There is a powerful moment in JRR Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring that I’ve thought about a few times over the past two years. After having come to terms with the inescapable reality of the conflict against the powers of darkness that he and his friends are facing, Frodo Baggins, the humble Hobbit, turns to Gandalf, the wise Wizard, and says, “I wish this need not have happened in my time.” I have felt this same sentiment for our own troubled times. I wish none of the political, social, medical, cultural, and spiritual upheavals of our time had happened.
But, at the same time, I’ve taken great consolation from Gandalf’s response: “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” There is great wisdom in this for all of us. We do not choose the times we live in; God does. The choice we face is what will we do with the times we have been given?
As difficult as these times have been, and I believe they will continue to be, I take great courage from the help and understanding the Lord has given to us about our times. The Lord has not left us on our own, but through the Apostles’ teaching, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and prophetic words of recent Popes and gifted leaders, He has worked to prepare us for this time. He has not left us orphaned. Instead, He has fulfilled his promises to us that the Holy Spirit would be with us always to lead, comfort, and counsel us and help us hear his voice so we can cooperate with his leadership.
What has the Lord said to us? First, expressed so beautifully in the Catechism, the Lord reminds us in the words of St. John that we are living in the “last hour,” the period of history between the two comings of Christ. It is the time of the Church, a time of “the Spirit and of witness” (CCC 672). We are living as the Lord’s disciples in this time period, born again by water and the Spirit, and called to be witnesses of the Lordship and Majesty of Jesus.
The Catechism continues by reminding us that, “According to the Lord, the present time is the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by “distress” and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days. It is a time of waiting and watching” (Ibid.). Distress, the trial of evil, tribulation, and spiritual combat are inescapable dimensions of this last hour. They are a normal part of the Christian life. They are to be expected, and none of us should be surprised or frightened by such things.
The Lord in his goodness has forewarned us, as anyone understands who has followed Renewal Ministries over the years, particularly since the outbreak of Covid-19. St. John Paul the Great warned us of a “final confrontation” between Christ and the Antichrist, calling it a fight that “lies within the hands of Divine Providence” (Martin, The Final Confrontation, p 7). It is a battle in which we all must now engage.
In prophetic words from Ralph Martin, we’ve heard the Lord preparing us for “days of darkness that are coming upon the world, days of tribulation” (Ralph’s 1975 prophecy). From Fr. Mike Scanlan, we’ve heard the Lord telling us to get ready for “a period marked by judgment and purification…a baptism of fire” (Fr. Mike Scanlan’s 1980 prophecy). So although we know prophecy is imperfect and needs to be tested, I believe we’re living the reality these prophecies talk about right now, and I’m so thankful to the Lord that in his love, he has prepared us for it. Ralph has made a video about Fr. Scanlan’s prophecy on the Renewal Ministries’ YouTube channel by following this URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XnxThW3wq0
But these are not only hard days. They are also privileged moments. It is a gift to see and understand what the Lord is doing. It enables us to join him, take our place in this great battle, draw near to him, receive our marching orders from him, and follow his leadership courageously and joyfully. He has given each one of us assignments! The Captain of the Armies of Heaven has deployed each one of us in our marriage, family, neighborhood, friendships, businesses, parishes, and cities. We have all been called and equipped by the Lord to bear fruit in this season, fruit that will last!
With all my heart, I also believe that this time of purification is leading to a time of “glory for the Church” and to “a time of evangelism that the world has never seen” (Ralph 1975 Rome prophecy). There is a reason why Satan is playing so much of his hand in this battle, why he seems to be pulling out all the stops, deconstructing human nature itself, human identity, the family, and the Church with such veracity. I think he can sense his days are marked and that the Lord has something very, very big in store for the world and his people.
Satan seeks to steal this privileged moment from us by leading us to live in fear, giving in to discouragement, despair, anger, and even taking offense at God for what He is permitting. The Devil wants us to give up and give in. He knows the battle we are engaged in has already been won. The only way we can lose this battle is to quit. That’s why the Apostles remind us in God’s Holy Word that our main task is to stand, to be faithful witnesses, to endure any and everything that comes our way patiently.
The Apostles frequently exhort the brethren on this very point:
“The time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:1-5, NIV)
The time St. Paul describes is the kind of moment in which we are living. People by the millions are refusing to “put up with sound teaching.” Their ears are itching. They seek out and find teachers who will tell them what they want to hear. They purposely close their ears to the truth and openly embrace myths and lies. St. Paul’s exhortation, which in this context was addressed to leaders in the Church, applies to each one of us as well: Keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, and fulfill your duties in the Lord!
How can we do this? By the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. We need to draw strength from the Lord, remember who we are, and lean into his promises. The following apostolic prayer of St. Paul has been a great encouragement to me during these difficult times. He prays that God, Our Father, would give us a “spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,” so that we could come to know, deep in our soul and spirit, truths that will strengthen in any circumstance:
“I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19, NRSVCE)
Friends, let’s pray for one another! Let’s pray that St. Paul’s prayer becomes a living reality in each one of our lives, so we will have the strength we need each day, one day at a time, to not be afraid, but to do the right thing and to decide, as Gandolf said to Frodo Baggins, “what to do with the time that is given us.”
Your brother in Christ Jesus,