Posted by: Thomas Richard | October 9, 2018

When Good Fences Don’t Make Good Neighbors

The division in this country, presently seen between the “progressives” and those of more traditional beliefs and values, is stark, deep and growing deeper, and troubling. The division is found even in the Church – this most disturbing fact seems even worse when it is seen to be so comparable to the dark insanity and callous self-centeredness of the godless world! We want and expect the Church to be different – to be a refuge from the world outside of God – to “make sense” and to keep fidelity to holy Truth, solid and enduring as a Rock.

Jesus sent the Church to “make disciples” of the world, and to gather them into the eternal Life of God, to being true witnesses for Him in this world. But now we see how successful the spirit of this world has been in invading and infiltrating the Holy Church with values and loves, ambitions and hopes not of God but of this passing and dark world. President Trump promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington. We – sent to be light in this world – now hear of pockets of “swamp” in our Holy Church – pockets even in our own “Capital,” The Vatican. We cry out to God from the deepest depths of our soul, “Deliver us, O Lord!”

Meanwhile, in the secular world, commentators ask one another, “How can we step back from this chasm we find in front of us, separating us one from the other?” “How can we return to some civility, some ability to compromise with one another, to find a middle ground, to work together for the good of the country?” And no one has an answer. We find ourselves in a place we have never been before, and no one knows where we are going to end up. Many people are troubled and afraid.

In a tour of the United States in 1976, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla articulated an insight into the future – a possibility that he saw then, a future conflict that we have been growing toward as the decades have developed since then. In this one prophetic summary, published by the Wall Street Journal printed Nov. 9, 1978, the then-newly-elevated Pope John Paul II had said in his 1976 visit (1):

“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine Providence; it is trial which the whole Church, and the Polish Church in particular, must take up. It is a trial of not only our nation and the Church, but, in a sense, a test of 2,000 years of culture and Christian civilization with all of its consequences for human dignity, individual rights, human rights and the rights of nations.”

This insight to a coming “final confrontation” reminds one of of the inevitable conflict in humanity that reflects the irreconcilable conflict between good and evil. Around the year 400 AD, St. Augustine traces out for us, in his analysis of Scriptural history beginning with the conflict between Cain and Abel, a conflict that illustrates the conflict to be present in the world from that time until now, between the “two cities” ever present in the world: the earthly city – the city of man, and the heavenly city – the city of God. Each of these two cities have citizens spread among all the races and nations, times and cultures of human history. Citizenship in the one city or the other is determined by the love possessed and held by the person, whether ultimately of God or ultimately of the self. Augustine’s best summary of the situation, it seems to me, in his book The City of God, is this section (2):

Accordingly, two cities have been formed by two loves: the earthly by the love of self, even to the contempt of God; the heavenly by the love of God, even to the contempt of self. The former, in a word, glories in itself, the latter in the Lord. For the one seeks glory from men; but the greatest glory of the other is God, the witness of conscience.

The one lifts up its head in its own glory; the other says to its God, “Thou art my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” [Ps. 3: 3] In the one, the princes and the nations it subdues are ruled by the love of ruling; in the other, the princes and the subjects serve one another in love, the latter obeying, while the former take thought for all. The one delights in its own strength, represented in the persons of its rulers; the other says to its God, “I will love Thee, O Lord, my strength.” [Ps. 18:1]

And therefore the wise men of the one city, living according to man, have sought for profit to their own bodies or souls, or both, and those who have known God “glorified Him not as God neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened; professing themselves to be wise,”–that is, glorying in their own wisdom, and being possessed by pride,–“they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things.” [Rom 1:21-22]

For they were either leaders or followers of the people in adoring images, “and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” [Rom. 1: 21-25] But in the other city there is no human wisdom, but only godliness, which offers due worship to the true God, and looks for its reward in the society of the saints, of holy angels as well as holy men, “that God may be all in all.” [1 Cor. 15:28]

Augustine is exactly right. Ultimately, a person serves either God, or he serves himself and his own personal good. Either God is Lord of his life, or he clings to lordship over his own life. Many, many persons believe and hope for a “middle ground,” a compromise where they can love God and yet still seek first and protect their own good, where they can cling to lordship over their own life while not offending God too much.

God inspired Elijah the prophet, in the Old Testament, to teach otherwise:

1Ki 18:21  And Elijah came near to all the people, and said, “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

Jesus later would teach, concerning such a nonexistent compromise of God with this fallen world:

Mt 6:24  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Yes, many people today are troubled and afraid – in the secular world, and in the Church. The commentators in the secular world and those in the Church ask, “How can we step back from this chasm we find in front of us, separating us one from the other?” “How can we be one again?” “How can we return to some civility, some ability to compromise with one another, to find a middle ground, to work together for the good of us all?” The answer is simple.

The answer is Jesus, He who is the Truth. There is no compromise between pro-“choice” and pro-Life, when “choice” includes the choice to kill an innocent, vulnerable and completely dependent not-yet-born baby. There is no compromise between marriage as God created it and the aberration of legalized same-sex unions, which constitute a grave sin. There is no compromise between the freedom to honor and follow God, and the legal compulsion to become enablers and co-operators in the legalized sins of others, honoring and following the dark “gods” of the city of man: Mammon (or, “political correctness”). There is no compromise between the Culture of Life, whose God is the Lord, and the culture of death, ultimately led and ruled by the evil one himself.

