I must say things are getting crazier—wicked crazier. I’ve heard recently of two different sets of parents telling friends of mine, when asked about their only child, whether it was a boy or a girl, and getting in response: “Well, he’s biologically a boy, but we are letting him choose his own gender as he grows up.” And a recent headline in our local newspaper read: “Schools struggle with how to accommodate in-school restrooms for the transgender community.” As our culture turns away from God, the prophetic revelations of scripture become more and more applicable to our own time. We are seeing not only a profound rebellion against the gender that has already been assigned—by God! But human beings, in ever larger numbers, are being sucked into the deception of our culture, and are joining in a profound and foolish rebellion against God’s ordained order of nature, and divinely revealed laws of eternal life, and everlasting death, virtually across the board.
And then consider the recent report of a U.N. committee that requested, in scornful language, that the Catholic Church change its teaching on sexual morality and abortion. Governments of what used to be the “Christian west” are becoming increasingly bold in forcing the Church to get with their secular programs, or face penalties and persecution. We are heading towards confrontations and difficult decisions that only show signs of intensifying in the years ahead. The “world” sees the Catholic Church as the main obstacle standing in the way of a “brave new world” of liberation from the laws of God. How ironic that the oppression of atheistic communism, that sought to do away with God, and build its own “brave new world,” collapsed under the weight of its unreality. So now the “Christian west” is abandoning reverence for God, and increasingly compelling Christians, and the Church, to be quiet about their views—labeling it as “hate speech”—and implementing the most unreal, foolish, doomed-to-failure rewriting of the laws of nature and of God. All these efforts are destined, not to lead people to a “liberated happiness,” but to a pitiful slavery, a pitiful darkening of the mind, a weakening of the will, and a slavery to sin.
Our current situation is stunningly described by the Apostle Paul in the first chapter of his letter to the Romans, which we should quote at length:
The wrath of God is, indeed, being revealed from heaven against every impiety and wickedness of those who suppress the truth by their wickedness. For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God, they did not accord Him glory as God, or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man, or of birds, or of four-legged animals, or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and revered and worshiped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions. Their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males, and thus received, in their own persons, the due penalty for their perversity. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to their undiscerning minds to do what is improper. They are filled with every form of wickedness, evil, greed, and malice; full of envy, murder, rivalry, treachery, and spite. They are gossips and scandalmongers, and they hate God. They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness, and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God, that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them (Rom 1:18-32).
How applicable are these words from Romans to our own time! The downward spiral of a culture, or of an individual’s life, is insightfully laid bare in these inspired words.
It all begins with turning away from a knowledge of God that everyone was given—that’s given to every human being in the witness of the creation—not to mention the witness of conscience, and the even greater witness of the Gospel. The initial turning away from truth, the willful “suppression of the truth” is culpable. There is “no excuse” that can justify this deep, interior suppression of the truth. And the consequences are wicked indeed. A deeper darkness results in even more depraved and foolish thinking and acting, until people become lower than animals, and slaves to sin, all the time thinking they are wise, enlightened, and “on the right side of history.” They are gleefully walking towards the abyss of hell, all the time boasting of how enlightened and “liberated” they are! They not only suppress the truth themselves, and engage in immoral actions themselves, but encourage others to do so as well.
Notice the consequences of turning away from God: Being turned over to impurity, to degrading passions, an undiscerning mind, and all manner of other perversions and wickedness affecting every aspect of human life. They ignore the Word of God that says such behavior deserves death. It reminds me of a vision that the Lord gave St. Faustina:
One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music, and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. They reached the end without realizing it. And at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And their number was so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings. (Diary of St. Faustina, 153)
It seems sometimes as if the gates of hell have opened wide, and the demons are flying out to wreak havoc wherever they can. It makes one wonder if the “restrainer” on evil that scripture speaks of being removed in the final conflict has, indeed, been removed.
