Sunday, May 4, 2014

Despair Is A Tool Of The Devil

Patrick Archbold of Creative Minority Report recently did a blog post entitled, "Do You See What I See?" [HERE] in which he wrote of his anxiety and outright despair over what he sees as the current condition of the Catholic Church.  He started out with the usual "there has never been a bigger crisis in the Church than we currently face" approach:
Having been born in the 60s, I have no strong recollection, beyond some overheard conversations, of what it must have felt like to witness the tearing down of everything. It must have felt to many that all was ending and that God must surely act to defend His Church from the destruction.
Alas, it was not to be and the destruction continued, most people just cared less.
. . .
I also wondered why so many people, at that time, failed to see it for what it was. They smiled and called it the new springtime even as everything died around them. They called it opening the doors and letting fresh air into the Church, as everybody inside choked on the smoke of Satan. How did they not see what was happening?
I have often wondered what it must have felt like to live through that era. I wonder no more. In fact, I think that perhaps today's high speed death spiral may be worse in some ways. Having never been through it before and unable to see its logical end, many well meaning Catholics perhaps opened themselves up to the false optimism of that era.
Mr. Archbold then writes these statements filled with despair:
I have often pondered this question. Will I live long enough to see the Church fully transmogrified into syncretistic modernized mess it seems hellbent on becoming or will the Church be rescued by the Lord.

As I said, I have often wondered what it must have felt like. I don't wonder that anymore, I know now. The only thing I wonder now is when God will choose to act and rescue us, His Church, from us, His Church.
Such an attitude reminds me very much of those people in the Gospel accounts who surrounded Our Lord. Here was Jesus Christ telling them He was the Savior come to save the world. The people who followed Jesus witnessed miracle after miracle - sight restored to the blind, the deaf healed, the lame walking, demons cast out, dead raised to life - and yet, the disciples of Jesus were constantly doubting Him. This included those closest to Him. The Gospel of John relates the story of Lazarus, who had died, and his sisters, Mary and Martha, who felt that Jesus could have healed their brother, but Jesus delayed His coming to them and Lazarus died. The two sisters did not hesitate to show their disappointment in Jesus.

John 11:17-24:
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Both Mary and Martha felt Jesus had really let them down. When Mary was told that Jesus was there, she ran to see Him, but the first words out of her mouth were, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." (Verse 32)

Jesus Wept
The next verse tells us that when Jesus saw how mournful the people were, He was "deeply moved in spirit and troubled." (Verse 33). What troubled Jesus? Verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible, but it speaks volumes: "Jesus wept." Why? What moved Jesus to tears? He knew what He was about to do. He knew Lazarus would soon be walking among them again. Our Lord did not weep out of pity for Lazarus or for those who mourned him. Our Lord wept because of the unbelief of the people, as shown in His statement to Martha in verse 40:
Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?
Why did the people so quickly forget what Jesus had told them? They took their eyes off of Jesus and let their physical circumstances dictate their beliefs. The worst had happened - Lazarus had died - and Jesus had let them down by allowing it to happen. 

Another biblical story that I find very similar to the story of Lazarus is that of Mary Magdalene on Easter morning at the tomb. She had gone to the tomb of Jesus in order to finish anointing His Body. However, Jesus' Body was not in the tomb, and her first thought was that someone had stolen the body. Even though Jesus had said many times that He would rise from the dead, Mary was so overwhelmed by the shock of what had happened three days before and by her own grief at losing Jesus that she never gave a thought to Jesus' statements. As far as she was concerned, Jesus was dead and the dream was over. Even though Jesus stood right next to her in the garden, her unbelief was so profound that she did not recognize Him. I wonder how often we allow ourselves to be so overwhelmed by despair that, like Mary Magdalene, we cannot recognize Jesus even though He is right next to us.

Later that same day, Our Lord appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  These disciples were filled with grief and despair at the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus came right up to them and asked what they were talking about (Luke 24:17-18).
They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”
Again, like Mary Magdalene, these two disciples allowed themselves to be so overwhelmed with grief that they did not recognize Jesus Christ when He was literally standing in their midst and talking with them.

The disciples and Jesus on the road to Emmaus
Many look at the current condition of the Church and of the world, and despite their professed belief in Jesus Christ, they tend to despair, as expressed by Patrick Archbold.  We stand in the garden with Mary Magdalene with Jesus Christ right beside us and wail, "Where have they taken My Lord?"  We need to read and re-read the words of St. Paul, who suffered persecution and setbacks far beyond what we have experienced.  This is what he wrote:

Romans 8:5-6:
Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Verse 15:
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again.
Verses 31-32:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
St. Paul is telling us that as long as we are in Christ, we can't lose.  The trick is to keep our eyes on heaven and not on things of the earth.  Patrick Archbold would do well, instead of wringing his hands in despair, to instead look to the words of Jesus Christ who said, "The gates of hell will never prevail against the Church."  (Matthew 16:18)  Our Lord promised never to leave us.  (Matthew 28:20)  He also sent the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, to guide and lead us into all truth.  (John 15:26).

