We've all read Sacred Scripture. With all Catholics deep into Lent, anticipating Holy Week and the glorious Resurrection on Easter Sunday, we turn constantly to the Word in our liturgy. But as we listen to the lector enunciating the Old Testament readings, or the priest imparting Christ's Words from the Gospel, do we truly comprehend the meaning? Jesus left us a promise that cannot fail: "And behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world" (Matthew 28:20).
Our humanity is such that we take this statement, tuck it into our brain, and conclude that God takes care of His One, True Church, and thus we don't have to be bothered with doing anything to ensure that our faith continues along the straight and narrow path. If we think that, we're playing right into the enemy's hands. The problems inherent in the Church today with all the confusion regarding liturgy, liberal doctrine, and, yes, heresy came about over the last 30 years because we assumed everything being implemented was sanctioned by the Magisterium. Only when it was too late did we realize these drastic changes that has entirely changed the face of Catholicism as cradle Catholics knew it, was not implemented or recommended by the Council Fathers at the Second Vatican Council. Rather liberal factions, most lay lobbyists with financial influence over this bishop or that bishop, were able to clandestinely manipulate others to accept such radical alterations that caused a mass exodus in numbers from the true faith in the 70's and 80's. Many of those who didn't leave, gave in to the peer pressure of others not to fight "city hall" and so, little by little the liturgical corrosion ate away until it was firmly entrenched and rooted in almost every diocese and parish. With that in place, it didn't take long for aberrations to raise their ugly head with the dawn of the "cafeteria" Catholic - one who opts to pick and choose which doctrines they will follow, while completely disregarding the others. How, then can these people call themselves Roman Catholics? At least in the days of the Reformation, those who disagreed with the Church stated emphatically that they were no longer Catholic and began to give their sects every name under the sun...but not, unfortunately under the Son.
As the Millennium approaches it becomes more and more apparent that we have not been faithful in our obedience to God, and thus to His Vicar on earth, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, and those popes who preceded him. The sweeping changes falsely attributed to the Council Fathers have been well documented as being a well-maneuvered ploy by modernists and liberal theologians to do away with obedience and inundate the faithful with a New Age mentality leading to a "do your own thing" type of religion that, as we said earlier, bears no resemblance to the Church founded by Christ. Yes, in the last thirty years the Roman Catholic faith has become so watered down as to bear, in some parishes and dioceses, no allegiance with the Catholic faith per se. In many other parishes and dioceses our Roman Catholic Faith has taken on the mirror-image of our protestant brethren, and in this the countless souls involved have become lukewarm, confused and even "turned off" to the Catholic Faith as a whole. Issues once black and white have become a myriad shade of gray, causing more confusion and the "cafeteria-style" Catholics who pick and choose those areas of obedience which are "easy" and compatible with their epicurean, if you will, lifestyle.
With this in mind we take you back to the passage of Matthew 28:20 and realize Jesus is still with His Church because God's promise is one that cannot be broken. But, though we are sheep, God expects us to recognize the wolves in sheeps' clothing. He expects us to do do our part, for that's where faith, hope and love come in. But have we really done as much as we could? How many times do we shrug it off and say it's better not to get involved. When we do that, we are lumping ourselves with the "lukewarm" whom God said in Apocalypse 3:16, "Because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to vomit thee out of my mouth." Those are mighty harsh words that we, as Catholics, don't want to hear. But, if we don't stand up now and ask to be counted among those who will stand for Jesus and His One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church we could find ourselves being counted among the dreaded lukewarm.
The title of this series is "Where is Holy Mother Church heading as we near the millennium;" it could very well be where are we as individuals heading as we near the millenium for we are the Church - we are all part of the Mystical Body of Christ. He is the Head, we are His members. But to be His arms and legs, we have to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.
That walk will ultimately take us up Calvary where we can only hope to be nailed to the Cross of Christ. If not, how can we expect to be lifted up to be with him? There is no Resurrection without the Crucifixion. As we near that time in the liturgical year when that is the focus of our life, let us remember what Lent means and remember also the words Jesus conveyed in Matthew 16:24-27, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For he who would save his life will lose it; but he who loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, but suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is to come with with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will render to everyone according to his conduct." These are truly words to ponder during this Lent. Is one's agenda that which a person takes the easy way out and opt for the world's way by trying to conform the Church to the world through a politically correct agenda of inculturation into the Church? If so, could our Lord be speaking about those who would force man's will over God's will in these matters? What about us? Do we stand among the few who would lose our lives for Jesus' sake?
In the next installment, we will examine one of those who does exemplify these virtues: our Holy Father, the Successor of Peter, the Vicar of Christ and the one who guides us as our true shepherd. If we do not pattern our lives on what he advocates, and proudly count ourselves among those walking with this living saint, then all the talk won't do a bit of good. If we're not willing to walk the walk, we might as well pack it in because the journey won't take us very far. All the talk in the world won't help when we try to con our way into Heaven if we can't back it up with action now...inspired by the Holy Spirit.