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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Mission of St. John the Baptist – A Homily for the Birth of John the Baptist

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

We briefly step out of the “green” of Ordinary Time to celebrate the birth of the last prophet of the Old Testament, St. John the Baptist. In so doing, we not only commemorate a great prophet of history, but we also consider the office of prophet itself, one to which we are summoned by our baptism.

As we consider John the Baptist, we also learn of our own duties as prophets and as those who must be open to the proclamations of those who are appointed prophets to us. Let’s consider four aspects of the life and ministry of St. John the Baptist.

1.  His PREPARING PURPOSE – In the first reading today, The Church applies these words of Isaiah to John the Baptist to describe his purpose:

The LORD called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name. He made of me a sharp-edged sword and concealed me in the shadow of his arm. … You are my servant, he said to me, through whom I show my glory … to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 49:1-6).

The Lord wanted to save His people, to restore and raise them up. But as He had warned in the Book of Malachi, it was necessary to prepare them for the coming of the Messiah, for should He come and find them unprepared, there would be doom.

“Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. And all the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble. For the day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

“So, remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.”

“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and terrible day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; lest I come and strike the land with doom” (Mal 4:1-6).

In His love, God promised to send an Elijah figure to prepare the people for the great and terrible day of the Lord, so that they could not only endure it but even consider it bright and sunny with its warm and healing rays. John the Baptist was that Elijah figure. Jesus, who came to cast a fire upon the earth (cf Lk 12:49), tells us this truth:

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men [also] attack it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. He who has ears, let him hear (Matt 11:12-15).

In other words, it’s time to get ready. Either the Lord will come to us or we will go to Him. Not wanting us to be lost, God sent Elijah and John the Baptist. He sends the Church. He sends parents, priests, and teachers. The great day of judgment dawns for each of us, and in His love, the Lord sends prophets to prepare us.

2 . His PENITENTIAL PROCLAMATIONJohn heralded [Jesus’] coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance (Acts 13:24). Matthew reports John’s words: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near! … Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him (Matt 3:1).

At the heart of getting ready to meet God is repentance. In recent decades, some in the Church have soft-peddled the themes of repentance, human sinfulness, and worldliness, but the true prophet cannot prescind from them. God is holy, and the holiest among us are the first to acknowledge that it is an awesome thing to fall into the hands of a living and holy God. He is surely rich in mercy, and the reason for that is that we are sinners.

Repentance is more than a reform of our moral behavior. The Greek word translated here as “repent” is metanoite, which means more literally to come to a new mind, to come to a new way of thinking, to have different and better priorities, to exchange worldly notions for heavenly wisdom.

A true prophet is steeped in God’s Word and the teachings of the Church. A true prophet preaches and announces what God reveals and sees everything else in the light of it. A true prophet summons God’s people to truth that He proclaims, and exposes lies and errors for what they are.

In summoning God’s people to repent, the prophet seeks not only to reform and inform them but also to transform them by God’s grace. If we are transformed, then when God summons us to His presence we will already be adjusted to the temperature of His glory, our eyes will be adjusted to the radiance of His love, and our souls will be conformed to the values of His heavenly kingdom.

Repent! That is, come to whole new mind, a new way of thinking and understanding, a new heart, a new love. Come to a new behavior and a new way to walk that makes “straight paths” for and to the Lord.

3. His PERSISTENT POINTING to Christ – John the Baptist was a kind of rock star in his own time; it is difficult to overestimate his renown. Such fame often leads to megalomania and personal disaster, but John humbly points to Christ: What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet.

It was John who pointed and said, “Look! There is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” (Jn 1:29)

The true prophet points only to Christ, only to God. John did not look to his own glory or fame, he looked to Jesus. He did not try to figure what it would cost him to follow Jesus, he just looked and pointed to Jesus. If anyone pointed out John’s glory and gifts, he simply pointed to Jesus and said, He must become greater; I must become less (Jn 3:30).

The true prophet is turned toward Christ, looks for Him, and eagerly points to Him.

4.  His PRESENT PERSON – John the Baptist was a real person who ministered to the real people of his time in order to get them ready to meet Jesus Christ. Here are two questions to consider:

Who is John the Baptist for you?

The Church certainly has this role of being like John the Baptist in preparing us to meet God. The Church proclaims repentance and points always to Christ. Many scoff at the Church because of her role and because of the gospel. Certain aspects of the gospel go in season and out of season. Yet, though she be a voice as of one crying in the wilderness, still she prophesies: “Repent and believe the Good News. Prepare the way for the Lord. Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Seek that which is above, rather than the things of earth.” Yes, the Church is surely “The Prophet” for us.

