During the season of Advent we unite ourselves in spirit with those who in ancient times longed for the coming of the Messiah - with the prophets and holy people, with St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, and Mary, who was to become His Holy Mother. The coming we are really looking forward to is, of course, His Second Coming, when He will come in glory on the clouds of Heaven, and all His saints with Him.
His coming will be sudden and unexpected by most of the earth's inhabitants, who will be absorbed in their worldly pursuits with no time for God or spiritual things. "All the tribes of the earth shall mourn," Scripture says.
There are, however, many who expect Him to come soon. They see many biblical prophecies being fulfilled. The reference Jesus makes to the fig tree in the today's Gospel has always been taken as a symbol for the Jews and their return to the Holy Land. Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, and other sects are feverishly poring over their Bibles looking for the fulfillment of each minute detail of prophecy.
We can agree with them about some things, but Catholics are sometimes taken in by their misinterpretations, such as the one about "The Rapture." St. Paul in 1Thessalonians, speaking of the end of the world (at least as we know it), says that those believers who still survive when the Lord comes will be caught up to meet Him in the air. The Evangelicals and others say that Christian believers will be taken up before the Great Tribulation, the "time of sorrows," spoken of by the Lord. The rest of the human race will have to endure the Tribulation. Several movies have been made about the Rapture, such as one called "Left Behind." But this has never been the teaching of the Catholic Church.
Sad as it is that we have to be deceived by false teachings from outside the Church, it is even sadder that we must endure those from the inside. How shall we keep the faith - survive - as St. Paul says, until His coming, since our holy faith is under siege from every direction? "Watch and pray," the Lord says.
A broadside salvo from the inside came from Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Vatican representative at the U.N. in Geneva, who spoke at a U.N. conference in Madrid, Spain. "Religious education," he said, "is a powerful instrument to help believers intensify their efforts toward the realization of the unity of the one human family."
Here he spoke of "believers" as those belonging to the World Religions. The Church used to speak of believers as those who by God's gift of faith believed in Jesus Christ. Those who did not believe in the Gospel were infidels, or unbelievers. Now everyone is a "believer".
What of "the unity of the one human family"? Being members of the same species does not make us "one human family". Because of Original Sin we are a divided people, as was demonstrated at the Tower of Babel. But there is a new human family, the Head of which is the New Adam, Jesus Christ. St. Paul says in Colossians, "You yourselves were at one time estranged and enemies in mind through your evil works. But now He has reconciled you in His body of flesh through His death, to present you holy and undefiled and irreproachable before Him." (Col. 1:21,22) This is where faith separates us from the unbelievers.
Archbishop Martin further stated: "Religious freedom constitutes a fundamental human right and can certainly be considered one of the cornerstones of the edifice of human rights…" We are being hit repeatedly by this one.
Religious freedom as a fundamental human right - it sounds like something from the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the French Revolution, something you would expect from the U.N., and not from the Vatican. Actually it is a Masonic doctrine, which has overtaken the true Catholic doctrine on religious freedom. But it is one of the most important pillars of the pontificate of our putative pope, John Paul II, without which his ambitious ecumenical and inter-faith program would collapse.
Are we free to accept or reject the Gospel? People reject the Gospel because they are not free. They are bound by sin. They love the darkness rather than the light. The grace of God is what makes us free to choose the truth - in this case the truth of God's word. When it becomes a matter of choosing between the word of God and the word of man, there can be no contest. We are bound to believe and accept the word of God. Not to accept it is to call God a liar.
Jesus once sent 72 disciples into the towns, which He himself intended to visit. Can you imagine Jesus saying, "Now have great 'respect' for the beliefs of these people, because religious freedom is a basic human right. Most of them will be believing Jews, but some will be believers in Moloch or Astarte. Enter into dialogue with them, and we will build a civilization of love."
Here, in part, is what Jesus actually did say:
"But whatever town you enter and they do not receive you - go out into its streets and say, 'Even the dust from your town that cleaves to us we shake off against you; yet know this, that the kingdom of God is at hand.' I say to you, that it will be more tolerable for Sodom in that day than for that town." (Luke 10:10-12)
Clearly, human beings do not have a "basic human right" to refuse the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus said about Capharnaum, "And thou, Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted to Heaven? Thou shalt be thrust down to hell! For if the miracles had been worked in Sodom that have been worked in thee, it would have remained to this day." (Mt.11:23)
The brilliant St. Augustine, one of the greatest Fathers and Doctors of the Church had this to say when writing against the Donatists: "For the soul there is no worse kind of death than the freedom of error."
Following the ancient traditional teaching of the Church, Pope Pius IX called the right to religious freedom "insanity," and declared it "especially fatal to the Catholic Church and to the salvation of souls." The same teaching was upheld by his successors, like Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XII. Beginning with John XXIII the doctrine of religious freedom began to creep into Church documents, and was finally enshrined in the documents of Vatican II. Since then it has been hammered home relentlessly and is now mindlessly accepted by the vast majority of Catholics.
It is unfortunate to have to speak like this and be so critical, but if we are to preserve our faith we must be aware that it is under attack, and come to its defense. Otherwise we will lose what has been handed down to us through the centuries from the Apostles, who received it from the Lord Himself. We mourn for our fellow Catholics who are being misled by wolves in sheep's clothing. We mourn for Holy Mother, the Church, sorely oppressed by her enemies. Yet we have the Lord's promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against her.
Who will be ready when the Lord comes? If we "watch and pray," keeping all the while the ancient faith of the Church, we have nothing to fear. "He who perseveres to the end shall be saved." †