|The fall of the Tower of Babel: |
What happens when we try to build the city of God
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Luke 21:5-19
Jesus said, “All that you see here – the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.”
It is not my intention at this time to discuss the various merits and demerits of OCP or of any particular song – but I will mention the refrain of two hymns, not so much to criticize those hymns in particular, but rather as a means of indicating the view many modern(ist) Catholics have regarding the second coming.
At some parishes in the United States, it is still not uncommon to hear: “Let us build the city of God, may our tears be turned into dancing!” or “Sing a new Church into being, one in faith and love and praise!” Beyond the fact that these songs have a mystical ability to turn otherwise respectable adults into buffoons, their real danger is in the theology which they embody. These songs (and others like them) are a deception of the Antichrist.
The deception of the Antichrist
“The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment” (CCC 676).
The first sin of the human race was an attempt to grasp immortality, to attain to the glory of heaven by man’s own power. Again, men attempted to build the city of God when they began to construct the tower of Babel. But Christ has told us that the Kingdom will not come through the powers (or even the virtues) of man, but from the judgment of God. The Lord will come not when the Church is at her strongest, but when she is weakest, when she is nearing annihilation, when she is most in need of her Savior.
It is one of the great heresies of our day that man can perfect himself and can save the world himself. Whether this be expressed as a political party (e.g. Communism), or a religious movement (e.g. Liberation Theology), or an individual work (e.g. Pelagianism) – the Church has always insisted that salvation does not come through human works, but through the grace and the power of Jesus Christ.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that this movement inward (toward the self or toward society), this forgetfulness of God, is the principle deception of the Antichrist. Satan’s ancient temptation will be renewed in the final days – he will try to deceive man into thinking that he can save himself, he will tell us that we can construct the city of God and that we can sing heaven into existence on earth.
“The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven” (CCC 677).
Christ tells us that the end of time will come only when every stone has been cast down, when nations are in tumult, when the earth is shaken, and when all who follow him are hated. Then, in the blink of an eye, the Savior will return and will judge all peoples. In other words, the second is not a reward for good behavior; it is not the logical fulfillment of human progress – rather, the parousia is quite the antithesis of human progress.
In this respect the second coming is not unlike the first, for we like sheep had gone astray. First, the Lord came to seek and to save what was lost. Next, he will come not to save the lost, but to destroy his enemies and to redeem his holy people. Just as the world did nothing to merit the Incarnation, neither will the world merit the second coming.
And yet, we must not fear; for the Lord has promised, “Not a hair on your head will be destroyed.” And, “By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”