Others such as parents, teachers, and pastors also play this role of John in our life. The Church is not an abstraction, she has members who take up her voice. The first place that most people hear of Jesus is not from a papal encyclical or even the Bible. They hear of Jesus at their mother’s knee, from their father’s voice, from a religious sister, or from a teacher. All these people together say, “This is the way; walk in it.” Yes, John the Baptist is still present in the prophetic ministry of the Church and others.

How are you John the Baptist to others?

Just as you have had the benefit of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist from others, so are you called to take it up for others. To whom have you witnessed? To whom have you declared, “This is the way; walk in it?” To whom have you have you said, “Repent and believe the Good News?”

When you were baptized you were given the office of prophet. Have you taken up this role? Have others been made ready through you to meet God?

God had John the Baptist long ago; whom does He have now? It looks like you. You are John the Baptist!

Here’s John the Baptist, complete with a British accent!

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

God Has His Seven Thousand: A Word of Encouragement from the Life of Elijah

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

This week in daily Mass we read of the struggles of Elijah the Prophet, who spent his life fighting the influence of the Canaanite god Baal in Israel. Up on Mt. Carmel, Elijah was strong and fearless, but he also had moments of deep discouragement.

Many of us today are discouraged in these times of cultural confusion, times when so many Catholics have fallen away from the practice of the faith or so easily dissent. It makes me think of the prophet Elijah at his lowest moment: he was in a cave, anxious and fretting, so depressed he could barely eat.

Those were very dark times, when huge numbers of Jews fell away from the exclusive worship of the LORD and bent the knee to Baal. Jezebel, the foreign wife of the Jewish King Ahab, was instrumental in spreading this apostasy. Elijah fought against it tirelessly and at times felt quite alone.

There he was, fleeing from Queen Jezebel (who sought his life) and deeply discouraged by his fellow Jews, who were either too confused or too fearful to resist the religion of the Baals demanded by Jezebel. Perhaps he thought he was the last of those who held the true religion. In the cave, Elijah pours out his lament.

And there he came to a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the people of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thy altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Ki 19:9–10).

God will have none of this despair or complaining. He says to Elijah,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria; and Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel; and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. And him who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay; and him who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have seven thousand in Israel, that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal, nor kissed him with the mouth (1 Ki 19:15–18).

There are others after all! It is a small remnant to be sure, but Elijah is not alone. A small remnant remains faithful and God will rebuild, working with them.

Elijah is commanded not to give way to discouragement, but rather to keep preaching and to anoint leaders and a prophet who will keep preaching after him.

This is a lesson for all of us.

In times like these, it is hard not to feel like Elijah: deeply disappointed and even discouraged in the face of our current cultural decline. How many of our countrymen and even fellow Catholics have bent the knee to the Baals of our time, accepting the doctrines of demons? How many have been led astray by the Jezebels and the false religion of the Baals of our time, setting aside the cross and substituting the pillow of comfort and selfish desire? Now, like then, many are told to immolate their children, to kill the innocent through abortion (and call it “choice,” “women’s healthcare,” or “reproductive freedom”). There is widespread misunderstanding of marriage, rampant divorce, cohabitation, fornication, children being born out of wedlock, sweeping approval for same-sex unions, and even the open celebration of homosexual activity. All of this causes grievous harm to children by shredding the family—the very institution that needs to be strong if they are to be raised well.

Euthanasia is back in the news, and the legalization of polygamy may be on the horizon.

So here we are today in a culture of rebellion. Sadly, too many in the Church (including clergymen and those in the Church hierarchy) seem bewitched, succumbing to false compassion.

Lest we become like Elijah in the cave, discouraged and edging toward despair, we ought to hear again the words of God to Elijah: I have seven thousand in Israel that have never bent the knee to nor bowed to Baal.

God has a way of working with remnants in order to rebuild His Kingdom. Mysteriously, He allows a kind of pruning, a falling away of what He calls the cowards (e.g., Judges 7:3, Rev 21:8). With those who are left, He can achieve a great victory.

Consider that at the foot of the cross there was only one bishop (i.e., one priest, one man) who had the courage to be there. Only four or five women possessed such courage. But Jesus was there; and with a remnant, a small fraction of His followers, He won thorough to the end.