We know every time we enter a Catholic Church that Jesus is in the tabernacle waiting for us. We know that His Blessed Mother is constantly interceding on our behalf. If she was willing to ask Her Son to save a wedding party when they ran out of wine, can we doubt for a moment that she is constantly asking her Divine Son to save our souls? All she asks of us is "Do whatever He tells you." And what does Jesus tell us? He commands us to trust Him and believe His Words.

Our Lord literally poured out His Life Blood for us, facing the worst cruelty of men so that we could be saved from sin and spend eternity with Him. His love for us is so big the universe itself cannot hold it. How can we insult Him by wondering, as Patrick Archbold did, "Will I live long enough to see the Church fully transmogrified into syncretistic modernized mess it seems hellbent on becoming or will the Church be rescued by the Lord." How can Patrick Archbold or anyone else look at Christ on the Cross and ask such a question?

Pope St. John Paul II once said,
“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”
St. John Paul II lived through the horror of World War II.  He saw death and destruction on a massive scale.  He himself came close to death many times.  And yet he told us never to despair but to always trust in the Lord.  Our despair will blind us to Christ and that could be deadly to our souls.  St. John Paul II wrote this prayer:
Jesus, I trust in You! With God nothing is impossible! What is especially possible is conversion, which can change hatred into love and war into peace. And so our prayer becomes all the more insistent and trusting: Jesus, I trust You!
Despair is actually a form of pride. Despair says to God, you're just not big enough. This storm that we are facing is too big for you to handle. The great sin of Judas was not his betrayal of Jesus Christ. St. Peter also betrayed Jesus and he went on to become the first pope. Peter owned up to what he did, received the great mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and became a great saint. Judas looked at what he did and gave into hopelessness. Who knows what great things Judas could have accomplished if he had not allowed despair to destroy him.

I have to say that I find most Catholic blogs and websites to be extremely depressing. Instead of spreading the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, we are mostly given the news about the great sins of the church and how it is all pretty much hopeless. We act as if this was the first time in Church history that we have ever had to contend with sinful human beings. If Our Lord had wanted the church to be run by perfect beings, He could have put angels in charge. We would never have to worry about any sex abuse scandals or wayward priests or bishops. Angels would always have the courage and wherewithal to stand up for the truth, never flinching, never backing down. They would always do and say the right thing.

Instead, Our Lord gave us weak sinful men and said, listen to them and do what they tell you to do. Further, Jesus tells us that He takes very personally the way in which these men are treated:
Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me. (John 13:20)
Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me (Luke 10:16)
We all have our own ideas of how the Church should be run. When things don't meet our expectations and demands, we whine and complain and, like Chicken Little, declare that the sky is falling, even though Jesus promised such a thing will never happen in the Church.

The next time you feel compelled to sit in judgment of those who have been put in authority in the church, remember that Jesus Christ says you are sitting in judgment of Him. Oh, I know all of the arguments that we have a right and even a duty to criticize our prelates. But this should be done only after deep, prayerful consideration and learning as much as we can about any situation, and not just believing every word we read on some website or blog. It should also be done in charity and with great regard for the soul of the person we are criticizing and if at all possible, it should be done in private. The devil is a cunning foe, and he knows just how to ensnare us. The enemy feeds on negativity, and anytime we give in to and act on negative thoughts, we are giving into Satan himself.

Patrick Archbold concluded his post with the following comment:
**Note. If you don't sympathize or understand this post, that's fine. Just let it go please. Anyone who chooses to use the comment box to mock me and my fellow travellers will be deleted and likely banned. So again, just let it go please.
I am certainly not trying to mock Archbold or anyone else.  But I have to say that I do get very tired of all those who see nothing but negativity and destruction in the Church.  This is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, who is the Chief Cornerstone.  This Church is guided by the Holy Spirit.  The gates of hell have certainly stormed the church over and over again down through the centuries, but have never once prevailed.  The Church is indestructible.  Never believe anyone who tries to tell you differently.  As I John 4:4 tells us, He who is in you is stronger than he who is in the world.

Patrick Archbold says that he cannot understand those who persist in optimism at this time in church history.  I think the optimists are the only people we should be listening to.  That is not to say that we should not acknowledge and admit our problems and the challenges facing us.  But we should never let that govern our actions or thoughts.  Our two most recently canonized saints - Popes St. John XXIII and John Paul II - were always optimistic and based their papacies on this optimism and faith in Jesus Christ.  We need to listen to them.

In the 1960's Leslie Gore sang, "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to."  Well, this is NOT your party and if you want to cry, you are going to find yourself on the outside.  Despair will often knock on our doors and demand to be let in. We need to immediately take that to our Lord and ask Him to cast it out of our hearts.  There is no room for despair in the life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

This is from one of the greatest optimists in Church history:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (St. Paul to the Romans, chapter 8:37-39) 

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