The Liturgy, Signs of the Times, Sulphur, Lawlessness & Disobedient Shepherds
by Fr. William Moser:
I’ve never been one who wants to ignore the law of God and His Church – even if at times I perceived them narrowly or legalistically. As I grow older, and – please God! – more mature, I have come to love the law of God and His Church. I even confess I love all the rubrics of the sacred liturgy. Yes, all of them! You see, I’m of an age – 57 – at which I have seen a lot of disobedience and dissent and downright disdain for the Church’s liturgical laws. Worse, I have seen disdain for ecclesiastical laws. And, worse yet, I’ve seen disdain for divine law as proclaimed by the Word of God and the constant teaching of the Church.
So, I’m really wondering what’s going on these days, even within high ecclesiastical circles. Jesus, perfect God and perfect man has warned us, with His fatherly heart, to read “the signs of the times.” (cf. Mt. 16:3). As I’m wondering about this, and what’s going on in the Church and civil society, so much lawlessness and Godlessness and defiance – I come across that mysterious passage in the second chapter of St. Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, wherein St. Paul speaks of “the man of lawlessness … the son of perdition.” (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3) Chills go up and down my spine as I read his further explanation: “For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work … and then the lawless one will be revealed … the coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.” (cf. 2 Thess. 2: 7-10)
Am I catching a whiff of sulphur these days? If St. Paul could say in his day that “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work,” (cf. 2 Thess. 2:7) what would he be saying in our day? If these are not the last days (and I’m not suggesting they are – not at all) what will it be like in the last days? No wonder people of those times would rather be dead and our Lord mercifully shortens those days!
I am here observing and wondering, not proclaiming the last days. Actually, I am writing to bring hope. Hope for a more positive proclamation of the new evangelization, one that is not at all as it seems to be presented by some, as an announcement of change (notice those who shout ‘change!’ never define what it is, until its fateful consequences are upon us) or an abrogation of all laws, that is, all previous laws without consideration of their merit and wisdom. I am actually writing to promote a new appreciation of law and law for a more secure and firmly established evangelization.
A scene from a movie comes frequently to mind. It’s a wonderful point and counter-point argument between St. Thomas More and his son-in-law, Will Roper, in the perennial masterpiece, “A Man for All Seasons.” Here’s that tense, but splendid dialogue when St. Thomas More is considering his possible dreadful fate:
“Will Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!
St. Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Will Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!
St. Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake!”
So, I ask: who can stand upright in the lawless winds that are blowing now? Our country is planted thick with laws because of the prevalent disdain for God’s law. If we don’t respect God and His laws, how on earth do we expect people to respect man’s laws?
Conforming to the World’s Way
This brings me to the place where we must be able to find respect for law: the Church. Alas! The Church (at least among some of her sons and daughters) seems to manifest a sign of conformity to the world’s ways instead of being “a sign of contradiction.” I could amass a book full of examples. Who is alive since the 1960s who doesn’t know about liturgical abuses, defiance of the Church’s basic morality, especially on the conception of new human life? Don’t forget the proud dissenters, lining up to show off – to any camera in sight – their latest heresies! Oh, what Godlessness! What … lawlessness!
Which is Worse?
Furthermore, there is the sight of so many shepherds defying God’s laws. But, I’ll tell you what may be even worse, shepherds who never defend the faithful who are scandalized by such defiance. They turn a blind eye to all manner of clerical deceit. They are even annoyed by the faithful who complain about abuses when they have a right to hear the truth proclaimed and the Sacraments properly celebrated. How many holy popes and bishops have counselled clergy to conform to the Church’s teaching and practice and to govern their people with truth and justice, but have found only deafness?
It is the Faithful Ones Being Punished
So, here we are in 2015 where dissenters are not disciplined, and note this well: a Church wherein orthodox people, people who simply want to be faithful without any contention, are the ones who are punished. What has happened? What is that I smell? A rat? No, a bit of sulphur. It’s the lawless one having his day.
