The following article is condensed from Ralph’s talk at the 2023 Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. You can listen to it here. The article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ July 2023 newsletter.
I’d like to discuss the challenges we’re facing in the world and Church today and how to respond to them. Archbishop Gomez, of Los Angeles, gave one of the most insightful descriptions of what’s going on in woke culture when he spoke in Portugal:
“An elite leadership class has risen in our countries that has little interest in religion and no real attachments to the nations they live in or to local traditions or cultures. This group, which is in charge of 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.”
That’s what’s going on under the surface in the United States, Canada, and many other countries. There is a global elite that thinks they can do it better than the traditional Judeo-Christian civilization.
It reminds me of the Tower of Babel: “Let’s make a name for ourselves, let’s build a tower to the sky!” The arrogance of human beings in rebelling against God! That’s what’s happening today—large parts of humanity are saying, “I can be God. Human beings can handle the problems. Our technology will solve everything.”
A couple years ago, an engineer at Microsoft said that in the next ten years, we will be able to prolong human life indefinitely. The human life that may be prolonged indefinitely will be fallen humanity, lost in sin and destined to die unless it’s rescued by Jesus.
Recently, a well-known secular anti-Christian advocate Naomi Wolf wrote a shocking article that said, “I don’t think there’s any explanation for how quickly things have reversed in our society than supernatural power.” How else could things have reversed so quickly from a culture that was at least friendly to belief in God, the Ten Commandments, the Church, and the synagogue, to a hostile power wanting to crush Christ and the Church, or Judaism?
When Pope Benedict XVI resigned, he did an interview trying to identify the spiritual power at work in Western culture. He said,
“One hundred years ago, everyone would have considered it absurd to speak of homosexual marriage. Today, one is being excommunicated by society if one opposes it. The same applies to abortion, to the creation of human beings in a laboratory. Modern society is in the middle of formulating an anti-Christian creed, and if one doesn’t recite it, if one opposes it, one is being punished by society with excommunication. The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is then only more than natural and it really needs the help of prayers on the part of entire dioceses and of the universal Church in order to resist it.”
We need to wake up to the spiritual battle going on and recognize that it’s not just against flesh and blood, governmental powers, educational powers, or technological powers. It’s against the evil one, and we need faith and prayer to resist that power. Jesus is the only hope for the whole human race. He is the only one that can save us. A life of holiness is essential.
Hebrews 12:14 says, “Strive for that holiness without which nobody will see the Lord.” Holiness isn’t just an option for people who like spiritual things. We are created for it. God created humanity to be one with Him forever. We can only do this by allowing Him to heal the wounds of sin in our lives, to free us from the guilt of sin, and to give us the grace and strength to resist the devil and our disordered desires.
All day long, the evil one—working through the world and the flesh—is firing fiery darts into our minds, emotions, and memories, wanting us to give in to anger, fear, lust, greed, hatred, unforgiveness, and self-pity. To defeat him, we need the shield of faith (Eph 6:16)—faith in the goodness of God and that what He tells us to do is good for us. The basic temptation in the Garden was that the devil tried to get the first humans to doubt God’s goodness and his word. Today, doubt is being raised about God’s Word, and it’s being outright contradicted by leaders in the Church.
We must trust in Jesus and in his inspired and inerrant Word. We can’t know the real Jesus unless we believe and know his Word. If we aren’t going to be tossed about by every lie that comes our way—and there are plenty today—we need to believe the Bible. We must love the Word of God, cling to the Word of God, and know the Word of God.
We are dealing with the anti-Christ. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Before Christ’s Second Coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers” (Section 675). The faith of many believers is being shaken today, with the clergy sexual abuse scandal, the cover-up on the part of some of our leaders, the cowardice in the face of persecution, and very prominent leaders in Rome saying things that are not faithful or true.
The Catechism continues,
“The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth, John tells us 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 apostacy 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.” (Section 675)
If we were just dealing with the lies of the culture, and our Church was united and healthy, we’d be in a much better situation—but we’re not, because the same lies, the same confusion has found its way into the Church. I think most people feel a sense of unease about some of the things that are being said. The person who has been asked by Pope Francis to lead the whole synodal process, Cardinal Hollerich from Luxembourg, says he doesn’t think the Catholic teaching on homosexuality is well-founded. I find that shocking because it’s revealed to us by the Word of God:
“Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:9-10)
We should be clear that when the Scripture talks here about homosexuality, it’s not talking about an inclination, orientation, or temptation, but about actually giving in to disordered desires and engaging in sexual behavior with persons of the same sex. When we talk about sexual immorality, we’re talking about using our sexual faculties in a way God has said is offensive to Him and damaging to us and other people. The Lord has told us these things not to keep us from anything; the warnings of the Lord are for our happiness and good.
We should want to know what we must do or not do to enter the kingdom of God.
The Scripture continues, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). Meaning, there’s hope for people enslaved to all kinds of different sins!
The German Bishops’ Conference also said, “We’re going to find a new way of being Catholic.” So many people have turned away from the Church, saying we need to accommodate where people are today. They are openly calling for a change in Church teaching on homosexuality and many other things.
Just recently, Cardinal McElroy, from the Diocese of San Diego, said he doesn’t believe serious sin should exclude people from receiving Communion. For centuries, we’ve been told to strive to live according to the way of the Lord. But over the past forty or so years, poison has been spreading because it hasn’t been corrected by bishops. There has been a failure in leadership and in us. As Pope Paul VI said, “The smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God.”
Let me be clear: None of this has shaken my faith in Christ and the Church. This is all happening under God’s providence. The solution is the same for everyone: obey his Word. People are ignoring reality and imagining they are what they say they are. However, Jesus didn’t lessen the demands of the old law; He took them to a new level. He wants us to not even desire to do bad things. He wants us to receive the Holy Spirit’s healing power.
Our intent to follow Jesus, be his disciple, and keep the commandments requires intentionality. St. Thomas Aquinas said wanting those things without practical plans is just wishful thinking. We must consider how we will make time for daily prayer and reading Scripture.
We can achieve the radical love of God shared by all the saints by asking the Holy Spirit to illumine the way for us and give us the grace to do it even if it’s hard. We can keep our heads clear and hearts at peace by being consumed by what the Lord thinks is important.
Daily personal prayer time combats the confusion of the world. The darkness is closing in, but Jesus said, “The darkness has not overcome it” (Jn 1:5). Let’s keep our heads clear by keeping our eyes on Jesus and giving Him unconditional surrender.