Tuesday, November 17, 2015

...especially those in most need of Thy mercy. (UPDATED)

The liturgical year is coming to its conclusion (that's right: Advent is less than two weeks away!), and so the readings at Mass tend to be a little apocalyptic. This year in daily Mass the first reading is from the Second Book of Maccabees (one of the ancient Jewish writings that does not appear in a typical Protestant bible). Tomorrow is my turn to read the story of the heroic mother who saw her seven sons put to death by torture, one after the other, for refusing to make a perfunctory act of idol worship. Every other year, instead of reading from Maccabees or Daniel (that's next week), the readings are from the Book of Revelation. You know, the Apocalypse.

So yesterday during my Hour of Adoration I read the first part of the Book of Revelation. The vicious dragon and his minions; the horsemen of war and plague and famine; the Beast coming up from the sea...  In the light of the newspaper headlines, this mystifying book seemed less symbolic and more realistic than ever before. No wonder it was considered a book of consolation for the (then as now) struggling Christian communities in the Middle East! John the visionary takes us back and forth between the unceasing praise and peace surrounding the throne and the violence still playing out on the earth. The saints and angels already participate in the victory of the Lamb, already won, already in effect: and so do we, especially at Mass (which is its own kind of apocalypse, or "unveiling," of that present but hidden reality: pay attention to the prayer that leads into our "Holy! Holy! Holy!"--a prayer that comes to us in part from the Book of Revelation).

"Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order,
and everything becomes chaos."
Back in March, The Atlantic published a very insightful article entitled "What ISIS Really Wants."  I'm not a movie person, but I pay attention to reviews and suchlike. And it didn't take much effort for me to find the movie quote that matches the basic plan of the terrorists we are facing. In short, they want to provoke the Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Christ (which, bizarrely, they believe in).

Technically, we Christians should be doing all we can to not "provoke" but "invoke" the Second Coming. We pray for it three times a day in the liturgy: "Thy Kingdom come!" We'll insistently beg for it during the fast-approaching season of Advent: "Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!"

It struck me this morning, praying my Rosary in the brisk (okay, really cold) autumn air. I usually add the Fatima prayer between decades: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy." You don't need to be too theologically subtle to suspect that about now "those in most need" of that Divine Mercy are the bloodthirsty ideologues who delight in sowing chaos where it is least expected to erupt. May the Lord grant us the grace to actually pray for them.

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In addition to the Atlantic piece, here are a couple of other insightful articles. I can't say I agree with every word (I don't really know enough about Islam or world history to begin to weigh in), but they offer some perspectives that are often missing in the mainstream media:

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