By Charlie Johnston
(This piece originally appeared on December 4, 2017 at The Next Right Step. It is moderately edited for content here, but I thought its themes are important in these times. I used to get frustrated that people were so certain that they knew what was going to happen that I feared many might be disheartened when they saw how many of all our expectations are going to fail. Now that everyone is shaken by what is happening and what it portends, I think this a useful meditation on how to maintain calm fidelity in the midst of frightening uncertainty. Right now, I am doing meeting after meeting, both with individuals and groups, working to build the infrastructure so we may both survive and thrive in tough times – and help others do the same. We are the heralds of the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart and must act it, to be a sign of hope to each other and to those who, though not among us yet, grow increasingly more shaken with the flood of new offenses each day. Make no mistake, some who even now seem timid and indecisive will become heroes in the days ahead, as God fills them with new heart, new hope, and new courage; while some we rely on will fade away. It is he who endures to the end who will be saved. (Matthew 24:13) So, let us endure and gather a great harvest of newly rejuvenated souls to present to Our Lady at her Triumph to present to Her Holy Son as witness that there is still faith on earth.-CJ)
Dec 4, 2017:
Though I don’t moderate the comments here anymore, I do read through them every few days to see what themes are on people’s minds. Of late I see many wonder whether I still say that the Rescue will come before the end of the year. The Rescue is what I call the revelation of Our Lady to the whole world in which all will know that Jesus is God, Lord of all; that she is His Mother; that He honors her; and that He expects us all to do the same. In a word, yes, I do.
The only thing that has changed is my expectation of how the world will react to the Rescue. Up until early this year it was inconceivable to me that people could know with certainty the things the Rescue will reveal and yet refuse to repent and convert. Alas, I have seen this year that many people wallowing in deep disorder will be bitter enders, even though they know it leads to their own destruction. I believed that the Rescue would be the end of troubles. Now, I believe that it will begin the hottest phase of a struggle in which the outcome is certain and in which everyone knows which side they are on. It will be a struggle constantly marked by supernatural manifestations as God reveals Himself to both hearten the faithful and call the rebellious to repentance. In the end it will lead to the end of troubles, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart, but for a time, it will be the very stormiest of times. Sadly, many in rebellion, once they know with certainty that God IS, will not repent, but will angrily accuse God of being a racist and sexist or whatever-phobe and refuse to serve Him or their neighbor.
I should have known. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, I thought the rise of ultrasound technology would herald the end of abortion, as science proved to even non-believers that the fetus is not just a ‘blob of tissue,’ but a human child. I was stunned when, in Reagan’s first term, Planned Parenthood moved away from the now-defunct ‘blob of tissue’ argument and adopted the ‘right to choose’ mantra – a mantra that had been used in this country before to justify slavery under the rhetoric of “popular sovereignty.” Had I thought more deeply, I would have remembered that, though the ancient Jews were rescued when they departed Egypt, it would be 40 years before they took possession of the land of milk and honey; that France was rescued when St. Joan broke the siege of Orleans on May 8, 1429, but the war did not fully end for another 24 years; that Winston Churchill later said that when America entered World War II in late 1941, he knew that Europe was rescued – but the war would not end for another four years.
I have long emphasized that as these times came, everything would be revealed, that God would pull away the mask from pretentious pieties. Heaven knows that masks are falling away like late-autumn leaves after the first snowstorm. This is simply prelude to forcing us to make our definitive choice. It pleases God that we all declare ourselves and where we stand – and He is determined that we do it without illusion; that we cannot later credibly claim we did not know what we were choosing. When we choose to double down on error or disorder, thinking it a clever strategic way to maintain the upper hand, we actually convict ourselves before God. Far too many will choose that route, but many won’t. So it is a profound act of mercy on God’s part to those who will accept it.
We are in December, midway through the Novena to the Immaculate Conception and just at the beginning of the Novena to Our Lady of Tepeyac (commonly called Guadalupe). Back on September 23, the great sign of Revelation 12 appeared in the sky, when it matched up with the tilma of St. Juan Diego, the “woman cloaked with the sun.” I regard it as the most consequential sign of my lifetime. I didn’t expect anything in particular to happen. God is usually quite subtle -and such things are a marker that we have entered a new level of spiritual consequence. I was in Lake Charles, Louisiana at the time sharing the best tenderloin roast of my life with my host and many friends. It was on my mind all day, though, and the subject of my constant prayers. The next day I had a terrible stab of fear. I wondered, what if this was the revelation of Our Lady, the sign of the Rescue? Only a small few would even notice. So I began praying intensely that Our Lady reveal herself to the world. I was quickly and sharply rebuked, reminded (that) I had already been told this definitively – and that my prayers were not an act of faith, but a failure of faith. So I stopped. Then about a week ago, driving from Bakersfield up to Fresno, I absent-mindedly started praying the same thing again. Again I was sharply rebuked and, again, dropped it…
Paradoxically, intimacy with the Lord does not bring serene confidence that you understand prophecy. It shows you how unimaginably big things are and terrifies you that you are missing key points. I touched on this gently in my piece, “Into the Whirlwind,” and more bluntly in “Through a Glass Darkly.” I have said before that I spent well over a decade when I was younger getting interpretation wrong almost every time, only understanding it in its aftermath. Even my harshest critics rarely accuse me of being dumb, so it bemused me that people have not generally considered the implications of having to work that hard and that long to begin to understand some of what is given. Generally, it is not the conclusions of those who think they have unraveled prophecy that I object to. It is that they approach the matter with utterly inadequate tools, like trying to change a tire with a licorice whip. Both in the Old Testament and the New, God speaks to us while seamlessly melding literal things and metaphorical things to get His point across to us. Just from the Gospels, besides melding parables and commandments, Jesus sometimes says literal things that sound metaphorical and metaphorical things that sound literal. When Jesus said, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again,” it sounded literal but was metaphorical. Many mocked Him for this saying. Yet none of even the most faithful interpreted its actual meaning as being, “Kill me and in three days I will rise again, crushing even the power of death,” until AFTER the Crucifixion And the Resurrection. Who could have divined the significance of that until after the events showed it to be true? We are blind as moles. Sometimes God speaks mysteriously so that we understand in the aftermath what is unimaginable beforehand. On the other hand, when Jesus said, “You must eat My body and drink My blood to have life within you,” it sounded metaphorical but was literal. He was so insistent that it was literal that He let people go away from Him rather than compromise on some metaphorical interpretation. Even so, it was literal in a way we could not imagine. Some say that the Eucharist resembles bread and wine. More penetratingly, St. Augustine said that, before all ages, God made bread and wine to resemble the Eucharist, so that when it was instituted it would already be familiar and comfortable to us. This is where all the ‘Biblical Code’ and most other diviners of prophecy completely fail: they only divine in a literal sense already known to our limited perspective. It is primarily how I failed for so long – and still sometimes fail. The Bible is not mere history nor mere science; it is the living word of God, ever given to call us to salvation. So it is with authentic prophecy.