Are you praying with me? Stay firm! Stay confident! Do not despair! There are seven thousand who have not bent the knee to the Baals of this age. With a small group, the Lord can win through to the end. Are you among the seven thousand? Or do the Baals hold some of your allegiance? Where do you stand?

Elijah was reminded that he was not alone. Hearing of the faith of so many of you readers reminds me that I am not alone. When I hear the Amens coming from my congregation as I preach the “old time religion,” I remember that I am not alone. When I gather with other coalitions of believers, I am reminded that there are many good souls still to be found. Seek them out. Build alliances, and stand ready to resist, to fight the coming and already-present onslaughts.

I cannot be certain of the fate of Western culture (frankly, it doesn’t look good). I am not sure if these are the end times or just the end of an era. But of this I am sure: Jesus wins and so do all who stand with Him and persevere to the end. Get up, Elijah. Go prophesy, even if you are killed for it. Keep preaching until the last soul is converted..

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

One and One and One Are One – A Homily for Trinity Sunday

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

There is an old spiritual that says, “My God is so high you can’t get over Him. He’s so low you can’t get under Him. He’s so wide you can’t get around Him. You must come in, by and through the Lamb.”

It’s not a bad way of saying that God is “other.” He is beyond what human words can describe, beyond what human thoughts can conjure. On the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity we do well to remember that we are pondering a mystery that cannot fit in our minds.

A mystery, though, is not something wholly unknown. In the Christian tradition, the word “mystery” refers to (among other things) something that is partially revealed, something much more of which remains hidden. As we ponder the Trinity, consider that although there are some things we can know by revelation, much more is beyond our understanding.

Let’s ponder the Trinity by exploring it, seeing how it is exhibited in Scripture, and observing how we, who are made in God’s image, experience it.

I. The Teaching on the Trinity Explored

Perhaps we do best to begin by quoting the Catechism, which says, The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons: [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] … The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God, whole and entire (Catechism, 253).

There is one God and each of the three persons of the Trinity possesses the one divine nature fully. The Father is God; He is not one-third of God. Likewise, the Son, Jesus, is God; He is not one-third of God. And the Holy Spirit is God, not merely one-third of God.

It is our human experience that if there is only one of something, and someone possesses it fully, then there is nothing left for anyone else. Yet mysteriously, each of the three persons of the Trinity fully possesses the one and only divine nature while remaining a distinct person.

One of the great masterpieces of the Latin Liturgy is the preface for Trinity Sunday. It compactly and clearly sets forth the Christian teaching on the Trinity. The following translation of the Latin is my own:

It is truly fitting and just, right and helpful unto salvation that we should always and everywhere give thanks to you O Holy Lord, Father almighty and eternal God: who, with your only begotten Son and the Holy Spirit are one God, one Lord: not in the oneness of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance. For that which we believe from your revelation concerning your glory, we acknowledge of your Son and the Holy Spirit without difference or distinction. Thus, in the confession of the true and eternal Godhead there is adored a distinctness of persons, a oneness in essence, and an equality in majesty, whom the angels and archangels, the Cherubim also and the Seraphim, do not cease to daily cry out with one voice saying, Holy, Holy, Holy

Wow! It’s a careful and clear masterpiece, but one that baffles the mind. So deep is this mystery that we had to “invent” a paradoxical word to summarize it: Triune (or Trinity). Triune literally means “three-one” (tri + unus), and “Trinity” is a conflation of “Tri-unity,” meaning the “three-oneness” of God.

If all of this baffles you, good! If you were to say that you fully understood all this, I would have to say you were likely a heretic. The teaching on the Trinity, while not contrary to reason per se, does transcend it and it is surely beyond human understanding.

Here is a final image before we leave our exploration stage. The picture at the upper right is from an experiment I remember doing when I was in high school. We took three projectors, each of which projected a circle: one red, one green, and one blue (the three primary colors). At the intersection of the three circles the color white appeared. Mysteriously, the three primary colors are present in the color white, but only one shows forth. The analogy is not perfect (no analogy is or it wouldn’t be an analogy) for Father, Son, and Spirit do not “blend” to make God, but it does manifest a mysterious “three-oneness” of the color white. Somehow in the one, three are present. (By the way, this experiment only works with light; don’t try it with paint!)

II. The Teaching on the Trinity Exhibited – Scripture also presents images of the Trinity. Interestingly enough, most of the ones I want to present here are from the Old Testament.

