Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

Check out the revised edition of this exciting and unique prayer book, filled with prayers that are sure to nourish the soul as we undertake the New Evangelization.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Friday of the Fourth Week of Lent: The Truth is Obnoxious to Modern Man

Excerpts from today's readings at Holy Mass:

Book of Wisdom:
The wicked said among themselves,
thinking not aright:
“Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us;
he sets himself against our doings,
Reproaches us for transgressions of the law
and charges us with violations of our training.

These were their thoughts, but they erred;
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they knew not the hidden counsels of God;
neither did they count on a recompense of holiness
nor discern the innocent souls’ reward.

Gospel of John:
Jesus moved about within Galilee;
he did not wish to travel in Judea,
because the Jews were trying to kill him.
Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said,
“Is he not the one they are trying to kill?
And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him.
Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?
But we know where he is from.
When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from.”

So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said,
“You know me and also know where I am from.
Yet I did not come on my own,
but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true.
I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.”


The inhabitants of Jerusalem think they have Jesus all figured out, even pigeonholed.  They know where He is from; he is the son of Joseph the carpenter; the son of Mary and the cousin of James and Joses.  They believe they know all there is to know about Him and, because He does not fit into the confines of their expectations, they conclude He cannot be the Messiah. 

How well do we know Jesus?  The people of His time knew Him very well in His humanity.  However, they did not understand who He really was.  He challenges them: "You know me and also where I am from.  Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true."  They know Jesus' earthly origins but they do not know the Father and, therefore, they do not understand Jesus' full identity as Son of God, co-equal with God and Anointed One.  How might we have let our humanity and short-sightedness interfere with our truly knowing Jesus? 

Thanks be to God, Jesus is one whom we know in His humanity, for He has revealed Himself in the flesh; and He is also one who is God and, therefore, a mystery that is constantly being unfolded before us.  We are always learning more about Jesus, always deepening our relationship with Him, like peeling back the many layers of an onion, as we open our hearts to Him.  We need to ask the Lord to give us the grace of openness to deeper knowledge of Jesus.

As people who know Jesus and desire to know Him more fully, we are obnoxious to the world around us, which has drifted from any reasonable spiritual or moral moorings.  Therefore, the wicked around us - the promoters of the culture of death, and anti-marriage lobby, the creators of the sexual revolution and others - desire to beset us.  Faithful Catholics are the only ones who have the courage and the historical/cultural/religious tradition necessary to oppose the onslaught of evil we face today.  If we know Jesus and want to remain in relationship with Him in His Church, we must be willing to be obnoxious.   

Faithful Catholics are a "new minority" - a minority that faces exclusion in the world and even within the Church.  Don't take my word for it.  No less than the Cardinal of the Big Apple made this prophetic statement.  Men and women who want to be chaste, virtuous and faithful to Jesus Christ are obnoxious even to fellow Catholics.  Why?  Because their joyful fidelity to Christ is annoying to those who want to believe that Catholic doctrine is a burden for modern man.  Dare I say, some would even rejoice at the failure or mistakes of those who have a passion for the true faith.  Inclusion should not be a double standard in which a spirit of welcome applies only to those predisposed to heterodoxy. 

The last laugh - so to speak - is on those who transgress the law of God and violate their training in the faith, so says the Book of Wisdom, because they "do not count on a recompense of holiness nor discern the innocent soul's reward."  The "wicked" - those who act contrary to the law of the Lord and the doctrines of our faith - cannot conceive of the holiness of the virtuous or the fact that fidelity will be rewarded with eternal life.  They believe themselves to be right because of their education, experience or superior intelligence.  However, even when we believe we know better or feel that compassion trumps revelation, we need to find deep inside ourselves the courage and humility to say "Yes!" to Jesus and His Church.  We are all sinners.  Fidelity to doctrine is not the only aspect of Christian life.  But it is an indispensable foundation.  How valuable it is to pray for the conversion of all who live contrary to the Gospel, in order that we might be all united in glory forever. 

Interestingly, "conservative" Catholics feel marginalized even by the Pope, if you believe surveys published by Reuters. This claim demands exploration.    

