The Irish Spirit – Issue No. 8
Exclusive excerpt from Holistic Healing, A Christian Approach by Pat Collins
Postmodernism maintains that the human mind cannot know absolute truth, so at best all truth is probable, partial, and provisional. Writing in par. 91 of his encyclical Faith and Reason, St John Paul II observed, “the time of certainties is irrevocably past, and the human being must now learn to live in a horizon of total absence of meaning, where everything is provisional and ephemeral. In their destructive critiques of every certitude, several authors have failed to make crucial distinctions and have called into question the certitudes of faith.”
It is not surprising therefore that in our secular society many citizens fail to acknowledge God’s ultimate authority in the realm of morality. In this regard one is reminded of what Judges 21:25 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel [no ultimate authority]. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Aldous Huxley, acted as spokesman for those who, in our post-truth society, espouse ethical relativism when he wrote in the mid twentieth century, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; and consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics. He is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do. For myself, as no doubt for most of my friends, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom. The supporters of this system claimed that it embodied the meaning – the Christian meaning, they insisted – of the world. There was one admirably simple method of confuting these people and justifying ourselves in our erotic revolt: we would deny that the world had any meaning whatever.” It strikes me that this relativist mentality is implicit in the worldview of those who argue for the legitimacy of such things as sex outside marriage, same sex marriage, abortion, and euthanasia.
In my opinion, we have to understand the tribulations we are currently enduring within this wider moral and religious context. Paradoxically, from a theological point of view, it could be said that current tribulations are at once a painful consequence of modern society’s wilful forgetfulness of God, and a mercy in so far as God allows us to be disciplined by painful events, such as the current pandemic, as a way of calling those who are contrite to repentance. It is as if Jesus is saying to the people of our time, “Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat” (Lk 22:31). The Lord has allowed Satan to do so for a good purpose, by means of the painful health and economic crises we are currently enduring. As Heb 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” It is my guess that the current tribulation will be met by mixed reactions, as was the bubonic plague in the fourteenth century.
Some people will turn away from God in an angry resentful way believing that there is no deity, or that God is heartless and has ignored them in their time of need. As a result, they may be inclined to eat drink and be merry, believing in a rather despairing way that they are, “without hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12).
Others will be like the Egyptians of old who as Wisdom 17:12-13; 15 tells us were overwhelmed by irrational fears, “Fear is nothing but the failure to use the help that reason gives. When you lack the confidence to rely on reason, you give in to the fears caused by ignorance… as they surrendered themselves to the sudden, unexpected fear that came over them.” No wonder the poet W. H. Auden referred to the contemporary era as “the Age of Anxiety.”
Some people will mistakenly interpret the coronavirus as the beginning of the apocalypse, the end times spoken about in scripture. While it is an intimation of the great tribulation, that time has not yet come.
Others, however, may be like the prodigal son who, humbled by his tribulations, came to his senses and decided to return to his father and his Jewish origins, values and beliefs. Like him, many modern men and women may respond consciously or unconsciously to the words, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Is 55:6-7).
I’m sure there will be a minority of believers, who will be so trusting in God, that no matter what happens, they will praise God in an unconditional way as they anticipate the blessings to come. In Hab 3:17-19, there are verses which express their hope filled attitude, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on high places.”
If people fail to hear and respond to God’s voice in and through current events, I suspect that, even though those trying events will eventually come to an end, they will only be succeeded by even greater tribulations in the future. God will continue to knock on the door of the hearts of those who are no longer mindful of the divine presence or purposes, in the hope that they will finally undergo a change of mind which will lead them to accept that the truth is not a proposition but rather a person the person of Jesus (cf. Jn 14:6) and that we should avoid doing what is evil in God’s eyes (cf. Ps 51:4).
The question is, will people have to experience an even more devastating tribulation, before they realise that the current pandemic and its economic aftermath is a dress rehearsal for the advent of the Antichrist and the great tribulation (cf. Rev 7:14) which will precede the second coming of Jesus. If we are anxious about what is happening in the world, at the present time, we should be even more preoccupied by the second coming of Jesus when all the living and the dead will have to stand before the judgement seat of God. Those who are in the state of grace will enter eternal glory and those who are not, will depart to a state of eternal alienation from God, their true selves and from others. That will be the greatest catastrophe of all, one which we all need to guard against.
In the meantime as long as the current pandemic continues, individuals and groups of believers can pray, not only for the conversion of sinners, but they can also witness to the divine mercy by praying with faith for the healing of people who are afflicted by coronavirus.
Prayer for Ireland
Lord we thank you for the countless blessings you have poured out on our country in the past. We praise you for the way in which your grace found expression in many generous and loving lives. We are grateful for the prosperity we have enjoyed. However, we regret, that the flame of the Spirit has sometimes been quenched by an idolatrous pursuit of power, pleasure, popularity and possessions. We confess Lord, that many of us have gone astray, and selfishly rewritten the commandments to suit ourselves. We believe that you came to cast fire on the earth and we long for you to renew your wonders in our day as by a new Pentecost. Help us to fan the embers of our smouldering faith into a lively flame, especially by means of regular periods of scripture reading, personal and family prayer, together with acts of self-denial. Mary mother of Jesus, we entrust Ireland to your motherly care. In the past our people remained faithful to your Son in times of persecution. We pray now that we may also remain faithful in times of tribulation. Amen.
Holistic Healing, A Christian Approach by Pat Collins is available for pre-order here.