Saturday, November 22, 2008

When Revelation Comes Alive

As long as I'm still in a "pensive" mood about our nation's recent and apparent betrothal to darkness, let me share a few tid-bits that I'd noticed, in recent days, which seem to put a bit more "flesh on the bones" of the Book of Revelation (a.k.a. "Apocalypse") in some very provincial, arguably small, but still unsettling ways.

Some of you already know that I teach math at a Catholic high school; some of you (if you've read any of my comments on Paul's masterful blog also know that, for the most part, its Catholic identity is presently in a rather sorry state. Case in point: the school held "mock elections" for each grade, and for the faculty; and John McCain (for whose candidacy I've never had anything even resembling enthusiasm) "won" by the slimmest of margins, overall... but the breakdown of the classes was striking:

6-8th grade: McCain (by about 55%)
9th grade: McCain (by about 60%)
10th grade: McCain (by about 55%)
11th grade: Obama (by about 60%)
12th grade: Obama (by about 65%)
faculty: McCain (by 12 to 9, I think--I'm sure about the 9)

One of the students, who knew my pro-life convictions (I'm not exactly secret about it, with Feminists for Life fliers plastering my door, a 120-point font pro-life quote from Pope John Paul II spanning my back wall, etc.), turned to me as this was announced, and said, "Aren't you happy that McCain won?" I said something noncommittal... since I simply couldn't explain to him how emotionally crippling it was to hear the results. Of the grades 6-12 staff in a Catholic school, *NINE* teachers not only voted for Obama, but did so in a mock election (which stood to gain nothing politically) which was read for the whole student body to hear. The message? "Voting for America's foremost advocate of the Culture of Death is hereby declared a viable option [among others, of course--we're very tolerant!] at this Catholic school!"

I wanted to cry.

"Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) At least, I hope they don't. God, have mercy on us.

Later, on the following day, some of the senior boys were carrying through a sort of "gag routine"; every time they'd pass each other in the hallway between classes, they'd yell, "O-BAMAAAA... YAH!" and give each other a high-five. The effect this had on me can't easily be put into words... save, perhaps for this: a day later, I came to the ugly realization:

These are the same kids who would be cheering at the Coliseum, 1800 years ago.

That doesn't quite mean what many people might think; I don't say that in order to call them wickedly evil, or even fully responsible for what they were doing. (I'm sure much of it expressed one of many ways that teens--especially those in institutional schools--rebel against what they perceive to be "irksome, chafing rules" against their "freedom"--and their understanding of the entire spiritual battle was shallow, or nonexistent.) It actually gave me a glimpse into the hearts of the people who screamed, cheered, and cried for more Christian blood in the Roman ampitheatres. Such people, if you met them in a quiet moment at home, would doubtlessly have thought of themselves as "good people"--and said so, readily. Such people might well have lived fairly self-disciplined lives (secularly speaking--many athletes do, for example, regardless of their faith), just as these kids do (some of whom literally stay up until midnight, studying for classes in-between their extracurricular commitments). These same people, if met with a person who had fallen on hard times, would be likely to donate food, money, help in finding a place to stay, and more. "Nice" people, beyond any reasonable doubt.

How can this be?

How can such "good" kids embrace (and even defend, in school-assigned political papers) such sweeping evils, and be so ready to treat their Faith as "just one more extracurricular activity"?

Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.

But the second connection came when I was talking with my wife, this morning; she was reading from the daily Mass readings (which are from the Book of Revelation, as the Church year comes to an end, this Sunday), and she noted the death of the "two witnesses" of God (see Revelation 11:3-13). She noted the part where the Antichrist rose up and slew the two witnesses (Rev 11:7), and the following verse after that struck her (and me):

"And their bodies shall lie in the streets of the great city, which is called spiritually, Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord also was crucified. And they of the tribes, and peoples, and tongues, and nations, shall see their bodies for three days and a half: and they shall not suffer their bodies to be laid in sepulchres. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry: and shall send gifts one to another, because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt upon the earth." (Rev 11:8-10)

High-five, guys. The culture of death won; time to rejoice and make merry!

Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.

Michael D. O'Brien, the author of "Fr. Elijah"--a book that I highly recommend--once wrote that (I'm paraphrasing), "the end times will probably look very different from the inside (i.e. living it), than from the outside (i.e. reading about it). The dramatic and apocalyptic signs that are so easy to see in story form, will not attract a great deal of attention from those who've grown up with it seeming 'normal'."

