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Preaching to the Spirits in the Iron Cage of Modernity
By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.
July 9th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
Christian charity must go to the poor, but it must also be dispensed to the ignorant. To instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners are spiritual works of mercy informed by charity. By their lives and by their words, Christians must draw those out from the "iron cage" into the freedom of the sons of God. "The Church, 'like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolation of God,' announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26)." Porta fidei, 6.CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In our prior articles regarding the "iron cage" of modern secularism, we discussed the problem of the "iron cage," the need to expand our notion of reason (the key to the door of faith), and the need for Catholics to re-enliven and re-commit to their faith. For the door of faith is what leads us out of the "iron cage" of modern secularism which lives as if God does not exist.
In this last article, we will look at the last step necessary once we escape the "iron cage" once we have recommitted to the faith. This last step is preaching those spirits imprisoned in the "iron cage" of a secularist, Godless modernity, witnessing to them by our acts of faith and charity, and so drawing them and all society out of the "iron cage," the cause of so many of our social ills.
"The Church as a whole"--and this includes the laity--"like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance." Porta fidei, 1. Indeed, "by their very existence in the world, Christians are called to radiate the word of truth that the Lord Jesus has left us." Porta fidei, 6.
After his death and burial, and before his resurrection, Christ went and harrowed hell, preaching to the souls in prison. (1 Pet. 3:19-20) After renewing our faith, we must harrow the "iron cage" of modernity to release the prisoners there.
Faith--if alive--will burn with a Pentecostal fire. The Holy Spirit makes us "fit for mission and strengthens our witness, making it frank and courageous." Not to be hid under a bushel, the faith will be proclaimed "fearlessly to every person." Porta fidei, 10. "[F]aith commits every one of us to become a living sign of the presence of the Risen Lord in the world." Porta fidei, 15.
It is an error of first proportion--one that has landed us in the "iron cage" of liberal secularism and its vicious moral relativism--to give greater concern to "social, cultural, and political consequences," and to "think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition for life in society" that may be safely ignored or relegated to second place. Porta fidei, 2.
First things first. Faith is first. "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor. 5:7) What good it is for a man--or a whole society--to gain the whole world (if that were even possible without faith), yet lose his--or its--soul? Seek first the Kingdom of God--a Kingdom the entry into which is gained by faith--"and all these things shall be added unto you," as the train of his robe follows behind the Christ the King. (Matt. 6:33; cf. Isa. 6:1)
"Indeed, the teaching of Jesus still resounds in our day with the same power: 'Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life' (Jn 6:27). The question posed by his listeners is the same that we ask today: 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?' (Jn. 6:28). We know Jesus' reply: 'This is the work of God, that you believe in him who he has sent" (Jn 6:29). Belief in Jesus Christ, then, is the way to arrive definitely at salvation." Porta fidei, 3.
This is the particular temptation of the "social justice" crowd: to give greater concern to the social, cultural, and political world, but to put faith in God and His Christ in the background. It is also the temptation of neo-conservatives who act as if the "culture war" can be won through politics.
However, if we cooperate with the secular liberals on secular liberalism grounds--in other words, if we "think of the faith as a self-evident presupposition" and concern ourselves only about "social, cultural, and political consequences"--we will all be secular liberals.
Don the black-and-white striped uniform of the political liberal philosopher John Rawls, use his prison argot, and you will think like John Rawls, you will reach the same conclusions as John Rawls, and so be forced to eat the bland and salt-less prison gruel with him. John Rawls (a man without faith in God and His Christ, and whose whole mission in life was to make sure that the Lord was absent from the public square) is the philosopher par excellence of the "iron cage."
The problem confronting modern society is one of faith. In the social, cultural, and political realms the existence of faith in God can "no longer be taken for granted," observes the Pope, and, in fact, "it is often openly denied" in those "swathes of society" where what I have called the "iron cage" reigns. Porta fidei, 2.
"Whereas in the past it was possible to recognize a unitary cultural matrix, broadly accepted in its appeal to the content of the faith and the values inspired by it, today this no longer seems to be the case in large swathes of society, because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people." Porta fidei, 2.
That "large swathes" of society no longer have faith or positively deny the faith is not acceptable to any Christian because faith is the medicine our social, cultural, and political life requires. The love of Christ will not allow the faith to be hidden from those who need it. Faith is the pearl of great price. Our social, cultural, and political life cannot be saved unless we are saved.
"[I] if my people, upon whom my name has been pronounced, humble themselves and pray, and seek my presence and turn from their evil ways, I will hear them from heaven and pardon their sins and revive their land." (2 Chr. 7:14)
"What the world is in particular need of today is the credible witness of people enlightened in mind and heart by the word of the Lord, and capable of opening the hearts and minds of many to the desire for God and for the true life, life without end." Porta fidei, 15.
Faith gives rise to charity: "Faith and charity each require the other, in such a way that each allows the other to set out along its respective path." Our charity to those who are "lonely, marginalized, or excluded, as those who are the first with a claim on our attention and the most important for us to support, because it is in them that the reflection of Christ's own face is seen." Porta fidei, 14.
The Church's treasure, as St. Lawrence reminded us, is the poor. "It is faith that enables us to recognize Christ" in the face of the poor, the sick, the defenseless, or the marginalized, and "it is his love that impels us to assist him whenever he becomes our neighbor along the journey of life." Porta fidei, 14.
Christian charity must go to the poor, but it must also be dispensed to the ignorant who suffer a form of poverty. To instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners are spiritual works of mercy informed by charity. By their lives and by their words, Christians must draw those out from the "iron cage" into the freedom of the sons of God. "The Church, 'like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolation of God,' announcing the cross and death of the Lord until he comes (cf. 1 Cor. 11:26)." Porta fidei, 6.
It is love that requires us to preach to those in the "iron cage." "'Caritas Christi urget nos' (2 Cor. 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize." Porta fidei, 7. The love for our neighbor will compel us to engage in the New Evangelization if we have revitalized our faith. "Today as in the past, [Jesus] sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth." Porta fidei, 7.
"Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigor that can never fade away." Porta fidei, 7.
Though faith is a gift--after all it is in response to grace and not something which we give to ourselves--yet God is full of mercy, and dispenses His grace with great liberality. The "door of faith," the Pope makes clear in his letter, "is always open for us." Porta fidei, 1. That is so because, so long as body and soul are one, the grace for conversion is always there. God is rich in mercy, dives in misericordia.
So long as we live, individually and as a society, door of faith is never foreclosed to us. There is no such thing as grounds for despair. "It is possible," always possible, "to cross that threshold when the word of God is proclaimed and the heart allows itself to be shaped by transforming grace." Porta fidei, 1. One prayer God always seems disposed to: "Answer me in the truth of your salvation." Ps. 68:14 Exaudi me in veritate salutaris tui.
And what wonders does faith accomplish! Faith the size of a mustard seed can transplant trees and raze mountains. (Matt. 17:20, 21:21, Mark 11:23; Luke 17:6) And if it can do these things, it can certainly take us out of our self-imposed "iron cage."
Let us help our brothers and sisters out of the "iron cage" by introducing to them to the possibility of faith! We must have the attitude in us that is in Christ Jesus and say, "I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God." (Phil. 2:5; Luke 4:43)
Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas. He is married with three children. He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum. You can contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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