On this day, almost two thousand years ago, the Church received the mandate from Jesus Christ, as He was about to ascend to the Father, to preach the Gospel to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. All nations were expected to recognize Jesus Christ as King and all men were to seek salvation in His Name. But from the very beginning the world was opposed to the Gospel. The Church would succeed and spread only at the cost of the blood of the martyrs. It would be a long and bitter struggle to the end.
The first and perennial enemy and persecutor of the Church was apostate Judaism. Because most of the Jewish religious leaders did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah, in Whom their religion was to have found its fulfillment, they would not recognize the authority of His Church, and continued to offer Temple worship and animal sacrifice until the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. Their religion would thereafter mutate into the rabbinical Judaism of the Talmud.
Soon the infant Church would have to face the Mystery Religions of pagan Rome and enter into a long struggle with paganism. The Church would almost be overcome by the internal struggle with the Arian heresy, while already in existence were other religions, which would later prove to be almost impenetrable obstacles to the spread of the Gospel - Hinduism and Buddhism.
In the year 622 another major adversary, the false prophet Mohammed, founded the religion of Islam, which denied the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ. Its spread was halted by the victory of the Christian forces at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571. But today, not only the Church, but the whole of Western civilization, trembles at its reawakening.
With the Orthodox Schism of the eleventh century and the Protestant Heresy of the sixteenth century instigated by Martin Luther, the Church incurred deadly wounds, which continue to fester and bleed to this day.
Arising out of occult and satanic roots in the eighteenth century, the secret society known as Freemasonry began to spread its horrible tentacles with the intention of destroying both the Catholic Church and all legitimate governments, which recognized the authority of God. It has been the moving force behind all modern revolutions, spawning Communism, Spiritualism, and other New Age horrors, and has penetrated the Catholic Church even at the highest levels.
Considering that the Church has endured two thousand years of persecution, the amazing thing today is not that there should be corruption found within its walls, but that there should be anything left of it at all. In fact, it exists now only in remnants and shreds, as apostasy reigns from the top down. Its continued existence has always been considered proof of its supernatural origin. Though it be oppressed and driven underground, the Church's enemies will never be able to destroy it, because Jesus Christ is still with His Church and is always faithful to His word. "The Church travels as a pilgrim towards eternity," says St. Augustine, "enduring the persecutions of the world, while enjoying the consolations of the Holy Spirit."
As the apostasy increases, the structure of the counter-church sways and totters, waiting for its final collapse. In an effort to stabilize itself, it reaches out pathetically to the powers of this world and tries to make friends with the worldly religions. It made its peace with the Jews last year with the publication of a document declaring that the church now recognizes the separate validity of the Old Covenant, and that it is not necessary for the Jews to accept Jesus Christ. They may justly await another Messiah.
How much longer would it take before the same thing would happen with the other religions? Not long at all! On Good Friday last year, the official Preacher to the Papal Household, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, declared, as the reputed pope, John Paul II, sat and listened with other Vatican dignitaries, that the other religions "are not merely tolerated by God but positively willed by Him as an expression of the inexhaustible richness of His grace and His will for everyone to be saved" (CFN, May, 2002).
I have not heard that his hearers tore their garments or sentenced him to be burned at the stake. His sermon was duly recorded and sent out with other items from the Vatican, and was available through ordinary news channels. Such is the state of the post-Vatican II counter-church.
But they will still have to answer to the words of Jesus and the holy Gospel:
"'Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.'…But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the preaching by the signs that followed. Amen" (Mk.16:15,16,20). †