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that the final showdown between Christ and Antichrist, or Church and Anti-Church, is imminent; I have no idea whether it is, or not, and--ultimately--it really shouldn't make much difference to our Christian walk. (Our Lord told us to "be ready" all the time, right? Not panicked, or hysterical, or obsessively preoccupied with signs and omens, but ready.) But it gave me something of a new insight into how such a large number of Christians can apostasize (Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church are both unanimous and firm in their guarantee that, in the final days, a vast number of Christians will abandon the Faith)--can abandon the Faith, slowly or quickly--without realizing (or caring) what they're doing; the ones who intend to follow their passions (for carnal lust, power, money, pleasure, entertainment, etc.) until stopped by a clear "dramatic sign from the sky" will probably be surprised to find the Angel of Death taking them unawares, without any trumpet fanfare. Christ assured us that the end of time would be ushered in with dramatic signs. He didn't assure us that we'd be of a mind to recognize them when they happened... or to pay attention to them (much less heed them) when they did. And He certainly didn't assure us that our OWN end (i.e. physical death) would be heralded by high-scale theatrics. "If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they convert even if one should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:31)" We've been warned plentifully, already. The choice is ours, now. Do we follow Christ, and try to lead as many of these lost sheep to Him as possible? Or do we give up--or worse, slip quietly and "comfortably" into the smooth slide into the culture of eternal death?

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:15)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Twilight of Our Culture?

Well. I wish I could say that I picked an uplifting time to start this "chronicle of my own" (rather than simply "mooching" off of Paul's excellent blog... :) ), but that simply isn't so. Oh, I'm sure I'll branch off into comments on the usual current events, and such, in the days that follow... but for the moment, I have to at least try to say something about what's on my heart, in recent days.

It's a good thing that the hope of every Christian is in God alone... because we seem to be on the edge of one of the darkest eras of our nation. Fr. Benedict Groeschel, a well-respected and widely known Catholic priest/speaker, called this time "the beginning of the twilight" of our country. Argue that point, if you will, but it led me to think: am I ready?

The call of every Christian is to keep watch, for we know neither the day nor the hour that Our Lord will come again... and to wait faithfully for His return, no matter how long that takes, and no matter what tribulations we must suffer. But, while I'm generally a sober (and even skeptical) type regarding anything that smacks of the preternatural, I've watched the events of the past few weeks (re: the elections in the United States) with--well--what I can only call "grim sobriety".

I've faced death, before. I know that this life is not the end, and I know that God is in control, and I know that "to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints." (Romans 8:28) But what I find so very oppressive about this current time is not only the ongoing holocaust of the blood of millions of helpless children, ripped apart in the name of "compassion", "tolerance", "convenience", or even "coercion". It's not only the seemingly head-first plunge that our culture has taken into sexual immorality (e.g. contraception, fornication, same-sex intercourse, etc.). It's not only the corruption of the mass media, by which the darkest elements of our society seem to find an unswerving advocate.

It's the Christians who betray Christ.

Somehow, a Judas is harder to handle than a Caiaphas; at least, when you run into an avowed enemy who's marching under an enemy flag, you can respect their integrity, and you don't have to struggle with betrayal. Michael Card (one of my favourite Christian recording artists) once wrote, in one of his songs, "Only a friend can betray a friend; a stranger has nothing to gain. And only a friend comes close enough to ever cause so much pain." (See HERE to listen.) But when I meet a Christian who betrays the Gospel, it hurts me in ways that physical suffering and dying never could. It really doesn't help much to find out that such betrayals are often done "in all sincerity", or "out of honest conviction", or (my least favourite) "following their own conscience". It doesn't help much when I learn that such people are doing so because they're ignorant, uncatechized, misled, scandalized by other heretical "Catholics", or simply clueless.

If someone dropped your newborn infant daughter on the stone floor, would it take away all of your pain to know that it was done without direct malice?

Just so, should I be expected to "absorb" the abuse that bloodies the Body of My Lord, and walk away whistling a happy tune, just because the attackers don't know any better?

Some people (especially heterodox Catholics), when they hear me talk like this, react with a great deal of defensive vigour, accuse me of melodramatics, and worse. I can sympathize, actually; because I was of their number, not so very long ago, and I remember being offended at the direct words of those who challenged my "privatized Gospel". I remember thinking of those people as "cold, unfeeling, hateful Pharisees", and worse. So if I absorb some of that type of abuse in turn, now, I pray that God uses it to help atone for the damage that I did--to myself and others--in my ignorance, stubbornness, and (yes) PRIDE. To the people who now hurl such at me, all I can say is this: I pray for you, every day, that your eyes be opened, and your heart healed. I will not stop proclaiming the truth--to you, and to others; may God give me the strength. And as for my stridency?

Get used to it.

In Christ, now and forever,