Hope in a Time of Crisis

Faith, hope, and love are not qualities that we can generate within ourselves like good habits, but are described by Catholic theologians as “infused virtues”. They are gifts of the Spirit and represent the heart of the Christian experience. The apostle Paul often stressed the supernatural nature of this triad of virtues:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13). [Note that “belief” and “faith” are the same word in Greek]

Paul’s prayer for the Church in Rome reflects not only the spiritual dimension of these virtues, but the special relationship between faith and hope. The use of the conjunction “so that”, denoting purpose, reveals the secret to abounding in hope through the power of the Spirit; it is motivated by the joy that is produced when one believes in the gospel of Christ. Faith is the foundation of the triad:

But without faith it is impossible to please him, for anyone who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6).

Nero used Christians as torches.

Recall that life for Christians in the first century was made very difficult by both the Jews and the Roman Empire. Hope in the future reality of our presence in heaven with God generated endurance in those difficult times:

We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance. (Romans 8:22-25).

While hope generates endurance, it also perpetuates love. St. Paul explains how the relationship between hope and love is causal:

We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. (Colossians 1:3-4).

The love for their Christian brethren in Colossae was motivated by hope. An example of this is shared by the author of the book of Hebrews:

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and affliction; at other times you associated yourselves with those so treated. You even joined in the sufferings of those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, knowing that you had a better and lasting possession (Hebrews 10:32-34).

The Hebrew Christians were so focused on their hope in heaven that they accepted the theft of their property by the empire “joyfully” as they aided their brother Christians in prison. Paul explains how hope is the secret to enduring harsh circumstances:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4).

Faith generates spiritual joy which causes us to abound in hope. As we hope in that which is eternal we grow in love and are motivated to engage in acts of love and personal sacrifice, which glorifies God.

…rjt

Embracing the Peace of Christ

St. Junípero Serra

In a period of a few months a global pandemic has erupted causing an economic depression that may not end anytime soon. Add to this widespread social unrest with its goal the eradication of the symbols and memories of the achievements of Western civilization and what seems like a perfect storm has formed.

While it’s hard to see a peaceful outcome to all of this, especially for the Church, we can rest in the promise of a special peace: Continue reading “Embracing the Peace of Christ”

St. Hildegard: Two Clues for Identifying the End Times

Hildegard’s Scivias (abbreviated form of the Latin for “Know the Ways of God”) records of a series of 26 visions encompassing history from creation to the final judgment. The Doctor of the Church reveals two important clues to help us recognize when the last days are unfolding.

“Fleeting Times”

Hildegard receiving and recording her visions.

When she gets to the last days, specifically the time leading up to the Antichrist she comments on the increasingly rapid nature of the passage of time:

All things that are on Earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end (Book III, Vision 11, chap. 1).†

Hildegard’s world was static. In her lifetime (1098-1179) she would see no major technological developments, changing forms of governance, or social customs, etc. Yet she reveals that rapid historical development will be indicative of the last days: Continue reading “St. Hildegard: Two Clues for Identifying the End Times”

Taking Up the Cross

As they led him away they took hold of a certain Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country; and after laying the cross on him, they made him carry it behind Jesus Luke 23:26).

Historians generally agree that this would have been just the crossbeam, not the whole cross which would have weighed between 2-300 pounds. Vertical beams, they suggest, were a permanent sight around the outskirts of Jerusalem as crucifixion was common. (There is a counter-argument to this point claiming that the chief priests in Jerusalem would never have permitted the Roman authorities to leave the contaminated blood of criminals in a public venue. Also, close examination of the Shroud of Turin possibly reveals scars caused by Jesus having carried the vertical beam). If, however the historians are correct about the weight of the whole cross, I think it must then have been only the crossbeam that He carried. Continue reading “Taking Up the Cross”

St. Hildegard’s Curious Illuminations

Illumination from the Rupertsberg Manuscript

One of the interesting things about the illuminations that accompany the Rupertsberg manuscript of Scivias (late 12th-century), the book in which Hildegard recorded her visions, is that much of the artwork appears to contradict the text. For example, the ‘Yellow Lion’ is painted red and the ‘Pale Horse’ is kind of a brownish-green. In later manuscripts produced after her death this is not the case. Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s Curious Illuminations”

The Mocking of Christ

In the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary we contemplate the Passion of Christ as things go from bad to worse, beginning with His agony, which reflected a level of anxiety so extreme that it caused His sweat glands to fill with blood. This is followed by the scourging, which according to the Shroud of Turin left Him with about 110 bloody abrasions on His back. But the torture only continued:

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus inside the praetorium and gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped off his clothes and threw a scarlet military cloak about him. Weaving a crown out of thorns, they placed it on his head, and a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat upon him and took the reed and kept striking him on the head (Matthew 27:27-31).

Continue reading “The Mocking of Christ”

Now’s the Time to Reevaluate Catholic Prophetic Literature

A poll taken in the U.K. showed that more people believe in ghosts and UFOs than in God. While there’s a natural curiosity in the possibility of the existence of the supernatural, hence the popularity of movies like The Exorcist, it doesn’t necessarily lead people to God. St. Paul explains this curious phenomenon:

Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. The spiritual person, however, can judge everything… (1 Cor. 2:12-15).

Continue reading “Now’s the Time to Reevaluate Catholic Prophetic Literature”

Dawn of the Grey Wolf?

In COVID-13 the leaders of the world have been dealt a hand of cards that revealed a big fat ‘Catch-22’. On the one hand little was known about the severity of the virus and inaction might have caused unpleasant scenes of overwhelmed hospitals like we saw in Wuhan, China and Northern Italy.

On the other hand, shutting down entire economies of the Western world indefinitely can only guarantee another depression. The debt burdens and expenses of governments, corporations, and individuals cannot be serviced if everything is closed. A negative-feedback loop is currently underway that may take years to unwind. 2020 will be the year historians use to mark an abrupt end of an era. Continue reading “Dawn of the Grey Wolf?”

Christ’s Five Petitions to His Father on the Eve of His Passion

The whole of John 17 is Jesus’ impassioned plea to God on behalf of His disciples which Archbishop Fulton Sheen referred to as “…the High priestly prayer of ‘Mission accomplished'”:

In no literature can there be found the simplicity and depth, the grandeur and fervor of this last prayer.†

But about half way through we learn that this prayer is also on behalf of all future believers: Continue reading “Christ’s Five Petitions to His Father on the Eve of His Passion”

St. Paul Warns the Colossians on Syncretism

The religion of Colossae at the time was the Hellenistic worship of Zeus, Aphrodite, etc. However, the Colossians were also into astrology and maintained an openness to non-pagan religions, including Judaism. Paul had learned that this mentality had infiltrated the young Christian church there and charges them:

So, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one captivate you with an empty, seductive philosophy according to human tradition, according to the elemental powers of the world and not according to Christ (Col. 2: 6-8).

Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath (vs. 16).

If you died with Christ to the elemental powers of the world, why do you submit to regulations as if you were still living in the world? “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” These are all things destined to perish with use; they accord with human precepts and teachings (vs. 20-22).

Continue reading “St. Paul Warns the Colossians on Syncretism”