Some suggest we live in the end times as prophesized in the Book of Apocalypse. Way back in 1978, Pope John Paul II famously suggested:
We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is a trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church, in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights, and the rights of nations.
But the signs tease us and seem to come and go. Happily, the Soviet empire collapsed, Poland and other captive nations were liberated, and we expected to live happily ever after. Apocalypse averted.
Not so fast.
While many of us slept in comfort, our consumer society has adopted much of the Communist approach. Many Americans look upon our history with Marxist contempt, rather than striving to learn from it. Our universities have effectively become Marxist re-education camps. Our public schools are promoting "abortion rights," the entire LGBTQ agenda, and stigmatize dissent from secular dogma. (Ask any parents who try to opt their kids out of the "family life" programs.) So it's no mystery why we increasingly elect Godless political candidates who promote monstrous moral views and embrace socialism. It's not "the economy, stupid." It's our culture, and our sloth.
Nevertheless, our time is shorter than it was yesterday, so we need a plan:
1) Rediscover the Sacrament of Penance.
Many years ago, during a wedding rehearsal, I pointed out that there would be plenty of time for pictures after the wedding; then I departed for the regularly scheduled Confessions. The mother of the bride was furious and demanded: "You scheduled Confessions on my daughter's wedding day?!" "Yes, ma'am," I replied, "we schedule Confessions every Saturday." "But this is my daughter's wedding day, a once-in-a-lifetime affair!" My response was spontaneous, ill-advised — but unarguably on target. "Ma'am, for some people, Confession is also a once-in-a-lifetime affair." It was too late to expect a wedding donation to the parish, but it is not too late for us to return to the Sacrament of Penance.
2) Prayer and the Sacraments must sustain and direct us, not the other way around.
We must pray on God's terms, not ours.
An old joke illustrates how we can abuse prayer: After a break-in, as a burglar searches in the darkness, a small voice unsettles him: "Jesus is watching you." The voice is that of a parrot. Relieved, the burglar asks the parrot, "What is your name?" The parrot replies, "Moses." The burglar smirks, "What kind of silly people would name their parrot Moses?" The bird responds, "The same people who named the Pit Bull Jesus."
Many of us expect Jesus to be our Pit Bull, dutifully carrying out our prayerful directives. But we don't send Jesus in prayer. He sends us forth in apostolic work and confers his grace upon us to accomplish his work: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." (Mt. 28:18-19)
3) Keep busy with the Lord's work.
The dignity that Jesus confers on us on Pentecost transforms our prayer in a completely new way. Baptism and Confirmation incorporate us into the Mystical Body of Christ. This sacramental union with Jesus explains this surprising remark of Saint Athanasius: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." After Pentecost, God fights for us through us. When we pray for God's help — for endurance, for our final victory — we pray for the graces to strengthen us and others in their Christian duties. God uses us as his holy instruments. So be attentive to the many opportunities to proclaim Jesus.
4) The Cross is unavoidable in this life so get used to it.
On the first day of the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, the Federals lost more than 13,000 men, and the Confederates lost more than 10,000. The night after the slaughter, General Sherman was ready to give up: "Well, Grant, we've had the devil's own day, haven't we?" A determined Grant responded, "Yes, lick 'em tomorrow, though."
Grant's reply is a blunt example for a healthy Christian fighting spirit. Christians will always have enemies because Jesus promised, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." (John 15:18) So with God's favor and grace, we take up our crosses, follow Him, at times take a beating, and we keep fighting as his holy instruments, resolving as Christians that we "do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." (Mt. 10:28)
Are we living the end times? It is better to ask: Are we ready for the end times we each will inevitably face? When was my last Confession? Am I in the state of grace? Do I pray for the strength of God's grace? Am I fighting the good fight for the Gospel?
What are the battles worthy of a Christian? Protecting our kids from the abusive Fairfax County School Family Life Education program? Opposing the poisonous pro-abortion promises of Joe Biden? Confronting the apparent or real scandal of voter fraud? Next Sunday, the Gospel is the Parable of the Talents. What are the talents that we can put into service for the Lord? Be specific.
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky. "The End is Near — Maybe" Catholic Culture (November 9, 2020).
This article is reprinted with permission from Catholic Culture.
The AuthorFather Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Virginia.Copyright © 2020 Catholic Culture
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