Voices Online Edition
Volume XVII, No. 3
"Man lives in fear of the future, of emptiness, of annihilation" said Pope John Paul II in a homily during his visit to Poland in August. He said that the new millennium is threatened by an onslaught of evil. He warned about a future where lack of respect for life is leading the world to destruction, and of the "noisy propaganda ... of freedom without responsibility".
The Holy Father spoke of the effort "to silence the voice of God in human hearts", and to "make God the great absence in the culture and the consciences of people".
"Frequently man lives as if God does not exist ... and even puts himself in God's place. He claims for himself the creator's right to interfere in the mystery of human life. He wishes to determine human life through genetic manipulation and establish the limit of death. Rejecting divine law, he openly attacks the family", he told the nearly three million people gathered.
"The shepherds of the Church cannot fail to proclaim the one fail-proof philosophy of freedom, which is the truth of the cross of Christ", said the Holy Father.
This Michaelmas issue of Voices gives ample evidence of this attack on life, the family -- and on the truth of Christ and His Church. To our continuing grief, we have witnessed this assault coming not only from "the world", but from within the very heart of the Church, through her priests and bishops. The assault from "outside" intensifies, again, ironically, from within the United Nations, an organization envisioned at its foundation as bringing about world peace and liberty. "Rejecting divine law" is a grave and pervasive ailment from which our world today suffers.
In our time idolatry has taken a peculiar form. It is not the old idol-worship of inert pieces of sculpture, but an even more insidious idolatry of Self. Nearly every besetting sin of mankind that has been revealed in sharp relief in the first thousand days of this millennium is a manifestation of this idolatry. The destructive power of self-will could not be more obvious. Wilful rebellion, rejection of truth, selfishness, and disobedience has been the source of every human disaster -- beginning in the Garden of Eden.
"He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches". This proclamation is repeated at the beginning of the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse, as the Lord commands John to issue warnings of judgment to the Churches of the world.
This September a strikingly apt sequence of observances takes place. On September 11, we observe the anniversary of the apocalyptic terrorist attack on our country. Three days later, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. And on September 29, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Michael and Archangels, or Michaelmas.
Americans remember the senseless destruction of September 11 as convincing display of the preternatural power of Evil. In the Exaltation of the Cross, all mankind is called to recognize the fullness of Truth -- the only antidote to emptiness and annihilation -- in the sacrifice of Christ Jesus for our salvation.
As the Church observes Michaelmas, we hear again Saint John's account of the final apocalyptic battle at the end of the world. In this last book of Scripture is the passage about the conflict of the Archangel Michael with Satan, the Beast of the Apocalypse, that inspired Pope Leo XIII to call the Church to pray the once-familiar prayer to Saint Michael. The passage also contains this cosmic promise:
"And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, 'Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come.... And they have conquered [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. ... Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!'" (Rev.12:10-12 RSV-CE).
"Defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil", the prayer says. A few years before the beginning of this new millennium "threatened by an onslaught of evil", Pope John Paul II again exhorted Catholics to pray this prayer -- as he repeats again and again, all over the world and to all who will hear, the message of salvation in Christ Jesus, the universal call to holiness, to live righteously and justly at whatever the personal cost.
Christian believers today know that we share with those first followers of Jesus the obligation to witness to the "truth that is in us". The evangelical mission of the Church -- to bring to the entire world the liberating truth that is Christ -- has always been the same and ever shall be.
It is our immense privilege, as well as our bounden duty and service, to willingly and obediently accept our small share of this burden of the Cross of Christ to which we are all called by our baptism. As Saint Paul commands Timothy:
"I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themsleves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry" (II Timothy 4:1-5 RSV-CE).
May we be faithful to our high calling.
Sincerely in Christ,
Helen Hull Hitchcock
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