First of all, I do not call myself a "conservative Catholic."  "Conservative" and "liberal" (N.B. The latter of the two has been corrupted from it's classical meaning, that is, an philosophy grounded in natural law, the rule of law, economic and religious freedom, private property and the free market economy and hijacked by the promoters of anti-establishment radical individualism.  The classical liberal does what is good for all; the modern liberal serves his/her personal gratification.) are political terms, not religious vocabulary.  My hope, with God's grace, is to remain a faithful Catholic - faithful to doctrine but also to prayer, acts of charity and worthy celebration of the sacraments.  From Baptism, this is who I am.  Whatever is Catholic, I'm all in 100%.  Political agendas and mere human opinions need not apply for my support. 
That having been said, why is it that people who identify as "conservative" (according to their understanding thereof) feel marginalized by the Holy Father?  From the Reuters article, I glean the understanding that Pope Francis is to "conservative Catholics" (1) disappointing because he does not thunder against immorality, (2) makes statements and poses questions that are confusing and (3) is suspect because he is supported by the main-stream (read: "drive-by") media.  To which I respond: authentically orthodox faith - proclaiming the truth with love - should not be built on such weak foundations that is has to cower in fear for any reason.  The faith is true no matter who questions it or fails to speak it clearly.  Even the Pope cannot change Divine Revelation. 

And, by the way, he has not.  He poses questions that make all of us think and, therefore, be better prepared to give a reason for our hope, faith and love.  He is obnoxious, that is, challenging to the point of being prickly, in his own way and, I believe, intentionally so.  Be not afraid!

Whoever is in the majority or minority in a given demographic or municipality that is surveyed does not matter.  "The truth is the truth even if no one believes it.  A lie is a lie even if everyone believes it." 

I, personally, would wash the feet of men on Holy Thursday because the Church in America today benefits from efforts to include men in parish life and promote their role as spiritual leaders in the home.  But the fact that some other priest washes women's feet, or even that the current Pope thinks it's a good idea, does not erode my faith in the Gospel.  Once again, the importance of balance is clear: justice and mercy always go together.  Being "pastoral" does not exclude fidelity to truth.  Fidelity does not excuse having a hardened heart.  Whatever is true is also good and beautiful and, therefore, what we believe in our hearts as revealed by God must be proclaimed from the housetops.  We do the world a disservice if we pretend to have a better idea than the Spirit, who speaks through Scripture and Tradition.  We also do a disservice if we do not have love, for then we have nothing at all. 

I must admit I would prefer unmitigated defense of the faith and more thoughtful statements from the Holy Father.  The real issue in all of this is not intentional heterodoxy but poor communication.  We are accustomed to hearing well-thought-out, grammatically pure, philosophically and theologically sound proclamations of faith in the context of modern questions.  With Pope Francis, we are hearing off-the-cuff remarks, spontaneous homilies and colloquial quips which, coupled with issues of translation and the pit-falls of spontaneity, lead to confusion.  Idioms and rhetorical questions do not always translate well.  I do not believe the Pope supports the anti-life, promiscuous, pro-homosexual marriage agenda of the deceived and deceiving.  But the problem lies in the fact that what is published as coming from his mouth makes it difficult to know who the man really is.  Attention to detail and concern for the sensitivities of various people throughout the universal Church are areas of needed growth for the Vatican press office.  In the end, greater clarity and consistency would be a welcome relief.  Even without it, though, three realities remain unchanging: the truth revealed by God, my rational belief in it and my duty to proclaim it. 

One more aside: the authors of the Reuters article launched a wild pitch below the belt when they wrote "Francis is due to issue a document called an Apostolic Exhortation after two years of debate and two major meetings of bishops to discuss the family - the Vatican's way of referring to its policies concerning sex."  The questionnaire, two synods and world meeting were about so much more than sex.  The course of the world's future will be plotted by how well the Catholic Church responds to the need to help families become holy families. 

We are no doubt in a spiritual battle to preserve and defend the truth about life, marriage and morality.  Therefore:  Be faithful.  Be confident.  Be smart.

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