“But now that the Saviour has raised his body, death is no longer terrible, but all those who believe in Christ tread it underfoot as nothing, and prefer to die than to deny their faith in Christ, knowing full well that when they die they do not perish, but live indeed, and become incorruptible through the resurrection.” (St. Athanasius)
“Keeping Our Heads in All Situations”
(By: Peter Herbeck, Vice President of Renewal Ministries)
I’m so grateful to be able to write a letter for this month’s newsletter. I’ve been thinking and praying for all of you—all of us—who are living through these unprecedented times for the Church. These are chaotic and destabilizing times, filled with sorrow, anger, confusion, and fear for many people. It is without a doubt a time of great testing for all of us
One of the constant questions I get from people is, “How do I respond to this? What should I do?” A great deal of helpful practical advice has been given on how to help the leaders of the Church, bishops and priests, to cooperate with this time of purification. But more needs to be said about how we can, as St. Paul puts it, “keep our heads in all situations” (2 Tm 4:5), especially in times of hardship and great testing. The teaching of Jesus and the apostles is a great help in times like these.
Keeping the big picture in mind is key to helping us live above our circumstances and to seeing in trials great opportunity to grow in maturity as disciples. St. Peter exhorts us to “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (2 Pt 4:12). All of us are being proved, tested by the crisis in the Church. This “fiery ordeal” is a self-inflicted wound, the result of serious failures and scandalous behavior of leadership.
The scandalous behavior is a shock to the system, but it shouldn’t ultimately be a surprise or too strange for us to understand. Jesus told us that we would have great tribulations in this world and that we would see and experience scandal, the kind witnessed even among the twelve apostles. Among Jesus’ closest friends, those He knew best, the ones He trusted the most: at the moment Jesus needed them most, one betrayed Him and another denied even knowing Him. Sin, failure, and betrayal among leaders is scandalous, but it shouldn’t ultimately take us by surprise.
As disciples, we know, or should know, human weakness. We also know that we’re living in an “evil age,” in a fallen world that is “in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn 5:19). The world is a battle field; the Church is at war, every single day, against powerful principalities and powers deployed against us. What we are seeing writ large is the same struggle we all face, the daily temptations and seductions of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Jesus is showing mercy in this severe discipline and judgment that has come upon the Church. He is at work, shining light into the darkness, removing the chains and breaking the strongholds that are binding the Church. He’s revealing the consequences of sin, the depth to which even clergymen, religious leaders, can fall. We’re seeing the face of sin, and this, friends, is a great and severe mercy.
This is a moment for all of us to take stock, to examine our lives in the light of Jesus. He is disciplining His Church, and in that He is testing each one of us. Where are we in relationship to His call in our lives? Are we giving Him everything? Are we putting Him first? Are we fulfilling the assignment He has given to each one of us? Are we passionately, completely dedicated to bringing the kingdom and the will of the Father into every area He has given us responsibility for? Are we living in the wisdom of the eternal perspective, knowing with confidence and certainty that we, each one us, will soon be standing before the judgment seat of Christ, giving an account for what we have done with what He has given to us?
St. Paul gives us a beautiful perspective to live by, especially in these days:
“So we are always of good courage . . . whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body” (2 Cor 5:6, 9-10).
Despite the many trials, persecutions, punishments, disappointments, and failures in the Church, St. Paul has his eye on the climax of his life, the ultimate moment that he knows with certainty lies before him: his appearing before the judgment seat of Christ. This certainty fills Paul with what he himself describes as “the fear of the Lord,” which gives him clarity and wisdom on how to live in the moment, no matter what circumstances he is facing. The only thing that matters is to live in a way that pleases the Lord. It simplifies his life in the midst of constant complexity. It gives him wisdom: the ability to know how to live well, to live an authentically fulfilling life, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, and to do the will of the Father. Nothing else matters. Period.
This is where Jesus is leading the Church. He wants to awaken the fear of the Lord in all of us so that we can have wisdom. He has brought us to a point of decision:
Are we going to live in the fear of men, which necessarily leads to foolishness and slavery, or are we going to fear God and live in the freedom of the sons and daughters of God?
Let’s not let this trial pass without harvesting everything Jesus has for us personally and corporately. I believe in my bones that the Renewal Ministries’ family was made for this moment! He is here, ready to strengthen us, to empower us to give a wholehearted and radical “yes” to Him and to do all we can to lead those He brings to us out of bondage, foolishness, and fear, into the wisdom of God.
Lord, we love You! Help us to make the most of the time and to use the resources You have given us to serve Your purpose in this hour!
Friends, we will all be dead soon. Life is short, it’s a passing shadow, let’s help each other make the most of the time for the glory of the Lord and for the salvation of souls.
Biographical note: Peter Herbeck is the vice president and director of missions for Renewal Ministries. For more than thirty years, he has been actively involved in evangelization and Catholic renewal throughout the US, Canada, Africa, and Eastern Europe. Peter is a co-host for the weekly television programs The Choices We Face and Crossing the Goal. He also hosts the daily radio show Fire on the Earth. He is a frequent conference speaker, has authored When the Spirit Comes in Power and When the Spirit Speaks, and has produced CDs and booklets about discipleship and life in the Spirit. Peter is involved with i.d.9:16, an outreach to Catholic young adults sponsored by Renewal Ministries. Peter and his wife Debbie have four children and reside in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Source: This article, used with permission, is in the February 2019 Newsletter of Renewal Ministries available at renewalministries.net
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Amen, come Mary, hide us in Your Maternal Heart deep within the Lord in the Living God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Amen! Alleluia!!
Well said and encouraging. Check the passage, “not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you” (2 Pt 4:12) is from 1Pt 4:12.
We all need to keep our faith in this dark time. Some would not be saved except for such a time as this. You brought to mind a verse, “For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”(1 Peter 4:17)
The problem is that the Vatican (Pope Francis) does not seem to be doing anything about this. He seems to be protecting the gay predators at a Cardinal and Bishop level. He finally got rid of McCarrick because he did not want the entire homosexual predator situation discussed at the recent Bishop’s Conference. He narrowed down the allowed discussion to only address pedophilia of children, not older male teens by gay priests. And some reports claim that 80% of all abuse claims are in the category of young men (with maturing bodies but below the legal age of consent) being seduced, raped, and abused. So 80% of the abuse is still not being acknowledged by the Vatican. I know my local Bishop is very dismayed by this, and the objective reports regarding the recent conference are all quite negative. The laity know where the problem is and it is not being addressed. We need a new Pope who will clean house, even if it means defrocking most of the current Cardinals and Bishops. Otherwise, we will watch the continuing decline of the Catholic Church in the USA, since it is bleeding people now like Niagara Falls. The Holy See is doing nothing to stop this by avoiding discussion of the actual root of the problem. I am not anti-gay. I support gay marriage for 2 men who truly love each other. I support equal rights in housing, the work place and other areas of society. But when priests at any level break their vows of “no sex”, there should be no cover-up, no protection, and such priests should be kindly with compassion removed from the priesthood. This issue is destroying the Church in the USA, and pretending it does not exist will not solve anything.
Are you the Peter Herbeck who grew up in New Ulm Minnesota or are you a different Peter Herbeck?