Will He Find Faith on This Earth?

Frank - church at night

“When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on this earth?” – Luke 18:8

Jesus concludes the parable of the persistent widow with this rather peculiar rhetorical question. It is odd for our faith tells us the Church will endure until the end of time, even in the face of persecution. At the same time, the question hints at a reality that seems all too evident in our present age. Mass attendance is falling and Catholic schools are closing for lack of enrollment. Society is moving further and further away from Christian principles.

None of these trends are desirable. Rather than fall into despair over the direction of our world, perhaps God permits this cultural darkness to help us see more clearly His grace at work in sustaining the faith.

The Cultural Darkness

Our culture now holds up as its standard the notions that whatever you feel, you should do and whatever you do must be accepted by everyone else.

Individual perceptions, no matter how incorrect or off the wall, should be manifested in reality. For example, a British man, who fancied himself to be a parrot, got hundreds of tattoos, including on his face and eyelids, and fifty piercings over his body. He even had a six-hour surgery to remove the lobes of his ears to look more like a parrot. He has stated that he hopes to have surgery on his nose to make it look more like a beak.

Self-expression has also become crasser. There are public demonstrations where representations of the female anatomy are now events to which one ought to proudly bring your children. My town sadly plays host annually to a naked bike ride, apparently as a form of delight and pride. Television and the other forms of media bombard us with images of scantily clad men and women on shows and commercials so much so that individuals wearing only their underwear no longer shock us.

While we bathe in an atmosphere focused on the notion that “I must express myself,” we also see a greater insecurity in one’s own ideas. College students need “safe spaces” to be shielded from words that offend them. Professors must avoid topics or stealthy navigate around presenting materials lest students become provoked. These words offend not because they are an attack on the student but because they run contrary to their own ideas or perceptions. Outlandish outrage happens when opposing ideas are expressed, which seems to be symptomatic of a great insecurity.

When we look around in our cities and our country, we see insane things being considered perfectly normal, even laudable. These are, unfortunately, just a few examples of the cultural darkness that pervades.

The Greater the Darkness, The Brighter the Light

All is certainly not well with our society. With many others, I sometimes have to shake my head and ponder why God puts up with the destruction we seem to be ravaging upon ourselves. Perhaps, however, God permits all of this craziness to allow us to see His grace at work more clearly.

For example, if I look at my own life and faith journey, there are a hundred reasons why, as a young adult, I should have fallen away from the practice of the faith. I did not grow up in an especially devout home. I went to a secular university where professors were openly opposed to the Catholic Church.

I am not alone. Despite being the generation following the “lost generation” after Vatican II, there are other young adults who are active in the faith. Many of my friends could likely raise examples of how, somewhat inexplicably apart from God’s grace, they remained actively practicing the faith, reverted to the faith, or converted.

I see Catholic young adult groups that are active in my diocese. Hundreds show up for monthly Theology on Tap events to hear talks on matters touching upon the faith. Not only there young adults willing to identify as Catholic, but they willingly choose to go to events centered around the Blessed Sacrament. These same events find lines for the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the whole hour despite having multiple priests hearing confessions.  On Thursday or Friday nights, when they could be out partying or even frivoling away their time watching cat videos on YouTube, young adults choose to spend time in prayer. Somehow, in the craziness of the world, the Holy Spirit has led young people to find the friendships needed to build up their faith.

The Seeds of Faith

If our culture were truly Christianized, none of these happenings would seem strange. It would be expected that everyone would be at church on Sunday and everyone would be striving to live moral lives. Obviously, God is the ultimate source of grace and the One who allows us to do anything that is good. Because our culture is the opposite, however, it appears to us all the more miraculous that there are people trying to follow the example of Christ. Put another way, the darkness of our culture helps us more readily see God at work in the world.

By the grace of God, the seeds of faith have been planted and thrive, despite a seemingly hostile environment. And maybe that is how we can hold on to hope that the faith is still found in a world that seems to be pursuing everything but holiness.

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10 thoughts on “Will He Find Faith on This Earth?”

  1. First of all, you both need to look at 2 Tim 2:23. As to the passage in question, while Howard is correct that it is about the one antichrist who has not yet been revealed, we also read in the passage that God will send a powerful delusion which will lead people to believe what is false, something that very plausibly could refer to this generation. But as “only the Father knows the day and the hour that these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son Himself,” it is quite presumptive to suggest that these prophecies refer to our generation.

    1. Given the fact that St. Paul said: “do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” it is evident that the description of 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 definitely applies to the atheists and subjectivists of our times. As you stated, it is “something that very plausibly could refer to this generation.” But then you go on to say that: “only the Father knows the day and the hour that these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven, or the Son Himself,” and conclude that “it is quite presumptive to suggest that these prophecies refer to our generation.” No one here is talking about a day or hour. the passage speaks of a situation like that of today. Moreover, the message of Fatima which warned of the errors of this mindset speaks of the Triumph of her Immaculate Heart not the Last Judgment. The whole passage of St. Paul begins with the idea that this is something that will take place before that event and so his contemporaries had no reason to believe the judgment was imminent.

