Today is the ninth day of the Divine Mercy Novena:
Most compassionate Jesus, You are Compassion Itself. I bring lukewarm souls into the abode of Your Most Compassionate Heart. In this fire of Your pure love, let these tepid souls who, like corpses, filled You with such deep loathing, be once again set aflame. O Most Compassionate Jesus, exercise the omnipotence of Your mercy and draw them into the very ardor of Your love, and bestow upon them the gift of holy love, for nothing is beyond Your power.
Eternal Father, turn Your merciful gaze upon lukewarm souls who are nonetheless enfolded in the Most Compassionate Heart of Jesus. Father of Mercy, I beg You by the bitter Passion of Your Son and by His three-hour agony on the Cross: Let them, too, glorify the abyss of Your mercy. Amen.
Reading much of the news can be dizzying. How did we end up in this state? College students are seeking to have a Catholic priest fired because he offered sound Catholic teaching. The Army warns soldiers to avoid being involved with religious extremists like Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, and Al Quaeda.
We did not end up here because the enemies of the Church are so strong. We are here because we the faithful became lukewarm. We lost our fervor for God. We became complacent. Religion became something personal but not something we talk about out loud. We certainly are not going to bring it up in polite company.
Reading the notes on slide 24 of the Army briefing that labels Catholics as extremists, this statement stood out to me:
However, religious extremism is not limited to any single religion, ethnic group, or region of the world; every religion has some followers that believe that their beliefs, customs and traditions are the only “right way” and that all others are practicing their faith the “wrong way,” seeing and believing that their faith/religion superior to all others.
Shouldn't all true believers think that their way is the right way? Does believing that the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Christ on the Rock of Peter and promised by Christ that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against Her make Catholics dangerous extremists? If I believe that there are lots of "right" ways and my way is no better than any other religion, then why am I a Catholic? It would certainly be much easier to take up with one of the denominations that is much less demanding.
When I taught seventh-grade CCD, one of my students was incredulous: "It sounds like you are saying that the Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and others are all wrong!" She was even more astounded when I said that, yes, that is exactly what I am saying. While they may have some elements of holiness consistent with the Christian life, they are in error. I believe that all those who reject the teaching authority of the Pope on matters of faith and morals are also in error. I do not hate those who are in error. I pray constantly that they will eventually come home to Rome! I cannot expect them to see their errors if all I do is avoid facing the differences in our beliefs. The buzz word of our day is dialogue, but it is a dialogue without persuasion. You have your say. I have my say. There can be no debate. No analysis. No defense. No conversion. If you dare to disagree, then you are a hater and a bigot.
The Year of Faith and the call to the New Evangelization is about relighting the fire of our faith. No more cold to lukewarm believers. We need to courageously speak the Truth of the Gospel without apology. We must speak with charity. But we must also make sure we are heard. Of course, that also means we must know the Truth of the Gospel ourselves. Time to brush up on what we really believe and how we best persuade others of the veracity of our faith.
On this final day of the Divine Mercy Novena, may we all feel the heat of ardent faith. As St. Catherine of Siena said, "If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!"