September 13, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Many good Catholics and other Christians have felt, as I do, an increasing sense of futility concerning our contemporary godless culture. This has frequently led to a sense of frustration and even to a temptation toward hopelessness. Yet, we know as Christians that we cannot give in to despair. “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair.” (2 Corinthians 4:8) But how do we navigate through the chaos and moral wasteland that is our present society? And what do we do when both our political and religious leaders too often fail us? The answers for the true believer, as always, can be found in Holy Scripture.
I have been reading a couple of good books of late that have been a source of guidance and inspiration. The first is by Pastor Jim Garlow, an Evangelical friend, who recently wrote Well Versed: Biblical Answers to Today’s Tough Issues. Pastor Garlow insightfully addresses the pressing moral questions of our day, involving such topics as marriage, abortion, sexual orientation, and gender identity. He does so with ample and timeless references to Scripture.
In the past, Pastor Garlow and I have chided each other about our differing “Catholic versus Protestant” views of purgatory. The second book I recently read is Hungry Souls: Supernatural Visits, Messages, and Warnings from Purgatory by Gerard J.M. van den Aardweg. This book contains compelling accounts of visitations from people suffering in purgatory. They have been permitted by God to sometimes briefly return to earth to plead for the prayers of living family members, friends, and acquaintances. The accounts are remarkably similar despite the fact that they span various centuries and countries.
Jim Garlow’s book is an excellent guide on how to use the Bible to get through this life to our ultimate goal of heaven. The book by van den Aarstead illustrates what happens on the other side of the grave to those who are saved, but not yet prepared to spend eternity with our Lord in the communion of saints. The challenges to avoid purgatory, or worse, are indeed formidable for those of us whose journey on earth is not yet complete. How do we live up to the challenge of Scripture that “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect?” (Matthew 5:48) It seems impossible in this world, especially when Scripture also tells us: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8).
Oftentimes, our best efforts fall short and our prayers seemingly go unanswered. Although, on reflection, those of us who have sought to give ourselves over to the Lord have, from the vantage point of time, seen His loving hand at work … sometimes even in the most distressing events of our lives. We have thus come to realize the great truth in the promise of Scripture: “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). That does not mean that we are not sometimes the victims of our own moral failings, or that God’s perfect justice can be avoided, but it does mean that God can and does bring about good, even from human wickedness.
God knows each of us even better than we know ourselves: “Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Luke 12:7) So we have good reason not to despair, and to continue to find comfort and hope in perhaps our Lord’s greatest promise of all: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20). Until that appointed hour, and even in the bleakest of times, we who have the great gift of faith remain gratefully content in the knowledge that we are not alone, and God’s love and mercy embraces us always.
Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J. wisely speaks about the Holy Spirit quietly working in our lives through a “conspiracy of events.” I believe that the forces that we are battling in this life, including militant secularists and moral relativists, backed by principalities and dominions, are unwitting instruments of God’s divine plan. They have brought past sectarian foes together as lifelong allies in an attempt to save what is left of our religious liberty, and the souls of those that are still receptive to the subtle voice of the Holy Spirit.
So where is God to be found in all of this? For all faithful Christians, He is still to be found in the Word … which profoundly touches are our minds and hearts … and provides a peace that surpasses all human understanding. For devout Catholics, our Lord is most intimately found in His Real Presence … body and blood, soul and divinity … in the precious gift of the Holy Eucharist. Before Christ returns, it is my sincere hope and prayer that a spirit of true ecumenism enables Catholics and Protestants alike to form the kind of spiritual union that will carry us through to a blissful eternity … spent together with the heavenly host … and before the throne of our Lord and Savior.
Charles LiMandri is the president and chief counsel for Freedom of Conscience Defense Fund.