Christ carries the Cross

Carlos Caso-Rosendi

A few months ago I presented an article in this blog describing a strange pattern of numbers and dates. The article, The Year of Liberation was received fairly well but some readers complained. For some Christians there is apparently a fatwa, some unwritten prohibition, to explore eschatological themes: “Thou shall not study eschatology lest you become a Millerist” or something like that. No matter how many times one declares not to be trying to guess “the day and the hour” of the Second Coming, no matter how strongly one may insist not to be interested in divination, astrology,[1] or reading tea leaves; one will be accused of being interested in the occult. Some of our brethren may find uncomfortable to hear about it but nevertheless Eschatology is a major branch of study within Christian theology. Eschatology, from the Greek word ἔσχατος and λογία,[2] is the study of “last things.” The last days ‒ predicted by no other than Our Lord ‒ fall into that category. Well, here I go again and I hope I do not rough any feathers this time. Please take it as an exercise in Christian patience. I promise you I am not a willful heretic.

A vine that grows until the end of time

During the last Easter Triduum certain “images” came to mind connecting my meditations on The Year of Liberation with the last days of the life of Our Lord on our world. One particular part of the Via Crucis caught my attention.

“As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the childless women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then ‘they will say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if people do these things when the branch is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:26-31)

Jesus said those words on the way to Calvary. He is quoting from a prophetic condemnation of the sins of Israel found in Hosea 10:8. What interests me from this passage is the implied correlation between the green young days of a plant or tree, and its dry withered last days. That chapter of Hosea (10:1) identifies the kind of branch Jesus is talking about: a vine.

Israel was a spreading vine;
he brought forth fruit for himself.
As his fruit increased,
he built more altars;
as his land prospered,
he adorned his sacred stones.

Did that remind you of the passage when Jesus explains how He is forever connected to the faithful Church?

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” (John 15:5-6)

Here Jesus appears to be saying that at the time of Calvary the Church is a young, green branch growing and bearing fruit while in perfect union with Him but … the last part of the phrase appears to imply that one day the Church will have to go through her own Calvary once she is allowed to wither. The image seems to represent the growth of the Church over a period of time: green and fruitful, united with Christ in the beginning – then unfaithful and dry in her last days. Please consider also the mysterious words of the Lord to Peter in John 21:28 because they seem to suggest something similar both for the life of Peter and also for the Papacy.

The role of the first Covenant

When Jesus sacrificed His life in Calvary he also completed the main task that the nation of Israel was created for: to carry the lineage and life of the Messiah through History, from Adam through Set, Noah, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David all the way to the blessed womb of Mary of Nazareth, and from the Incarnation, to Calvary. The plan of God moved forward without anyone noticing that the redemption of mankind was unfolding before their very eyes.

Not long after Calvary the Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 a.D. but Jews would survive and go through an incredible odyssey of twenty centuries, finally recovering a sliver of the former territory of biblical Israel in our days. Now they await their final mission in the redemption of the world. Here is St Paul teaching that mystery when quoting Isaiah 59:20-21; 27:9, and Jeremiah 31:33-34

“I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion;
He will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”

Notice the end of an era in Israel’s religion. To this day the destroyed Temple has not been rebuilt. The daily sacrifices ceased when it was destroyed by the legions of the Roman general Titus in 70 a.D.

Those condemning Jesus to death on the Cross did not know they were closing a chapter of Sacred History. In their case the mission of Israel was unwittingly accomplished, namely, to give birth to the Christian Church. Soon after the Jewish and Roman authorities of that time executed the “author of life” (Acts 3:15) both the Mosaic Age and the Pagan Age came to an end. Completely separated from Christ their Creator, those branches withered fast. A new vine, the Christian Church, would grow reaching the far corners of Earth. Yet the ominous words of the Lord ascending Mount Calvary reminded all Christians through the ages that one day, the Church would become a dry branch and face her own Passion:

“For if people do these things when the branch is green, what will happen when it is dry?

Carefully concealed within that question is the obvious answer found in Luke 6:39-40:

“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.’”

To be complete and be like Jesus, the Church has to be “fully trained” even on the ways of the Passion. As Jesus thirsted, felt forsaken, and died; the Church will have to go through the same experience before the end of time.

Why should we know?

No one knows how this Passion of the Church will happen, I am not even sure if it is happening already but I feel reasonably sure the time is fairly close.

Some may be afraid when hearing about these things and refuse to learn. Others believe that only members of esoteric sects like the Jehovah’s Witnesses should be interested in such matters, forgetting that apostles, fathers, bishops, and saints have done much more than just ‘touch the subject’ in the past twenty centuries.

God has allowed us to know these things so we can grow in trust. There is no use in willingly ignoring something that God Himself wanted us to know. Learning reinforces our confidence in Him as events develop. When we “see all these things happening” (Matthew 24:33) we recognize them because we have been warned. In that way we can trust and have peace in the midst of danger and uncertainty.

No one on Earth can make perfect sense of the signs unfolding around us to the point of outsmarting God and figuring out His timetable exactly. And yet all of us can recognize in those same signs the loving, guiding hand of God, gaining peace by knowing for sure that He is in control.

“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:32-33)

He has told us beforehand. (Matthew 24:25)

The Passion of Our Lord is also a prophetic foreshadow of the Passion of the Church. The Gospel presents the last days of Jesus among us as a prophetic model or foreshadow of what His disciples would have to go through in the last days.

