Monday, November 18, 2013

Testimony about "End Times"

If the third time is actually the charm, then here it is.  Within the last several weeks, I have twice seen the following quote from then-Cardinal Wojtyla. The first was as the Magnificat's meditation on John Paul II's feast day; the second was during last week's dramatic address by Archbishop Vigano, the pope's official representative in the U.S., at the annual meeting of the U.S. bishops. 

The full text of the Papal Nuncio's Comments provide additional insights and challenges--including a call for nay-sayers to respect and accept the way that Pope Francis is choosing to exercise the office of the papacy.  But here is the immediate context and commentary for the prophetic claim of Wojtyla at an address during the Eucharistic Congress in 1976:

We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God's Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously... 

Cardinal Vigano noted that the Divine Mercy spirituality of St. Faustina had a profound impact on Bl. John Paul II's spirituality.  He also noted that this call to "attentiveness, watchfulness and preparedness" applies to all those who have been sent to give radical witness to God's revelation in Jesus Christ.

Radical witness and a radical claim, indeed: Jesus himself warned that persecutions would come.  When the disciples asked Jesus about the "end times," he first described some of the signs that would precede the end of time and then noted: "Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name" (Lk 21:12).

As if on cue and just days after the address noted above by the Papal Nuncio, the U.S. Bishops concluded their general assembly by issuing a bold proclamation about ongoing threats to freedom of conscience and religious liberty, "A Special Message on the HHS Mandate".  The bishops made a point of reiterating their three substantive concerns about this mandate.  They also made a point to speak not from some "tea-party" perspective, but with the authority of Fishermen from Galilee who have encountered a deeper truth about Life.  Indeed, this prophetic plea calls for resistance and suggests the need for heroic Christian witness in the weeks and months ahead

November is a month when the liturgical life of the Church invites us ponder the four last things--death, judgment, heaven and hell.  It is a time to reflect on the fact that the world as we know it is not eternal but is quickly moving toward its close.  This is not something to fear, of course.  But it is something that calls for spiritual preparation, solidarity, and trust in Lord's promises. 

After all, Jesus assures us that "It will lead to your giving testimony" (Lk 21:13)!