These words of our Lord are intriguing. We ask rhetorical questions to make a point, so, what is our Lord trying to communicate regarding His second coming? Today, we are 2,000 years closer to His return than when these words were first spoken; it is arguably the most relevant rhetorical question of our time.
If the state of the Catholic Faith is to be measured by just one indicator—Sunday Mass attendance—we must conclude that the Church is in trouble. As people are moving away from God and His Church, so, too, our culture is becoming more and more decadent. To argue if one thing causes the other or whether it’s just a correlation is irrelevant. It’s obvious that the Church is no longer shaping our culture but rather the culture is having a profound and negative effect on the Church.
More and more Christians share the sad sentiment that the barque of St. Peter is in the middle of a storm, surrounded by scary and ubiquitous waves of corruption and immorality. We are faced with several public threats to a healthy understanding of human sexuality: homosexuality and gender dysphoria—a rare phenomenon just a few years ago—has become mainstream, drag queens performing in front of children in public schools—often with parents’ participation, pornographic literature infesting school libraries and dedicating the month of June to celebrate pride—one of the seven deadly sins. Adding to the deliberate killing of the unborn, the medical community is prescribing so called “gender reaffirming treatments,” which involve puberty blockers and body mutilations for young children. These prescriptions and surgeries are legal in many states. Even more disturbing, the governor of Washington signed a bill in May—more and more states are following—that allows children to receive these “surgeries” without parental consent.
Crisis can galvanize a movement of renewal.
Traditional understandings of marriage and family are under deliberate and systematic attack and, at times, it feels like the Church is losing this fight. Almost 80% of couples live together before getting married and of all children born in the United States, 40% are born out of wedlock. The misnamed “Respect for Marriage Act,” signed into law by the president this past December, degrades and makes a mockery of the sacrament of holy Matrimony. Overseas, a large number of German bishops recently announced their intention to bless homosexual unions. Suddenly, the vocations crisis seems to be the least of our problems!
So, how do we effectively proclaim the Gospel of Christ to an increasingly godless world? Going through the motions of our pastoral models of the last few decades is not the answer. We have to revamp our religious education from the ground up, especially our confirmation programs. Young couples, especially those preparing for the sacrament of matrimony, should be getting most of our attention and resources. We must humbly acknowledge the current situation and, accepting the need to change, invoke the Holy Spirit as we plot our path to finding the answers.
Crisis can galvanize a movement of renewal. Was it not the persecution in Jerusalem that forced the Church out of the city and into the world, making disciples of all nations, as the Lord commanded? Attuned to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the apostles had the courage to preach Christianity to a pagan world. They were preaching the Gospel, a simple message of God’s love, calling people to conversion, just as their teacher Jesus Christ had done. Although the world today is different from what it was 2,000 years ago, we have much to learn from the apostles. They relied on God’s providence to build their strength to the task instead of scaling down the task to their strength.
Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Word of God is unchanged and can produce much fruit. We must again be courageous, uncompromising and unapologetic when serving the Truth of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. The Church must call everyone to repent for their sins; Jesus never promised that following Him would be easy. On the contrary, He told us that we need to deny ourselves and take up our cross to be His disciples. He told us that the world would hate and persecute us and even put us to death. But, wasn’t it exactly that radical way of life in the early Christian communities that the first converts found so attractive? The apostles understood their job—to speak the truths of the Gospel. And the world needs to hear that Truth—today more than ever before. If we do our part, the Holy Spirit will, again, do the rest.
Father Sebastian Kolodziejczyk
Pastor of St. Matthew Parish in Wausau
Published in the July/August 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine