Saturday, August 10, 2013

Remember Lot's Wife!

For anyone out there still desperately searching for a book for this fall, for a study group or adult discussion, do I have the book for you!

What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization 
Ralph Martin 
(2012-09-07).  Kindle Edition. 

Not only is the book well written, but it has a great index and collection of primary references. There is so much Scripture there, you could use it for a Bible study as well. A third of the book, if you will, is reference material... and to say it again another way, the book reads very well.

To my mind, Ralph Martin succeeds eminently in explaining how it is that not the lack of baptism alone but rather a life of vice and idolatry condemns and forever. He deals respectfully and well with the universalist optimism of Rahner and Balthasar, pointing out the deficiencies of both. I think he is right in insisting that what we define as imperfect contrition, dreading the loss of heaven and the pains of hell, has always and everywhere been the faith and still is the faith of Lumen Gentium and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. No doubt about it, for the fullness of faith a genuine fear of damnation is still part of the equation.

Preachers and teachers of the faith have much to gain from reading this book and reflecting on its implications for our own lives as well as the lives of others. I think if this aspect of the message of mainstream Catholicism were restored we would see an increase in missionary vocations. St. Francis Xavier would very much approve. Souls in great number are being lost all over the world, because no one takes up the missionary task. Catholic reticence on issues like abortion, infanticide, euthanasia, same-sex unions, and a host of issues related to charity and basic justice cannot be other than a denial of the truth that our evil acts and omissions have consequences now and for eternity; truth, God will binds all regardless of whether they are Catholic or not; above all, you cannot subtract yourself from His invitation to the wedding feast of heaven. We cannot opt out of eternity; we cannot spare ourselves by disintegration or oblivion from the Judgment on the Last Day.

Ralph Martin set clear goals for himself in researching and writing this book and he succeeds on all accounts. There remains for me personally an additional line of thought beyond the scope of his book and, namely, how does one go about inspiring perfect contrition: "...but most of all because they offend Thee my God, Who art all good and deserving of all my love..."? Certainly, zeal for saving souls has been deflated by the universalist optimism which can't imagine anyone in hell and hence leaves them to their own designs, too often to idolatry and to vice. Still, we cannot escape asking about where is the everyman's everyday contemplation of the loving Christ Who so deserves our love in return. What more is needed in order to inflame Catholics with the fire of divine love? What was that more Bl. John XXIII wanted for the Church such that he called the Council? All the Popes of the last 50 years have sought with urgency to draw people to Christ, those who have never encountered Him and those who have turned away from Him for whatever reason; all have encouraged mission and evangelization. Very simply, they were all convinced and tried to convince others that there is work to be done. The Popes of our lifetime, each and every one, were consumed with the urgency of the task within the Catholic Church which is termed the new evangelization for the sake of the salvation of souls and for the sake of renewing the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

The best way, I think, to get at my point would be in posing again the exhortation inspired by the Old Testament account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrha: "Remember Lot's wife!" Why did she become a pillar of salt? Why did she look back, despite the angel's admonition not to? Had she not been sufficiently terrified concerning God's plans for Sodom? Was it simply stupid curiosity on her part? No, it was a look back with a certain regret at her loss of "idolatry and vice central". I think that fear or terror such as inspires imperfect contrition cannot ever supplant that more which the Lord in His great love calls us to. Why did Rahner and Balthasar balk at a notion so great of God's love, as to absolutely respect our freedom to respond in love, thereby not only risking rejection but for countless numbers also the infernal consequences of "looking back"? Is it perhaps because we are slow to part with those little "looks back"?

I think we'd be better off with a lot more imperfect contrition and I hope Ralph Martin and like-minded preachers can, for the sake of the salvation of the world, inspire a bit more holy fear: for the sake of personal sanctity, for the sake of renewing and increasing missionary vocations, for the sake of the life of the world. O Lord, that many more souls would come to know, love and serve You in this life so as to be forever happy with You in the next!


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