The Wild West or End of Times: Rejecting the Cultural Norm
For many of us, our social media accounts act as a catalyst for our news consumption. As we know, news comes to us from various outlets, and is offered in many different flavors. We laugh at the ridiculous, warmly smile with the good, and cry at the not so good. With no short supply of negative news in sight, it’s no wonder why so many people feel a level of angst these days. For me, I take the news with a grain of salt on most days. Yes, my news comes from social media feeds that I deem my favorite, and ones that I wish to follow… I rarely watch television, and I meticulously cherry pick what news I decide to digest. Lately, due to a tsunami of bad news, I feel a sense of Déjà vu. I feel like I am living out a scene from the Wild West. Some may suggest that we are living in the end of times. This may be true as biblical truths of the end of times are being realized with each passing day. However, for me, the vision of the Wild West plays out in my mind like a movie reel. Maybe I’ve watched too many spaghetti westerns, but I see our culture a bit like the brutality and violence of yesteryear. Our culture is radically shifting towards unprecedented times. Our radical culture is upon us! It’s pervasively omnipresent and it can be downright scary for some. Like in the Wild West, we have many today who live in a free for all world, meaning that anything apparently goes. During the day, our Wild West had two groups. The lawmen and the outlaws, or the good guys’ vs the bad guys’ respectively. Each group vigilant in their quest fighting each other in duels until the very end. This theme exists today.
So what is going on? Indeed, as Christians, we feel marginalized by the recent SCOTUS ruling. We must endure the contraire lifestyles of others while loving those who oppose our religious beliefs (loving is a good thing here!). There are inclusions within our national healthcare system that forces us to support things we reject! Our fellow Christians abroad are being murdered by extremists who preach hate. Legally, innocent babies are being murdered each day, all because we have given certain rights to women allowing them to do as they please with their bodies. Moreover, as if murdering babies were not enough, babies are being barbarically mutilated and offered up for profit. This is unconscionable and a crime against humanity. The cultural norm today seduces many to join the “throw it away” movement. As of late, we’ve thrown away traditional marriage, religious rights, the lives of fellow Christians, and innocent babies out of society-like it was yesterday’s trash. These examples are unfair and unjust, but so was the death of our Lord. He promised a life of trials and tribulations throughout all generations. He even said that we would be persecuted. But through all of our trials, we have an obligation to respond with love- just as Christ did on the cross. There is hope!
It is in the Gospel of Luke, where we learn of the powerful love, forgiveness, and Mercy of Christ. As He hanged on the cross in midst of excruciating pain, He guaranteed Paradise to the repenting thief on the cross. Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied to him, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43). Isn’t this just a beautiful testament of our faith? It is never too late to be saved by our Lord-no matter what trials we have. If we ask our Lord with a contrite heart to be forgiven, we will be forgiven. Let’s release the shackles of our sins that prevent us from being holy. Undoubtedly, we will sin, but as Catholic Christians, we have the beautiful sacrament of reconciliation. Reconciliation is always available to us, and it will release the prisoner within. “And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2Corinthians 5:18-19). We find peace in our Lord through reconciliation.
Nothing here on earth is worth losing a place in heaven. For example, cultural norm says that materialism, riches, idolatry, and sexual immorality equals happiness. Untrue! These things will separate us from the Lord, and kill us in the end. Therefore, we must reject the cultural norm. Further, we live in a world of constant temptations. The author of temptation is the evil doer himself. He is the serpent that tries to woo us into his corner. How do we conquer this evil serpent? Well, we can pray to Our Lady. The serpent hates Our Lady, and when called upon, she will crush the head of the serpent. She will guide us back to the safety of her son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Make no mistake, we are living in tough times. People are senselessly dying. We read of parents killing their children, and children killing their parents. We witness the violence unfold onto our streets, and into our neighborhoods. But in the midst of this violence, we struggle to do the one thing that Jesus commands us to do- love our enemy. The Gospel of Matthew states, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45). What Christian, and otherwise loving individual of faith can honestly say that they love ISIS? Honestly speaking, I grapple with this issue and it’s hard to accept. Saint Augustine wrote in a letter Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which roughly translates to; “love the sinner but hate the sin”. God bless Saint Augustine, he earned his sainthood! I pray for an increase of understanding.
One thing that I am sure of, as Catholic Christians, we receive the goodness of our Lord through the mysteries of the Eucharist- taste and see! Receiving the Blessed Sacrament each week is one of the many reasons why I love being a Catholic. Receiving the weekly sacrament differentiates us from other Christians indeed, but it is also a gift. At the last super, in the Gospel of Luke; “Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you” (Luke 22). Our faith is steeped in rich tradition, and it is the reason why we heed our Lords advice by celebrating the Holy Eucharist each week…“Do this in memory of me” is not a request, but a command. Be proud that our church and liturgical traditions, like our Lord, have not changed. Despite constant opposition from the world, our church has remained the same for over 2,000 years since our Lords last super. In the Gospel of Matthew, our Catholic church is born! The Lord said to then Simon, (changed to Peter, our first Pope), “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). We give thanks and praise to our Lord for Saint Peter- Amen!
Whether we are living in the days similar to that of the Wild West, or nearing the end of times, we have an obligation to our faith. We must pray, fast and repent (and go to mass!). We may not like the landscape of our culture, but our job here on earth is to get to heaven and become Saints. We must live a life according to the will of God. We must detach ourselves from this world. In other words, we must lose this world in order to gain our heavenly world. Yes, we will fail, but we repent! Pray to our Lady, as she will intercede on our behalf to her Son, our Lord. She will never ignore our cries. Like a compassionate mother responding to the needs of a child, she will come to our aid and undo our knots. We are not meant to be perfect in any sense. Christ is looking for the flawed and broken. In our storms, we cry out to Him. Behold! He is with us. If we listen carefully, we will hear Him whisper; “I am with you”. He will never leave us, and He will be with us until the end of time. The Gospel of Matthew, otherwise known as the Great Commission, reaffirms the teachings of our faith through our resurrected Jesus Christ. “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:20). Blessed are those who remain steadfast through their daily sufferings. If our Lord knocks on your door tomorrow and calls you home, will you be ready?