Sunday, August 1, 2010

Medjugorje: VII. God's Motives

That brings us to our next question, namely: “If Medjugorje is not authentic, why would God allow this to happen”? Of course, the answer to this question is the same answer as to why God allows any form of religious deception – including televangelists, false prophets, crooked faith healers and miracle workers, heresies, etc. However, I believe there could be one additional (albeit related and consequential) reason why God may have allowed phenomenon Medjugorje to occur if it is not authentic: it would be the perfect preparation for the Antichrist, because what has happened at Medjugorje is very similar to what Satan will do with and through “the Antichrist”.

The Catechism speaks about the reign and time of the Antichrist: “Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the ‘mystery of iniquity’ in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh” [emphases mine]. (CCC 675) It is quite probable that this “religious deception” is akin to the Golden Calf. Keep in mind that the Golden Calf was not a “glorification of man” in the atheistic secular humanist sense. On the contrary, the Israelites declared, upon the fashioning of the Golden Calf, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt”, while Aaron responded by building an altar in front of the Calf and “announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord’”. (Exodus 32:4b-5) The greatest abomination in the entire Golden Calf episode was not that the Israelites were worshiping foreign gods per se. What was the greatest abomination is that the Israelites were really exalting themselves and preferring themselves to God but doing so under the guise of the worship of Yahweh and allegiance to him. This is the epitome of false religion – and Satan’s most effective method in corrupting souls. Similarly, what we see among the seers of Medjugorje is something lesser albeit akin to this, as has been pointed out earlier.

This is part of a broader problem and movement in the Church – namely, that of the “Catholic media celebrity” who desires and acquires a great deal of popularity and fame travelling around giving talks on the “Catholic speaking circuit” and appearing on Catholic radio and television, who put themselves “out there” through Facebook, Twitter, and their personal websites promoting their work and blogs disseminating their opinions and writing, through which they seek to garner as large a “following” as possible (in part so they can increase the donations which they solicit through PayPal). This has become something many Catholics are aspiring to and seeing as being sort of the “Catholic Dream” (somewhat like the “American Dream”) – among theology students at Steubenville, for instance, the goal is to (a) publish a book or recording CD, (b) gain a platform through invitations to speak at conferences and give interviews or host or run their own programs on Catholic radio and television, and (c) marry and have children despite being as busy in the Church as many priests and religious are and thus unable to spend the proper amount of time with them as his state in life requires or demands. Here we see, once again, the Golden Calf – Wealth, Sex, and Power (in the form of popularity and influence). What is becoming less common is the Catholic who desires to run from such things, who desires a hidden life of holiness which only the Father sees (Matthew 6:6b) rather than admiration from giving moving speeches, who wants to forsake the good and pleasure of marriage to make the Lord his all and cling solely to Him in celibacy and who wants to give up house and lands and possessions for the sake of the Kingdom (Luke 18:29), who wants to surrender his earthly freedom in order to more freely serve God and do His will rather than his own will and earthly and temporal desires. What is more concerning is that among those who are spoken of so highly in the Catholic Church and whose names come up when the discussions are had among practicing Catholics, it is these “Catholic celebrities” who are mentioned just as often if not more than the humble and holy priests, religious, or bishops who live a quiet and hidden life. It is the “Catholic celebrity” whom Catholics seek to have their picture taken with, whose signatures are asked for, who are approached with the hope that they may get a few words in with them. But in a room full of holy and humble nuns, those same Catholics are barely interested in approaching them – let alone having their picture taken with them. And in a room where there are “Catholic celebrities” and holy nuns, most Catholics will give the nuns little if any thought and no attention; rather, they would be seeking out the celebrities instead. In the face of such a contradiction in what we profess and how we live, the following passage comes to mind: “the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart”. (1Samuel 16:7) I will tell you that if someone were to ask me for a list of 10 priests that I looked up to most highly, Fr. John Corapi would not make it, and it is because I know him only as a speaker and thus have no idea about his humility or charity or loyalty – which is what really matters to me. And if someone were to ask me where Dr. Scott Hahn ranked on my list of Catholics I admired or looked up to, his name would not come up at all, because I do know him personally. I would have given a different answer before meeting him, when I knew him only as a gifted and passionate speaker.

