In a recent Prime Matters newsletter from the University of Mary, Dr. Jonathan Reyes cited St. John Henry Newman:
“In an 1865 letter, Newman wrote, “An evil time is before us. Principles are being adopted as starting points, which contradict what we know to be axioms.”
Reyes noted that Newman observed the proponents of “radically atheistic visions of the world” who, as Newman wrote, “ignore religious first principles but assume first principles of their own without any compunction.”
People today seem to get wound up in a “new attitude” towards Christianity. The nation, it seems, is moving away from Christianity. If only humans were so creative. The issue to me is that my generation has grown up with the allusion that Christianity was the standard in the first place. History reminds us that the Church has been under attack, outside and from within, since the start.
Paul dealt with the Judaizers who wanted to impose the burdens of the Mosaic Law on his communities. Arius denied the divinity of Christ. Pius X challenged the modernists who taught that religion must be subject to change with current views. Benedict XVI reminded us that we are living in a “Dictatorship of Relativism” that denies objective truth.
To many like me, it can be a scary time when even avowed Catholics call for the murder of innocent babies. It is scary, frustrating, worrisome… but, nothing really new. We started with a prideful rebellion of angels followed by a rebellion of humanity. We refer to this as “the Fall” whereby death and sin entered the world and brought along with it suffering, injustice, and the evils experienced today.
The “isms” we learned as history are still very much alive today.
The difference of late is that relativism has gotten smarter. Advocates have learned that owning the words leads to owning the argument. “Gay marriage” went to “same sex unions.” However, that only led to the acceptance of legal unions, not legal gay “marriage.” The “same-sex union” term proceeded to move to “marriage equality” without a counter in noting the legalization of sodomy. Modernists went to the Supreme Court and won. Our children have lost ever since. Modernists have moved on for us to deal with biological males not only in women’s sports but their bathrooms as well.
“Pro-abortion” was countered with “pro-life.” Pro-life was countered with “Right to Choose.” A counter of “Right to Choose Murder” was never launched so the issue of abortion is no longer a discussion of the sanity of life but, of personal choice and “reproductive rights.” Accordingly, “euthanasia” has moved to “death with dignity. That one is not working so well. Expect a new term shortly.
Today, modernists preach that “love is love.” The gay couple “loves” each other. People advocate that “my homosexual friend or family member are people that I love.” Accordingly, “the Church must be wrong” is the conclusion here. Yet, overlooked in this stance is that the Church celebrates the person God created, regardless of sin, but teaches that the erotic act is “disordered.” Disordered is living not as God intended, not broken. We are all broken in some regard. However, as nicely as the latest Hallmark or Lifetime movie tries to set the table on this this, God is clear on this point: disordered acts are sinful. Jesus was clear in Matthew 19 that God’s original design is still the rule today. St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body begins with Matthew 19 and celebrates the Imago Dei seen in the union of man and woman.
Nonetheless, relativism still reigns.
Do we give up? No! The greatest message that St. John Paul II left us was to “Be not afraid!” The Christmas season reminds us that Christ came into this world to redeem his people. In the light of the Star of Bethlehem we should see victory – God’s victory in setting the stage coming at Easter. Christ is the answer – the only answer.
Pope Francis called for us to “wake up.” He was not just talking to politicians who sold their faith for votes. It is time for all of us to wake up. If we have worry, we do not have enough faith. Worry does not come from God. If we are scared, we do not have enough faith. Fear does not come from God.
Does this mean we are called to sit idly by since we know that God ultimately wins? Nope.
Our emotions need to return to love. We don’t continue to challenge those politicians who have lost their way because they are “wrong” but because they are leading others, as well as us, away from salvation. Salvation is not a personal goal. It was meant for all of God’s creation. Until we want for our worst enemy what we want for our own children, our faith is not big enough. Jesus told us that God has prepared many rooms. God wants us all to share in the victory of the cross. No hoarding of rooms is necessary.
Until we can pray for those who have wronged us, our faith is not big enough. Jesus prayed for those who crucified them. I’ve yet to master wanting to pray for those who have wronged me in business. Intellectually, I know that forgiveness is a gift that I give to myself. Yet, the sin and emotion in me still wants revenge and retaliation with a tinge of retribution. That awareness needs to be taken to discernment. I am not a just judge and judging is solely for God. My faith needs to expand and let God be God. Let a bruised ego lead no one away from salvation.
How do we defeat relativism? It starts with you and me. Let us first discern the condition of our hearts. Are our hearts truly open to the teaching of Jesus? Or, do we impose those teachings on others and look the other way for us? We must take the time to open ourselves to scripture. Does the word of God speak directly to us or do we collectively just throw the teachings at others? Our faith is not a shield from the attacks of culture, it must become our response! Christ is only truly promoted with an authentic faith. We have to look at cleaning our own houses so as to welcome others properly. Humility looks inward so that we can authentically love outward.
Purging the evil in us is not a “one and done thing.” Having a great Sunday prepares us for Monday, but only Monday prepares us for Tuesday and so forth. The Evil One looks for opportunities to trip us up. We are broken and some days evil may win. However, let that simply be a step back. For in faith, we are never alone. Jesus is at our side and wanting to walk the journey with us. We must never fear confession. God knows our sin. Confession is for us to own it. Owning and acknowledging our weaknesses will lead us on a path forward in freedom. Freedom leads to hope, and hope in Christ leads to salvation.
In 2023, let us all put on the armor of Christ. The battle has been won but we fight on to bring everyone home along with us. No fear. No surrender. Simply an undying faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.