I’m not here to convince you that we are living in challenging times. You know we are living in challenging times. I am here hoping to shed a little light on some of the challenges and how we can keep our hearts at peace and our heads clear amid the conflict, confusion, and division.
One of the first tremendous challenges we have is what’s happening in our culture. It’s hard to believe how quickly things are deteriorating and getting closer and closer to insanity. All the levers of power and influence in our culture are in the hands of people who are hostile to Christ and the Church. They really don’t like Christians at all, and they really don’t want us to say what we need to say if we confess Jesus Christ. Archbishop Gomez, the president of the American Bishops’ Conference and the Archbishop of Los Angeles, has said, “This group, which is in charge in corporations, governments, universities, the media, and in the cultural and professional establishments, wants to establish what we might call a global civilization. In fact, as they see it, religion, especially Christianity, only gets in the way of the society they hope to build.”
Huge sections of humanity are falling for this fundamental temptation, the temptation the devil presented in the Garden to liberate ourselves from obeying God, to think that we can make ourselves into whatever we want. A lot of suffering is going to happen and is already happening because of it. Particularly, suffering is happening in the area of sexual immorality, which is the point of the spear coming at Christians today from the secular world.
Division within the Church is another challenge we are facing today. Just when the world needs to hear a clear word from the Church, a clear message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as the only hope for humanity, we instead have division, apostasy, and open rebellion. There is a real divide happening—a false Church in a real Church. Under the surface, many people have wanted to change the Church and her teachings for many years and in all kinds of areas. Still, I never thought I would see very high-ranking churchmen, cardinals, openly say they do not believe what the Catholic Church teaches about sexuality to be true.
The worst offense may be an interview with Bishop Bätzing, president of the German Bishops’ Conference. In an interview with the German magazine Bunte, he said, “Nobody’s living the Church’s teaching on sexual immorality; so obviously, it’s got to change.” That is a wicked lie. Millions and millions of people are living chaste lives and are obeying Jesus in the important area of sexuality. It is a wicked lie, and I am concerned that people who are fighting temptation are being weakened.
What do we do in a situation like this? How should we live as Catholics in these challenging times?
The first thing we need to understand is that nothing is happening in the world, and nothing is happening in the Church, that isn’t happening under the providential hand of God. This is a very important truth.
Why would God permit these obviously evil things, this rebellion? He’s a patient God, and my thought is that when people don’t return to Him after receiving the many blessings He’s given them, He sometimes starts tightening the screws. The Lord is using all that is going on to try to bring people to their senses. We all must make some serious personal decisions. Who do we believe? Who are we going to follow? Every one of us needs to answer in a new way that question that we find in Matthew 16:15, “Who do you say I am?”
Who do you say Jesus is?
If Jesus is Lord, then the only sensible response to Him is total surrender. Many people have added Jesus to their collection of important people, influential thinkers, and wise counselors. No. Jesus is the Lord. We must fall on our faces before Him and say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening” (1 Sm 3:10).
We also must reaffirm the primary mission of the Catholic Church. While agreeing with the need to keep working for social justice, Archbishop Gomez has said that some people are turning Christianity into a religion of social justice, which has very little connection to the Church’s fundamental mission—the salvation of souls. He gives this advice to help us keep our hearts at peace and our heads clear:
“We need to proclaim Jesus Christ creatively, with charity and confidence, and without fear. We should not be intimidated by these new religions of social justice and political identity. The Gospel remains the most powerful force for social change that the world has ever seen.”
A third thing we need to do to keep peaceful hearts and clear heads is to recover our confidence in the truthfulness and reliability of Sacred Scripture. One reason for what is happening in Germany is many bad years of skeptical, cynical Scripture scholarship that shreds the Scripture. I don’t think many people in the Church today believe in Scripture. They think they are above it. Two areas that we need to get particularly clear on are marriage and sexuality, because in many ways, this is where the battle is taking place.
It doesn’t take rocket science, and it doesn’t take reading a four-hundred-page book to get clear on these points. God created us male and female for the purpose of bringing a man and woman together in holy marriage open to life. That’s it. Any exercise of sexuality outside of holy marriage is offensive to the Lord and damaging to people. Some people say, “Oh, that’s hate speech. No, that’s love speech. It’s not loving to pretend that you will be happy and not die when you live a lie. It is not loving it to bless people on the path that leads to destruction.
Lastly, I think we need to get ready for persecution. How do you get ready for persecution? You grow in your relationship with the Lord. You grow in your knowledge of his Word, and you deal with the Antichrist with spiritual weapons. In Ephesians 6:12-13, Paul writes,
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”
I am going to believe Jesus no matter what. He is the Lord. He is my Savior. He has come to bring me home to the Father’s house. He is in control, and nothing is happening that isn’t happening under his providence. He has a plan to bring great and powerful good out of this time, and although it could get messy in the meantime, I am holding on until the end, because I want to go home to the Father’s house.
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This article is condensed from Ralph’s Friday night talk at Renewal Ministries’ 2022 Gathering. The talk begins at 44:18.