In “The Confessions,” St. Augustine said, “The Bible was composed in such a way that as beginners mature, its meaning grows with them.” In “Genesi ad Literrum” he said, “In matters that are obscure and far beyond our vision, even in such as we may find treated in Holy Scripture, different interpretations are sometimes possible without prejudice to the faith we have received. In such a case we should not rush in headlong and so firmly take our stand on one side that, if further progress in the search of truth justly undermines this position, we too fall with it. That would be to battle not for the teaching of Holy Scripture but for our own, wishing its teaching to conform to ours, whereas we ought to wish ours to conform to Sacred Scripture.”
Like a finely cut precious gem, Scripture has many facets, only a few of which even the best of us can see at a time. It is not that there are multiple contradictory truths to be found there, but that the single fullness of the truth found there is greater than our poor power to fully grasp. It is why after several thousand years we still can see refinements in doctrinal truth, but cannot abide contradictions of that truth. To truly commune with God is to approach Him with great humility, with fear and trembling at our own littleness. It requires courage, patience and humility…stuff that is not found in glib “Bible Codes,” where fools fancy they have divined the mind of God. It takes constant service, the resolve to go forward knowing that we will often err, but that our good Father will gently guide us if we keep our eyes and hearts turned to Him, boldly proclaiming him and taking responsibility for our own errors as soon as we recognize them.
In Luke 7:20, in the last weeks of his life, John the Baptist sends men to ask Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” It is an amazing question that I have always taken great comfort from. Remember, John leapt in his mother’s womb at the very approach of the pregnant Mary. John recognized Jesus as Messiah at the very moment of baptism. Yet Jesus was not quite what he expected. When I read this astonishing question, I hear echoes of my own occasional plaintive lament: “Has my life had meaning or am I just a nut?” And what a wonderful answer Jesus sent back to John: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” With God, it is not just that the best of us misunderstand Him (and Jesus said that John was the greatest of the prophets), but that He transcends our capacity to understand. So much of our faith journey is allowing God to increase our capacity to understand, while knowing that the greatest understanding ever achieved on earth is less than the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. Yet even within the context of our deep limitations, God calls us to go forth both boldly and humbly.
After my (first public) blunder, I had thought briefly of moving near family and getting a regular job, but quickly recalled that I had promised to stay on active duty, whether on the bench or really active…and the direction I had long ago received that all the public work must stem from the home base near Mt. Meeker. So I couldn’t move, even in the midst of my failure. Now I have come to think that death will be my retirement. Oh, I may become irrelevant, may be retired, put out to pasture, but until my death I will not cease to proclaim that God IS, He is good, He intends our good, not our destruction, and that He is not finished with us. It being December, I can’t help sweating a little, wondering if I am to play the fool for the second time in less than a year. But when I pray about it, I am rebuked for my lack of faith, so I will wait upon the Lord. Even so, it is not a grudging surrender to the work before me. As I have travelled the country I have heard from so many, including more than a few Priests, that my work has helped drive away feelings of despair and anger from them, focusing on trusting God, taking the next right step, and being a sign of hope – and that that is what will renew our culture and herald the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart. So I say that the Triumph begins this year, though we have some hard slogging ahead of us as some repent and convert and others respond in furious rage…I have fallen in love with my work, surely one of the weirdest, but greatest, jobs in history.
I close with one of the most consoling (experiences) I ever had. It was 12 years ago. I was weepily asking why me. I am a sinful man, weak and often stumbling – and it was one of the last times I questioned Our Lord’s judgment in sending me to help hearten His people during the Storm, the greatest crisis in the history of the world before the actual end. I envisioned Our Lord. We were standing outside in the back yard. In His hand was a stick and beside Him was a sand-colored puppy with a fat little belly. Our Lord threw the stick and the puppy launched itself after it. The puppy was comically clumsy, stumbling over his own legs several times and once bonking his head against a tree. But it eagerly pursued that stick, got it, and brought it back to the Master, tail wagging joyfully. The Lord took the stick from the puppy, looked at me with a sly grin, and said, “You’re a game little fella.”
Time to get our game on and all be game little fellas.