In this Sunday's Epistle we hear a lengthy account of the many trials and sufferings faced by the great Apostle, St. Paul. Who but St. Paul, and those like him with a profound love for Jesus Christ, would be able to endure such trials. Because by faith he was in obedience to God through Jesus Christ, Paul's will was strengthened by divine grace, so that he was able to endure them. Shortly before his martyrdom he wrote to Timothy, "As for me, I am already being poured out in sacrifice, and the time of my deliverance is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2Tim.4:6,7).
Human nature was at its peak in the humanity of the Son of God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. But even fallen human nature achieves greatness when, as in the case of St. Paul, the mind and the will are in obedience to God through faith. Reason illuminated by grace is in control, so that the imagination and the emotions, even the body itself, cooperate for the good of the whole man.
Today humanity has fallen from grace because it has refused to acknowledge the sovereign authority of Jesus Christ and the rights of the Holy Church He founded. As a consequence, humanity is out of control, like a ship without a rudder headed for the rocks. Even nature itself is troubled, because it is not brought into obedience to God as it should be, through its human custodian. "Fill the earth and subdue it," God had said to Adam and Eve (Gn.1:28). Today the earth is being exploited due to the greed and selfishness of their descendants. God allows nature to sink back towards its original chaos, until humanity learns its lesson.
We observe human nature out of control in the chaotic state of human society. There is no true wisdom or true understanding of the nature of things, and the lower human faculties are ungovernable. Think of the seven deadly sins. The end result is always war.
The Church itself is in a state of chaos, while at the helm is another Paul - John Paul II, who thinks that humanity can nevertheless build a civilization of peace and love. To repent and believe in the Gospel is not a requirement. It is important to note some of his statements in the aftermath of last year's Assisi Prayer Meeting of the World Religions, so we will know what Catholics are expected to accept.
John Paul reported that he was filled with "intense emotion" on that day. He did not say that his mind was clear and his judgment sound. Emotion must be under the control of reason, which is in obedience to God through Jesus Christ and illuminated by faith. But at Assisi the various religions were given equal status, and the prayers of these religions reckoned to be equally valid, even if the different religious groups prayed in separate locations, each to its own version of the deity, or deities, as the case may be.
On the Sunday following the meeting, noting that the representatives of the religions had resolved to reject the use of arms and violence, John Paul declared: "Thus, we have achieved a milestone on the way to building a civilization of peace and love." Pope Pius XI, to the contrary, stated, in his Encyclical, Quas Primas, "The hope of durable peace between peoples will never shine so long as individuals and states persist in rejecting the authority of our Savior. That is why we have given warning that it is necessary to seek the peace of Christ in the reign of Christ" (Quas Primas, December 11, 1925). John Paul's "civilization of peace and love" is a utopian dream. We can see the fruits of it in the build-up of war in Iraq.
The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, spoke the truth at Assisi. He said that Jesus made a distinction between the peace that comes from God and the peace the world gives, and that God's peace is offered to those who are reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. That should have been enough to divide true believers from infidels. But another speaker declared that she was God-indeed, that we were all God, and that all religions were equally acceptable. Well, John Paul, having "respect" for all religions, sat there filled, no doubt, with intense emotion. Referring to all the religions, he said, "True religious feelings…lead to a perception, in one way or another, of the mystery of God, the source of goodness, (and) thus constitute a wellspring, a source of respect and harmony between peoples."
What are "true religious feelings?" The Modernists were condemned by Pope St. Pius X because they equated some kind of religious sense, innate in every human being, with faith. Christian faith, which cannot be equated with belief in other religions, is a supernatural virtue that is given only to those who believe in Jesus Christ. "Religious feelings" without such faith are just that-feelings.
St. Pius X cites the erroneous views of the Modernists: "…the need of the divine in a soul which is prone to religion excites - according to the principles of Fideism, without any previous advertence of the mind - a certain special sense, and this sense possesses…the divine reality itself, and in a way unites man with God. It is this sense to which Modernists give the name of faith, and this is what they hold to be the beginning of religion" (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Sept. 8, 1907).
In the same document St. Pius says: "…all these fantasies of the religious sense will never be able to destroy common sense, and common sense tells us that emotion and everything that leads the heart captive proves a hindrance rather than a help to the discovery of truth."
Pope Pius XI says of inter-religious gatherings: "They presuppose the erroneous view that all religions are more or less good and praiseworthy, inasmuch as all give expression, under various forms, to that innate sense which leads men to God and to the obedient acknowledgement of His rule" (Mortalium Animos, Jan. 6, 1928).
At the end of the sessions in Assisi, John Paul II assumed the role of spokesman for all the religions: "War never again!" he said, "Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love." And we thought justice, peace, forgiveness, life and love came to us through Jesus Christ alone.
There is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism," says St. Paul, "one God and Father of all" (Eph.4:5). And there is "one Mediator between God and men…Jesus Christ" (1Tim.2:5).
I doubt that St. Paul would be able to recognize the "church" of John Paul II as the Church that Jesus Christ founded, and for which Paul shed his blood. For those of us who have the same difficulty, these words which Paul addressed to Timothy could have been meant for us:
"…all who want to live piously in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But the wicked and imposters will go from bad to worse, erring and leading into error. But continue in the things that you have learned and that have been entrusted to you, knowing of whom you have learned them. For…you have known the Sacred Writings, which are able to instruct you unto salvation by the faith which is in Christ Jesus" (2Tim.3:12-15).
From the Gradual of today's Mass:
"Let the Gentiles know that God is thy name: thou alone art the Most High over all the earth." †