Advent is upon us, and the liturgy of this Sunday invites to reflect carefully upon the end times, when Jesus Our Lord will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. What will He find when He returns? Will He find a people living in His love and awaiting joyfully his return? Or will He find a barren earth deprived of the fruits of sanctity, pledge of eternal life? The Lord seems to indicate the latter when He asks: "When the Son of Man returns, do you think He will find faith on earth"?
The Catechism of the Catholic has some startling words about the time that will precede the Second Coming. I think it appropriate to quote them here:
"Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the 'mystery of iniquity' in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
"The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realise within history that messianic hope which can only be realised beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the 'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism.
"The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God's victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world". (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 675-677)
This text would require a long commentary, but for the moment, let's just offer two considerations: the final persecution will take the form of a "religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth". The present day effort to redefine truth, to make it whatever we want it to be at any given period seems to fit in quite well with what the catechism here teaches. It is a matter of grave concern when politicians redefine the most fundamental aspects of who were are, but much more worrying when the redefinition of truth goes on among people of faith, or worse still, when men of faith seek to redefine it all the while affirming that they are changing nothing. That of course was the major tactic of the modernists: keep the traditional vocabulary, but empty it of its meaning. I personally find this to be fit in cannily with the text of the Catechism. A religious deception indeed, and we are right in the midst of it.
The other comment concerns the fact that the Church "will follow her Lord in his death and resurrection". To follow the Lord in death means, unless I am mistaken, to die as He died. To die means to disappear as such from the eyes of the world. What can this mean other than that the Church must die in the eyes of the world, while continuing to live in the eyes of God. Terrifying thought. And yet, blessed truth! If the Church follows the Lord in death, then it follows Him in Resurrection. The enemies of Christ rejoiced at His death, but that joy was short-lived, for He rose victorious after only three days. The enemies of the Church rejoice today to see her on the way to her death, but that joy will be short-lived. She will rise again, but only after blood has flown. "The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians". So it was at the beginning, so it is now. May the Queen of Martyrs obtain for us the grace of bearing witness to the truth even at price of our life.