Beware The False Utopia
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
If we look at the three readings today we see a common theme running through the beginning of two of them: following Christ in the face of opposition. We see Paul and Barnabas calling their community to perseverance and the Gospel begins with Judas leaving to betray Jesus. Yet, the second one is not an exception. This is a reading we look at in the face of great tribulation. Indeed, it is one of the two passages in the movie Titanic read as the ship sinks. As much as it appears to be an exception it fits the pattern the best.
A recent editorial in Christianity Today (May 2004) tells us that "Judges are engaged in linguistic gerrymandering by redefining religion in ways that threaten traditional understanding of our right to free exercise of religion." Our Right to freedom of religion is being restricted by the bench.
I think we figured that out awhile ago. Indeed, if you really study our situation you will see that, as has often been the case, Catholics in places like Boston and others are suffering from a classic religious persecution.
Well, where is this persecution coming from? The answer is simple it is rooted in those who maintain a false Utopian Vision. This vision has also gripped Catholic communities from within. This is a philosophy that rejects religious creeds in general and embraces instead a rationalistic one for the sake of a secular vision of idealistic happiness that actually cannot be achieved. Its main tenet can be found in the belief that all are by default saved.
If we look at Today's second reading and forget that it comes from the Book of Revelation you see only a new Heaven and a New Earth where there is peace and justice.
However, if you look in your misalettes at the top right hand of the passage you will notice that you are reading the twenty-first chapter of Revelation. There is little in the previous twenty-one chapters that one can easily interpret as a utopian vision. Indeed, most of the Book Of Revelation details terrible persecutions in a desire to silence the voice of God. This is followed by the retaliation thereof of God against the persecutors to the vindication of the persecuted. Yet, in the same move, the terrible visions seen in the Book of Revelation are also the last resort techniques of the Father trying to convert members of humanity who have not listened under less stark realities. Let's face it, Revelations is not a book for the squeamish.
It is only at the end of that period of tribulation where there has been a weeding out of those who are hostile to God that this scene from the second reading happens. This is not Utopia for all, but only those who persevere to the end and enter the city. The obstinate are never saved.
There are two kinds of people in this world, those who seek Christ and those who reject him. One group is saved and the other is not. That is, has been and ever will be Christian teaching and it has its roots in similar teaching in the Jewish Faith. God's mercy extends to those who respond to His grace and seek forgiveness by repentance. This mercy even extends to those who through no fault of their own are blinded from his truth. It cannot be extended to those who reject God's grace, by definition.
Yet, there is another side. Our understanding of this reality is not designed to make us vindictively rejoice at the future plight of our persecutors, but to call as many to repentance to join us who also responded to that call and repented of our past histories and actions.
Our seeking Christ is rooted in the fact that Jesus is the fullness of Revelation of the Father. In a word, when humanity reached the fullness of time, Jesus came to his disciples to teach them the Anthropology they could not understand on their own. When we listen to the wisdom of the Father, when we seek the son and open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, we are transformed and made fully human and fully alive over time. We come to a reality of our existence that we never even dreamed of when we were lost in our sins of obstinacy and mediocrity.
Yet, we only begin that journey when we are docile to the grace that leads us to truth. That is the road to salvation. However, when we reject all that and seek to live a rationalistic gospel that dismisses the whole spiritual dimension or makes a mockery of the wisdom of God, we walk away from our source of life and we begin to die. This is because we reject the light of wisdom that comes to us from above. Being in relationship with the Father through the Son, and through whom we experience the light of wisdom in the Spirit is part and parcel of what it means to be human.
This means the more traditional teachings of sin and repentance are not old-fashioned uninspired words from a group of Neanderthals. They are rather deep spiritual truths that have profound significance in the life of every human being. They are as true and important as the modern rule do not dry your hair in a microwave oven.
Yet, what is also true is that we have a selfish trait within all of us that leads us to reject the sovereignty of God and instead embrace the sovereignty of ourselves. It is rooted in a false idea that we can fully comprehend all of reality and that we are an omniscient and infinitely wise species.
Spend ten minutes watching television and you will have watched 600 seconds of examples showing you that our self-aggrandized understanding is ridiculously false. We are not God. We are not even smart enough to be gods with a small 'g'. We are only humans and left to our own devices we bring the first 21 chapters of the Book of Revelation upon ourselves.
It is only in God's grace and mercy that this scene in the second reading happens and only to those who respond to Christ's invitation into his Kingdom. It is God's will that all are saved, but it is not necessarily assumed that all will chose to be saved. The question of whether or not we are saved depends on whether or not we respond in docility to his grace, mercy and love.
We need every bit of help we can get, and we get that, in the sacraments. We need to avail ourselves to Reconciliation, Eucharist and all the sacraments if for no other reason than the understanding that these are avenues of God's grace. We receive the strength through them that we may be saved and that we may live in that holy city of Jerusalem.
Warning signs that you are dealing with a false utopian vision include a total rejection of the bible or introducing new interpretations of the bible to support a political agenda. It is also found in a creed that rejects any need to have faith or found in rejecting elements of the creed where faith is needed to understand them. Further, there is a rejection of the Sacraments as an avenue of grace. There is a description of the Church as a warm comfortable place where everyone should be able to come to the table regardless of their spiritual state and without any form of repentance. Finally, sin is defined in terms of lack of civility and not in terms of the Commandments.
This is not Christianity. It is Utopianism and no where in all times it appears in the bible is it pleasing to God within his community. Paul and Barnabas call their community to persevere under persecution, we by default are called to do the same. This sharpens our understanding of our call as disciples of Christ, that we may better act as the signpost to the lifeboat for others as the human world crumbles under it is own weight. That is until we see the City of God in the New Heaven, the New Earth minus everything that has passed away.
Meanwhile, we are called to preach the gospel and lead as many people into the city as we can. We call them and ourselves to repentance, to docility to grace and to the gift of joy of life in relationship with the Father through the son.
That is Catholicism.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Parochial Vicar, 617 542-5682
Revelation, Easter, Utopia, Catholicism
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