When we decide to go somewhere, we decide to go there, not merely return to were we are. Whether it's a vacation, or visiting family and friends, we find the 'best' way there. No one decides to go somewhere without first consulting a map to find the best way there.
"All roads (read religions) lead to God." That's absurd on a couple of counts. As G.K. Chesterton wrote: "Is one religion as good as another? Is one horse in the Derby as good as another?" Also consider this; at the opening of the Battle of the Bulge, retreating American soldiers were 'fooled' into following roads they thought led to safety. However, German Kommandos had infiltrated and changed the road signs, leading them to the waiting arms of the SS and the massacre at Malmedy.
Our life is a journey, a pilgrimage. We are hoping and 'traveling' to our true and 'natural' home, Heaven and eternal happiness with God. However, some of the 'signs' have been changed.
Like any 'journey' we go to get somewhere, not merely to return to were we've been. That journey, like any journey, is filled with hills and valleys, boredom and excitement, beautiful vistas and dreary scenery. It has it's hazards, and set backs. Wrong turns, flat tires, etc. Every once and awhile, one needs to make a 'stop' to refresh ourselves, to make sure of our direction, to get rid of waste, etc.
Christ said; "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), not a way, a truth, and a life. (All roads lead to God?)
He also said: "the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction," (Matthew 7:13).
In a vision, St. John Bosco saw the 'way' to destruction. It was a wide, smooth road, lined with beautifully scented roses. But the roses hid snares which trapped those venturing near with pits into which the ensnared fell, and the road was of a slight and unseen downward slope until it became too steep to escape.
"Then Jesus told his disciples, 'If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.'" (Matthew 16:24-25) The cross is the 'way'. For some it is the 'bridge', the 'support' which gets us by the difficulties of this world. For others, as Bishop Sheen pointed out, it is the barrier to condemnation. And for others it's the barrier to salvation. That is, they reject the cross given them (or as St. Philip Neri pointed out, the cross they made for themselves)
That is why the 'Way of the Cross' is such a powerful devotion; appropriate for Lent and always. It's Christ's 'road map'. Beginning with "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42) And ending with "when they came to the place which is called The Skull, there they crucified Him," (Luke 23:33). And all the thorns, scourgings, and rebukes that accompany it.
Compare the 'way' of the cross with the 'way' of the world! 'All is good, deny yourselves nothing.' ("let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me." (Matthew 16:24-25)).
'Truth depends on what makes you 'happy', what you want.' ("not My will, but Thine, be done." (Luke 22:42)).
'We can believe if you do what we want.' ("You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross." So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, "He saved others; he cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him; for He said, 'I am the Son of God.'" (Matthew 27:40-43)).
Come down from the cross and we'll believe. That pretty much sums up the dissident theology, the theology of the world.
So, as we prepare to continue our journey, rather than a circle, we have two avenues. One nice and smooth, with fragrant roses lining our way, or a rough strewn path, with the cross at the end.
Which do we choose? Which is the way home? "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (Matthew 7:13-14).
"In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the cross is protection against our enemies, in the cross is infusion of Heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross is joy of spirit, in the cross is the height of virtue, in the cross the perfection of holiness. There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the cross. Take up therefore thy cross and follow Jesus." (Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis)
A disciple doesn't merely assent to Jesus Christ, with this or that intellectual reservation, because Jesus is not an idea. A disciple doesn't endorse the message of Jesus Christ from the sidelines. A disciple doesn't relativize Jesus Christ as a First Century reformer who would have included this or that social issue in His agenda if He'd just had the benefit of 20th Century hindsight. A disciple doesn't merely admire Jesus Christ as a great teacher and prophet.
Jesus is so much more than all these things.
On the contrary, the disciple of Jesus Christ loves and follows Him. The disciple of Jesus Christ accepts Him without reservation as the Son of God. The disciple of Jesus Christ submits and conforms his or her whole life to the Gospel. The disciple of Jesus Christ believes that He is "the way, the truth and the life," the only redeemer, the only messiah, the only sure path to eternal joy. He is the savior; there is no other.
I could go on, but you get the point. Discipleship is not the equivalent of a club membership. Properly lived, it's sacrificial. In fact, it's all-absorbing . . . which is why real discipleship is so unpopular in contemporary American culture. It gets in the way of consumer self-indulgence. Discipleship is the total dedication to following Jesus Christ, preaching His Gospel and serving His Church.
In his recent apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America, the Holy Father says, ". . . the vital core of the new evangelization must be the clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ that is, the preaching of His name, His teaching, His life, His promises and the kingdom He has gained for us by His paschal mystery." That's the apostolate we've chosen as Catholic educators. That's the task we're called to do. And the virtues it requires are simple but demanding: trust in the authority of Scripture and the teachings of the Catholic faith; zeal to spread the Good News of the cross; and humility to put aside our own agendas and submit our wills to the guidance of the Church.
To which I would add the following: To make and form disciples, we first need to be disciples ourselves. Nothing bears more fruit than personal witness. If we really believe, we will bring others to believe. In fact, in the words of John Paul II again, "The burning desire to invite others to encounter the One whom we have encountered, is the start of the evangelizing mission to which the whole Church is called."