Pope Francis and two failed consecrations

In 2014 when returning from Korea, Pope Francis said casually: “I may have about three or four more years of life.” Is that true? The Pope holds a prophetic office as the High Priest of God’s people. (John 11:51) Of course I wish Pope Francis a long and healthy life but he may have word from the Lord, or he may have a premonition. If the Pope’s life is going to end so soon, will that be a natural death? That reminds us of the vision of the Little Seers of Fatima:

“And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it, a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.’ Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him.”

Of course it is not possible to tell if this “Bishop dressed in white” is Pope Francis but I do think that both our beloved Popes have serious chances of dying a martyr’s death considering the recent events in Europe and the Middle East. We have one reason to believe that this ‘Bishop dressed in white” could be the Pope.

On June 17, 1689 the Sacred Heart of Jesus appeared to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque. Through the saint, Jesus Christ ordered King Louis XIV to consecrate France to the Sacred Heart. For 100 years three kings of France delayed, and did not obey that command. One hundred years later on June 17, 1789 King Louis XVI was forcibly stripped of his authority, and four years later in 1793 the French Revolutionaries executed him as a mere criminal.

Later in our days the Vatican released the vision of the Third Secret of Fatima, on June 26, of 2000. Our Lord warned Sister Lucy in a vision that if the “Pope in union with all bishops” do not consecrate Russia as requested by Our Lady, “they will follow him [King Louis XVI] into misfortune.” Notice the plural and remember the vision of Pope Leo XIII.

Visions of Leo XIII and Pius X

Thirty-three years to the day before the great Miracle of the Sun in Fatima, on October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII (b. Vincenzo Gioacchino Raffaele Luigi Pecci; 1810-1903) had a remarkable vision. After celebrating Mass he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar. He stood there for a few minutes, his face turned very pale. Later he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard two voices, one kind and gentle, the other harsh. They seemed to come from the direction of the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:

Harsh voice, the devil: “I can destroy your Church.”

Gentle voice, Christ: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.”

The devil: “To do so, I need more time and more power.”

Christ: “How much time? How much power?”

The devil: “Seventy-five to one-hundred years, and greater power over those who would give themselves over to my service.”

Christ: “You have the time. You have the power. Do them what you will.”

This happened in 1884. Seventy-five years later on January 25, 1959 Pope John XXIII announced to the world the Second Vatican Council. One of the many changes to come from that Council, was the elimination of the Prayer to Saint Michael at the end of the Mass. That prayer and others were instituted by Pope Leo XIII after that terrible vision in 1884. By 1964 the Leonine Prayers were completely removed from the liturgy. The one hundred year period requested by the devil was completed in 1984.

In a stunning coincidence Pope John Paul II survived and attempt on his life on May 13, 1981, on the 64th anniversary of the first apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, and almost 97 years after the vision of Pope Leo XIII.

There is yet another papal vision we have to consider: Pope St. Pius X (b. Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, 1835-1914) described this revelation in 1909:

“What I have seen is terrifying! Will I be the one, or will it be a successor? What is certain is that the Pope will leave Rome and, in leaving the Vatican, he will have to pass over the dead bodies of his priests!” In 1914, he had another vision: “I saw one of my successors by name fleeing over the corpses of his brethren. He will flee to a place for a short respite where he is unknown; but he himself will die a cruel death.”

Our Lady of Fatima warned in 1917 that failure to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart would result in another war, worse than World War I and “Russia will spread her errors throughout the world.” After twenty-five years the world saw the horrors of World War II. Is it necessary to state that the “error of Russia” namely, Communism actually reached the far corners of the Earth? Consider how many deaths, torments, and suffering would have been avoided by heeding the words of Our Lady!

Now, there were one hundred years between the request to consecrate France and the fall of Louis XVI. The French Revolution was a defining event in the history of our troubled world. That is when France started passing laws against the laws of God, something that is now very common everywhere.

As I write these lines in April 2016, we are fast approaching the 100th anniversary of Fatima. Russia has yet to be consecrated in the manner requested. I believe the words of Our Lord will be fulfilled and misfortune will again befall the disobedient. The branch continues to wither as the movement initiated by the French Revolutionaries has managed to infiltrate the Church with its ideas. The faithful are suffering the consequences of that treason: the flock thirsts for clear and true teaching, the unity of the Church appears to be in peril, there is confusion among the simple. Before the Triumph of Christ, the Church has to go through the Passion, just like her Master did on Calvary. The current sufferings of the faithful are a sign that the Passion of the Church is at hand, if it has not started already. The visible head of the Church, the Pope, will be affected the most. (John 21:28)

The Cross

At this point some may feel inclined to think, “this is not going to happen,” or “this is too hard, let us hope that God will spare us …” etc. Compare that line of thinking with Peter’s opinion on the Passion of the Christ:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:21-24)

That was written there to let us know that the door to the glory of Heaven is the Cross. No Cross, no glory. No pain, no gain. The Church will not be spared the sufferings of the Cross. St Paul accepted the Cross without hesitation so we can follow his example.

“Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness.” (Colossians 1:24-25)

This does not mean that God will allow the enemy to break us. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28) and again St Paul reassures us:

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1Corinthians 10:13)

God is good. He is a benefactor. Everything we receive from Him is for our own good, even those things that are apparently bad. The enemies of the Church will never prevail but the Church will not be spared the sufferings of Christ. In fact it is a great privilege to be called to suffer with him. “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5:41)

More on the Passion of the Church, tomorrow.

 


[1] Astrology is different from Astronomy (a science,) or Astrophysics or any other astronomical scientific disciplines.

[2] Meaning, “study” and “last” in that order.

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