I started this series a while ago, and then put it on the shelf. I am hoping to move forward with it a little bit more. The first two parts are found here.
I received an interesting phone call from a good friend of the family last Friday. She informed me that a local priest, who lives on a hermitage as his calling, is holding a meeting tomorrow evening. The subject of the meeting focuses around statements of Catholic mystics and the signs of the current times. It wasn’t explicitly said, but one of the “signs” in discussion will be the recent elections, the direction this country is headed, and what this all means from a spiritual – and prophetic – perspective.
I try to be careful about balancing prudence and caution with the undeniably remarkable and curious prophetic messages that can not only be found through public revelation, but private revelation as well. Fundamentalists abound who claim that every thing that happens in the world at any given time is written in the Book of Revelation. In a way, they are correct, from the standpoint of the overarching moral of the story about suffering and redemption, but in the way they present it, they are quite simply being sensationalistic.
Make no mistake… some prophetic messages from Saints are downright sensational. But caution is in order, as these are private revelations. It can be very easy to spend your time pondering these enticing messages while giving short order to more important things in your faith life. Like all things from God, they have a purpose and a place. They are not intended to be all-consuming, as curious as we all are about the future. They are intended to serve a lesson and a purpose. Do any of these prophecies relate to current events? Are we a generation that will undergo something of Biblical proportions?
Interesting questions, but let’s be careful not to get too carried away. Let’s not jump to wild conclusions about Barack Obama, or anyone else. However, at all times we should be very watchful of the spiritual direction of our country, and watchful of the actions of our leaders. Catholic prophecies, I believe, can really help give some assurance of God’s plan in all of this, and also a little bit of realism in what to expect.
However, before I get into these types of messages, I want to focus more on the grounded work of the explicit and doctrinal teachings of the Church. Thus, I want to focus on a study of the Catechism in areas where prohecy is directly addressed. but moreso, I want to focus on other teachings in the Catechism that truly underpin the entire purpose for the events that unfold throughout history, whether it be past, current, or future. In reality, the end of time we hear so much about is really the culmination and intensification of things we all go through in every age, to one extent or the other. It is special in it’s significance, to be sure, but understanding the lessons for why it is to happen allows us to grasp and appreciate all the blessings, sufferings, persecutions, victories, and losses we encounter as both individuals and as communities.
All references to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) can be found here, on the Vatican website. I thought that, since the whole series is supposed to be based on a Catholic perspective, that there is no better place to start than this.
27 The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.
29 But this “intimate and vital bond of man to God” (GS 19 § 1) can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man. Such attitudes can have different causes: revolt against evil in the world; religious ignorance or indifference; the cares and riches of this world; the scandal of bad example on the part of believers; currents of thought hostile to religion; finally, that attitude of sinful man which makes him hide from God out of fear and flee his call.
30 “Let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.”5 Although man can forget God or reject him, He never ceases to call every man to seek him, so as to find life and happiness.
This is a wonderful explanation for all that God does. He wants to bless us. But He is willing to chastise us. He will always try to find ways to draw us to Him. This is true whether or not we are speaking of the individual, a country, a people, etc. He wants us to come to Him. Prophetic events speak to blessings, curses, and chastisements. In reality, all of history is riddled with similar stories. God blesses us in hopes that we recognize the Giver of those blessings. How great it could be if we embrace Him because of our blessings. But God will also chastise if we grow complacent and ambivalent. He knows that when we lose everything else, then the only thing left is Him. How great of an act of compassion is it that He allow us to suffer if it means we have a few years of pain on earth, but attain eternal life in Him! Now, don’t mistake every individual’s sufferings for some sort of chastisement over rejection of blessings, or unbelief. That is always a possiblity, but there is also Satan to consider in all of this. We all suffer and we all die. Our nature is fallen. When the good suffer, they will recognize in it the blessing of joining with Christ’s sufferings. Our individual suffering can be used as a purgation, a prayer for the salvation of souls, and any other intention. Many of the Saints actually prayed for suffering (which kind of helps explain why they are Saints, I may add.) In these instances, the suffering isn’t a chastisement, but a call to a new level of holiness.
Now, it is important to have a general understanding of the nature of covenant, and the gradual knowledge of God’s Will culminating in Christ. History still serves as the backdrop for today and the future:
53 God communicates himself to man gradually. He prepares him to welcome by stages the supernatural Revelation that is to culminate in the person and mission of the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ.
55 This revelation was not broken off by our first parents’ sin. “After the fall, [God] buoyed them up with the hope of salvation, by promising redemption; and he has never ceased to show his solicitude for the human race. For he wishes to give eternal life to all those who seek salvation by patience in well-doing.”