Do we have a desire that burns in us to bring others to Jesus? That's strong but liberating language. And that evangelizing mission should target not just the hearts of others, but the structures of the society within which we live. As the Epistle of James reminds us, "Faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (2:17). This is why the American bishops called us so articulately to struggle on behalf of the unborn, the infirm and the terminally ill in their statement Living the Gospel of Life last November. Helen Alvare from the NCCB's Secretariat for Prolife Affairs will be speaking on this document tomorrow, and I encourage every one of you to attend her session, and read and pray over the bishops' statement.
And when you do, read it in concert with the other outstanding document the bishops produced last November Everyday Christianity. We have an obligation to live our faith in defense of human dignity, at both the beginning and the end of life. We also have the duty to carry Jesus Christ into the everyday rhythm of our work and civic environments. And that's the message of Everyday Christianity. Discipleship is a call to action, not just an invitation to agreement. The maps to an active Christian discipleship already exist in documents like Living the Gospel of Life and Everyday Christianity. If we don't use them, we won't be forming anyone or anything and we'll have no one to blame but ourselves for the results.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Section Four.
Today I say to all of my children: You do not perceive how grave is the danger you are in, because you do not desire to see. You stifle every attempt of heaven to touch you, to bring you onto the safe path O! Children of my Immaculate Heart, I solemnly tell you that the beast, the antichrist will not have to wait very long before he assumes full control, because you permit the evil one to ensnare you, control you and lead you to perdition.
Do not hunger only for my messages; do not hunger only to read them. Hunger for my Divine Son truly present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. He, the Only-Begotten Son of God, is your True Source of food and drink. He is the Light that will not be extinguished by those who persevere in the True Faith.
Pray from your heart. Seek God's Will alone and deny your lower human ego! Each day say with all fervor the Our Father and contemplate this perfect prayer. This prayer, given you by my Divine Son, is the answer to all your questions and concerns. Lift up your heart and pray, and God shall help you in all things!
I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
I ask you to tell my little ones that my words to them through you, my hidden one, will not come as frequently as they have in the past. The messages I give to the world through you shall grow less because I have already said all that Almighty God desires me, your Mother, to say.
Now, little children, you must take my messages to heart and live them, pondering them in your heart and growing stronger daily in your faith. Now is the time for all who believe, who are gathered beneath my mantle, to ponder well Sacred Scripture and to live the Gospel of my Divine Son in its fullest extent.
Persecution in my Divine Son's Church shall not abate, but grow deeper. That is why I call all who are chosen to live in physical refuge, preserving the True Faith, to do so now so that you may yet grow in unity of mind and heart through the grace of the Holy Spirit, Who will form you into true Eucharistic communities.
Little children, pray very much. The road ahead is painful, but prayer and the Sacraments, particularly Holy Mass wherein you receive my Divine Son in Holy Communion and the Sacrament of Penance shall be your joy and peace.
Do not doubt that my words shall be fulfilled, for all I have told you is by God's authority and shall be fulfilled.
Prepare the refuge of your soul and place it in the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then prepare my physical places of refuge. Give all help to those who labor to fulfill God's Will in these holy places. Here the True Faith will not be diminished, and the True Presence of my Divine Son shall be adored perpetually.
Pray. The season of Advent dawns. I solemnly tell you, the dawn of the reign of the antichrist has begun, though the evil one conceals his diabolical plan because of your weak faith, your weak trust and surface love of my Son.
I solemnly tell you that when I do come to my hidden one, I shall guard, guide and protect you, leading you directly to my Divine Son. Yet, little children, my time is almost at an end to be with you and you have not listened to me.
Pray! Pray for my servants, my messengers who carry a heavy cross and feel the loss of my Motherly words in greater proportion as is their role. Pray for Divine Mercy to yet be poured out upon the world, for there is yet time.
Heed my words. Advent comes. The advent of the antichrist, and the advent of my Immaculate Heart's Triumph.
Seek God alone. Leave all else behind. I love and bless you. Thank you for responding to my Call!
Death of Saints Heraclius and Zosimus, martyrs in Carthage during the persecution of Roman Emperor Valerian.
Death of the Antioch Martyrs at the hands of the emperor Maximian.
Goths lay siege to Rome on this date during the pontificate of Pope Vigilius, 59th successor of Peter.
Death of Saint Sophronius, Hermit and Patriarch of Jerusalem. He was a strong defender of orthodoxy who was loved by friend and foe including the Saracen Khalif Omar, who out of respect for Sophronius delayed his conquest of Jerusalem until after Sophronius' death.
Death of St. Euthymius, Bishop of Sardis in Lydia and martyred by the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus for refusing to join the iconoclasts.
Death of St. Eulogius of Cordova, Archbishop of Toledo, Spain. He was martyred at the hands of the Moors whom he strove to convert shortly after being appointed archbishop.
Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici is elected the 217th successor of Peter, taking the name Pope Leo X. His pontificate would last for eight years. During this time this Florentine Roman Pontiff would neither understand nor know how to offer remedies to the dangerous schism brought about by the ex-Augustinian monk Martin Luther. Leo would contribute to the institution of the pawnbroker's activity which would be considered a work of charity for the assistance of the less fortunate.
A year to the day that Pope Leo X is on the throne, this Renaissance pontiff is forced to appoint someone else to head the design of St. Peter's Basilica with the death of the master Donato Bramante. Leo chooses wisely in his selection of Bramante's protege, the young and feisty Michelangelo Buonarroti and the rest, as they say, is history...and priceless art!