Even those who have not thought about these things very much are beginning to feel a deep unease, in their bones, as it were, that senses that “the plates are shifting” and that the relatively stable relationship between our faith and American culture is now radically changing. Seventeen hundred years of Christian culture in the Western countries is breaking down under an organized onslaught that seeks to strip respect for God and His Word out of every element of our culture—from grade schools and universities, from television and movies, from government and courts, from sexual relationships, marriage, and family, from the daily environment in which we all live. Conflict between our Catholic faith and the prevailing culture is increasingly the case, and will only intensify as time goes on. Every Catholic is being faced with a decision to make, a decision of whether to be loyal to Christ and the Church, or to “go over” to the post-Christian culture.
With this situation in mind, I was particularly struck to read the remarks that Archbishop Vigano, the Papal Nuncio to the United States, addressed to the American Bishops at one of their recent bi-annual meetings:
At this point, I would like to call your attention to the words the then-Cardinal Wojtyla is reported to have given in an address during the Eucharistic Congress in 1976 for the Bicentennial celebration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It seems to be so profoundly prophetic:
“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American Society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian Community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of Divine Providence. It is, therefore, in God’s Plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up, and face courageously…”
These words that the then-Cardinal Wojtyla made his own appear to be inspired from the Diary of Saint Faustina Kowalska, who greatly influenced his spirituality. As Pope John Paul ll, he proclaimed this religious sister a saint during the Jubilee Year of 2000. He died during Vespers of the feast of Divine Mercy, the feast which was inspired by Saint Faustina.1
These are extraordinary words. Papal Nuncios usually don’t emphasize the prophetic, and for Archbishop Vigano to obviously endorse these words of St. John Paul II, is very significant. We must pay attention.
But whether this is the final confrontation or not, we are certainly living in a time of great confrontation, and we can benefit from taking a careful look at what Scripture tells us about the final confrontation, as its lessons will be useful for us whether this is the final confrontation or not, and, of course, it may very well be. Some of the most remarkable things about the final confrontation are revealed to us:
Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then, the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth, and destroy him by his appearing, and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth, and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2 Thes 2:3-12)
Paul is trying to assure the Thessalonians that the Lord hasn’t already returned, despite whatever rumor they may have heard, since certain events haven’t happened yet. He mentions two events in particular here: the great rebellion, or apostasy, and the removal of what is restraining evil and lawlessness, both of which directly precede the final onslaught of the anti-Christ which is definitively crushed by the Second Coming of Jesus.
The “rebellion” which is also translated as the “apostasy” refers to the massive turning away from the faith on the part of those who once believed. Apostasy is something Christians do, not something that unbelievers do. It is indeed sad—and shocking—to see in our day so many baptized Catholic members of ethnic groups that once would die for their faith, and send out missionaries throughout the world, gleefully abandoning their faith in the name of “enlightenment,” or in some cases, just drifting away from it out of comfort, laziness, or the brainwashing of our materialistic culture. The statistics of many of the American and Canadian dioceses in terms of the diminishing practice of the faith are shocking. In many traditionally strong Catholic dioceses, and archdioceses, just in the last ten to fifteen years, there has been a 50 percent decline in baptisms and marriages, and in many places the sacrament of Confirmation, rather than effecting a stronger commitment to be a witness to Christ, has become the last “requirement” that young people have to do before they can stop going to Church, often following the example of their non-Church going parents.
Whether this is the great turning away from faith that is characteristic of the final conflict, or not, we will only know as it unfolds. But it is certainly a significant fact of our times.
The second event that will lead to the final conflict is the removal of a certain restraint that the Lord has placed on the working of the evil one, also known as the lawless one, which identifies his profoundly rebellious nature. Again, whether the removal of many restraints on the working of evil in our time is the sign of the final conflict, or not, will only be known as we see events unfold. One thing though is sure: we are seeing the systematic removal of all kinds of restraints on evil in a stunningly short period of time. Unrestrained killing of babies is already a world-wide phenomenon, and there is growing pressure to legalize euthanasia (or “assisted suicide”) which has already happened in many places. The removal of virtually all restraints on sexual immorality has been accomplished in a few short years in many of the Western countries, and genetic and social engineering, including experimenting on human embryos, grows stronger each day. The foundations of law and culture which once were firmly rooted in the Ten Commandments, and respect for the Jewish and Christian traditions have now been demolished, and law and truth is whatever power groups can manipulate it to be, in favor of their ideologies—the products of darkened minds. Truth is now what the powerful say it is. Tolerance has come to mean tolerance for everyone who agrees with “me,” and hostility towards those who don’t.