  2. St. Paul spoke of a “mass apostasy” (apostasia in the original Greek) one day in the future Church. He doesn’t say that there will be no faith, but clearly a lot of people will have lost their faith. He also indicates the Holy Spirit as Christ’s healing power for the Church. It is all in chapter 2 of 2 Thessalonians. He reminds his readers that he had spoken at length of it in his oral teaching during his stay there.

    1. Yes, yes — but this kind of thing has happened before, after all — for instance, with the rise of Islam, the Protestant Reformation, and the French and Bolshevik Revolutions. We should be so full of pride as to think that of course God has reserved us for the End or for some other truly unique time.

      Instead, we should concern ourselves with two thoughts.
      1) Yes, the Holy Spirit does guarantee that the Church will perdure. The same promise is not made for the Boy Scouts, the Walt Disney corporation, or even the United States. We too readily confuse “familiar” with “eternal”.
      2) The most serious question for each of us in every age really is, “When the Son of Man comes for me, will He find faith?”

    2. If you carefully read the second chapter of 2 Thessalonians, you will see that what St. Paul is speaking about is combination of atheism and subjectivism (man taking the place of God). This is a very precise situation that has never happened before.

    3. No, it doesn’t. Not at all, in fact. 2 Thessalonians 2 is about the revelation of the man of lawlessness, aka the Antichrist, which must precede the return of Christ, but that the Thessalonians to whom St. Paul wrote his epistle would be saved. You’re exercising a lot of subjectivism yourself by reading into it what you want rather than what it actually says. Cut it out.

      I’m a convert from the Baptists, so I’ve seen an awful lot of this foolishness. I remember being told that the “generation” referred to in Luke 21:32 was a 40-year period beginning with the “restoration” of the state of Israel — so, at the very least, the Antichrist should have been revealed by 1988. None of these people seem overly troubled that they were as wrong as the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been about 1914. Then in the build-up to Desert Storm, the preacher at a church I attended went on in great detail about how Saddam Hussein and the upcoming war had been prophesied explicitly in the Old Testament. Again, that was just silly; of the many, many wars that have passed through that region in the last 2000 years, Desert Storm was among the least consequential.

      As I found out later, Catholics are not immune to this kind of sensationalism, though that usually comes in the form of “Three [literal] Days of [literal] Darkness” — which is significantly out of character with the experiences of the Church (as opposed to the Plagues of Egypt) and about which the Deposit of Faith is strangely silent. It goes without saying that very, very few of these alleged private revelations have been deemed credible by the Church, and most end up making specific predictions which fall flat. In the meantime, though, they do plenty of damage: they may cause people to make bad decisions based on false expectations, and these people are likely to feel that the Church, not merely some would-be prophet, has failed them; and they make the Church look ridiculous to those on the outside.

      You can say, if you want, that the present situation is in some ways like “the rebellion” referred to in 2 Thessalonians, just as you can say that many historical figures, including our last several presidents, have had some similarities to the Antichrist. But clearly neither Napoleon, nor Hitler, nor Obama was in fact the Antichrist, and the current sad state of affairs is clearly not yet the apostasy that precedes the Antichrist. (Personally, I find the arguments by Desmond A. Birch in Trial, Tribulation, & Triumph: Before, During, and After Antichrist to be pretty convincing. On the basis of statements by Popes over about the last century and prophecies of canonized saints, he concludes that we are probably a few hundred years from the emergence of the Antichrist.)

    4. I encouraged you to look at the text I quoted. For example, it speaks of “the lawless one … who opposes …. every so-called god and object of worship … claiming that he is a god.” Lawlessness is a form of subjectivism and the rejection of any transcendent divinity is atheism. This has never been something so universal as is found uniquely in our times. This kind of thinking goes back to German philosophy, especially Feuerbach and Marx, and so it is no wonder that at Fatima Mary spoke of Russian spreading her errors (e.g. atheistic rationalism) throughout the world only to be defeated by her Immaculate Heart. (Neither I nor this text mentioned specifically “the anti-Christ.”

    5. I encourage you to read that passage, and stop trying to write it. I’m not joking. You’ve got a burr under your saddle, and you really really really want this passage to say something it just does not say. That is a very Protestant form of eisigesis. For example, the “man of sin …, the son of perdition” is precisely that: a man. Not a movement; not a trend in society; not a widespread sin: a man. No man currently living fits his description.

      Not that I expect this or anything else to persuade you.

    6. Actually, there are many men who fit what is described here, as I have already explained. St. John saw the beginning of this already when he wrote: “Little children, it is the last time: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time” (1 Jn 2:18)

    7. No. There are many men who foreshadow what is described here. That is not the same thing as to fit what is described here. From Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary:

      By all these words is described to us the great antichrist, about the end of the world, according to the unexceptionable authority and consent of the ancient fathers. … It may suffice to observe here that antichrist, the man of sin, the son of perdition, the wicked one, according to all the ancients, is to be one particular man, not so many different men. That he is to come a little while before the day of judgment. That he will make himself be adored, and pretend to be God. … The two special signs of the last day will be a general revolt, and the manifestation of antichrist, both of which are so dependent on each other, that St. Augustine makes but one of both. …

      Ver. 7. The mystery of iniquity already worketh,[8] or is now wrought, by the precursors of antichrist; i.e. by infidels and heretics. For, as St. John says, there are many antichrists, precursors to the great antichrist, and enemies of Christ. (1 John chap. ii.) (Witham)

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