The New Age of Moral Darkness
The western world has entered a new age of moral darkness (see Evangelium Vitae, Building a Civilization of Love). Under the guise of “enlightenment” and modernity, human dignity and freedom are being increasingly suppressed by a secular totalitarian state. Assaults against the dignity of human life are pervasive through legalized abortion, euthanasia and embryo destruction/genetic manipulation. Culture elites, the media and liberal activists are promoting sexual “freedom”, including the “hook up” culture and the homosexual micro-culture through mass media and the Internet. Government, academic, cultural activists are seeking to both denigrate and restrict religious liberty by enacting laws and regulations to force the acceptance of contraception, abortion and homosexual “marriages” against religious conscience. There is a grave assault occurring on the Body of Christ.
The majority of people are being engulfed by the growing moral darkness. Millions of children are being aborted and many millions are being born to single women. Large and growing numbers of adults are forgoing marriage or choosing to divorce, gravely injuring themselves and their children. Depression and suicide rates, especially among young people, are growing. Worse, growing numbers are losing sight of their eternal salvation, living their earthly lives without the light of Christ.
The Faltering Courage of Modern Men
Many men are confused and afraid to respond to the darkening culture. Some mistakenly attempt to “man-up” by engaging in thrill-seeking behavior (X-treme sports, flash mobs, etc.), sexual conquest, wild partying or in “manly” activities (hunting, fishing, sports, etc.). Others retreat into perpetual adolescence, fade into feminization or succumb to homosexualization. In the face of mass moral confusion and the relentless cultural pounding of “political correctness”, rather then standing and defending the moral high ground, men are being cowed into timidity or distracted displays of false courage. Sadly, many Catholic men falter in courage and fall into cowardice.
En-courage-ment from the Courage of Jesus Christ
Christ perfectly demonstrates the virtue of courage to en-courage men. The word “virtue” is defined as a “manly moral strength” and comes from the Latin, vir, meaning “man.” Courage, or fortitude, is one of cardinal virtues (CCC 1805), is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831), is defined as “to make strong, to hearten” and comes from the Latin, cor (heart).
Jesus Christ, fortified by the Father and the Holy Spirit, comes to encourage (to make strong, to hearten) man, through His perfect demonstration of heroic courage:
Learns courage from the Virgin Mary and Joseph – Jesus Christ begins life as a refugee, His earthly father Joseph and the Virgin Mother escape Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents (Matt 2:13, 16). Jesus is raised, knowing the great courage of Mary’s fiat and Joseph’s chaste heroism and their total commitment to serve God in the face of persecution.
Stands up against Satan – Jesus stands up to and defeats Satan (1 John 3:8) when tempted in the Wilderness (Matt 4:10), by repeatedly casting out demons (cf. Matt 8:28-34) and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853). He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634). Christ’s courage against absolute and powerful evil is unflinching.
Evangelizes despite the ongoing plots to kill Him – After John the Baptist is imprisoned and eventually murdered, Jesus returns to Galilee to pick up where John left off (Mark 1:14). On many occasions, various groups plan and attempt to kill Him (John 5:16; Mark 7:5; John 7:30; John 8:59; John 10:20; Luke 13:31; John 11:53; Luke 19:47). Jesus courageously persists despite the murderous plots.
Stands up to false teachings of the Jewish elites – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and provocatively corrects their falsehoods. He heals the paralytic (Mark 2:7) and the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10) to demonstrate His authority (Mark 2:7). Jesus pronounces the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of the teachers of the law (Mark 3:22). He pronounces woe on the Pharisees and the experts of the law for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:53-54). Despite constant death threats, Jesus authoritatively teaches in the temple during Passion Week (Mark 11:27-28).
Stands up against corrupt economic powers – Jesus confronts the merchants and moneychangers and single-handedly clears the massive (35 acres) temple area (John 2:2:18; Matt 11:18).
Stands up against bloodthirsty mobs – Jesus braves the Nazareth mob that tries to cast Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden (John 18:8). Jesus Christ alone is unafraid and courageous against any and all ruthless mobs.
