CATHOLIC PewPOINT for Monday-Tuesday, June 26-27, 2000
The answer lies in practicing and promoting self-control!
The Gospel readings for Monday and Tuesday bring back the issue we have been treating in respect to so many who disregard God's Will and the Church's teaching by following their own agenda. They parrot Our Lord's words in Matthew 7: 1, "Do not judge, that you may not be judged." While it's true that we should take great caution in pointing the finger at others, we must also be concerned with our fellow man and correct him when he goes astray. Pat Ludwa treated in detail a few weeks ago in his excellent VIEW FROM THE PEW column The Three-Finger Rule. More often than not those who say "do not judge" are the very ones who persist in continuing in their own sinful way and lash out at those who would correct them. Pat deals with that also in this issue with a brilliant piece called Weep for the children. What so many of those with narrow vision fail to see is the following paragraph in Matthew 7: 6. "Do not give to dogs what is holy, neither cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you."
Michael Cain, editor
This is basically a warning from Jesus to beware of those who would twist His words. It's interesting that in the same chapter Christ talks about avoiding judgments, the power of prayer, the Golden Rule and obstacles to virtues. Chapter seven of Matthew is a powerful catechesis for all. The entire theme throughout the chapter is self-control. Yet today that seems to be the one thing that is being overlooked in our schools and society. Self-control incorporates the moral virtues we have been featuring in our on-going catechetical feature Appreciation of the Precious Gift of Our Faith; especially this issue which treats Abstinence and Diligence. Abstinence is the key to preventing AIDS, preventing unwanted pregnancies, cutting down on violence and returning to the kind of lifestyle Jesus insists on. It means teaching our children that sex is wrong outside of marriage, no matter the circumstances. It means teaching our children that Hollywood and the media are not the measure we will be judged by and that we need to monitor what is watched and ingested. It means standing up to those who would openly promote sinful behavior as being politically correct and acceptable by society. It means standing alone when the herd stampedes by heading for the chasm of chaos. It isn't easy, but it's necessary for our own salvation and our children's as well. Why? Because God said so. Yet our reluctance to follow His will reveals how immature we are as His children. For in our behavior we show we're not ready to take on the God-given responsibilities that insure our right to Heaven. Baptism makes us children of God, but we have other sacraments to help the maturation process and somewhere we have bogged down.
Confirmation, Reconciliation and Matrimony are three sacraments that haven't been taken seriously enough. Statistics bear this out. Why have so many parishes cut back on confessions, relegating the Sacrament of Penance to an hour, even only a half-hour a week? Is it that everyone is committing just venial sins and don't have a need to go to confession regularly? You might think so from the fact that almost everyone goes to Communion on Sunday. But where are they on Saturday afternoon? Far from the confessional. Many priests sit by with stole on as a few trickle in where there used to be long lines.
Divorces are up because men and women are not taking their vows seriously and, rather than digging in and working out their problems and placing their marriages in God's hands, they opt for the easy - albeit expensive - way out by splitting when times get tough. To avoid yet another tough obstacle - the vow "to love and cherish until death do you part" - they opt to "try a marriage out" by living together and when the going gets tough, well they're going alright as in "adios, see ya!" They have no sense of commitment and no sense of self-control. If they had, they would never have allowed themselves to be involved in such a sinful situation. Yet they rationalize it away with "everyone's doing it, so it can't be that wrong." In that same right is wrong and wrong is right mentality we have the gays who openly promote a sinful lifestyle and compound that with insistence that they be allowed to wed their gay partner. Like satan, they mock God. God will not be mocked!
Then we have Confirmation as a sacrament that makes us 'soldiers of Christ.' But too often this analogy is shelved in favor of humanistic tendencies to help our neighbor through social agencies with little attention to the person's soul but more towards their physical well-being. After all, we can't stand in judgment of others as they rationalize by pulling out the passage of Matthew 7: 1 again. Thus, our youth are tutored to accept lifestyles. That isn't what the Church intended, nor the Holy Spirit when He descended with tongues of fire on Pentecost Sunday.