We read in the next paragraph of the Catechism, “The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment.” (CCC 676) When the confident and popular Dr. Hahn draws our attention and awe more than the humble, hidden, and holy contemplative nuns that are standing on the other side of the room, or if given a choice we would have dinner with him in his mansion rather than having dinner with the holy nuns, or when we would rather be the next “Dr. Hahn” then the next lowly porter whose life and holiness goes unnoticed to all but a few brothers and God, are we not thinking according to the standards of this world? Considering the nuns are “eschatological signs”, could it not be said we have fallen prey to the “Antichrist’s deception”? Indeed it can and should be said! And it must also be said that the majority of Catholics have thus fallen prey to his deception, because most Catholics do or would do exactly what is listed above.

As for “apostasy from the truth”, once Satan can sever us from full obedience to the Church and its legitimate authorities, he can attenuate or misconstrue the truths of the faith in such a way as to get us to abandon certain tenets of the faith, which due to the Church’s teaching on the “analogy of faith” – that each belief helps support and make sensible the other beliefs – affects our entire Faith. That is why in time, schism has always inevitably led to heresy. However, even if disobedience does not lead to schism, it can lead to our going against the will of Yahweh in our hearts even though we might be obedient to the letter of the law (Luke 18:18-25) and even though, like the worshipers of the Golden Calf, we might honestly believe we are worshiping Yahweh, when in reality our hearts are far from Him. (Mark 7:6-9) What matters is following God’s will, not praying the rosary or doing good works. These latter are what Satan always uses to lull us into a false sense of security – which is why he sometimes seeks our consolation in doing such devotions or works!

Two more remarks will be given regarding the Antichrist as it might relate to Medjugorje:

(1) Jesus said that the Antichrist would perform “signs and wonders” so great that “if possible” it would “lead astray ... even the elect”. (Matthew 24:24) This is a warning to us that just as many have been so convinced in Medjugorje due to the “signs and wonders”, so too will many become “certain” in the “signs and wonders” of the anti-Christ. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to tell the difference between the authentic and the false. Only obedience can keep us from these errors. What does obedience look like in this situation? The only thing the Church has ever said officially about the apparitions is that they cannot be affirmed as supernatural, and even two decades after being taken out of the hands of the Ordinary – if that has happened – Rome has said nothing to contradict this judgment. Obedience to this would be as many blog commenters have said: namely, “I would think most Catholics truly devoted to the Church would focus on the richness of the ‘approved apparitions’. rather than continue to put faith and energy into a speculative one”; (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2010/04/medjugorje-and-maciel-effect.html) and “It is most puzzling why such priests and faithful as really thirst for visions and messages do not drink their fill from the sources of visions that have been recognized as authentic, for example, Lourdes and Fatima”; (http://www.cbismo.com/index.php?mod=vijest&vijest=287) and even “Why go after such things when we have the Word, the sacraments, and the Church?” [now unable to find link] It is fine to believe in Medjugorje, but it is not good to be so convinced about it as some are. One has to be cautious in lending such credence to an apparition which has not yet been approved.

(2) Second, as we know, Jesus had a “Forerunner” – namely “John the Baptist” (Matthew 3:1-3, 11:9-10). Will the same be true with the Antichrist? In line with what we have been saying here, it is interesting to note that the apparitions at Medjugorje began on the Feast of St. John the Baptist – June 24, 1981.

One particular blog commenter said something profound concerning the many apparitions that have been condemned in recent times: “A thought occurred to me as I was pondering all of the many things going on in the Church. Was it Leo XIII who had the dream about Satan having free rein on earth for 100 years? ... Could much of what we have been experiencing in the Church be a fruit of that unleashing? I'm thinking of the sex abuse scandal, rejection on Humanae Vitae, spurious apparitions by the dozen, Maciel, liturgical craziness, etc. ... Think of all that we have endured in the 20th century. Many of these phenomena have fooled even the Pope, Cardinals, and very learned, respected people in the Church. That century is over--now it seems that the mopping up process is beginning.” For those who have not heard about Pope Leo’s vision, we will use the account given on a certain traditionalist website: “As he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: ‘I can destroy your Church.’ The gentle voice of Our Lord:
‘You can? Then go ahead and do so.’ Satan: ‘To do so, I need more time and more power.’ Our Lord: ‘How much time? How much power?’ Satan: ‘75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.’ Our Lord: ‘You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.’” (http://www.stjosephschurch.net/leoxiii.htm)

