|Our Lady of Fatima pilgrim statue in Boise, 2007.|
Photo by Jim Nourse.
When one breaks weeks of silence, one casts about for the best subject with which to do it. One runs one's mind over affairs both temporal and spiritual, from the government shutdown to the Pope's Big Interviews that have caused such a ruckus. Today the big news item in the Catholic world was the Holy Father's consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on this, the 96th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima, witnessed by tens of thousands of believers and non-believers over a large area of Portugal. To my way of thinking, this is only the third really comforting thing Pope Francis -- whom I believe can rightly be described as the Pope of our punishment -- has done so far in his reign, the first being the worldwide hour of Eucharistic adoration in June, and the second being the day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria last month. All of his talk about Mary and about the reality of hell and the devil is good, but not surprising, since, the Pope, no matter who he is, cannot do otherwise than reaffirm authentic Catholic doctrine.
Which brings me to one theme that has underlain my thoughts in recent days: God does not mess with our heads.
In a world saturated in the despairing infidelity of modernism, in which being manipulated by government, media, Madison Avenue, each other, and even ourselves is a daily way of life for nearly all of us, it pays to remind ourselves of this. God is Truth and Justice, and can no more deceive than He can be deceived. The beauty and order of creation, from galactic superclusters to the inner workings of the subatomic, testify to the existence of a Creator Who is all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful and all-good. The laws of nature communicate truths about how creatures function and interact, and we try to traduce these laws at our peril. The very best and highest authority that any proposition can have is that God revealed it. On that basis alone, it would deserve to be believed and not doubted, even if we do not like it or cannot understand it.
So how can we know that a proposition comes from God? We can know it if it has the backing of the Church founded by Jesus Christ, endowed with His authority, under the headship of His Vicar, the Pope. He gave us a clearly visible and recognizable institution to teach us all that we need to know in order to save our souls, and He has guaranteed it against error in matters of faith and morals. No matter who the Pope is, no matter how many disconcerting things he may do -- even if he is an unabashed public sinner like Alexander Borgia, or hopelessly incompetent as an administrator, like St. Celestine V -- the Pope could not change even the tiniest particle of doctrine, even if he had all the armies that have ever existed at his back. When it comes to the most critical business of our lives -- our eternal salvation -- God does not leave us to puzzle things out for ourselves, or pull a bait-and-switch on us. His justice demands this. Since He does not leave us without a lamp for our steps, He also does not leave us with any excuses for persisting in darkness. God does not mess with our heads.
God will not mess with our heads even after we are dead. Contrary to popular depictions of the afterlife in movies and books, there will be no confused period of wandering disembodied on the earth, no haunting by human spirits of houses or old battlefields, no mistaking hell for heaven, or heaven for hell. In the very place where we die, we will be judged. By the time others have figured out that we are dead, we will have already been completely undeceived about ourselves and about God, and about where we deserve to spend eternity -- and we will have already gone there. At the end of time, all flesh will be confronted with all truth, and all obscurity and confusion will disappear. We need not allow ourselves to be deceived by charlatans claiming to be the Second Coming. They aren't. The real Second Coming will leave us in no possible or impossible doubt as to its authenticity. Some things really are that simple and straightforward. God does not mess with our heads.
Since God does not mess with our heads, we can and should allow ourselves to derive consolation from both our Faith and its wholesome outward expressions that, in this modernist age, have been derided from within and without the Church as childish superstition. We have allowed ourselves to become inured to believing bad news over good, but the Gospel really is good news, and is really true -- more true than anything that bears the stamp of the world, however plausible. Beauty really is truth, and truth really is beauty: we need not be prisoners of the lie we have been conditioned to believe, that only the gray, the banal, the flat-footed and the pedestrian are real. The forces of evil may seem to have the upper hand in our age, and in many places, but the truth is that they have already lost, and their time is short. Jesus really is the Son of God, and really did die on the Cross to save us, and really did rise from the tomb and ascend into heaven. He really did give us His Immaculate Mother to be our mother. That is why we can expect good to come of the Holy Father once again consecrating the world to her Immaculate Heart.
We may deceive ourselves and each other. We may play psychological games, and manipulate, and create frenzy and precipitate crises, one after the other, in order to control others. The devil may also do this to us in order to lure us into hell. But God never does any of these things. If we find ourselves caught in these webs, God is not behind that. Perversity and sadism are not attributes of God. God never messes with our heads.