We can remember being confirmed when we were in sixth grade; today in many dioceses one must be at least fifteen before the Bishop will consider administering the sacrament. While this is good in many ways, it also has slowed the learning process. I can attest to this from having taught CCD and Confirmation classes in the past. It is so sad to see many of these kids don't even know the Ten Commandments, let alone the catechism. The bible is just a word to them and prayers that we take for granted in memory, are difficult for them to comprehend. Add to this their apathy and the situation grows worse. These are tomorrow's leaders of the Church and, except for a small fraction, many do not know their faith, let alone live it. There are many programs out there and some are very questionable. In fact a few years ago, rather than teaching from a manual that soft-soaped our Faith, I taught from the same book we are using for our Appreciation of the Faith series. I did so simply because the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has not changed regardless of what some of these "official" Confirmation curriculums convey. It was refreshing this year to see our son Kellin confirmed last month. We say so because he was not subjected to all that watered-down rubbish, but was taught directly by our pastor who emphasized the Faith and self-control rather than social action and acceptance of society's norms.
The question remains: Does the problem lie with the kids or the parents? The guilt can be portioned out to both, but also the Church must share some of the blame for it relaxed the essence of self-control too much after Vatican II. Most parents of school-age kids today were brought up in the era of post-Vatican II. Because the exact documents and changes the Council Fathers directed to be disseminated world-wide somehow got caught in the vortex of delay, it enabled those who didn't agree to rewrite the script, so to speak. It happens all the time in society today. If someone doesn't like a court ruling, they just appeal and the process goes on forever. If things don't go a person's way, they sue or divorce or "drop-out" and do their own thing. That's how the Protestant denominations started. In short, those who rebell against God's will spend more time and energy trying to take the easy way out and the only one who profits is satan himself.
Again, we're not criticizing Vatican II, only the "Spirit of Vatican II" - which distorted, changed and added things that were not approved by the Council Fathers - then promulgated them globally. In fact, many things were "grandfathered in" rather than being totally discarded because for many bishops it would be too tough to weed out the garden. Sometimes we wonder what will be God's response when they meet their Maker. Excuses won't do at the final judgment and they shouldn't do today for any of us. As confusing as it has been over the past thirty-plus years trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, we must continue. We must emphasize the value of virtue no matter the arguments the world will offer up why virtue won't work today. Jesus asks us to live by the Golden rule, "Therefore, all that you wish men to do to you, even so do you also to them; for this is the Law and the Prophets" (Matthew 7: 12). But immediately after those words He tells us in Matthew 7: 13-14, "Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it." How true!
Our Lord knew of the troubles that would face His children in the times we are living today. After all He is God, therefore all omniscient. If He felt it would be too tough for us and we should relax the rules to cater to society, He would have made exceptions in His teachings. But He didn't. And neither should we today. As society slowly deteriorates morally, the only moral compass left seems to be the Church. His Holiness Pope John Paul the Great stands as the icon of morality and trust, but there are many who would seek to subterfuge him both, unfortunately within the Church and outside the Church.
The Third Secret of Fatima, which is being fully released today, deals with this and that a great "bishop in white" would be felled but not mortally for God and His Blessed Mother Mary had special plans for this great man who will enter the 22nd year of his great pontificate this October 16th. Think about all the problems in the Church today and then imagine where she would be without this magnificent prelate from Poland. Sure there are bad bishops; of course there are bad priests. It is no secret there are bad Catholics who can scandalize and bring disgrace to the Church. But there are far more good bishops, far more good priests, far more lay Catholics whose virtuous actions speak louder than words. Yet they're seldom heard from or about, because virtue doesn't draw headlines. Instead the muck-raking media promote sensational stories that magnify man's faults and hold a magnifying glass over anyone associated with the Church, hoping to catch them in a trap and then expose all as "hypocrites"...conveniently harking back to Christ's words in Matthew 7: 1-6. Of course, they take it all out of context, just as they take stories out of context to enhance their own agenda. In so doing, they further the slide toward satan, taking so many with them on the ride down the wide path strewn with roses. The virtuous who practice are held up for contempt and "out-of-date" with the times by those who refuse to practice self-control.
Their modus-operandi is to demean the virtuous in order to try to elevate themselves, but in the process they are merely digging themselves a deeper hole toward hell. They are like the man Our Lord speaks of in Matthew 12: 45, "Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter in and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. So shall it be with this evil generation." If the generation at the time of Christ was so evil, imagine our generation today which is far worse than any before it in regards virtues, especially self-control. When will they learn that the virtuous man will be rewarded for his fortitude and perseverance? When will they learn the meaning to Our Lord's words in Matthew 19: 30 "But many who are first now will be last, and many who are last now will be first" and Luke 13: 30, "And behold, there are those last who will be first, and there are those first who will be last"? The answer lies in practicing and promoting self-control!
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