While it is helpful to take note of these two signs that accompany the final conflict, what is most helpful for us is to pay attention to how the evil one works during this time, and what the consequences are for those who are not able, or willing, to identify and resist his methods of seduction.
In the chaos of apostasy and unrestrained evil, instigated by the devil, he works tirelessly to lead people away from the Lord, and to their own destruction. He does this by false signs and wonders—things that try to mimic the true signs and wonders done by Jesus to this day through his faithful disciples—which are not further spelled out here but may refer to the rise of magic, and new age practices and phenomena or include remarkable feats of “world government” and “uniting of the religions” which then serve the purposes of Satan to keep people from the salvation found only in Jesus.
What is very clear though from these texts is that Satan, identified as a “liar and murderer” (Jn. 8:44) by Jesus, will seek to use deception to lead people to destruction in the final conflict.
He basically only has one lie that appears in many forms. We see it for the first time in the Garden of Eden where he casts doubt on the truth and goodness of God’s Word: “Did God really say that?” And then he directly denies it, and encourages the woman to disobey it, promising her that she will then become like a god herself. “You will not die, but shall be as gods.” (Gen. 3:5) And then Scripture tells us that the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and pride of life led the woman and the man to disobey God, with far-reaching and tragic results for all humanity to follow (Gen 3: 6; 1 Jn 2:15-17).
What are some of the main ways that the “lie” takes shape today? First of all, many of our fellow Catholics have lost confidence in the truthfulness of God’s Word. Decades of skeptical scripture scholarship, poorly digested and, sometimes, gleefully passed on by half-educated teachers and preachers, eager to set people free from “fundamentalism,” and parade through their own superficial erudition, has taken a terrible toll on Catholics’ confidence in the scriptures.
At the Synod of 2012 on New Evangelization, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, leader of the Synod, stated two things that struck me deeply. First of all, he acknowledged that a “tsunami of secularism” was sweeping over the world, engulfing the minds and hearts of Catholics; and secondly, that our number one priority for reversing this tide was to “regain our confidence in the truth of our faith.” This means, first of all, regaining our confidence in the truth of scripture.
As with so many aspects of our faith, there is a generalized impression that Vatican II endorsed a less than faith-filled approach to scripture. This is certainly not the case.
Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be regarded as affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully, and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. (DV §11)
As Mark Twain is reported to have said: “It is not those parts of scripture that are difficult to understand that most concern me, but those parts of scripture that are unmistakably clear!” Or, as St. Augustine said: “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
There are many clear assertions of scripture that are absolutely necessary for us to take seriously for the sake of ours and others salvation. Some of these are particularly under attack by the lies of the evil one today. I will only pick out two of them here.
If I were Satan, I would be most interested in assuring people that virtually everyone will make it to heaven, and it is almost impossible to be lost, so great is God’s mercy, and so difficult is it to really commit a truly mortal sin. I would want to assure people that as long as they are not a serial killer, they have nothing to worry about.
This truly wicked lie unfortunately has been widely accepted by many of our fellow Catholics. If I were to express how very many of our fellow Catholics look at the world today, I would describe it like this:
Broad and wide is the gate that leads to heaven and virtually everyone is going that way. Narrow and difficult is the door that leads to hell and hardly anyone is entering it.
To effect an exact reversal of the solemn words of Jesus is no small thing! And with such terrible consequences. If we believe this lie, we will be far less diligent in resisting temptation, striving for holiness, and recognizing the urgency of intercessory prayer, and efforts at evangelization for the sake of the salvation of those we love, or simply encounter.