This conversation sounds very much like the conversation Satan had with Yahweh regarding Job: “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?’ Then Satan answered the Lord, ... ‘Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth thy hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse thee to thy face.’ And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power; only upon himself do not put forth your hand.’ So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.” (Job 1:8-12) Indeed, Satan did destroy all of Job’s possessions and kill all of his family and servants, and not only left him destitute but covered in painful sores. However, in the end, Job was rewarded for remaining faithful tot he Lord. And the Lord, after explaining to Job how He ruled with absolute wisdom and with perfect judgment (Job 38-41), “restored the fortunes of Job ... and the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” (Job 42:10) The story of Job is the story of all our lives as Christians – God allows and even invites Satan to “test” us so that we may grow as children of God and increase in faith and love. We often forget how closely God and Satan work. It is an adversarial yet diplomatic relationship with political manuevering and strategic negotiating. God is bound by the fact He made Satan a free creature with powers and a will of his own, so He must handle him as one who has his own interests and will operate accordingly. Yet Satan must do likewise with God if He is to get what he wants. It is like any diplomatic relationship. However, as we know from the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, God always wins, and in fact He has definitively won. He always gets the upper-hand and for eternity always will have it.

The traditionalist website continues with commentary: “This [vision] happened in 1884. The devil said he needed 75 to100 years. Well, 75 years from 1884 is 1959. ... It was on January 25, 1959, that John XXIII publicly summoned the Second Vatican Council.” It is here where I begin to disagree with the author of the article. I believe Vatican II was a prophetic council and is the key to conquering Satan, if we would only fully and properly implement it. However, as I explained in The New and The Old – another unpublished (though completed) manuscript, the implementation of the Council was largely hijacked, and as a result, the Church was drawn further away from Her mission rather than brought closer to fulfilling it. In fact, the Church was almost destroyed. In the manuscript, I cited Paul VI, who said in a 1972 speech, “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. ... There was the belief that after the Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. Instead, it is the arrival of a day of clouds, of tempest, of darkness, of research, of uncertainty. ... How has this come about? We believe in something that is preternatural that has come into the world precisely to disturb, to suffocate the fruits of the Ecumenical Council, and to impede the Church from breaking into the hymn of joy at having renewed in fullness its awareness of itself.”

Now, 100 years from 1884 brings us to 1984. It was in that year that John Paul II, who in large part had saved the Church from schism and destruction, and who in his acceptance speech pledged that his papacy would be devoted to implementing Vatican II (to which he was loyal and in many ways successful), consecrated Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady of Fatima requested. I would submit that it was this act which marked the end of Satan’s time of testing, and after which the process of undoing and repairing the damage done by Satan began. It was after this that seminaries began to return to orthodoxy, that religious communities faithful to their original charism and spirit began to once again grow, that catechesis began to improve, and that many other things began to turn around. Keep in mind that John Paul II consecrated Russia on May 13 – the day of the first apparition at Fatima, and that Leo XIII had his vision on October 13 – the day of the last apparition at Fatima, where the Miracle of the Sun occurred.

Toward the tail end of that time began the apparitions at Medjugorje. It has long been said that the closer Satan gets to defeat, the more desperate he gets, and thus the harder he fights. Knowing that his 100 years was coming to a close, could Medjugorje have been his final stand, his last great attempt to snatch souls before his time expired? Did he seek to plant something that would linger for many more years beyond the 100 he was given?

These are all theories, based upon the hypothesis that Medjugorje is a false apparition perpetuated by Satan. If it turns out that Medjugorje is authentic, then much of what is written here can be disregarded, and the point of this article is rendered moot. However, if my hypothesis is correct, this article will prove to be prophetic. And since we do not yet know which way this will turn out, we would all be wise to temper our feelings on the issue, and most importantly, heed the warnings issued in this article.