In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus asks the crowds, “why do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56). How do we interpret the present time? Especially with a presidential election upon us, there are many different interpretations happening concurrently in our country. The explosion of social media has brought millions of commentators into the mix. One question that I like to ask people who offer interpretations of life, faith, or morals that are opposed to the Church’s is, ‘what is the authority of your position?’ I then explain that the Church’s teachings / interpretations are based on the authority of Jesus Christ.
Most people have never thought about the authority on which they base their beliefs or opinions. Their answer is normally parents, media, or friends. Hopefully, we faithful Catholics at Assumption get our interpretations about the present time from the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit.
What Catholic resources address current issues in 2016? Writings and homilies of the Pope and bishops, especially Cardinal Wuerl, top the list. Bishop Robert Barron is extremely contemporary in his writings and videos for “Word on Fire”. The best Catholic newspaper, in my opinion, is National Catholic Register. On TV, EWTN continues its popular Catholic programming and now has nightly news. Online resources include catholic.com (Catholic Answers) and zenit.org (Catholic news from Rome).
Bishop James Johnston of Kansas City – St. Joseph wrote an article that interprets the present time. His main point is that evil is now seen and argued as good and uses two examples: 1) ISIS and 2) a speech about abortion at the Democratic National Convention:
They are examples of evil being called good. In the first instance, ISIS terrorists perversely attribute their violence as a manifestation of divine will, often shouting in Arabic, “God is great!” as they carry out the carnage. An error about God leads to further errors about humanity and our relationship with God and one another. In this world of deep error, evil becomes “good.”… In the second instance, evil becomes good because “I say so.” God is not involved at all… abortion has for the most part always been portrayed as a “necessary evil” by its staunchest advocates. Now, it seems, we are facing a new propaganda, that abortion really is “good” or, as the commentator put it, “normal, moral, respectable, and responsible.”
So, one way to interpret the present time is that now evil is called good and good is called evil. A priest friend of mine once wrote years ago that a woman walked up to him on the street and said, “you priests are evil.” I received evil looks from people on the street when I was stationed in downtown Washington. Those nasty glares intensified when I made news for saying that “marriage is between a man and a woman” in 2013. This taught me that good is now seen as evil by many people. Every priest is “alter Christus” – another Christ – in the world. We represent goodness in the flesh. If the world sees priests as evil, then it will see Christ, God, and the Church in the same way. This is unfathomable to us. In the not-too-distant future, priests will go to jail for preaching the Gospel, and lay Catholics will be hated for merely practicing their faith. Unfortunately, in our culture the new reality is that bad is good, good is bad, and truth is whatever you want it to be.
The Lord wants us to know how to interpret the present time so that we are clued into what is going on around us. Then, we will recognize good as good and choose it, and evil as evil and avoid it. The world and its values seem to change as quickly as the weather in Washington. But, Jesus Christ is “the same yesterday, today, and forever” and his truth and love remain always.
May you know the peace of Christ,