As a disclaimer, I’d like to point out that Scripture scholars debate the meaning of these texts; that’s what they get paid the big bucks to do. I am reading these texts as a New Testament Christian and seeing in them a doctrine that later became clear. I am not getting into a time machine and trying to understand them as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. might have. Why should I? That’s not what I am. I am reading these texts as a Christian in the light of the New Testament, as I have a perfect right to do. You, of course, are free to decide whether you think these texts really are images or hints of the Trinity. Here they are:

1. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …” (Gen 1:26)

God speaks of himself in the plural: “Let us … our …” Some claim that this is just an instance of the “royal we” being used. Perhaps, but I see an image of the Trinity. There is one (“God said”) but there is also a plural (us, our). Right at the very beginning in Genesis there is already a hint that God is not all by himself, but rather is in a communion of love.

2. Elohim

In the passage above, the word used for God is אֱלֹהִ֔ים (Elohim). It is interesting to note that this word is in the plural form. From a grammatical standpoint, Elohim actually means “Gods,” but the Jewish people understood the sense of the word to be singular. This is a much debated point, however. You can read more about it from a Jewish perspective here: Elohim as Plural yet Singular.

(We have certain words like this in English, words that are plural in form but singular in meaning such as news, mathematics, and acoustics.) My point here is not to try to understand it as a Jew from the 8th century B.C. or even as a present day Jew. Rather, I am observing with interest that one of the main words for God in the Old Testament is plural yet singular, singular yet plural. God is one yet three. I say this as a Christian observing this about one of the main titles of God, and I see an image of the Trinity.

3. And the LORD appeared to [Abram] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said (Gen 18:1-5).

From a purely grammatical standpoint this is a very difficult passage because it switches back and forth between singular and plural references. The Lord (singular) appears to Abram, yet Abram sees three men (some have said that this is just God and two angels, but I think it is the Trinity). Then when Abram addresses “them” he says, “My Lord” (singular). The tortured grammar continues as Abram suggests that the Lord (singular) rest “yourselves” (plural) under the tree. The same thing happens in the next sentence, in which Abram wants to fetch bread so that you may refresh “yourselves” (plural). In the end, the Lord (singular) answers, but it is rendered as “So they said.” Plural, singular … which is it? Both. God is one and God is three. For me as a Christian, this is a picture of the Trinity. Because the reality of God cannot be reduced to mere words, this is a grammatically difficult passage, but I can “see” what is going on: God is one and God is three; He is singular and He is plural.

4. Having come down in a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses there and proclaimed his Name, “Lord.” Thus the Lord passed before him and cried out, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity” (Exodus 34:5).

When God announces His name, He does so in a threefold way: Lord! … The Lord, the Lord. There is implicit a threefold introduction or announcement of God. Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.

5. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the Seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Is 6:1-3).

God is Holy, Holy, and yet again, Holy. Some say that this is just a Jewish way of saying “very Holy,” but as Christian I see more. I see a reference to each of the three persons of the Trinity. Perfect praise here requires three “holys.” Why? Omni Trinum Perfectum (all things are perfect in threes). But why? As a Christian, I see the angels praising each of the three persons of the Trinity. God is three (Holy, holy, holy …) and yet God is one (holy is the Lord …). There are three declarations of the word “Holy.” Is it a coincidence or is it significant? You decide.

6. Here are three (of many) references to the Trinity in the New Testament:

  1. Jesus says, The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30).
  2. Jesus also says, To have seen me is to have seen the Father (Jn 14:9).
  3. Have you ever noticed that in the baptismal formula, Jesus uses “bad” grammar? He says, Baptize them in the name (not names (plural)) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). God is one (name) and God is three (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).

Thus Scripture exhibits the teaching of the Trinity, going back even to the beginning.

III. The Teaching of the Trinity Experienced – We who are made in the image and likeness of God ought to experience something of the mystery of the Trinity within us, and sure enough, we do.

