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Consider a Prophetic Interpretation of Reality from the Book of Wisdom

October 27, 2014 13 Comments

In today’s Office of Readings there is a text from the Book of Wisdom that prophetically interprets the times in which we are living. In the 30 years I have been reading this text in the Breviary, I have found that the pieces of this prophecy are continually falling into place. In my earlier years I would have found the threats or persecution to be too overstated for our times. That is changing now and slowly we are seeing each element become more clear.

In the text that follows I will be quoting from the Book of Wisdom Chapters 1 and 2. My Commentary is in plain red text. The uninterrupted text can be read here: A Diagnosis of Wisdom

But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death; considering it a friend, they pined away, and they made a covenant with death, they deserve to be in its possession. Thinking not aright …

Pope St. John Paul, and Pope Benedict both spoke often of the culture of death. What is the culture of death? It is a culture wherein death or the nonexistence of human beings is proposed as a solution to human problems.

Thus, some express concern about overpopulation, pollution, and the straining of resources. The solution? Death. In this case, the existence of far fewer human beings through contraception. Is a child in the womb inconvenient or unwanted? Kill him. Is a child in the womb possessed of possible birth defects or likely to be born into poverty? Kill her. Is someone in the advanced stages of a disease, or in old age, or experiencing extensive depression? Are they suffering? Kill him or let him kill himself (with the assistance of a doctor). Has a heinous crime been committed? Find the offender and kill him. Even entertainment is saturated with violent and death-oriented solutions. In the typical adventure movie, the hero resolves the problem after 90 minutes of car crashes, blowing up buildings, killing lots of people, and finally killing his opponent and marching off victoriously with the girl on his arm … burning city in the background … roll credits.

This is the culture of death: the culture in which death is proposed as an actual solution to problems.

And thus as the text says here, many today “summoned death; considering it a friend.” They champion contraception, abortion, and euthanasia. They call these things “friends” or “rights” and associate these deathly things with dignity and freedom.

The text also says that they think “not aright.” For indeed, after many decades of bloody wars in Europe and throughout the world in the first half of the 20th Century, and after aborting and contracepting in even greater numbers in the second half, many parts of the decadent West are beginning to experience the first waves of the population decline. We are discovering that declining populations often cannot perform basic functions such as caring for the elderly and growing the economy. Declining populations lead to declining markets and a declining ability to supply many services.

Thus the text says, summoning death “they deserve to be in its possession.” God’s judgment on the culture of death is to hand us over to it. Unless we repent soon we are doomed to become the death we summon, celebrate, and call a solution. The final solution will be exacted on us.

Where did all this death-directed thinking come from? The text says simply that those who engage in it are “ungodly.”

We cannot separate the culture of death from the secularism and atheism that has largely produced and coexisted with it. Modern atheists are forever decrying all the deaths from religious wars. But the truth is that the death toll from secular and atheistic systems far outnumbers the (admittedly disgraceful) death toll due to religious conflicts. It is hard to underestimate just how bloody the 20th Century was. The most conservative estimates put the number at 100 million deaths due to ideological and political purposes. And this does not count the dead due to abortion or those who never lived because of  contraception. Faith, whatever its shortcomings, puts a limit on human schemes and solutions. But without God, man moves himself to the center and is a terrifying and despotic ruler, one who increasingly knows no limits and thinks himself unaccountable.

They said among themselves: Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist, and make use of the creation to the full as in youth. Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes, and let no flower of spring pass by us. Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither. Let none of us fail to share in our revelry, everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment, because this is our portion, and this our lot.

And here is described the philosophy of hedonism, which sees pleasure and happiness as the chief and sole purposes of human existence in this world. The Greek word hedone means pleasure. Hence, casting aside moderation (an important key to true happiness) and indulging every excess, our modern world knows few limits.

Most people today see happiness and pleasure not only as goals but as rights, or as the text says, “this is our portion, this is our lot.” Even among the religiously observant there is often a strident rejection of the Cross. Many dismiss the demands of faith by invoking God himself! “After all,” they say, “God wants me to be happy.” And almost any call to moderation or to the Cross for some higher purpose, such as holiness, is dismissed as almost immoral. “How dare you interfere with my pleasure and happiness!”

And thus the hedonistic cry of indignation goes up against every Church teaching that interferes with their indulgence of passing pleasures: “This is our portion! This is our lot!”

Let us oppress the righteous poor man; let us not spare the widow.