57 This state of division into many nations is at once cosmic, social and religious. It is intended to limit the pride of fallen humanity10 united only in its perverse ambition to forge its own unity
58 The covenant with Noah remains in force during the times of the Gentiles, until the universal proclamation of the Gospel.
60 The people descended from Abraham would be the trustee of the promise made to the patriarchs, the chosen people, called to prepare for that day when God would gather all his children into the unity of the Church.
62 God formed Israel as his people by freeing them from slavery in Egypt. He established with them the covenant of Mount Sinai and, through Moses, gave them his law…
63 Israel is the priestly people of God, “called by the name of the LORD”, and “the first to hear the word of God”
64 Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all… the nations.
God has worked since day one to gradually prepare His people for salvation. It started small, with Adam and Eve. Covenant after covenant expanded his reach until a nation, Israel, was formed. Israel held, and continues to hold, a special place in God’s providencial plan. Quite honestly, how else can one even explain its continued existence? The Catechism explains this further, at a later time.
The entire future from that point on is not about God revealing Himself, as it was in the times prior to Christ. God patiently brought Israel to the point in history where Christ came into the world through both blessings and chastisement. But they did not have a full understanding of Him. He was patient and merciful because of this, but there still were things they did know. They knew, for example, all He did in Egypt. They knew from the commandments that He was their God. So, to the extent knowledge of Him had been revealed, they were culpable. He wanted them to be faithful. And so, chastisements had their place when necessary.
In many ways, the diaspora of Israel was necessary. Those who accepted Christ were forced into a world to spread the Gospel. We know that many Christians were martyred and persecuted. Good people witnessed to the faith, if only because of their willingness to die for it. Those who rejected Christ were being chastised. No doubt, many of them came to Christ after realizing the fulfillment of that prophetic chastisement.
The important point here is that God spent a lot of time revealing Himself to us, but in Christ, this Revelation is complete:
65 Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.
66 “The Christian economy… will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.
67 Throughout the ages, there have been so-called “private” revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history… Christian faith cannot accept “revelations” that claim to surpass or correct the Revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment.
This is a very important set of quotes for putting prophecy in context. First, it is made clear to us why there is to be no more “revealing” of God. It is because Christ was the Last Word. To think that anyone else has any further Revelation about God that Christ did not have is ridiculous. That is not to say there cannot still be prophets, but anything the Holy Spirit gives them to say is to assist in living out the already revealed faith. The Church, in her Wisdom, knows that many things given to us as a matter of faith are difficult to fully grasp. So, while nothing new is given to us over the course of time, God continues to gradually increase our understanding of Him, His Church, and His teachings. This is why doctrinal positions can never reverse themselves, but they can develop into more fully beaautiful understanding of the faith. It is why the Trinity has been true from the beginning, and revealed to us in God’s Word, but was only completely understood through a great deal of prayer, discussion, discernment, and education. The same can be said of any number of other docrinal positions in the Church.
Suppose, as an example, you have a technical text book which is difficult to comprehend. You read it and maybe understand some of it, but you’re kind of lost. As you learn other things to help provide a basis for understanding that book, and as you apply already-learned concepts to help serve as building blocks for further understanding of other concepts, you continue upon further reading and study to understand more and more of the book. At some point, there are “inspirational” moments where it a concept just suddenly becomes clear. Some thengs may never fully be understood. The same can be said of our faith. There is a reason why the Catechism is as large as it is. The faith is fundamentally simple, but theologically complex. After all, this is God we’re talking about! It has taken time to fully grasp the concepts we now fully grasp, to partially grasp those that we partially grasp, and to continue to question and discuss those things we still do not fully comprehend. And this will continue until Christ’s return.
Now, we see a reference to those things we get all curious about: private revelation. Notice here that the Church in no way condemns this, nor does she say there can be no such thing. On the contrary, this is accepted as probable, and in fact certain private revelations are specifically approved and the faithful are encouraged to know more about them. But there are very important cautions: (1) private revelation can simply NOT add anything new to the Revelation of God. Private Revelation can only affirm existing public revelation. The purpose of private revelation is to assist the faithful in living out God’s will. Private Revelation may be very specific in a particular locale, meant to address the people of a given area or country. Or, it may be a universal message. Private revelation may simply be a vision of future events, presumably to help prepare us and keep us alert, or it may be a warning that perpetuation of certain behavior has consequences. In any event, the most important points to take away from this is that such revelations are acceptable, but must be discerned. It is best to get guidance from the Church in making any judgments about them. If any private revelation is contrary to any element of our faith, the message should be rejected. These messages, as important as they may be, can never usurp the teachings of Scripture and Tradition.
I’ll see ya in Part 4…