  • It is clear that we are all distinct individuals. I am not you; you are not I. Yet it is also true that we are made for communion. We humans cannot exist apart from one another. Obviously we depend on our parents, through whom God made us, but even beyond that we need one another for completion.
  • Despite what the Paul Simon song says, no man is a rock or an island. There is no such thing as a self-made man. Even the private business owner needs customers, suppliers, shippers, and other middlemen. He uses roads he did not build, has electricity supplied to him over lines he did not string, and speaks a language to his customers that he did not create. Further, the product he makes was likely the result of technologies and processes he did not invent. The list could go on and on.
  • We are individual, but we are social. We are one, but we are linked to many. Clearly we do not possess the kind of unity that God does, but the “three-oneness” of God echoes in us. We are one, yet we are many.
  • We have entered into perilous times where our interdependence and communal influence are under-appreciated. The attitude that prevails today is a rather extreme individualism: “I can do as I please.” There is a reduced sense of how our individual choices affect the community, Church, or nation. That I am an individual is true, but it is also true that I live in communion with others and must respect that dimension of who I am. I exist not only for me, but for others. What I do affects others, for good or ill.
  • The attitude that it’s none of my business what others do needs some attention. Privacy and discretion have important places in our life, but so does concern for what others think and do, the choices they make, and the effects that such things have on others. A common moral and religious vision is an important thing to cultivate. It is ultimately quite important what others think and do. We should care about fundamental things like respect for life, love, care for the poor, education, marriage, and family. Indeed, marriage and family are fundamental to community, nation, and the Church. I am one, but I am also in communion with others and they with me.
  • Finally, there is a rather remarkable conclusion that some have drawn: the best image of God in us is not a man alone or a woman alone, but rather a man and a woman together in the lasting and fruitful relationship we call marriage. When God said, “Let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26), the text goes on to say, “Male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). God then says to them, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). So the image of God (as He sets it forth most perfectly) is the married and fruitful couple.

We must be careful to understand that what humans manifest sexually, God manifests spiritually, for God is neither male nor female in His essence. We may say that the First Person loves the Second Person and the Second Person loves the First Person. So real is that love that it bears fruit in the Third Person. In this way the married couple images God, for the husband and wife love each other and their love bears fruit in their children (See, USCCB, “Marriage: Love and Life in the Divine Plan”).

So today, as we extol the great mystery of the Trinity, we look not merely outward and upward so as to understand, but also inward to discover that mystery at work in us, who are made in the image and likeness of God.

 

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

Why Is There Such Strong Hatred for the Church?

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

In the final week of Easter, there were frequent references in the readings to the fact that the world would hate true Christians. For example,

If the world hates you, understand that it hated Me first. If you were of the world, it would love you as its own. Instead, the world hates you, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Remember the word that I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you as well (John 15:18-20).

The word “world” here obviously does not refer to the planet Earth itself, but to the collective attitudes, philosophies, economies, priorities, political powers, and cultural stances that are arrayed against God and His teachings. It is an accumulation of demonic influences and sinful human connivances, tendencies, and preferences. Because this “world” involves people, human and demonic, it is capable of hate.

The world hates us to the degree that we are true Christians.

Sadly, many Christians work hard to ensure that the world does not hate them. We do this most often by compromising the faith and hiding whatever practice of the faith we do have. It is also due to a love and preference for the world. While this is often done out of weakness, it is a deeply sinful drive. Scripture warns,

Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever chooses to be a friend of the world renders himself an enemy of God (James 4:4).

These are strong words to be sure, but deep sinful drives require strong medicine.

If we are on a path to becoming truer Christians, we will encounter increasing resistance from the world and from worldly people who sense that we are not quite on board with the current culturally-blessed belief system. Somehow, they sense an independence and freedom in us that they rightly assess will erode their power.

Let’s consider a few related though distinct versions of the world’s hatred of true Christians.

1.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited by agreeing to part with our money.

Scripture says this of the fear of death:

Therefore, since the children have flesh and blood, Christ too shared in their humanity, so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Most marketing schemes exploit the fear of diminishment, which is a version of the fear of death. Find out what a person fears and you can control him. Most people are desperately afraid of rejection, of being diminished in the sight of their fellow human beings.

Many are ensnared by this and are easy targets for exploitation. This fear of diminishment is brought out by delivering the message that you are not measuring up in some way. Here are some examples:

  • You’re not attractive enough.
  • You’re not slim enough.
  • You don’t have the right style or color of hair.
  • You don’t drive the right sort of car.
  • You don’t have a modern enough cell phone,
  • You don’t live in the right kind of house in the right kind of neighborhood.
  • You’re not smart enough.
  • You’re not cool.
  • Your neighbors are laughing at you behind your back because they are richer, more glamorous, and happier than you are.
  • You’re missing out on life because of all your shortcomings.

“Never fear,” the message goes, “$19.95 (plus shipping and handling) will get you our product and make you less pathetic, more esteemed, and less diminished in the eyes of your neighbors.”

