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The night before his Passion, Jesus warned Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat (Luke 22:31). St. Peter indeed denied our Lord three times soon afterwards. Nevertheless, he made a strong recovery of faith after Christ’s Ascension and proclaimed the gospel with great courage as we read in the book of Acts (Acts 2:14-41).
Those warnings for Peter have resonance for us today as well. Today, the Evil One is trying to sift Jesus’ flock, and, as we’ve seen from the various clergy scandals and loss of faith, he’s been having quite a time of it!
Yet the sifting is not just taking place in the church but in the world at large. In the name of fighting Covid over the past couple of years a number of countries imposed harsh restrictions on their citizens in the form of lockdowns, which caused great hardship on many small businesses, and compulsory vaccinations that are increasingly being shown to be ineffective in many cases, and even harmful, in stopping that virus.
Energy costs are being raised by many nations at an alarming rate in the name of fighting what is called Climate Change and bringing about a Great Reset of global governance. This is driving up the price of food, as well as raw materials essential for businesses, which threatens the existing social order in an increasing number of nations both in the West and in countries such as Sri Lanka. Also, governments and banks are playing fast and loose with enormous amounts of debt while more and more people are suffering and sinking into poverty worldwide.
But the poverty is not just economic, it's also spiritual. We live in an era where Christianity seems to be either on the defensive or on the decline, or both. This stems in part from the eccesiastical scandals but also from the tidal wave of "wokeism", political correctness run amok, that we're facing these days. In the West, church attendance in Europe and North America is dwindling compared to what it was only a few decades ago.
And here in the U.S. Catholics and Protestants alike all too often find themselves on the defensive from lawsuits and government mandates about what they can say and do, pitting conformity with God's word against the wishes of the State and the ever shifting cultural norms of the day.
Our society has lost its sense of sin and is saturated in sex and self-centeredness, and as a result it is littered with broken families and broken lives. God is often ignored in a superficial, dehumanizing throwaway culture, in which people bow to the Holy Trinity of Me, Myself, and I, dreaming of going viral on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tick Tok, or Instagram.
We’re also living in a world where reality is in the eye of the beholder. For example, if I want 2+2 to equal 5 you can’t correct me or else you're invading my safe space or committing what is called a "microaggression" by some people!
For another example, while we read in scripture that God created male and female, 2 distinct genders, in His own image (Gen 1:27), “gender fluidity” and “transgenderism” rule the day in many of our schools and universities, along with the specious and even harmful idea that you are whatever you think yourself to be, whether that’s objectively true or not!
This has had the unfortunate result of helping to create a society where anywhere from 22 to 36% of those polled recently, depending on their level of education and political affiliation, both men and women, believe that men can get pregnant!
Secularism and relativism, run rampant, have left too many people echoing Pontius Pilate when he asked Jesus "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Their answer, of course, is that truth is anything I want it to be, or perhaps what the mainstream media tells me is true.
Statism has quite a number of adherents these days as well, as many people in this country expect government to solve all of our problems and banish inequality and injustice.
Indeed, for many, faith in government, despite its noticeable corruption and failures, has supplanted faith in God! And the all too powerful proponents of the Great Reset mentioned earlier promise us that by 2030 or thereabouts “you’ll own nothing and be happy” in a technocratic one-world government utopia!
I read on a blog not too long ago that mankind has to choose between Christ or chaos. When God's Commandments are ignored and anything goes, the collective weight of sin bears down on all of us, one way or another. When the faith is diluted, we are deluded!
A priest friend of mine once corrected me about the choice being Christ or chaos. He suggested rather that the problem is Christ or confusion. But confusion can very well lead to chaos!
When all sorts of calumnies and lies settle into our daily discourse, hearts become more and more hardened and the general mood gets uglier and uglier. (Just look at what’s on social media for quite a few examples. Many times, it seems more like anti-social media!)
America is becoming more and more Balkanized. We are increasingly divided as a nation, culturally and economically, with the gap between rich and poor, or even between the rich and the ever increasingly struggling middle class, widening in spite of massive government subsidies.
And as far as the chaos goes, crime is skyrocketing all over many of our major cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and even in places like Baltimore with unlawful acts like shoplifting and carjacking going through the roof! One need only look at how increasingly unmanageable and crime-ridden these places have become. District Attorneys around the country are giving the perpetrators of both transgressions and major felonies more and more leeway.
Granted, when churches were fuller and God’s word (and His Word made flesh, Jesus) was more respected and honored, we still had much sin and strife in the world (such as in two World Wars!). But in today’s more secular society we've taken away an important component of resistance to Satan and his darkness: the supernatural graces our Lord wishes to give us in His sacraments.
God in His mercy has given us the Sacrament of Penance to clear our consciences and receive forgiveness for sins, both mortal and venial in Confession when we fall. And Christ gives Himself to each one of us, in the Eucharist, where He comes to us both as Lord and friend with graces for those not in a state of mortal sin.
