of Mercy.  In the first session led by Fr. Casey about the Divine Mercy, it is revealed that Christ’s revelations to St. Faustina were essentially the final chance for humanity to turn to His mercy, because when He returns He is bring His justice.  No Curly Howard “I was a victim of soicumstances!” excuses are going to be accepted from those still living at the Parousia.  Just like those – the vast majority of humanity – who experience the particular judgment don’t get to say “But if I’d really known Lord…”.

Fr. Menezes in the second session “The Signs of the Times” paints a grim global view (genocide, terrorism, pornography, human trafficking, etc.).  Then with some startling statistics hones in on the state of the Catholic faithful in America:

  • Only 23% go to Mass regularly
  • Only 30% believe in the Real Presence
  • 48% believe premarital relations are OK, with only 18% professing it is always a sin
  • 33% believe homosexual acts are OK
  • 57% believe contraception should be available to teenagers even if their parents disapprove
  • 70% believe euthanasia is OK
  • Only 18% believe abortion is always wrong, with 31% actively pro-abortion
  • 71% advocate “cafeteria Catholicism”; i.e. one should be able to follow one’s conscience and ignore Church doctrine that is unappealing or unacceptable.

Fr. Menezes further posits that the “gray area” is narrowing, and when there is only “black” and “white” Jesus Christ will return.

What would be pushing this reduction and ultimate elimination of the gray?  I see trends that are making it uncomfortable to be openly Christian, and in the future this discomfort will turn into actual civil and criminal consequences, and I see trends that are going to make it increasingly difficult for Christians to “fly under the radar”.  There’s been a lot in the popular press in this regards – e.g. the NSA scandal – but as an IT professional with a security certification I am privy to some of the deeper things going on that are not in the popular press.  Our lives are pretty much an open book today, and the technology is only going to get more sophisticated and pervasive, with “national security” invoked as a mantra that has us bowing our heads and replying “Oh, well in that case…”.  If Google doesn’t have ninjas yet, it’s only a matter of time (Hey Google, I tease, I joke!).

Finally, I heard what I thought was a fascinating and disturbing “who would have thunk it?” theory being discussed on the Al Kresta show this week.  For the uninitiated Al Kresta is a Catholic commentator – described as “…having the ‘New York Times’ in one hand and the Catechism of the Catholic Church in  the other…” – who talks about current events in the news, sort of a more orthodox and thoughtful – and decidedly less grouchy – version of Bill O’Reilly.  Now last Tuesday’s show explored an issue that anyone who reacted badly to the media’s take on Pope Francis’ capitalism comments is going to have difficulty with, so please don’t shoot the messenger (or bayonet my stretcher carriers).  This is the possibility that Vladimir Putin is increasingly being viewed as the leading light for moral and family values in the world (sorry that you spit up your coffee and some of it went through your nose).  Countries like Pakistan, Uganda, and Nigeria are tired of us pushing our cultural agenda of acceptance of abortion, contraception, homosexual acceptance, etc. on them with our carrot-and-stick approach (No changee laws, no getee borrowed Chinese money).  Uganda’s recent passage of draconian anti-homosexuality legislation (of which I don’t approve btw), was in no small part a thumbing of the nose at the Great Satan.  You may or may have not noticed in the news a Russian all-girls band charmingly named Pussy Riot and their clashes with the Russian government, at one point leading to their arrest and imprisonment.  Our ambassador to the U. N. Samantha Power met with the leaders of the band back in February in a show of support for their struggles with the authorities.  Well, the girls of Pussy Riot make Miley Cyrus look like Julie Andrews from “The Sound of Music”.  One of their more notable escapades was – in mockery of a Russian politician calling for women to have more children – to stage an orgy during a concert.  That our U.N. ambassador would meet with these concupiscent chickadees is support for the disturbing thought that perhaps pushing our cultural agenda is more important than any geopolitical considerations.

I’m in danger of wandering off into the tall political weeds, so enough about Putin and Pussy Riot.  The big question is are we in an exorable spiral downwards, or is there hope for repentance and renewal and a trend up?  Absolutely there is hope.  Even those notoriously naughty Ninevites repented and were spared…for a time.  The great Beast of the Near East was destroyed by the Medes and Babylonians in 612 B.C. despite their response to Jonah, because they went back to their old imperialistic hand and head-chopping ways.  And what is time to God, to whom one day is ten thousand years, and vice versa?  Just saying it is a mistake and a sin to say “This is the time!”.  But also saying there are good reasons to live like it is, and Lent is always a great opportunity to turn our hearts back in the right direction.

Blessings,

Tom

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