Brothers and Sisters,
It is evident to all of us right now t hat we are in a new season of cultural upheaval. The contrast between a culture of darkness and a Culture of the Holy Spirit are on display in a way that hasn't been seen for at least a generation.
I was born at the end of the baby boomer generation in 1959. Even so, I remember at a young age the change in the liturgy of the Mass after the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, and the grumbling I heard from adults about those changes. At the end of the sixties, during the height of the Vietnam war, the streets were filled with anti-war protests, and soldiers returning home were mocked and treated like criminals. Race riots were causing looting, burning, and destruction in our major cities. The "sexual revolution" was in full force with the rise of radical feminism that culminated in the Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion. If you are my age or older, you are nodding your head right now in remembrance of these dramatic cultural events that were some of the hallmarks of a sort of "revolution" in our secular culture during the '60s and early '70s. Crisis and uncertainty in the World are nothing new!
Although the dramatic, widespread violence and protests eventually died down from their peak during this period, the "revolution" resulted in an ongoing cultural "evolution" of sorts. It seemed American society was never again going to reflect the best of previous generations. A "remnant," so to speak, of radical and highly motivated people were intent on keeping the cultural revolution marching steadily and incrementally forward. Early in the cultural revolution that started in the '60s, the vast majority of our citizens did not agree with the radical agenda promoted in this revolution. But those in a dedicated remnant who promoted a world view divergent from traditional values were strategic and sacrificial. Key leadership positions were gained by "the remnant" at the summit of cultural mountaintops such as government, the media, arts and entertainment, education, business, and science/ technology. Christians, for the most part, disdained high positions in these areas of culture, preferring to ascend the summit of influence within the "religion" mountain and then mourning the sad state of affairs as we realized how God's people had lost those other mountains of influence in our culture to the enemy.
It is logical to think that "If we only had the majority on the side of the Lord, we could take back society from the remnant that seeks to destroy it!" Remember, it wasn't a majority that ascended to those lofty positions of influence that continue to shape our culture- it was a patient, dedicated, united, and most importantly, a sacrificial remnant. Patience, dedication, unity, sacrifice; do these qualities define the people of God? Or are we content to assign the state of affairs in our World and it's ever-present moments of crisis as some kind of unstoppable "end times" trajectory that will culminate in a justified judgment on the World and all the evil within it?
What I find interesting is an apparent parallel between the cultural revolution of the ‘60’s and the one we seem to be experiencing now. In both times, the Church was in crisis- Vatican II created serious controversy and confusion. Today we have the persistent sexual abuse crisis and a Jesuit Pope who has a talent of stirring up debate and discernment within the Church on important issues. Respected institutions are under attack- the military then, the police now. The breakdown of the family that many have traced to legalized abortion and widespread contraception and the subsequent breakdown of the family is one of the major producers of a lost generation of men and women that never had a secure identity. The "evolution" of culture started in the ‘60's marches on, and we see it's bitter fruit on display.
However, let us not forget, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story." Along with the secular revolution and evolution that started in the '60s was a new move of the Holy Spirit that was in many ways, supported and ushered in by the Second Vatican Council's reforms. The Charismatic renewal, the rise of Covenant Communities, and a vast and sweeping move of the Holy Spirit brought new life and fire to the Church. Many of us remember how the Spirit was moving in a way that seemed unstoppable, and that we haven't seen in the same way since, at least in America. Our Covenant communities were engaged in evangelization, and everyone knew that the Lord was on the move and was taking back the World from darkness, and we were on the front lines! In many ways, that time reminded me of this scripture:
For as by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience, many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, Grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:19-21, RSV-CE)
Where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more. I love that! So in the '60s, was the Holy Spirit moving in a new and powerful way first, and then the enemy caused a new move of darkness to dissipate that move? Or was it the other way around? We will never know in this life, but "where sin abounds, grace abounds even more!" This is still true, and we need to keep this truth before us.
A quote from Cardinal Ratzinger that many of us are familiar with:
"From the crisis of today, the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. She will no longer be able to inhabit many of the edifices she built in prosperity. As the number of her adherents diminishes, so it will lose many of her social privileges (…) And so it seems certain to me that the Church is facing very hard times. The real crisis has scarcely begun. We will have to count on terrific upheavals."
It is easy to look at the turmoil we see at this moment in time and think that we have lost, and the enemy is marching confidently to victory. I have heard the discouragement in the voices of some of our members about this, and their anxiety that we are somehow on a sinking ship.
Remember earlier, how I described the "remnant" of the secular culture ascending to positions of cultural influence? If Cardinal Ratzinger's words are true, and we are destined to be a remnant, we need to learn from history. Patience, dedication, unity, sacrifice. Where are these qualities in our life? In fact, in salvation history, God loves a remnant!. Think of Gideon's army, David's mighty men, Israel and the rebuilding of the wall and the temple, the disciples of Jesus after the crucifixion- the ultimate remnant that God sent His Holy Spirit to and then used to evangelize the whole World.
As a remnant people, we have a mission. As we see so many times in scripture, the remnant that God uses does not delight in God's wrath. Just the opposite: the remnant exists to appease it! Whatever we do as a Community to maintain and build the Culture of the Holy Spirit, our mission is not to call judgment upon sinners' heads. Our mission is to pity the spiritual poverty and orphaned condition of the
World and to sacrifice ourselves for them, to bring them the knowledge of Sonship and of a loving God who pursues them in love, even amid darkness!. The remnant is not a messenger of God's justice, rather we are the bringers of His mercy. Our mission is to make God's mercy manifest to all humankind.
I choose to believe that the Holy Spirit is not done with His "remnant" yet. Where sin abounds, Grace abounds all the more!! Do we believe this? I choose to believe that there will be an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit again in this generation. Are we ready?
I remember before we remodeled our house, we had so many things that were broken and horrible. Only one burner on the kitchen stove worked. We had broken windows, a leaky roof and holes in the walls from the kids being kids etc etc… We thought, "why fix things if we are going to tear it all out anyway?" In the same way, we can look at the crisis of the moment and think, what's the use working to fix things, it is all coming to an end anyway! The Lord is returning!
On the other hand, all those things that were broken in my house gave me great energy and delight when I designed and drew up the remodel plans for rebuilding the house bigger better than it was before. I believe the Lord has his "remodel" plans for the Church and the World ready to go, when His people are ready to execute them—being ready means having his heart and vision for renewing the World. The contractor I used in my remodel had to work closely with me, the architect, to build what I envisioned. In the same way we need to spend time individually and corporately seeking him and His will.
The Lord is asking each of us today to trust that he has a plan to rebuild His house. We have to remain confident in Him. He has the resources and vision to accomplish it. If we continue to cultivate patience, dedication, unity, sacrifice, He will use the City of the Lord to bring it to completion.
"The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the World you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the World." (John 16:32-33, RSV-CE)
It's all about Jesus!
Jeff Looker, Senior Coordinator