Advent is a season of waiting, waiting for God to fulfill his promises. We know that most of His promises from the Old Testament were fulfilled magnificently by Jesus. But as St. Paul reminds, we have received but the first fruits of his work in our soul (cf Rom 8:23). The created world and our physical bodies still await the full implications of what He has done. We still await a new Heaven and a new earth where the justice of God will reside (cf 2 Peter 3:13). We still wait for that time when God will renew and restore all things in Christ and will vanquish the ancient foe of mankind, Satan, and his followers, the demons and the wicked, so that they can no longer cause harm.
There are times—times like these—when many may be discouraged. There are times when evil may seem to triumph and the victory of Christ seems very far off. For indeed we live in a fallen world, governed by a fallen angel, and we have fallen natures.
But as Advent ends there comes a word of encouragement from Isaiah, who has been the main prophet of reference during this season. It is addressed to the fainthearted, and is an unambiguous declaration that God is working His purposes out and that nothing in this world can ultimately prevent His plan from reaching its fulfillment and victory.
It is God who speaks through Isaiah. These words are worth reading aloud if you are in a place where you can do so as you read this:
I am God there is no other. At the beginning I foretell the outcome; in advance, things not yet done. I say that my plan shall stand. I accomplish my every purpose. Yes, I have spoken, I will accomplish it; I have planned it and I will do it. Listen to me you fainthearted, you who seem far from the victory of justice: I am bringing on my justice, it is not far off, my salvation shall not tarry; I will put salvation within Zion, and give my glory to Israel (Isaiah 46:12ff).
Consider three conclusions for us to take to heart.
1. THE PLAN – In Heaven there is no panic, no puzzlement about what to do, just plans. And God says, “My plan shall stand.” The foolish and the self-described “wise and learned” of this world may well scoff and think they have found something greater than God’s wisdom and knowledge. Many seculars may dismiss God as a myth or as irrelevant. The wicked may think they can mock God forever. But God’s plan will stand. The plan and works of evil are going nowhere. Scripture says in Psalm 2,
The kings of the earth rise up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and his anointed, saying, 3 “Let us break their bonds asunder, and cast their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.” … Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the Lord with fear, with trembling 12give homage to his Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way; for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Yes, God’s plan will stand, no matter the plans of man. And those who mock God, or build their Towers of Babel, or lead others to sin are going to be surprised, and they are going to answer to God.
2. THE PARADOX – God speaks of the “fainthearted” as those who feel far from the victory of justice. To them He says simply that His justice IS near and that it will not tarry.
It is true that God often accomplishes His purposes in paradoxical ways! Simply go to the foot of the Cross to see that. What sort of King is this? What sort of triumph is this? And yet it is a masterful inversion of Satan’s scheme. It is a stealthy action. And just as Satan is making his victory dance, Christ is emptying out Sheol.
Christ conquers by refusing Satan’s terms, by refusing to impress the world on its prideful and vengeful terms. For indeed, darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. And hatred cannot drive out hatred; only love can do that. And pride cannot conquer pride; only humility can do that.
The world demands that Christ become merely a bigger version of Satan: bold, brash, arrogant, and disobedient. It demands that Jesus fight the fight on Satan’s terms, using Satan’s techniques. But Jesus will have none of it and He cancels Satan’s pride by humility and obedience. And to all the prideful, the disobedient, and the braggarts of today the message still goes forth: My plan shall stand. I accomplish my every purpose!
And to the fainthearted goes the message that God’s justice is near. But we must also learn that it comes, paradoxically, through the Cross. For just as the first victory came on a Sunday after Good Friday, so too the second and final victory will rise in the wake of the Cross. But it WILL come—not on the world’s terms and not by Satan’s tactics, but by the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
3. THE PERSPECTIVE – There are many today who like to announce that the age of faith is over, that God is but a myth and faith a superstition. People who speak like this know little of history.
For indeed, the Lord’s Church has been here for over 2000 years, more than 5000 if you count the Old Testament years. And during this time, empires have come and gone, nations have risen and fallen, heresies and philosophies have waxed and waned. Self-declared enemies have said that they would bury the Church, but the Church read the funeral rites over them. Where is Caesar now? Where is Julian the Apostate? Where is Napoleon, or Hitler, or Stalin, or the USSR?
When the Muslims wiped out the North African cradle of the Church, Europe lit up with converts from the barbarians. Just when two million Europeans walked out of the Church during the Protestant revolt, nine million entered in Mexico following the apparition at Guadalupe. And now that Europe is largely divorcing from Christ, Africa has lit up again like a great wedding feast with a 7000% increase in the number of Catholics over the last fifty years.
People who say that the age of faith is over, or that the Church is doomed, have not read history. They lack perspective because they do not know God, whose plan will stand. That the powers of Hell will strive to destroy the Church is evident. That they will fail to prevail is revealed in Scripture (Matt 16:18) and has been shown all these centuries now. When the current scoffers are dead and gone, the Church will still be here preaching the Gospel. The Lord does not guarantee that we will always be numerous, but we will be here for as long as the sun shall shine and until the Lord comes again.
To the fainthearted the Spirit says, “Be strong. God’s plan will stand.” And so the Lord Jesus says, Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away (Lk 21:33). These are difficult days, even inside the Church. But the Lord is still the Head of His body. God’s plan will stand.
24 Replies to “God’s Plan will Stand – A Word of Encouragement to the Fainthearted”
Thank you so much for writing this post, Msgr. Pope. You don’t know how much I needed to read it (but God does)!