What Will God Do Now?
You can ask friends of mine if you want, they will tell you I have never been confirmed in the idea that these are the last days. Oh, I do get close. I do wonder. I am a realist and the sights and sounds of a world going insane gives me pause. Here we are in a crazy world with omnipresent pornography, abortion on demand – almost demanded in many places – and what’s that I read lately? – of a school district offering transgendered education to our youth? Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt to a crisp, but what will God do now?
Nevertheless, I hopefully hold on to the idea once proclaimed so confidently by St. John Paul II that there is going to be a “new springtime” in the Church. He even said – God bless him! – he could see its first signs. St. John Paul II wasn’t just a wistful optimist. Need I remind you, this is a man who endured tyrannical communism? He was not a naïve churchman kept carefully coddled in academic institutions. St. John Paul II had the “smell of the sheep” as our present pontiff loves to say.
Thank You Homeschooling Moms
There are a lot of places I can point to as splendid examples of what that brilliant and beloved pope, St. John Paul II, observed. Two quick examples are all that are needed for a quick review: home schoolers – thank you homeschooling moms – you have done a wonderful but thankless task for the Church without support almost anywhere. Another example, those wonderful young priests showing up and unabashedly and bravely ready to join the battle. God bless you, young men! Never give up, but above all, remember, we need holy priests, priests who love the Church – and her customs and her laws based on the apostolic and sacred Tradition she so lovingly upholds.
That brings me back to my point about the law. Here, I want to suggest that, it’s most certainly an absolutely necessary support for the new evangelization. None other than the great Cardinal, Raymond Burke, lights the way. He did so at a previous synod of Bishops in Rome, on October 25, 2012. Because it didn’t get the notice that it should have, I want to quote his words now:
“Among the most serious wounds of society today is the separation of legal culture from its metaphysical objective, which is the moral law. In recent times this separation has been much accentuated, manifesting itself as a real antinomianism which claims to render actions which are intrinsically evil as legal, for example, abortion on demand, artificial conception of human life with the aim of carrying out experimentation on the life of a human embryo, the so-called euthanasia of those who have a right to our preferential assistance, legal recognition of same-sex unions as marriage and the negation of the fundamental right to conscience and religious liberty.
“This antinomianism embedded in civil society has unfortunately infected post-Council ecclesial life, associating itself regrettably with so-called cultural novelties. Excitement following the Council, linked to the establishment of a new Church which teaches freedom and love, has strongly encouraged an attitude of indifference towards Church discipline, if not even hostility ….
“Devoted to present-day evangelization, we have the task of laying the foundation for awareness of the disciplinary tradition of the Church and respect of the law of the Church. How indeed will we be able to witness our faith in the world if we ignore or neglect the demands of justice within the Church?” (Cardinal Raymond Burke, Synod 2012).
Law Must be Respected and Loved
Renewing our respect for law in the way back on course, and the way forward in the “new springtime” ahead. Law must be respected! Law must be loved! And, as our Lord would say, not one “jot or tittle” less!
Who better as models of this recovery of respect and love for the law can you find than St. Joseph and Holy Mary, our Blessed Mother, Mother of the Church? In divine and civil law Joseph and Mary were models of respect! The holy gospel of St. Luke reports: “In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled …. And Joseph also went up from Galilee … to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.” (cf. Luke 2:1-6) So, despite her advanced pregnancy and all the difficulties, Joseph and Mary followed the law. Thus, they were good and law-abiding citizens.
Two other examples of their fidelity to the law of God will complete the picture as presented by the Word of God in written form. Further along in chapter two of St. Luke’s gospel we read: “And when the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, they brought Him up to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer sacrifice according to what was said in the law of the Lord ….” (cf. Luke 2:22-24). The other passage reports: “And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.” (cf. Luke 2:39).
Joseph and Mary are models of respect for the law of God and their own country. May this respect, based on love, give us all a new respect for the law and propel us forward, into the new evangelization. Let us leave the lawless one behind!