To those trying to sit on a very sharp and uncomfortable fence, hear Elijah: “How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” The choice really is life or death.

notes:

(1) National Catholic Register Oct. 5, 2018 – http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/john-paul-iis-warning-on-final-confrontation-with-the-anti-church

(2) St. Augustine, The City of God. [Can be read or downloaded HERE – http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf102] Bk XIV, Chapter 28—“Of the Nature of the Two Cities, the Earthly and the Heavenly.”


Responses

  1. Thank you, Thomas, for sharing with us insights, God has given to His holy Saints: Pope John Paul II and St. Augustine. These are troubling times, but God does not leave us “orphans”.

    He continues to guide and protect us by the power of His Holy Spirit, as He promised His disciples the night before He died (cf John 16). He has revealed Himself in Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church and we need to open the ears of our hearts to HEAR HIS TRUTH, as Mary’s heart was ever open to ponder all He said and did on this earth.

    We cannot make the correct choice between “life and death” if we cannot recognize the difference between God’s Truth and the lies of the evil one. Let us pray for God’s Grace to hear the Voice of Jesus the Good Shepherd deep within our contrite and humble hearts that we may do His Truth lovingly (Eph 4).

    • So true, Deborah! The Church needs to hear – and to hear we need to listen, and listen and watch attentively because God is speaking His Truth always, in many different ways. As Jesus often said, “Let him with ears to hear, hear.”

      The evil one loves noise! The mind-numbing noise of this world makes him think that maybe no one will be able to listen, and hear the words of God, and believe – and believing, live God’s holy Truth – and living, become lights in His Light to pierce the darkness, exposing the lies of the culture of death.

  2. Once again Thank you very much for all the very well thought and written blogs that you write Thomas. To me, this very thoughtfully written is very appropriate during this Holy Month of October. The month of Holy Rosary and the Sanctity of the Preservation of Life Movement, born and especially the unborn. More than ever we need to say the Holy Rosary daily and fervently and attend and support the Pro Life prayers nationwide. May the Good Lord continue to bless you Thomas.

    • Dear Gonz,

      Yes, how appropriate this blog is for October – Month of the Holy Rosary! Thanks for reminding us all of Mary’s Powerful intercession, proven for centuries — particularly when the Church prayed the Rosary with Supernatural Faith! Our Lady of Victory, Queen of the Rosary, Mother of the Church, Patroness of the Unborn, pray for us!

    • May we all pray together, and fervently, for a deeper and more wide-spread devotion to our Mother Mary, and through and with her, may the Church and this whole nation – and indeed the world – awaken to the precious gift of life. Every living soul was created by God in love and for love, and deserving of love and care most especially by the mother and father of the child.

      How did this insanity of “disposable” human persons – especially targeting the most innocent and vulnerable and needy among us, the child in his or her mother’s womb – how did this horrible lie catch hold in this, a nation that once honored God? May He have mercy on us.

  3. Beautifully and truthfully written Thomas. I am so thankful that we have started studying the catechism of the church. How can we keep ourselves from falling for the lies of the evil one? Arm ourselves with God’s Truth, and pray, pray, pray. Study the Holy Scriptures! God bless you, Susan

    • Dear Susan,

      Yes, I’m grateful also to be studying the Catechism and learning more deeply the Truth, taught by the Holy Spirit to the Church — just as Jesus promised.

      The references most used in the footnotes to the Catechism paragraphs are from Sacred Scripture, helping us understand how the Holy Spirit has been bringing the Church into more and more of God’s Truth — if we but open the ears of our hearts to LISTEN! Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful! Kindle in us, the Fire of Your Love.

    • The Catechism is certainly a gift – a treasure. The Lord has entrusted to His Church so much! And so many seem to be so careless with the many holy treasures He has given. But – but the seed finding good soil brings forth much fruit.

  4. This is a struggle I see every day with my nieces and their children. Even though they were baptized Catholic they do not understand our faith because my Brother did not set a good example. He had a very traumatic experience as an alter server and never recovered and blames “The Church” for his intense resentment and lives his faith alone claiming that he loves God and no one building or group of people have the right to dictate to him. I feel so sad for him and his kids and offer prayers each week at adoration and during mass for his soul to be saved and his heart to bond with the Lord. I so enjoy your blogs and thank you for sharing with us.

    • Thank you for this most personal comment, Deb. The darkness of sin always leaves pain and suffering in its wake, sometimes extending down many generations. Jesus the Healer can touch, bring forgiveness and healing, and restoration to any – to anyone – who will seek Him with a true heart.

      Yes we must pray. Probably every Catholic family in these times has hurts and wounds, scars and infirmities brought into and among the family members by sins outside – perhaps by predators, by wolves sometimes in sheep’s clothing, by ones we would not suspect. May the Lord guide us – and He promised He would!

    • Many of us struggle and pray with you, Deb. These are days of trial and suffering, yet by God’s Grace I believe He permits trials only that His children may grow closer to Him. (cf James 1:2-4)

      By His grace, may we continue to pray and do His Truth in Love, with ever growing Faith and Hope in God’s Love for our families and for all the families of the world.


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