God bless you father, you are a voice crying in the wilderness of a world gone mad. I believe the Kingdom of God will only be established on earth when every man, woman and child come to the foot of the cross ” the incredible catholic mass” A Blessed Christmas to You Father Jim
Thank you Msgr and Merry Christmas to you if I don’t get the chance to comment ’til then.
Since coming to the Church about ten years ago, nothing has shaken me like the last two years. I do not think the Church is doomed; my faith is in tact. But the substance of my faith has been largely rattled by the confusion. It is hard to know sometimes what one ought to believe and how one ought to act as a Catholic. Some see these times as a new Pentecost. I think they’re a preclude to the Great Apostasy.
Can’t have the new Pentecost without a new teaching, but orthodox teaching of course… where we will learn about God’s perfect revelation, plan and gift that began in the Garden of Eden….and finally God will perfect man!
And the Trojan Horses are also here….insane time….we live in.
I write with relative ease. This particular article took me only about a half hour to write, and maybe fifteen minutes to format. My parishioners will tell you I am loquacious (i.e. a blabber mouth) and I write like I talk. 🙂
Because I write so fast, I make a lot of errors so I am grateful to have Patty Miller, a regular reader who proofs what I post. May the Lord bless her!
Wishing a very Merry and Blessed Christmas Monsignor Pope! Thank you for this beautiful reminder of our hope.
I agree with Christopher, I definitely needed this one today.
It struck me as I was reading just how often we fear the outcome because we define victory in human terms. We forget how God defines victory. We forget how He brings His Glory through the worst our puny world can muster, and in fact it is in those situations His light shines the brightest. Not simply by contrast, mind you. When we are weak, when our defenses are down, we let Him in and find ourselves to be magnificent extensions of His Glory. Where we would see ourselves as useless He sees power and victory.
We never look around to change or grow when we think we have won; it is pride that so often blinds us. We never seem to remember that the better things are in our opinion, the more need we have for God, because it is in those times when we find ourselves farthest from Him.
Funny thing, i took comfort yesterday, in Isaiah 46 :12 which i read aloud then, through tears and just read it again. When life just seems to be rife with senseless cruelties and hurt, this passage offers pilgrims comfort and immense security. The Holy Spirit is strong in you Msgr. Pope. Through Him, you bring us clarity and hope. God bless you.
“It is not then difficult to see that the devil was conquered, when he who was slain by Him rose again. It is something more, and more profound of comprehension, to see that the devil was conquered when he thought himself to have conquered, that is, when Christ was slain.”–St. Augustine from On the Most Holy Trinity, Book XIII, Chapter 15.
If I read that beautiful quote correctly, the translator accidentally capitalized a pronoun referring to the devil: should be “…He Who was slain by him . . .”
Beautiful message! I needed to hear it, too. Grazie mille e Buon Natale, Monsignor!
Awesome. Thank you and blessings to you this Christmas!
And thanks for the hymn by Isaac Watts. Our parish church has a choir and organist that provide excellent music as set pieces for the choir, but when the music director selects something for the congregation to sing, it is invariably something composed in the last 40 years. “On Eagles’ Wings” or even worse. How the director can so consistently ignore 500 years of English hymnody is beyond me. I presume the pastor likes it that way.
Happily, there is another Catholic church not too far away with better music and good preaching — and a growing congregation.
Thank you for those words of encouragement. All of you reading this post, as you prepare for Christmas, please pray for Christians in India too. Hindu extremists are threatening to do away with Christians totally by 2021.
Merry Christmas and God bless you all.
I so needed to hear this today! THANK YOU Monsignor!
I believe that God will take care of Christians worldwide. This year is sure to be the year of the illumination of the soul- that should hopefully help Christians. Trust in God!
Thank you so much and thank your parishioners for sharing you with us! Not all of us have such faithful, encouraging priests, and or bishops to strengthen our weak and battle weary minds, hearts, and souls. May God continue to love all of us through you!
Would like to add…I have prayed mightily for a spiritual director. It has looked as if nothing short of a miracle would be able to make this happen. A faithful and newly installed priest in a neighboring parish, but same diocese has agreed to be a spiritual director to me IF I agree to attend Mass at my parish and stay connected to my geographical community. I felt how the young rich man, who came to Jesus to find out what he must do to inherit the Kingdom of God (sell all of his possession), must have felt. I left that day, sad. But, I stayed in the battle and obeyed. Thanks be to God for all the saints who taught and lived obedience. Obedience trumps even humility, due to the possible deception of false humility. Through the Spirit of the Lord I have conquered my self-will that sought a seemingly “good” to attend a more “faithful to the Liturgy” Mass and leave where God providentially put me. This priest told me I am strong enough to stay and be what God wants me to be where I am at! Also, he explained God’s design for me to be a “light” where I am. I said all that to say…although I am called to stay in my parish with a priest who is uneducated in the faith or worse, rebellious perhaps…it is where I have been put. But, God’s profound mercy reaches us where we are at. It matters not where we live. I have found a very wise spiritual director. In this time of many unfaithful and, or ignorant priests, bishops, and monsignors God supports the faithful by monsignors, bishops, and priests, such as yourself through far reaching media. I also stand in solidarity with the persecuted Christians around the world and where ever I find myself, I cry out with all the faithful, “Come Lord, Jesus!”
thank you..like many others I also needed to be reminded..through my fears, worries and doubts..I pray God give me strength
Pray for those who think that God is dead and are living accordingly.
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