One of the signs of satanic activity is when the things of God are mocked by turning them upside down. The Black Mass, which is undergoing a public resurgence, is the Mass said backwards in mockery of God. The big lie that reverses the exact words of Jesus must be exposed and rejected! What did Jesus actually say? “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Mt 7:13-14). Or, consider a parallel passage in Luke: “And someone said to him, ‘Lord, will those who are saved be few?’ And he said to them, “Strive to enter by the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Lk 13:23-24).
Or consider the frequently repeated, and unambiguous words of Jesus about the separation of humanity which will occur at the final judgment.
He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear (Mt 13:37-43).
And from John’s Gospel:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not condemned, he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (Jn 3:16-18).
Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment (Jn 5:28-29).
Now Jesus didn’t reveal what He did about the broad and narrow ways because this is how things have to be; or because this is how He wants them to be; but simply because this is how things were when He looked out at the situation of the Jewish people in His time. And are our times any better?
Perhaps at certain high points of Christian culture “many” were on the way to salvation, and “fewer” on the way to condemnation, but in our time it is clear that the main river of culture is flowing ever more swiftly towards destruction. We also know that Jesus was “broken-hearted” about the prospect of so many being lost by their own choice, when He wept as He foresaw their destruction on the hill overlooking Jerusalem (Lk 19:41). We also know that people who are presently on the wide path that leads to destruction could leave that path, and set out on the narrow path that leads to life before they die, and be saved. Of course, what evangelization is all about is inviting people to believe, and repent, and leave the wide path, and set out on the narrow path that is so true, good, and blessed—the path which turns out to be Jesus Himself.
But, some might ask, wasn’t this a picture of how things were changed by Vatican II? Aren’t we to have a more positive outlook about most people being saved? Well, let’s see exactly what Vatican II does teach about this most important of all issues. One of the things that has led people to believe that a “broader” view of how many are saved has been taught by Vatican II is a text in the Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium §16). This text clearly teaches that it is possible—under certain specific circumstances—for people to possibly be saved if they haven’t heard the Gospel.
Those who, through no fault of their own , do not know the Gospel of Christ, or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those, too, may achieve eternal salvation…
What are the conditions? First, that their ignorance of the gospel is not their own fault. Secondly, that, nevertheless, they are sincerely seeking God, and desiring to know His will, and third, that they are living in conformity with the light and grace that God is giving them.
What kind of surrender to God is implied in these conditions? A footnote in the text refers to previous magisterial doctrinal clarifications that indicate that what grace moves people in this situation to is not just a vague belief in God, but to a personal surrender to light and grace that God gives (supernatural faith) that leads to a conformity of one’s life to the truth revealed (supernatural charity).2
When people hear that Vatican II taught that it is possible under certain very specific circumstances for people who have never heard the Gospel to be saved, they often go on to make a huge leap of logic—passing from a “possibility” to a presumed certainty, believing that for the most part, people in this situation are saved. But this is a very defective understanding of the teaching of Vatican II. The last three sentences of this text are almost universally ignored, even by well-known theologians who discuss this issue, and we must pay careful attention to them.
But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom 1:21, 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Hence, to procure the glory of God, and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord’s command, “preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions (LG §16).
Even though it is theoretically possible for people who have never heard the Gospel to be saved, the actual situation in which all human beings find themselves is not “neutral.” We are engulfed in the strong disordered desires of original sin, personal sin, an environment and culture that lead to sin, and the continuing work of the devil to deceive and destroy. If, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 6, we are the target of hostile spiritual powers, who continually direct “fiery darts” towards us to affect our thinking, emotions, and actions, what is to become of those who are not aware of this spiritual warfare, and don’t have or utilize the “shield of faith” to extinguish these fiery darts? That is why the Council clearly teaches that “very often” the possibility of being saved without hearing the Gospel has not been actualized, and people, for the sake of their salvation, need urgently to be called to faith, repentance, and baptism—the purpose of evangelization.