Overcomes His anguish in Gethsemane – Jesus Christ, knowing full well the physical torture He will endure, sweats blood in His anguish but courageously accepts the Father’s will (Mark 14:32-42).
Stands up against the Romans – Despite the well-known horrific tactics of the Romans, Jesus Christ does not falter when questioned by Pilate, knowing that Pilate could spare Him (Matt 27:1-26).
Endures persecution and torture courageously – Though Jesus has many chances to recant or to finesse His Gospel, He does not yield, enduring beating, scourging, being forced to carry His Cross and being crucified (Matt 27:27-50).
Accepts death on the Cross with courage – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind. He chooses a horrible death freely (John 10:18), saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In this, Jesus teaches to face the “hour of death” with courage (CCC 1014), promises to send the Holy Spirit to provide courage in old age and illness (CCC 1520) and gives men the strength to be martyrs for Christ (CCC 2473).
“Christ-miss” in the Modern World
While the feast of “Christ’s-Mass” dates back to at least the 2nd Century, much of the modern world has lost sight of the mysterious and wonderful Advent of Christ. For many Christians, rather than renewal in Christ, Christmas is perhaps better described as “Christ-miss”. “Christ-miss” is celebrated with rampant consumerism, holiday gift-giving, family reunions, partying, vacations and perhaps even attending Christmas Mass, while “missing” the opportunity to renew their faith in Christ.
Like the slumbering world that missed Christ’s quiet birth in a Bethlehem stable 2000 years ago, many are sleeping during Advent, embracing “Christ-miss” rather than “Christ-Mass.” They miss the great miracle of Christ’s continued rule in the modern world; they miss the opportunity to draw closer to Christ and to experience His lasting peace and joy. Instead, in the deprived darkness of the modern secular “Christ-miss” world, people suffer in darkness, lost in the self-absorption of sinful addictions, lost in battles to promote sexual liberation, the killing of children and the control of the nation’s wealth, lost in transient relationships, broken marriages and the loneliness of going it alone.
The Advent of the Divine Child
Into this broken world, the Light of Christ continues to shine brilliantly during Advent. (more…)
This Sunday the Church celebrates the mystery of the Holy Family with a focus on Luke 2:41-52: When Mary and Joseph lose Jesus and then find Him in the Temple.
The story is every parent’s nightmare: Mary and Joseph lose Jesus. After spending the Passover in Jerusalem, the Mary and Joseph leave with a large group of kin to return to Galilee, assuming that the 12-year old Jesus is with them.
Imagine the panic: “We have lost the Son of God! We have lost the Son of Man!” Poor Mary and Joseph; this must have been quite traumatic.
But after a day’s travel, they realize that Jesus is not with them. They take another day to return to Jerusalem and one assumes spend another day searching for Jesus. They finally find the 12-year old, astounding the most learned teachers in Israel in the Temple. When asked why Jesus has caused such anxiety by staying behind, He replies: “Did you know know that I must be in My Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49).
As with all actions of the Savior, the finding of Jesus in the Temple has profound and mysterious insights that point to the awesomeness of Jesus Christ. Mary and Joseph lose Jesus for three days, fearing the worst and find Him in the Temple, which Jesus calls “His Father’s House”. This prefigures the Passion where Mary and the disciples lose Jesus for three days, fearing that He is dead, but then find that Jesus has been resurrected and will now dwell forever with the Father.
Whose life, as a 12-year old, offers predictions that replay in the future?
The story of finding Jesus in the Temple is an awe-inspiring mystery!
Today’s Mass reading describes when Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple to “present Him to the Lord” (Luke 2:22-35). While Mary and Joseph certainly “marveled” (i.e. “to be filled with wonder”) over many things during their lives with Jesus, today’s reading describes the only use of the word “marvel” in the Gospels associated with Mary and Joseph.
What caused Mary and Joseph to marvel?
The righteous and devout Simeon, an old man, is filled with the Holy Spirit and takes Jesus in his arms. Simeon says:
“Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word; for mine eyes have seen thy salvation which thou hast prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to thy people Israel.”
And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about Him. (Luke 2:29-33).
It is moving, but why would Mary and Joseph be filled with wonder? (more…)