When we turn away from God and Christianity, we often ignore our need for humility as sinners much in need of God’s love, mercy and grace. Sin darkens our ability to see right from wrong clearly. In addition, in turning away from God’s love for us (CCC1850), as we do when we sin, we also turn away from genuine love of our neighbor (CCC 1872).
We also lose out on receiving Jesus’ important emotional support to get through our earthly trials. Just being able to offer up your own troubles to Him for your salvation or that of others, makes them that much more bearable.
As St. Augustine famously said of God “You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You." We try more and more to fill the void meant to be filled by God with drugs (both legal and illegal), sex, money, power, possessions, and mindless entertainment. (What’s new with the Kardashians these days?) But none of that can take God’s place! We weren’t meant to go it alone!
This brings to mind these lines from Psalm 127 (verses 1-2) (126 in the old numbering): "Unless the Lord has built the house, those who build it have labored in vain. Unless the Lord has guarded the city, he who guards it watches in vain. It is in vain that you rise before daylight, that you rise up after you have sat down, you who chew the bread of sorrow. Whereas, to his beloved, he will give sleep."
C.S. Lewis put it so well in his wonderful book Mere Christianity : “God made us: invented us as a man invents an engine…. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on…. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there….That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended—civilizations are built up—excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.”
Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount of a wise man who built his house on rock and a foolish one who built his on sand (Matt 7:24-27). For all practical purposes, in a world where wealth, sex, prestige and power are Gods, and people turn their backs not their faces to God (Jer 32:33) many people are building houses of cards on very sandy, shaky foundations!
We’ve always thought here in the US that we could be immune from experiencing the crushing hardships of an economic collapse triggered by massive debt, a mass-casualty terrorist strike, a takedown of the power grid, or possibly a kinetic war with Russia or China.
But these frightening possibilities are not as safely remote as we’d like to imagine they are these days. As mentioned earlier, we’re still dealing with the Covid pandemic as well as food and energy shortages and rampant inflation brought about in no small part by so-called technocratic experts in business and government insisting on a Great Reset and Global governance. Most likely, Christ is hardly given a thought by these people.
In their world they are the Kings, not Jesus, not the King of Kings! And there is an alarming idea among quite a few movers and shakers that humanity as we know it must be enhanced, or perhaps even replaced by merging with machines in a brave new world of robots and computers filled with what is called Artificial Intelligence running things.
One well known top adviser to the World Economic Forum has even referred to we human beings not as having been made in the image and likeness of God with souls made to share Eternal Life with Him, but rather as “Hackable Animals”, as if we’re all just walking computers!
Some others write and talk as if we’re all just carbon-consuming impediments to planetary health, and that there's just too many of us. Mother Earth is infinitely more important to these types than Mother Mary ever could be!
Going back to the issue of shortages of food and energy for a minute, think about people practically stomping all over each other not too long ago for dirt cheap flat screen TVs, or other such gadgets, at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving.
It gives one pause. What would they do for dwindling supplies of food? In a world where it’s everyone for themselves, with few people turning to God for guidance and strength, acquiring basic staples could very well become a bloody free-for-all in the not too distant future!
The well-known Catholic author Professor Peter Kreeft once wrote in this article that our problems were not so much with each other but with sin and Satan! Now more than ever it’s time for all of us to follow St. Paul’s famous advice from his letter to the Ephesians: "Put on the armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the Principalities and the Powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness on high...And take unto you the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, that is the word of God" (Eph 6:11-12,17).
We can do this through prayer, fasting and other such sacrifices and penances, studying Scripture and learning more about our faith through reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church and wonderful sites such as Catholic Answers, so that we can fight off despair, even in these dark times, and as St. Peter once wrote “Sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts. Be ready always with an answer to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet 3:15).
A good part of that hope is for the eternity of Happiness with God and each other in heaven. Offering up our sufferings to our Lord on the cross as described here is also a great way to lessen our pains and help others attain Eternal Life as well!
The more you study and pray the more you can be receptive to our Lord’s promptings for you from His Spirit! Remember that he wants nothing more than to help each of us get to heaven, but we have to work with Him to get there.
Many times that might involve carrying crosses we’d understandably rather not carry with jobs or families or other trying situations, but with His help these can become much more bearable than they might be otherwise.
Put on the Armor of God. And pray the Rosary! It is not just some dainty prayer. The Rosary is an important source for meditation on the lives of Jesus and Mary. Saint Padre Pio, who experienced real combat with the devil, called the rosary "my weapon", presumably against sin and Satan!
We are clearly in turbulent times, and we will need to have our seatbelts fastened and our tray tables put in the upright position, as they say on plane rides when the weather gets choppy.
If you haven’t thought about Jesus much lately, now is the time, as St. Paul once wrote (2 Cor 6:2), to start doing so. For those of you who are lapsed, estranged, or otherwise lukewarm Catholics, there’s no better time than the present to get closer to our Lord and let Him help you carry your crosses. And to let Him help you help others with theirs as well!!
Let Christ help you show His love and kindness to others especially now, and don’t lose hope in His ability to help you become a better “citizen-in-training” for heaven!