But not only are the eternal destinies of people who have never heard the Gospel in grave jeopardy but also the eternal destinies of Catholics who may have been baptized and may have some self-identification as Catholics but who are not living as disciples of Christ. This is what Vatican II teaches about the situation of many Catholics:
Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but “in body” not “in heart.” All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged (LG §14).
Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will be saved but only those who do the will of the Father. (Mt. 7: 21-23) It is clearly not enough simply to be baptized, or even go to Church, to be saved: what is necessary is the faith that leads to obedience, to discipleship.
This leads us to a consideration of the second big lie. The letter to the Hebrews teaches that “He became the source of salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9), echoing the teaching of Jesus that not everyone who says “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom, but those who actually do the will of the Father (Mt 7:21-23). Repentance must involve a change of life, bringing our lives into harmony with God’s will for human life. This means turning away from sin, and yielding to the transforming work of the Spirit so we may grow in virtue. Unfortunately there are many today who, deceived, believe that it is possible to claim God’s mercy but still live a life of sin. This deception was already prevalent in the early Church. Jesus had warned about it, and the Apostles taught against it.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).
As Paul often does, he repeats what is particularly important for us to know:
For you were called to freedom, brethren: only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5: 13, 19-21).
We also find this clear warning in Ephesians:
Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience (Eph. 5: 5-6).
Faith in Christ, and repentance from sin, are essential parts of the message we have been called to proclaim. We are not at liberty to add to, or subtract, from the word we have been entrusted with. And today we have to be explicit about which sins will exclude us from the kingdom since there has been such a silence on sin, and such deceptions widely promulgated.
The apostles were clearly conscious of having been entrusted with the clear content of the message they were to proclaim. Paul described his awesome encounter with the risen Lord on his way to persecute Christians in Damascus. He tells us what the Lord communicated to him in that encounter. He was to proclaim to those whom the Lord was sending him: “to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26: 17-18). Jesus commanded the apostles to preach this message, and they did. On the day of Pentecost, the people were cut to the heart by Peter’s preaching, and receiving the word preached, in faith, asked what they should do in response. Peter told them: “’Repent, and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’… And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, ‘Save yourselves from this crooked generation’” (Acts 2: 37-40).
Mercy Must Be Received
There has been a tremendous stress on the infinite mercy of God in contemporary Catholicism. It’s based, of course, on Divine Revelation, but made a central focus due to the wide promulgation of the moving communications that St. Faustina received from the Lord, which have been recognized by the Church as of a high order of reliability. The papal endorsement of St. Faustina, culminating in her canonization, and then the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy, has brought the message of mercy front and center in the Church. As Archbishop Vigano recently pointed out the prophetic warnings he brought to the attention of the American bishops about the final conflict are probably rooted in St. John Paul II’s deep knowledge of the Divine Mercy revelations. And millions have benefitted in increased confidence, hope, and devotion.
But the devil, always looking for a way to deceive God’s people, and divert them from the true path of salvation, has found a way to turn this emphasis on mercy to his own evil purposes. Important parts of St. Faustina’s revelations are generally being ignored, which has led to a dangerous presumption on God’s mercy. It is not uncommon to hear people say that “God is so merciful” that maybe only people like Hitler will be lost, and that everybody else will be “ok.”
As we have seen in our examination of Lumen Gentium §16, telling half the truth can create a lie. Just as ignoring the last three sentences of the conciliar text has contributed to massive deception, so, too, ignoring the whole context and content of St. Faustina’s communication of the depths of Divine Mercy has contributed to the very same deceit. The Lord regularly tells St. Faustina that she is to be a messenger preparing the way for his Second Coming and Final Judgment. While He extends mercy to the whole human race now, the time of judgment is coming when He will judge people on the basis of their response—or lack of response—to mercy. Those who presume on the mercy of God, without repenting, are “storing up wrath” for themselves, are heading towards destruction.
