The liturgy gets very interesting in these weeks – not that it isn’t interesting all the time: it is a rich fountain. But in these weeks the Church reflects on the end times and the prophecies of the Lord concerning the end of the world and his Second Coming. I have to confess I love to see the reactions in the congregations – people who tend to snooze through the liturgy of the Word and the homily are wide awake and shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Are they eyeing the confessional? I sometimes wonder. I am certainly more devout in my confessions around this time of year as I am faced with reality of the end – my own death and the end of the world. I am very conscious of the fact that I am not assured of my salvation, as St Philip Neri often lamented to the Lord: I could turn my back on him at any moment. But for the grace of God go I.
The end times always fascinate, even the unbelievers. Whenever there is talk about the end of the world, the Second Coming, the Tribulation, the Anti-Christ, people sit up and listen. The Book of Revelation has been a favourite with many a believer and non-believer for centuries, and time and again certain people emerge claiming they have the inside story on the Book and know when these things are going to happen. We have had a few in Ireland in recent times, and at the moment there is one lady who has called herself a prophet and is claiming revelations about the Second Coming: reading her messages I see that much of what she is saying is incompatible with Scripture and the teaching of the Church; yet, sadly, good and devout people are listening to her.
In the end times such deception will play an important part in persecution of the Church as many will be led astray. In my homily yesterday I mentioned C.S. Lewis’s book The Last Battle, the last book in the Chronicles of Narnia series – it is a good work to help us reflect on the end times. In that book an Anti-Christ figure, an ape called Shift, deceives a donkey, Puzzle, and makes him dress up in a lion skin and pretend he is Aslan, the Christ figure. What is most interesting is that some of the creatures in Narnia are actually fooled – it is obvious that here is a donkey dressed up as a lion, but the truth is so compromised, deception so insidious, they cannot see the reality. It’s like what has been happening here in Ireland with regard to the Savita Halappanavar case – pro-abortion groups and some within the media are trying to deceive people as to what caused the tragedy in order to push their agenda.
Only adherence to Christ, who is the Way, the Truth and Life, will help us see through such deception. The teachings of the Lord are clear, sometimes too clear and too direct, and yet remaining faithful to them will clarify our vision not only of the faith, but also of the world and our humanity. As we read the apocalyptic Scriptures in these weeks, we are called to come closer to Christ who is our King, and in a relationship with him we will not be afraid, but rather, when the end comes, we will lift up our heads in joy and see that our liberation is at hand. Reflection on the Last Things is very important, however, we must be careful not to lose the run of ourselves, or to think we have been given a special insight. When it comes such mysteries the teaching of the Church, which is guided by the Holy Spirit, could be our guide.
In his Angelus talk yesterday the Holy Father warns us against idle speculation:
"Jesus says: “The sky and the earth will pass away but my words will not pass away” (13:31). In fact, we know that in the Bible the word of God is at the origin of creation: all creatures, starting with the cosmic elements – sun, moon, sky – obey God’s Word, they exist insofar as they are “called” by it. This creative power of the divine Word (“Parola”) is concentrated in Jesus Christ, the Word (“Verbo”) made flesh, and also passes through his human words, which are the true “sky” that orients the thought and path of man on earth. For this reason Jesus does not describe the end of the world and when he uses apocalyptic images he does not conduct himself like a “visionary.” On the contrary, he wants to take away the curiosity of his disciples in every age about dates and predictions and wishes instead to give them a key to a deep, essential reading, and above all to indicate the right path to take, today and tomorrow, to enter into eternal life. Everything passes – the Lord tells us – but God’s Word does not change, and before this Word each of us is responsible for his conduct. It is on this basis that we will be judged."
In other news: former atheist blogger Leah Lebresco was received into the Church yesterday. As we welcome her into the family, we pray the Lord will grant her many blessings and graces. Leah, like St Edith Stein, Blessed John Henry Newman and many others, thought her way into the Church.
Surfing the net to catch up on news, I found this excellent article on Fr Hans Kung - it is a review of the history of dissident theologian and his current status in the Church. Despite what Fr Kung and his allies say, the popes have been very patient with him.
The fall-out from the death of Savita Halappanavar is continuing. The government of India is involved and the government here is keeping it informed. Interesting facts: one woman dies in Ireland from septicaemia while she is miscarrying and there is outrage; in India every year 20,000 women die from abortions and every year 11 million Indian children are killed in abortion clinics: these are official Indian figures, and it is "choice". I do not think Ireland should really be listening to India when it comes to looking at care of pregnant women in Irish hospitals. Hilary White has a very interesting article on LifeSiteNews. The group to investigate the woman's death has been set up: we await its findings. The Thirsty Gargoyle has another excellent article on the issue, this time on the media's part in the saga.
More and more questions are being raised about this case and the hysteria which has been built up around it. Speaking with some nurses and doctors in the last few days, they are at a loss as to how this case becomes a trophy for those who want to open the doors of abortion clinics here. More information on the pro-abortion groups's campaign is emerging: I have been informed that the head of Planned Parenthood International visited Dublin on the Monday of last week, three days before the story hit the headlines. Coincidence?