Does this sound like wishful thinking to you? “The Catholic Church’s best days are ahead of it. Our culture is on the cusp of a great and beautiful change.”
That is the message the Church shouts at us every Easter: We have nothing to fear from the future, because we know it is in good hands — God’s hands.
Each year, we need that hope more and more.
Look at the darkness of 2017. Overseas, trouble mounts in North Korea and China and Russia. We are disgusted by the civil war in Syria, and by U.S. involvement in yet another Middle East conflict. We are heartsick over the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. Online searches of “World War 3” have reached an all-time peak.
Domestically, violence is growing in our inner cities, on our college campuses, on live Facebook feeds — and now, even on airplanes. Some talk about “American carnage” and others talk about a “rape culture,” but both agree that America is in a frightening place.
It looks like the world is in the grip of evil — and evil is tightening its fist.
Out of the darkness, we need to hear the voice that says: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus … he has been raised just as he said!”
Or maybe we look at the political situation and get demoralized. Maybe we think President Trump is a disaster; or maybe we think he is doomed to disaster by vicious hostile forces.
Maybe we look at the Church and worry about our pope, whom many Catholics denounce. Or maybe we worry about all the Catholics so ready to denounce our pope.
Maybe it looks like all hope for Christ — in the Church and in the state — is lost.
Maybe we want to say: “Our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem us!”
We need to listen to the voice that answers, “Oh, how foolish you are! … Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
We know the Catholic Church’s best days are ahead of it. The New Testament says so. Our Lady of Fatima says so. Even Pope Benedict XVI said so. He described “the Pope Benedict Option” to bishops in the United States this way:
“We can and must believe, with the late Pope John Paul II, that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity. What is needed above all, at this time in the history of the Church in America, is a renewal of apostolic zeal.”
We know that our culture is on the cusp of a great and beautiful change.
It was nearly 100 years ago that T.S. Eliot wrote, “The World is trying the experiment of attempting to form a civilized but non-Christian mentality. The experiment will fail; but we must be very patient in awaiting its collapse; meanwhile redeeming the time: so that the Faith may be preserved alive through the dark ages before us; to renew and rebuild civilization, and save the World from suicide.”
We have patiently waited, and the results are now coming in. Our society is attempting suicide.
Our universities are shutting down speakers they disagree with. Christians are the ones defending the notion that it is okay for people to disagree.
Our laws are rejecting the science that says chromosomes are male and female, that a mother and father are best for children, and that human DNA makes an embryo human. It falls to Christians to assert these truths in law.
The time to wake up and rebuild has arrived. The Church’s story has always been the story of disciples standing in ruins and looking up at a mountaintop.
We started that way after the horror of the crucifixion, and we have found ourselves there again and again as civilizations crumble around us.
The mountaintop always seems impossibly far away, until Christ rises from the dead, stands there and holds out his hand.
Then we do everything our power to bring as many people as close to him as possible.
Do not be afraid! Christ our hope is arisen, and goes before us to show the way.