33rd Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Joseph Levine; November 15, 2020
Readings: Pr 31:10-13,19-20,30-31; Ps 128:1-5; 1 Th 5:1-6; Mt 25:14-30
When people are saying, ‘Peace and security,’ then sudden disaster comes upon them.
The people St. Paul is referring to are the worldly people, those who do not believe in God and in Jesus Christ or those who despite their professed belief are ruled rather by worldly attitudes and ways of thinking. The children of the light, who are not asleep to God and to the life of grace, who remain sober and alert through a life of prayer, do not seek peace and security in this world and have nothing to fear.
The worldly people seek peace and security in this world and are easily led astray and deceived by those who promise to fulfill their desires. Right now, the man who is proclaimed by the mainstream media (e.g. The New York Times, AP, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News) as the ‘President-Elect’ and who calls himself such, has been promising peace and security after the tumult of the past four years. Do not believe him.
In any case, St. Paul is actually referring to a very specific time in salvation history, the reign of the Antichrist.
Before I enter more into this subject of the Antichrist let me quote the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the matter.
I quote the Catechism because sadly Catholic preachers have been mostly silent on this subject, thereby failing in their duty to serve as ‘watchmen’ to the people of God (cf. Ez 3:17-21); thereby failing to fulfill the role of the good shepherd who sounds the alarm when he sees the wolf coming. (cf. Jn 10:12)
675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism.
677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection. The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven. God’s triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgement after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world.
The Catechism refers to the Antichrist as a religious deception and a pseudo-messianism. It sounds a bit more like a movement, a society, or a culture, than a person, but traditionally the Antichrist has been thought of a singular individual who serves as the devil’s agent. The two viewpoints are connected and I will touch on that later in its proper place. First, though, I want to review the principle passages of Scripture from which the doctrine and prophecy of the Antichrist is drawn.
First, the name appears only in the 1st and 2nd Letters of St. John. St. John speaks more of the spirit of the Antichrist which is characterized by the denial that Jesus is the Christ, which is the same as the denial that Jesus has come in the flesh, which is the same as the denial of the Father and the Son, because the doctrines of the Trinity, of the Incarnation of the Son of God, and of the Salvation and Redemption wrought by Jesus Christ are all inseparable. Anyone who denies one of these effectively denies the others as well. (Cf. 1 Jn 2:21-23; 4:1-6) The spirit of the Antichrist is at work in all false prophets.
St. John warns us not to be deceived. The deception of the Antichrist does not always appear by way of an explicit denial of the faith, but often by a more subtle undermining of the faith. Such is the proclamation of the equality of religions, or the declaration ‘that we all worship the same God’ (even those who do not believe in Christ), or that we are all on different paths to the same place. All of these deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the way, the truth, and the life, apart from whom no one can go to the Father. (cf. Jn 14:6)
Though St. Jude does not refer to the Antichrist, he writes of godless persons, who pervert the grace of our God into licentiousness and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jd 1:4) And he adds: These dreamers defile the flesh, reject lordship, and blaspheme majesty. (Jd 1:8) In other words St. Jude helps us to avoid the deception of lying words by showing us the attitudes and actions that go with the denial of Christ: sexual indulgence, rejection of authority, and the dragging down into the mud everything, every person, every institution, that being clothed in the majesty of God tends to lift human aspirations to higher and nobler things. This is seen in coarseness of language and of dress, leveling of all social distinctions and honors, and irreverent and blasphemous jokes and pictures. The emblems of this attitude are often found on tee shirts, both of teenagers and adults, even of some people attending Mass.
Next, we go to St. Paul’s 2nd Letter to the Thessalonians. He speaks first of an ‘apostasy’ that comes before the manifestation of the man of lawlessness. (cf. 2 Th 2:3)
In 1492 when Columbus set sail and discovered America, the nations and peoples of Europe were all Christian. There was a fundamental split between the Catholic and the Orthodox, but they actually professed the same faith and had the same sacraments; the chief point of contention was the role of the papacy.
Since that time, Europe and the nations that took their rise from Europe, like the United States, have come to dominate the entire world. Western civilization conquered the world, bringing in part faith in Christ, but also bringing in part apostasy from Christ. The apostasy has spread to every nation that has been influenced by western civilization. Consider that China, which might actually be the most powerful nation in the world today, has made use of western ideas, communism and the free market, to attain their present status.
The steps of this apostasy began with the rejection of the Church by the Protestant revolution, continued through the rejection of Christian faith through the dominion of ‘scientific reason’, to the rejection of authority and morality, leading to the absolute relativism and subjectivism that we see today.
