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The Punishment of Complete Loss and What It Says to Us

September 24, 2017 10 Comments

The Burning of Jerusalem, Circle of Juan de la Corte

In the Office of Readings, we are currently reading from the prophet Ezekiel. Sunday’s reading warns of the possibility that moral conditions in the world can get so awful, even among the people of God, that He must take the strongest and most severe of measures.

Ezekiel experienced the coming disaster upon Israel very personally as a last warning to the people.

Thus the word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, by a sudden blow I am taking away from you the delight of your eyes …. That evening my wife died (Ez 24:15, 17).

Ezekiel wrote in the period just before the Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem. The loss of his wife was a portent of the coming disaster. God instructed Ezekiel not to mourn, but to turn to the people and say,

Thus the word of the Lord came to me: Say to the house of Israel: Thus says the Lord God: I will now desecrate my sanctuary, the stronghold of your pride, the delight of your eyes, the desire of your soul. The sons and daughters you left behind shall fall by the sword. Ezekiel shall be a sign for you: all that he did you shall do when it happens. … you shall rot away because of your sins and groan one to another.

As for you, son of man (Ezekiel) truly, on the day I take away from them their bulwark, their glorious joy, the delight of their eyes, the desire of their soul, and the pride of their hearts, their sons and daughters …. Thus you shall be a sign to them, and they shall know that I am the Lord (Ezekiel 24, selected verses).

The terrible and tragic moment for Judah came in 587 B.C. The Babylonians utterly destroyed Jerusalem. The Temple was burned and the Ark of the Covenant was lost, never again to be found (until its fulfillment in the Blessed Mother Mary). One could not imagine a more unlikely or complete destruction. Why would God allow His glorious Temple to fall at the hands of an unbelieving nation?

But God is not egocentric. He does not need buildings or holy cities to show His power. His most central work is to fashion a holy people and to draw each of us to holiness.

The terrible state of affairs of ancient Israel and Judah is well documented by the prophets. God’s own people had become depraved in many ways. There was idolatry, injustice, promiscuity, and a tendency to imitate the nations around them. Further they had become incorrigible. God often described them has having necks of iron and foreheads of brass. He called them a rebellious house. On top of all this, they made the presumption that God would never destroy His own temple or allow Jerusalem to fall.

There comes a time when warnings and minor punishments are no longer effective; only the most severe and widespread of losses will purge the evil. Surely this is evident in the smoking ruins of Jerusalem in 587 BC. Those who survived were taken to live in exile.

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps (Ps 137:1-2).

We should not delude ourselves into thinking that such a terrible event could only occur in the ancient world. We must consider that our condition can become so debased, so corrupted, that the only solution is the most severe of punishments, one so onerous that we cannot possibly return to our former ways, one that levels the very sources of our pride and sin.

Today, we kill shocking numbers of children in the womb; no amount of preaching or teaching of medical truth seems capable of ending this shedding of innocent blood. Our families are collapsing; we are suffering the ravages of our sexual sins. In our greed we cannot seem to control our spending or ever say no to ourselves. We are saddling future generations with insurmountable debt. No matter the warnings, we cannot or will not stop. There is desperate confusion and silence even in the Church, where one would hope for clarity and words of sanity. Corruptio optimi pessima (The corruption of the best is the worst thing). Believers are silent, weak, and divided, while the wicked and secular are fierce, committed, and focused.

All the while, in our affluence, we cannot imagine that a crushing end might come. Yet God said to the ancient, affluent city of Laodicea,

You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see (Revelation 3:17-18).

It becomes hard to see how God might bring us to conversion without the severest of blows.

Nevertheless, do not wish for this. Continue to pray for conversion! The alternative is almost too awful to imagine. Most of us are too comfortable to endure what might come. Saints, sinners, and everyone in between will suffer. Ezekiel was the first to suffer in the collapse of his times, even though he was one who tried to listen and warn.

The message of this week’s meditation in the Office of Readings is clear: Pray, pray, pray. Be sober that God will not hesitate to inflict severe blows if necessary, so that He might at least save some, a remnant.

 

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Comments (10)

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  1. Jo says:

    Amen. Thank you for your writings. I forward them to families and friends. May God protect you from evil seen and unseen.

    Jo Fernan, OCDS

  2. Robert S says:

    Msgr indeed as a society we have generated into a swamp of degenerate reprobates.