When a person is less obsessed with human approval and more focused on divine approval, when he has the “fear of the Lord” rather than the fear of men, the worldly realize that he is less easily exploited. A true Christian is more satisfied with God’s love and therefore less concerned with the world’s esteem and approval. The world senses this and develops a kind of disdain and hatred for the true Christian and for Christianity itself because it cannot so easily exploit the fear of diminishment.

2.  The world hates us because we cannot be easily exploited for worldly power or political gain.

There is power in ideas. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny. Thoughts and ideas are powerful things. This insight is at the heart of the proclamation of the Gospel. No longer be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2). The Church and the world are engaged in a battle of ideas and the battle for the mind.

One of the tactics of the world is to market ideas so as to gain power and influence. This is a worldly sense that if certain ideas and ideologies can be implanted in people, they can then become a base for marketing, politics, and worldly power.

Identity politics, tribalism, race, and highly specific grievances increasingly form a basis for political and worldly power; ideas become ideology.

Reason and shared human values are less the basis for the appeal; fear and competition through organized power become more common. In an increasingly crowded marketplace of divergent ideas, loyalty and an “us vs. them” mentality are insisted upon. Intimidation, both subtle and obvious, is the daily fare.

The world rightly assesses that a true Christian is less easily intimidated. As our faith grows, our ideas become more rooted in perennial truths rather than in the ephemeral views of today. We see things by the light of the Gospel and more quickly understand the errors of much of modern thinking. As we grow in our faith we trust God more and come to delight in the truth He proclaims, experiencing greater liberation. Rooted in this way in clear and lasting truth, we are less easily deceived, controlled, or intimidated. The world and the prince of this world are instinctively aware of this and thus hate us and the faith in which we strive to grow.

3.  The world hates us because our call to moderation threatens their wild excesses.

This is basically the summation of the first two points. The Christian faith calls us to moderation and sobriety. We are taught that happiness is not rooted in the multiplicity of things or pleasures, but in the moderate enjoyment of lawful pleasures. This limits the ability of marketers to sell us more and more. It also limits the inroads of political and worldly philosophies that often traffic in inciting dissatisfaction that others have more that we do. The world rightly perceives that a true Christian is less easily provoked to excessive consumption and less easily enlisted in causes rooted merely in possessions or power.

We are an “ugly” reminder to the world that it has lost its way.

In the Book of Wisdom this form of hatred is described in this way:

Let us lie in wait for the righteous one, because he is annoying to us; he opposes our actions, Reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the LORD. To us he is the censure of our thoughts; merely to see him is a hardship for us, because his life is not like that of others, and different are his ways. He judges us debased; he holds aloof from our paths as from things impure. He calls blest the destiny of the righteous and boasts that God is his Father. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him in the end…. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.” These were their thoughts, but they erred; for their wickedness blinded them. And they did not know the hidden counsels of God; neither did they count on a recompense for holiness nor discern the innocent souls’ reward (Wisdom 2:12-24).

Deep down, the worldly know that what the Church teaches is right. She touches something deep in the consciences of even the most jaded of modern thinkers. Rationalizing away, resisting, and ignoring the still, small voice of God echoing in their hearts is hard work. Even a small poke from the Church through Scripture or her teaching incites loud cries of pain and anger because they know the Church is right.

Perhaps, too, there is vague awareness that the Church is still going to be here preaching the gospel long after this current experiment of a godless and truth-less “culture” has run its course. Indeed, in the age of the Church empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, heresies have been presented and resisted. Yet here we are still, preaching the gospel.

There is something mysterious about the particular hatred that the world reserves for Jesus and His Church.

In the Western world most religions are tolerated, even if largely ignored. Buddhism, Hinduism, and other eastern religions receive a nod from the cultural elites. New Age “spiritual but not religious,” “god-within” movements are often thought trendy and touted as substitutes for biblical religions. Strangely, despite numerous terrorist attacks and an ideology almost diametrically opposed to Western liberalism, the Muslim faith gets a pass.

Don’t even mention Christianity, let alone Catholicism, to most of them. The reaction is often “over-the-top.” It is not enough for them to dismiss us as irrelevant; they actively oppose us with legal efforts to keep our voice out of the public square. Prayer must go. Christmas must be called “the Holidays.” Mangers are forbidden. Even the colors green and red have been banished from some schools during this time. Easter break is “spring break” and Good Friday is just another teacher in-service day. Ramadan and Rosh Hashana are still mentioned by name. One can express almost any motivation for a view—except a religious one (especially a Christian or Catholic one). One can be a proud supporter of abortion and Planned Parenthood and a proud supporter of same-sex “marriage” and other LGBTQ causes, but one cannot oppose these for sincerely held religious reasons without being labeled a dangerous zealot trying to impose your views on others.

