Catholic for Life - No. 36 Purification: Hope & Need of our Times
Despite the great achievements of man, that appear to promise happiness and a better quality of life for people, the lived reality is very different. We see this all around us. In our very midst. This is not merely a material problem: unequal access to goods and services, and so on.
Is not the fundamental malaise of our times a spiritual one? While we are quick to say that man does not live by bread alone, do we bother to ask ourselves which deficiencies in our spiritual life manifest themselves in social, economic and political dysfunction, fracture and breakdown? What are we doing about this, and can we do anything about it at all? Are we mere playthings of forces more powerful than us?
Many say that the world has gone to pot, and has lost its way. Is it because all too many of us banish God from our thinking, or belittle or ignore the Divine word? On the other hand, many who say they worship God, are weighed down in spirit or are outraged by such exponentially increasing folly. They declare that what we need, and indeed is in store for humankind, is severe chastisement, the inevitable and just punishment that richly befits a sinful world. Ancient prophecies that tell of impending calamity and disaster are revived and new ones are conjured up. Some give the very year when what they regard as Godís wrath will be unleashed upon a beleaguered humanity as the necessary prerequisite for a better and world, attentive and obedient to the Lord God.
The first thing to be certain of is that to despair and believe that doom and gloom are the human lot is contrary to the teaching of the Church. For while nature must take its course, we must, in charity, do what we can to mitigate or prevent disaster, whether natural or man-induced. We need also to be well aware of the Lord’s assurance: ‘I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10). I know what plans I have in mind for you… plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. When you call to me and come and pray to me, I shall listen to you. When you search for me, you will find me; when you search wholeheartedly for me, I shall let you find me (Jeremiah 29: 11 -14).
The Need for Purification
Does not the promise of the Lord depend on true conversion on our part, and not a glib ‘She’ ll be right, mate’ ?
Such chastening (rather than chastisement?) or purification has already begun, whether we like it or not, want it or not. For the world is the Lord’s. And we are the people Christ died for.
Rather than criticise the frightening and indeed sickening spiritual decline in our midst, and lamenting the dangers that surround around us, shouldn’t we, as Catholics, as children of God, pay greatest attention to ourselves as Church and as individuals, cry ‘Mea culpa’, and go on from there; in all the Church’s organisations and endeavours, at all levels? (Spell these out for yourself.)
Nor will mere denunciation of wrongdoing, and the force of the law alone put the world in order.
To wake us from complacency or stupor, there are the scourges of the day:
a) rampant atheism and agnosticism;
b) greed, injustice, the quest for power over others, and moral relativism;
c) violent jihadism (not the exclusive prerogative of Islamism) that makes a mockery of Christ’s teaching on forgiveness, mercy and love, and distorts understanding of God.
d) blind attacks on teachings of the Church, as well as ‘Wiki-leaks’ about the weaknesses and failings of some members of the clergy (today being hounded and often unfairly pre-judged by a sensation-seeking public and press, who do not accept that justice and mercy should be inseparable).
So, while cleansing must be universal, it has necessarily to be most vigorous and thorough within the Church, instituted by Christ as custodian, lamp and exemplar of the Divine Will. The Church is his body and his bride, and within it the Holy Spirit is ever active; reawaking, renewing, strengthening, beautifying, making wise. But this may require the spiritual elbow-grease of generous self-giving and perseverance, the caustic soda of wise endeavour and correction.
In this, the Church may seem tardy, but the process is well under way, as she deals with crippling weaknesses and scandals among her own. For this she seeks courage and honesty and trust in love of God. And much prayer; and the wisdom to make known that her primary purpose is to bring Christ to the world, to bring forth His kingdom in our day. For she is not just a social club or a benevolent organisation, but God’s instrument intended to lead people to joyful holiness: to God, to full and abundant life. By means of the way of the cross: lived and living love.
‘He who suffered on the cross, crushed the power of hell. The holy cross shines in splendour. The Lord hung upon it to wash our wounds clean with his blood. The holy cross shines upon us . In the cross is victory. In the cross is power.By the cross every sin is overcome.’ (Antiphons: Prayer of the Church: Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross)
Lord, have mercy. Send us your Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth. Maranatha: Come Lord Jesus. Be our light and salvation.