Now in our time social justice is “in.” However, the “social justice” that is extolled is a big-government solution that often actually oppresses the poor. Our intrusive government solutions break the normal bonds of family and thus receivers of government welfare are nearly always single mothers. It is often the case that a woman is better off financially without a husband or father under current welfare norms.

In such a system, men among the poor are worse than useless—they are downright harmful. As such, they withdraw to the margins and are drawn into joining gangs, engaging in criminal activity, or descending into addiction. However well-intentioned, our welfare programs often oppress rather than help, and there seems to be little ability or will to reform their worst and most oppressive aspects.

Nor do they regard the gray hairs of the aged. But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

Disrespect for the wisdom of age or the experience of tradition has become rampant in modern times. Even in the Church, we threw overboard the wisdom of centuries during the ’60s and ’70s. The Church is always in need of reform, but severing our ties with the tested wisdom of previous generations was foolhardy.

Today, youth culture predominates: old=bad, young =good. Parents, especially fathers, are portrayed as buffoons and fools. Children are all-wise, hip, and clued-in.

Adults are too often obsessed with having young people like them. Too many adults seek to be like youths. They obsess about being youthfully thin and indulge in all sorts of fleeting fads.

And as the text says, the power and vigor of youth is esteemed, rather that the wisdom of age and mature reflection.

“Let us lie in wait for the righteous man, because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions; he reproaches us for sins against the law, and accuses us of sins against our training. He professes to have knowledge of God, and calls himself a child of the Lord. He became to us a reproof of our thoughts;  the very sight of him is a burden to us, because his manner of life is unlike that of others, and his ways are strange. We are considered by him as something base, and he avoids our ways as unclean; he calls the last end of the righteous happy, and boasts that God is his father.

I have written at some length on the stages of persecution, and rather than duplicate all that, you can read it here: Stages of Religious Persecution. As for the fulfillment of today’s text, let us merely note the recent attempts by government officials to compel Americans to support same-sex unions. Some Christian bakers and photographers have been compelled to supply services to such “weddings” or face penalties.  Some ministers are being threatened with legal action for refusing to perform these “weddings.” And clergy in Houston are being required to submit their sermons (or “speeches”) for review by the Mayor. (More here: Threats to Religious Liberty)

This will only grow as increasing numbers in the world find our existence as Catholics and committed Christians to be “inconvenient” and will not “tolerate” (to use their word) our (reasonable) stance that much of what they propose is sinful and contrary to natural law. Increasingly, it is becoming possible for them to actively persecute us and legally punish us. Little by little, they are setting aside all pretense of “tolerance.”

More and more, this text is being fulfilled before our very eyes, even here in America where we thought we had Constitutional rights. The steady erosion of religious liberty may soon lead to a major breach in the dam holding back the flood waters of more open and explicit oppression. For indeed, as the text says, the very sight of us is a burden to them.

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray, for their wickedness blinded them, and they did not know the secret purposes of God, nor hope for the wages of holiness, nor discern the prize for blameless souls;  for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it.

Yes, deceived and led astray. Sin darkens the intellect. As St. Paul wrote, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their senseless minds were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools (Rom 1:21-22).

Pay attention, fellow Christian, our presumption that we are dealing with reasonable people is set aside by this text. Rather, it describes them as blinded by wickedness. While it is not for us to attribute wickedness to every person who opposes us (and it would be uncharitable to do so), nevertheless we must be sober that the collective reality with which we deal is no longer rooted in reason; it is rooted in dark passions and sins. 

Stay sober, my friend.

Image above: Our Lady, Seat of Wisdom

This video is an allegory of wisdom. As long as Lady Wisdom is at the heart of an age, there is color and life. But if wisdom, which comes from God, is lost, there follows death, and all color is lost.

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Comments (13)

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  1. FRANCIS EARL says:

    WISDOM 2 SPEAKS OF JESUS’ PASSION AS WELL

  2. FRANCIS EARL says:

    PLEASE CATECHIZE US ON THE CHURCH’S TEACHING ON TATOOING OUR BODIES. IT IS OBVIOUSLY PART OF THIS. THE FURROWS ON JESUS’ BODY REPAIRS THESE SINS

  3. Michael Petek says:

    “Has heinous crime been committed? Find the offender and kill him.” isn’t part of the culture of death. It;s prescribed in Scripture, and we did it when we used to have a culture of life.

    • At some point this capital punishment debate in the Church becomes a tired old debate.