The depth of the fear, anger, and hatred is mysterious. If we are so “irrelevant,” why is it necessary to oppose us so fiercely? Do we really have an ability to impose our views? Why are we said to be “imposing” our views when we voice them while others are free to hold and express their views without backlash?

The anger, fear, and hatred is both obsessive and excessive. It is far beyond rational opposition.

Ultimately the mystery is not so deep that it defies explanation. There is evidence in the behavior of cultural elites and worldly leaders that Jesus and Christianity (especially the Catholic part of it) are public enemy number one.

Satan certainly has a raging fear of Jesus. As the “prince of this world,” he spreads his fear to the world. Thus, despite our many compromises with modernity, Catholicism remains the staunchest opponent to the views of most cultural elites. Our doctrines are stubborn things, even for some inside the Church who would like to change them. The Rock of Peter, whatever the human limitations of the individual popes in history, has a great deal of inertia by the Lord’s own design and grace. By God’s own promise, the gates of Hell (an image of power) slam against the Rock but cannot prevail.

The hatred of the Catholic Church is not really mysterious after all. It is a hatred far more cosmic and sweeping than merely that of those who live today. The special hatred for Christ and His Church are the great evidence that He is true Savior and Lord. Satan cannot keep a “poker face” in the presence of Christ and His Bride, the Church. He nervously rages, and all his worldly structures, philosophies, and those he inspires rage with him.

Be sober and yet at the same time amazed at the evidence of the true Church and Faith.

And the dragon was enraged at the woman and went to make war with the rest of her children, who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. (Revelation 12:1

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Having relocated from the San Francisco Bay Area to southern Florida 143 Sundays ago, I have been liturgically malnourished. For some background on what I mean by that see ‘Is attending Mass an ordeal for you? Perhaps it should be’.

There are very few churches in Florida that offer Mass in the traditional form (currently referred to as the ‘Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite’. It is indeed extraordinary as in remarkable, special, wonderful, outstanding, rare, amazing, fantastic, marvellous, exceptional, notable, serious, phenomenal, singular, wondrous, out of this world, but, sadly, that’s not the description intended by its new name. ‘Scarcely available’ would be more accurate.

The nearest traditional Mass to where I live is in Miami, over 100 miles and 2 to 2.5 hours away (one way). The other nearest opportunities range from 143 to 225 miles away. So prior to this past Sunday I had only attended the Traditional Mass about four times over these past 143 Sundays. This past weekend I made a pilgrimage to Sarasota, FL (313 miles away) as a 72nd birthday gift to myself. There I attended a traditional High Mass at Christ the King Catholic Church (I stayed in Ft. Myers the night before and continued my pilgrimage on Sunday morning).  I had a glorious day and I felt ready to die without being given any notice. Now that’s the best feeling anyone could possibly have and it doesn’t have any expectations of immediate entry into Heaven. That gift (being blessed to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the traditional form of that most august commemoration) has “lifted me higher and higher”. I wish the same for you and everyone.

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If you read this post on Msgr. Pope’s blog, you will find many of his other outstanding reflections. For your convenience it is copied below with his kind permission.

The Seven Deadly Sins: Lust

by Msgr. Charles Pope (posted with permission – source)

The word “lust” is most often used to refer to excessive or disordered sexual desire. However, because it is rooted in the Latin word luxuria (which refers to extravagant, excessive, or even riotous behavior), we sometimes hear it used in other ways. For example, someone may be said to have a “lust for power.” In the realm of moral and spiritual theology, though, we have come to restrict the word to sexual matters. This is especially because we have specific words to describe such excesses gluttony and greed.

Lust defined – For our discussion here we will define lust as disordered desire for, or inordinate enjoyment of, sexual pleasure (see Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2351).

Of itself sexual desire is a great good, and an essential one upon which depends the future existence of the human race. As such it is also related to the common good and is among the greatest of goods since human life comes from it.

It is for this reason that St. Thomas numbers lust (objectively speaking) among the mortal sins:

The more necessary a thing is, the more it behooves one to observe the order of reason in its regard; wherefore the more sinful it becomes if the order of reason be forsaken. Now the use of venereal acts, as stated in the foregoing Article, is most necessary for the common good, namely the preservation of the human race. Wherefore there is the greatest necessity for observing the order of reason in this matter: so that if anything be done in this connection against the dictate of reason’s ordering, it will be a sin. Now lust consists essentially in exceeding the order and mode of reason in the matter of venereal acts. Wherefore without any doubt lust is a sin (Summa Theologiae II, IIae 153.3).