    I do not wish for chastisement as God’s anger will cause many hearts to fail possibly including my own, but justice must prevail. Every time I think the degeneracy and immorality cannot ebb any lower, man finds a new way to descend even further. Many of us would never have believed that the all merciful Triune God would have allowed wickedness to propagate to the extent it has which only underlines the depth of His Mercy.

    But if it means the slaughter of the most innocent in the sanctuary of their mother’s womb and the end of sin’s that cry out to God in Heaven then divine justice will have prevailed.

  3. for you says:

    God sends those who will warn us, in HIS Love He sends many, but who will listen? Thank you for being obedient to God, thank you for the warnings. We pray for God’s Mercy but God says there can be no Mercy without repentance. In HIS warnings and messages of warnings He calls for repentance, to turn away from evil practices. Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

  4. Tom O'Malley says:

    Thank you Msgr, for this sobering reflection. We are greatly at risk.

    Military and other authorities estimate that one dirty bomb that evades our defenses before detonating over the middle of our country could wipe out our aged electric grid, set civilization back hundreds of years, and result in as many as 90% not surviving the first year.

    In light of our once God loving nation sinking near the depths of depravity, we must change our ways and repent or else the equivalent of our Babylonian exile shall force us to our knees.

  5. David says:

    Very sobering, thank you

  6. Catharine says:

    Msgr Pope,
    Thank you for an excellent lesson. In this current state of utter moral depravity in which we live, the USA has left the ancient Jewish nation trailing in the dust–in our country, we energetically sacrifice our unborn sons & daughters to Molech by human sacrifice (abortion).
    I have been praying silent rosaries/Divine Mercy chaplets/etc. outside the PP abortion megaplex here in Aurora, IL for months now. (Before that, only at home or at Eucharistic adoration) The pro-life presence at the abortion mill (never much to speak of) has dwindled noticeably, simply since April 29 when I started coming! It seems that nobody can be bothered anymore to do anything pro-life.
    If anything is bringing down the wrath of Almighty God on this benighted nation of ours, it is this one horrific sin. I urge all readers to pray the pro-life rosary, esp. since October is both the month devoted to the rosary, and to pro-life. Thank you and God bless.

  7. Jennifer says:

    God bless Msgr Pope for his clarity, at least we have him and a few other still faithful shepherds who remind us of the need to pray and repent.

  8. TG says:

    I don’t see how we can murder 58 million babies and get away with it. There has to be a reckoning. Maybe it won’t come until judgement day but I suspect it will come sooner. We portray ourselves as a just nation and act like we are specially blessed by God. Really? We have killed more babies here than the number of people who died during WWII, yet we call Hitler evil. We have got Hitler, Stalin, and Mao beat by a mile. While abortion is the worst of our sins, we have plenty of others to answer for also. I’m surprised God has not smited us already. If we lived in Old Testament times I would expect to be incinerated like Sodom and Gomorrah. I often wonder how long God will let us continue down this path.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

    Surely some revelation is at hand;
    Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
    The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
    When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
    Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
    A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
    A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
    Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
    Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

    The darkness drops again but now I know
    That twenty centuries of stony sleep
    Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

    Yeats wrote that in 1919 after WWI and the Russian Revolution. Everyone thought that the world would never experience that kind of horror again, but WWII was right around the corner. I wonder what is around the corner for us?

  9. Raymond J. Ryan says:

    My sense is that the Mother of God reigns as the merciful ambassador to her Son on our behalf. How long she can in effect continue to advise her son to be patient with us is hard for me to understand. Time has run out as I see it. Here in America, 1 million plus have died in all wars. Since 1973, 60 million babies have been murdered in the U.S. We now have the political breakdown we have asked for. Financial markets seem to defy common sense. Our reputation as “The city on the Hill” is gone. If your observations are saying we are in danger, you are correct. And surprisingly, anyone with a round head and just a bit of common sense must agree. Like the Chinese curse, our fondest wishes are coming true. I pray Mater Dei is the Mother of all persuaders. Blessings on all of us.

  10. Richard Connell says:

    There was a rock and roll band that I never listened to that had an album title that was memorable: Barbarism Begins at Home.

    Is that true?

    Sometimes, the state foists barbarism on the people, as when the king of the ten Northern tribes built the two golden calves for the people to worship.

    Sometimes, the people clamor for barbarism, as at the time of Moses and Aaron, when the first golden calf was fashioned.

    What to do?

    Imo, the Monsignor gives good advice: “It becomes hard to see how God might bring us to conversion without the severest of blows.

    Nevertheless, do not wish for this. Continue to pray for conversion!”

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