      The doctrine permitting the use of it stands, but the pastoral stance of the Church on this matter is largely settled and stated quite firmly in the Catechism to wit that recourse capital punishment is almost never justified today, that its use is to be exceptionally rare if ever. I know of no bishop anywhere in the world, and no recent pope who upholds capital punishment as of value today. Hence those who extol its use seem an increasing fringe element in the Church, largely existent in the U.S.

      Catholicism is a worldwide Faith and in almost any other part of the world Capital Punishment is not even on the radar, it just isn’t a major reality and the odd insistence on extoling it seems a quirky obsession of some Americans rooted more in secular politics than in faith.

      As for the topic’s relationship to the article here, the death penalty does use death as a solution, and while one may argue that it need not necessarily proceed from the culture of death, nevertheless it does not help us in our prophetic stance against the culture of death to say its fine to kill criminals when we don’t really have to. A consistent ethic of life is more prophetic than a qualified one.

      Hence to stand with the catechism’s formulation of this makes sense for all the reasons stated but especially in since we live in times well described as a culture of death.

      Now you and others are free to respond, but I will say no more, since as I say, this is a tired old debate among a tiny fraction of Catholics. Just read the Catechism and root your view there. That’s always been my stance as a priest and while I have sometimes struggled with the death penalty emotionally and politically (wanting to support it), as A Catholic and a priest I see the Catechism of the Catholic Church as the go-to source for what I teach and believe and for what should serve as the foundation of a pastoral stance on this and other issues. Put me down as a Catechism based teacher.

      • Brian English says:

        “The doctrine permitting the use of it stands, but the pastoral stance of the Church on this matter is largely settled and stated quite firmly in the Catechism to wit that recourse capital punishment is almost never justified today, that its use is to be exceptionally rare if ever.”

        Well, the statement on capital punishment changed from the original draft Catechism to the final version. That change appears to have been the handiwork of a man who in his lifetime was rightly viewed as a giant in the Church, and who recently was declared a saint. However, regardless of JPII’s stature in the Church, overturning 2,000 years of Church teachings based on one’s personal views appears at the very least to be ill-advised.

        “A consistent ethic of life is more prophetic than a qualified one.”

        There is nothing prophetic about opposing the death penalty in the modern West. It has actually been a secularist goal for more than a century, and has led to the bizarre spectacle of countries like the Netherlands patting itself on the back for abolishing the death penalty in the 19th Century while at the same time being the world leader in euthanizing disabled infants.

        “Now you and others are free to respond, but I will say no more, since as I say, this is a tired old debate among a tiny fraction of Catholics.”

        Interesting to compare the “modern and enlightened” attitude to that exhibited in Benson’s “The Lord of the World,” written around 1905. As you will recall, when Rome is handed over entirely to the jurisdiction of the Pope, one of the first things he does is reinstitute the death penalty, to the horror of a thoroughly secularized Europe. The death penalty was banned as uncivilized, but euthanasia was rampant. Sound familiar?

        I do not mean to hijack the thread, but this complete ban on the use of the death penalty is really symbolic of larger issues in the Church. Centuries of thought are discarded in an attempt to appeal to secular opinion. That has never worked and will never work.

  4. a catholic psychologist says:

    “Let us oppress the righteous poor man” Dear Msgr, your analysis of this passage is especially inspired. I would only add that it has been a stumbling block for the Church, especially since the advent of the welfare state. The Church has very erroneously seen the government as the core solution to poverty, that arises both from bad fortune as well as bad choices. The bad fortune—such as severe mental illness, or catastrophic accident—can be helped by state money. But bad choices, especially bad sexual choices, are made much worse by govt money, and this is where the bulk of the money goes. Only the Church can help with bad choices, and yet it seems for the time being, that the Church in the US has thrown in with government ‘mercy’. So much of what passes today for charity, mercy, and helping one’s neighbor actually contributes to their moral decay and their misery. Government contributes huge subsidizes to fornication and adultery and the destruction of the poor family. Both of us—you who pastor an inner-city parish, and myself, who work with broken families —see up close the destructive force of government welfare monies. Politicians become powerful by ‘helping’ the poor add more chains to their leg-irons. The Church at one time, with its inner-city schools and parishes and its unqualified support of marriage, the christian family AND FATHERS, did a spectacular job of alleviating poverty. Now we subsidize abandonment and divorce. The males roam the streets aimlessly, ignorant, uneducated, and with insatiable appetites. I cringe every time i hear a prayer in Church that the government “help the poor” knowing that it is largely adding to their slavery to sin. It’s mind boggling, that a major political party can win elections by votes from young women who fear that they will lose their birth control pills—and we all are silent: Qui tacet consentire videtur.