Lust is either an inordinate desire or a disordered one (often both). To say that sexual desire is disordered means that it is not directed to its proper purpose or end. The Catechism says, Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes (# 2351). To say that it is inordinate is to say that it is excessive, that the desire for sexual pleasure is over-the-top; it becomes a distracting, even consuming thing. This usually results from overindulging sexual desire and it can set forth an addictive process in which more and more sexual pleasure is “needed” to cool its flames. On this level, lust can become destructive to an individual, to others, and to a society as a whole.

In our time it is difficult to overstate the harm caused by the widespread tolerance and celebration of lust and promiscuity. The acceptance of pre-marital sex (fornication), cohabitation, abortion, and pornography has led to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, the sexualizing of children, single motherhood, absentee fathers, teenage pregnancy, sexual confusion, divorce, and finally the incalculable harm caused by the fact that more than half of children in the United States are not raised in normal family settings. As is common with adult misbehavior, it is the children who pay the highest price.

The most fundamental damage that widespread promiscuity has caused is the destruction of marriage and the family. Marriage rates have dropped dramatically in the Western world with the outright celebration of lust in music, movies, popular culture, and pornography. The widespread promotion of contraception has also perpetrated the lie that there can be sex without consequences.

As a result of this widespread promiscuity and uncontrolled lust many families are in disarray due to divorce, remarriage, single motherhood and absent and passive fathers. Because marriage and the family form the foundation of culture and civilization, our current path is a civilization-killer. Yet very few today seem to have a mind clear enough to recognize the path we are on and to repent.

St. Thomas provides a clue as to why this is so and also describes an additional harm caused by lust: the loss of a clear mind. He writes,

Now carnal vices, namely gluttony and lust, are concerned with pleasures of touch in matters of food and sex; and these are the most impetuous of all pleasures of the body. For this reason, these vices cause man’s attention to be very firmly fixed on corporeal things … [As a] consequence man’s operation in regard to intelligible (obvious) things is weakened,

[This is caused] more, however, by lust than by gluttony, forasmuch as sexual pleasures are more vehement than those of the table. Wherefore lust gives rise to blindness of mind, which excludes almost entirely the knowledge of spiritual things, while dullness of sense arises from gluttony, which makes a man weak in regard to the same intelligible things.

On the other hand, the contrary virtues, viz. abstinence and chastity, dispose man very much to the perfection of intellectual operation. Hence it is written (Daniel 1:17) that “to these children” on account of their abstinence and continency, “God gave knowledge and understanding in every book, and wisdom” (Summa Theologiae II, IIae 15.3).

Yes, along with indulged lust comes a darkening of the intellect. St. Paul notes the same thing:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness … they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools…God gave them up in the desires of their hearts to impurity for the dishonoring of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie … for this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. Likewise, the men abandoned natural relations with women and burned with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (Romans 1:18ff).

In our times a darkening of the intellect has come upon many, who cannot and will not see that widespread promiscuity has caused great harm and threatens our very future as a culture and civilization.

St. Thomas also enumerates the following “daughters” of lust. While there is not time here to elaborate on them, you will see that they well describe some of the characteristics of our time:

Blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, inconstancy, rashness, self-love, hatred of God, love of this world, and abhorrence or despair of a future world (Summa Theologiae, II, IIae, q. 153.5).

You can read St. Thomas’ more complete description of them here: The Daughters of Lust.

I would like to finish this reflection on lust with the paradoxical conclusion that while it is often regarded as less serious than sins against the spirit (even by traditional theologians), lust is capable of causing some of the greatest harm because it drives us downward into the flesh such that the light of reason is dimmed and the very light of truth seems obnoxious and intolerable.

Sexual desire is a beautiful gift of God and is necessary for our survival, but the corruption of the best things is the worst thing. It is far worse to damage a precious work of art than an ordinary trinket. Damaging the beautiful gift of sexual desire and longing for intimacy also damages the precious gifts of marriage and family, the basic unit of civilization. To divide what God has united (sex and marriage, marriage and children, husband and wife) is a kind of nuclear fission that has enormous destructive potential. Only the “control rods” of chastity and purity can contain the destruction we have set loose. Only a recommittal to not separating what God has joined can end the inevitable destruction caused by unrestrained lust.

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