The European Union refused to incorporate into her constitution any reference to the Christian roots of Europe, despite the pleadings of St. John Paul II. The Black Lives Matter movement has rejected the western and European inheritance as ‘White’, and together with that inheritance it has rejected Christianity, which came to the rest of the world by way of Europe. This has given rise to increasing attacks on churches and sacred images, as was indeed called for earlier this year by the popular activist Shaun King.
We have for some time already witnessed the widespread spirit of lawlessness that has followed upon the apostasy of the West. But St. Paul speaks explicitly of the man of lawlessness who is to be revealed. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god. (2 Th 2:4)
St. Paul also speaks about someone or something in the world that restrains the lawlessness and so also holds back the appearance of the man of lawlessness.
The Pope should fulfill this role, but it appears that, in his desire to ‘make a mess’, the current occupant of the papacy has failed to do so. Rather he has compromised himself with the powers of this world. This has been recently revealed by the way in which he effectively declared his support for same-sex civil unions, thereby tacitly condoning homosexual acts, but that has only been the latest in a whole series of compromises with the world. This failure of the Pope to exercise the role of ‘restraining’ is what led Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò openly to support President Trump, despite his evident faults, because he perceived President Trump to be the one remaining world leader of prominence who was actually resisting the forces of apostasy and lawlessness; the Trump presidency seemed to be the only thing left holding back the man of lawlessness.
The other chief source for the doctrine of the Antichrist is the 13th chapter of the Book of Revelation in which are revealed a ‘beast’ and a ‘false prophet’.
The beast is described as having seven heads and ten horns; on the horns are diadems and, on the heads, blasphemous names. (cf. Rev 13:1) The beast is revealed as an agent of Satan from whom it receives power and authority. All the world ends up worshipping the beast declaring, Who can compare with the beast or who can fight against it. (Rev 13:4) The beast utters blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling and those who dwell in heaven. In other words, he blasphemes against Christ, against the Church, and against the Saints. The beast is not just content with words, but actively persecutes and even kills the faithful on earth.
During the course of the past century or so the forces of communism have done all of that. The number of Christians who were imprisoned or killed in the former Soviet Union and in Communist China and in other communist countries, including Cuba, is beyond count. Blasphemies and persecutions also raged south of the border in Mexico, especially in the 1920s and 30s.
The false prophet of the book of Revelation also needs to be mentioned: it had two horns like a lamb’s but it spoke like a dragon (i.e. its words were full of deceit). It wielded all the authority of the first beast in its sight and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast. (Rev 13:11-12)
The comparison with the lamb suggests a Christian leader; for this reason, the false prophet has historically been identified with the whole realm of treason and betrayal by the Catholic clergy. These false prophets and disciples of Judas lead Catholics to submit to the beast either by their false, worldly doctrine or by the scandal they give – we need only consider how many people have left the Church because of the clergy sex abuse scandal.
We also can consider the failure of Catholic bishops to speak up and take action against Catholic politicians, like Joseph Biden, who have supported abortion. We can consider the hypocrisy of the current Archbishop of Washington, DC who expressed outrage that President Trump was received when he came to the St. John Paul II National Shrine to pray, but has never expressed similar outrage at Joseph Biden’s support for the slaughter of unborn children.
Make no mistake about it: whatever the final outcome of the still undecided election, Joseph Biden is a false Catholic. While he carries a rosary in his pocket, he has stated that he is a ‘cultural Catholic’. He rejoiced in 1992 when the Supreme Court by upholding Roe v. Wade upheld the supposed right to murder babies, so long as they are still in the womb. Also, when he was Vice President presided at a private ceremony that claimed to be the wedding between two men. That should be evidence enough.
As for the false prophet, he leads men to submit themselves to the dominion of the beast, a dominion that will be truly global in its scope. (cf. Rev 13:7)
In any case, let us return to a consideration of the 1st beast to understand its relation to the Antichrist. The seven heads have blasphemous names. The beast properly is not a person, but a body of godless human society, a sort of ‘anti-Church’ that acts under the dominion of the seven heads.
Right now, we are living in the midst of a truly godless society that is indeed like a ferocious beast that destroys human life. This beast is active in the impersonal, soul crushing power of government bureaucracies, large corporations, political parties, major news media, and the entertainment industry. Indeed, we can easily feel powerless against this beast. There is a great temptation, even for those who recognize the lies with which we are daily bombarded, to give up and declare, Who can compare with the beast or who can fight against it?
The seven heads, which control the beast, might be identified with the powerful ideologies like communism, or free-masonry, or the trans-humanism of big tech, that are effectively dominating the world. We might be able to put faces to those heads with names like Xi Jinping, the President of China, or George Soros, or Bill Gates. Even so, it is hard to tell how it all fits together or who is really calling the shots, except that Satan is definitely behind it all.