  5. Nicholas Hesed says:

    later from the Book of Wisdom 14:22-26:

    And it was not enough for them to go astray concerning the knowledge of God, but also, while living in a great war of ignorance, they call so many and such great evils ‘peace.’
    For either they sacrifice their own sons, or they make dark sacrifices, or they hold vigils full of madness,
    so that now they neither protect life, nor preserve a clean marriage, but one kills another through envy, or grieves him by adultery.
    And all things are mixed together: blood, murder, theft and fraud, corruption and infidelity, disturbances and perjury, disorder within good things,
    forgetfulness of God, pollution of souls, alteration of procreation, inconstancy of marriage, unnatural adultery and homosexuality.

  6. David F says:

    The reality of an unreasonable opposition is what most disturbs me. If I can’t reach someone through reason I wonder if I can converse at all. Further given that the anti-Christian world view is beyond reason, and there is plenty of evidence to support this, then there is no worldly counter weight sufficient to slow down the progression of persecution. I worry for the future of my children.

  7. Christopher Manion says:

    Thank you for this exhilarating commentary, Monsignore. It’s especially important to notice the critical role of envy because the “social justice” crowd ignores it.

    When voluntary charity is replaced by “government” charity, politicians appeal to envy among their supporters, even while they rail against the “greedy.” Envy is the engine of socialism – which is why the socialists don’t condemn it.

    They should. It is the sin of Satan, the apostle of the libido dominandi that tempts all of us. Satan wasn’t greedy, but he was envious, big time.

  8. Have a nice day :) says:

    “….Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21-22).

    I was reading a comment by a pro-abortion person, who claims that (abortion) saves lives.

    Killing saves lives??? This is their dark logic now. This person claims that abortion is safer than child birth, and the pro-life people are monsters for not showing empathy for the mothers who want their child dead.

    Yep, this is their logic.

    This is the pro-abortion people mantra: Justifying murder for any reasons under the sun.

    Justifying murder because of poverty, future happiness, inconveniences, undue fears (e.g. fear of child birth death, can’t find a new boyfriend, etc.), etc., etc….

    So we must counter this by saying: You cannot justify murder because of (fill in the blank).

  9. Michael B Rooke says:

    Msgr. Pope
    Thank you for your article.
    The Book of Wisdom states clearly that we cannot expect truth from sources that reject God. The lesson for Catholics is to cleave to the teaching of the Church through Church websites and genuinely Catholic Newspapers for news and information. Dissident Catholics may be employed by the secular press precisely because they dissent.

    Wis1:
    2 Because he is found by those who do not test him,
    and manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him.
    3 For perverse counsels separate people from God,
    and his power, put to the proof, rebukes the foolhardy;
    4 Because into a soul that plots evil wisdom does not enter,
    nor does she dwell in a body under debt of sin.
    5 For the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit
    and withdraws from senseless counsels
    and is rebuked when unrighteousness occurs.
    6 For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
    yet she does not acquit blasphemous lips;
    Because God is the witness of the inmost self
    and the sure observer of the heart
    and the listener to the tongue.

    http://www.usccb.org/bible/wisdom/1

    It is now difficult to reach the full Vatican website through an iPad interface as was once the case but the following link should assist and be bookmarked on Notes ( I use XXX) for future reference.
    The Holy See
    http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/en.html

  10. Quisp says:

    Isaiah 5:20
    Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

    As scary as the chastisement sounds, we need it to end the current madness.

  11. Roland R. says:

    This I learned watching Peter Kreeft Youtube videos in regards thoughts of Blaise Pascal:

    There are 3 types of people in this world. The first group are those who seek God and who have found him, the second group are those who seek God and still have not found him. The third group are those who neither seek God nor have found him. The first group are reasonable and happy. The second group are reasonable but unhappy. The third group are both unreasonable and unhappy.

    If you belong to the second group, the good news is that you will eventually belong to the first group, as Jesus promises those who seek will find, and those how knock it will be opened to them.

    It appears today the West is in a death spiral both physically and spiritually and if people don’t want God as their God, then they will end up with creating their own demi-gods. Hence the third group is growing in numbers unseen before in the West and this now reflects the current social trend in 2014.

    Will this trend ever change? Yes, but it would appear that much trouble must come first. As an example take notice what is happening in Russia. But note this positive change only occurred after Communism fell. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2014/10/22/russia-has-experienced-a-spiritual-resurrection/#.VE52mzNqNe0.email

    Perhaps the same will happen as America eventually loses it hegemonic grip on the world.

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