Do you presume upon the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life, but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury (Rom. 2: 4-8).
For many, as I have often told you, and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things (Phil 3: 18-19).
This, of course, however little averred to today, is the message we have been commanded by Christ to proclaim as well.
And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that He is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name (Acts 10:42-43).
Despite the immense mercy of God, it is apparent from the message that many are, nevertheless, in danger of being lost, and some will definitely be lost. Whether more will be saved or lost, and the exact meaning of “many,” is not revealed, but the realities revealed to St. Faustina are sobering. For example:
Jesus looked at me and said, “Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion. I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is the Feast of My Mercy. If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity. Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.3
Some people have, mistakenly, gotten the impression from the helpful emphasis on mercy that sin is no big deal, and that God, in His mercy, will never allow anyone to be lost. This is not at all what the Scripture and Church teach, nor is it what the Lord told St. Faustina:
Oh, if sinners knew of My mercy, they would not perish in such great numbers. (#1396)
I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners. But woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation. (#1160)
And Mary’s words to St. Faustina:
You have to speak to the world about His great mercy, and prepare the world for the Second Coming of Him who will come, not as a merciful Savior, but as a just Judge. Oh how terrible is that day! Determined is the day of justice, the day of divine wrath. The angels tremble before it. Speak to souls about this great mercy while it is still the time for granting mercy. If you keep silent now, you will be answerable for a great number of souls on that terrible day. (#635)
St. Faustina’s Description of Hell
During St. Faustina’s eight-day retreat in 1936, an angel led her through hell, and she describes what she saw, and relates that the Lord told her to write it down.
Today, I was led by an Angel to the chasms of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures I saw: the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it—a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness and a terrible suffocating smell, and, despite the darkness, the devils and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others, and their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of the sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin.4
Admittedly these are difficult descriptions to read. And indeed, the images used are referring to a reality that is hard to express in human words, and the use of the particular images almost certainly imperfectly conveys this reality. At the same time, it must be recognized that Jesus himself used images such as “outer darkness” (Mt 22:13) where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth; and “unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:43) or the “furnace of fire” (Mt 13; 42-50) or the “lake of fire” (Rev 20: 15; 21: 8). Or sometimes hell is described by Jesus as the place where the tormenting worm never stops gnawing (Mk 9: 48). Jesus makes his own the fiery language of John the Baptist. In the profundity of the Last Supper Discourses, he makes clear that “If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.” (Jn 15: 6). And can we find stronger words than those of Jesus which he tells us he will speak at the last judgment: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels . . . And they will go away into eternal punishment but the righteous into eternal life.” (Mt 24: 41, 46).
Some may wish to emphasize that sinners bring this separation from God, and union with the demonic, on themselves by their own choices. Others may say that these images may be weak human figures that imperfectly point to the horror of separation from God, and may not need to be taken literally. Yet, the shocking fact remains that St. Faustina is describing something which she believes God showed her precisely to warn sinners, and call them to not presume on the mercy of God. And further, to ward off attempts to say that hell may exist, but perhaps no one is there, Faustina continues:
I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.
I, Sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it, and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.5
St. Faustina saw her whole mission as a way of preparing God’s people for the return of the Lord. It took on particular urgency because of the severe consequences she knew would be the result for those who rejected mercy. In this time of great confrontation, whether it be the final confrontation, or not, it behooves us to take seriously what is revealed to us so clearly in so many ways.
Now is the time when mercy is being extended to the world, but this time will come to an end, and the Lord will return in glory to judge the living and the dead. And whether we are alive, or not, at the Lord’s return, we need to be ready to meet Him at any moment, as no one knows the day nor the hour, not only of the Lord’s return, but of the length of our own lives.
Unfortunately, without knowing these parts of the message, it is easy to absorb the Divine Mercy devotions and revelations into the practical universalism that is one of the devil’s big lies, and to disregard the consequences of unrepented sin, which is the other lie of the evil one we have identified. The message of divine mercy is that no sinner should be afraid to approach the Lord who is infinitely merciful, and eager to forgive sin, but the application of mercy can’t be made to souls unless there is an acknowledgement that we need mercy, and respond to the offer of mercy with humility, repentance, and faith.