Nevertheless, the human manifestation of the beast’s activity is most manifest in the ten horns with their diadems; this seems to represent persons who hold positions of great political power.
The Antichrist appears, however, as one of the heads, the one that appears to have been mortally wound, but with the wound healed. It seems he will stand apart from all the political leaders but be honored and obeyed by the great political leaders. In any case, the false replication of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is what wins the whole world to the dominion of the beast. The man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, then, as a person, would give a human face to one of the beast’s heads, and would deceive the world through some appearance of a sort of ‘resurrection’.
We actually already seem to be witnessing a sort of ‘resurrection’ of the power of communism, which appeared to have been mortally wounded when the Soviet Union collapsed. Or we might witness the ‘resurrection’ of an aged or crippled man by means of trans-humanism, whereby he becomes a sort of man-machine- computer. Or perhaps someone who did not actually die, but was frozen in suspended animation, will be resuscitated and possessed by Satan.
In any case, just as Christ and his Church, which is animated by his Holy Spirit, are inseparable, so the Antichrist and the beast as the sort of ‘Antichurch’ are inseparable. In the case, of Christ, he came first and then his Body, the Church. In the case of the Antichrist, his ‘body’, so to speak, seems to be already very well prepared, waiting for the appearance of the Antichrist.
What does this have to do with peace and security?
Since the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century we have seen the political and social order of the world thrown into turmoil; there have been revolutions and wars on an unheard of scale. This prepares the way for the Antichrist as the apparent solution, offering a sort of new religion that will propose to solve the problems of the human race, offering us peace and security; “a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.” (CCC 675)
How then are we to resist the cry of the worshippers of the beast, like the New York Times, AP, CBS, NBC, ABC, MSNBC, CNN, and Fox News, who continual challenge us saying: Who can compare with the beast or who can fight against it? Who continually tell us, “Get with the program. It is inevitable. It is the future.”
Now, first of all, it is not inevitable. Even though powerful forces in the world have been preparing a ‘body’ for the Antichrist, the Antichrist himself does not seem to have arrived on the scene and possibly the whole thing will collapse without that happening. Or maybe not.
In any case, we must remain alert and sober; we must invest and work with the ‘talents’ God has given us.
The worshippers of the beast cry out, Who can compare with the beast? That is a blasphemous challenge and we must respond with the battle cry of St. Michael the Archangel, whose name means, Who is like God?
Next, we need to recognize that, in the world in which we live, characterized as it is by lies and deception on a massive scale, we must put a priority on the truth of the faith. In a certain way the truth of the faith must even be set above love precisely because ‘love’ has been so widely falsified. The word has often become empty and meaningless. Only the truth of the faith guarantees the reality of love. Without the truth of the faith, the love that comes from God will disappear from the world. Living in the truth, then, we must resist the lies that surround us. We must refuse to give in. We must reject the lie that a baby is nothing more than a disposable clump of cells. We must reject the lie that men can marry men and women can marry women. We must reject that lie that a man can become a woman or a woman become a man. These are fundamental and heinous lies because they strike at the heart of what it means to be human. These lies would destroy our humanity and make it to become a plaything of the powerful, a commercial product, a laboratory experiment. Those who compromise with the lies make themselves ready to receive the mark of the beast.
But if we are to reject the lies, then we must be prepared for the hatred and vitriol with which we will be attacked. We must be ready to called ‘hater’, ‘bigot’, ‘racist’, and every other name in the book. Jesus warned us: If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first … they will do all these things to you on my account, because they do not know the one who sent me. (Jn 15:18,21) And, If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more those of his household. (Mt 10:25)
He also told us, You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be harmed, by your perseverance you will secure your souls. (Lk 21:17-19)
Remember, we are not Christians for the sake of some worldly success and triumph, we are Christians for the hope of eternal life. As I said in the last two Sundays, our chief desire should be to behold the face of God in eternity; that will be the salvation of our souls.
We must heed the exhortation of the letter to the Hebrews: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses (that is the saints in heaven who have gone before us), let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the sake of joy set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)
And the words of St. John: The love of God is this that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith. Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 Jn 5:3-5)
The beast of the Antichrist was revealed in the 13th chapter of the Book of Revelation, only after the great sign of victory was shown to us in the 12th chapter, the sign of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon at her feet, and a crown of twelves stars upon her head, our Mother (cf. Rev 12:1) so long as we keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus. (cf. Rev 12:17)
It is not enough to carry a rosary, we must know how to use it, and use it!
As for the man of lawlessness, the Antichrist, Jesus will slay him by the breath of his mouth. (2 Th 2:8 cf. Rev 19:11-21)
There is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest, and nothing secret that will not be known and come to light. (Lk 8:17)