And this is exactly the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “There are no limits to the mercy of God, but anyone who deliberately refuses to accept His mercy by repenting, rejects the forgiveness of his sins, and the salvation offered by the Holy Spirit.” (CCC §1864) What shall we do? Has Satan been unleashed? Will the persecution and social pressure to deny Christ, and his saving truth, increase? It certainly looks like this is the situation we are now facing. And the Catechism of the Catholic Church carrying forward the teaching of 2 Thes. 2 clearly affirms that this is a trial that we must go through in the final conflict.
Before Christ’s second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers (Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12). The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception, offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh (CCC §675). And, furthermore:
The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment, after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world. (CCC §677)
But let’s remember the attitude of the Lord to this great rebellion, hearkening back to the ancient psalms:
Why do the nations conspire, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and his anointed, saying, “Let us burst their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens laughs; the LORD has them in derision. Then He will speak to them in His wrath, and terrify them in His fury, saying, “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, with trembling kiss His feet, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way; for His wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him (Ps 2:1-12).
We have to remember that all of this is happening under the providential hand of God. God is permitting the apparent triumph of evil to reveal the secrets of hearts, just as it was prophesied by Simeon at Jesus’ birth. God is permitting His judgment to fall on those who have “suppressed the truth, without excuse” and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie. The judgment is that very darkness of mind and slavery to sin, that puts its unfortunate recipients in close proximity to final condemnation, unless they repent while there is still time. And if there is not repentance before death, or before the final conflict, there will be the terrifying reality of Satan being permitted to harvest his own, those who have refused to open their hearts to the truth in order to be saved, and have come under satanic deception and bondage through a culpable rejection of the truth in the depth of their hearts.
These are weighty matters, but we need to remember that “all His ways are true, all His ways are just, all His ways are merciful.” He reveals these truths to us out of compassion for us, out of a desire that as many as possible be saved. Our response? Two things.
One, we really need to definitively turn away from sin in our own lives, and live very close to the Lord Jesus, paying attention to Him in prayer, and the Word. We have developed many resources at Renewal Ministries that will greatly help us in turning away from sin, and staying in close union with Jesus.6
Secondly, we need to pray, sacrifice, offer our suffering for the salvation of souls—those we know, and those we don’t know. It is urgent that we say “yes” to the Lord’s call to participate with Him in His ongoing mission, through us to “seek and save those who are lost.” Again, we have developed many, very useful resources in helping us take our part in the mission of Jesus for the salvation of souls.7
And don’t be afraid! He is with us, and will give us every help we need to fulfill the individual mission He has entrusted to each one of us, no matter how intense the conflict. And Mary, the angels, and the saints are with us, as well. Really and truly with us, and for us.
- Address to US Bishops, November 11, 2013, zenit.org/en/articles/nuncio-s-address-to-us-bishops-gathered-for-fall-assembly, accessed November 4, 2014. ↩
- I did my doctoral dissertation on this topic. It has now been published in book form under the title: Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization. A more popular version has been published as well: The Urgency of the New Evangelization: Answering the Call. Both are available on our website, www.renewalministries.net (click on Store). ↩
- St. Faustina Kowalska, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul, Third edition with revisions (Stockbridge, MA: Association of Marian Helpers, 1996), #965, pp. 374-375. ↩
- Ibid., #741, pp. 296-297. ↩
- Ibid., #741, p, 297. ↩
- I particularly want to recommend my book on the spiritual journey: The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints. It is also available as an Audio Album, a 13 week video series, and also has a Study Guide available. www.renewalministries.net Click on Store. ↩
- Besides my book The Urgency of the New Evangelization, previously mentioned, we have a number of booklets, books and CD albums that are helpful resources as well. ↩