The Church doesn't cut a very imposing figure on the horizon these days. Archbishop Dolan and the American bishops are doing their best, but it can't be easy. After several decades of the American churches evading the tough doctrinal issues, the last tag end of a politically viable issue around which the 'troops' have much hope of being rallied today looks, at best, like a defensive strategy of circling the wagons. The Church looks pretty weak.
By contrast, the political forces of darkness, death, abortion, indulgence, license, same-sexism, cultural revisionism, and irresponsible bankrolling of federal programs on borrowed capital we don't have, look comparatively strong. Despite the surpassing stupidity of some of their representatives, they have the backing of nearly all the public electronic and print media, Hollywood, and large swaths of urbane thoroughly-indoctrinated blue-state 'liberals' ready to re-elect the current President.
The unfolding drama of Jesus' Passion
Participating in the Holy Week reflections and Masses preceding Easter this year, a number of things have struck me about the events leading up to our Lord's Passion. The most salient feature that I noticed this year is a certain inexorable inevitability to the succession of events recounted in the Gospels. The principals figures involved in those events (whether secular or religious), were not necessarily evil individuals by worldly standards. Caiaphas was looking to secure Jewish interests under an oppressive Roman occupation. Pilate made some attempt at releasing Jesus, whom he clearly saw as an innocent victim, but bowed to political pressure in the form of a threatening insurrection, for which Rome would have surely judged him as an ineffectual leader.
Jesus is fully aware of this "inevitable" quality of the events unfolding around Him. What is more remarkable is that He clearly sees Himself as a willing participant in the inexorable logic of these unfolding events. When Peter draws his sword to defend Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus tells him to desist, saying: "Do you think that I cannot call on my Father to send more than twelve legions of angels," but how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that it must be thus?" (Mt 26:53-54) Hence, although the free will is clearly involved, there is also a larger plan unfolding here in which Jesus intends to willingly participate.
Of course, the events of our Lord's Passion are in some sense unique in world history. They represent the 'crux' of world history, dividing it into "BC" and "AD." Yet there is something about the logic of these events that is worth noting. First of all, whatever the personal intentions of the participants (Caiaphas, Pilate, the manipulable crowds), they involved unspeakable evil. The upshot was the brutal execution of an innocent man, who also happened to be the Son of the Most High, God Incarnate. Second, as we see from Jesus' own participation in the inexorable logic of these unfolding events, they were part of God's permissive will and His own merciful plan of redemption.
The unfolding drama of Hitler's rise to power
Although I am on weaker footing when referring to world history, I recall other critical junctures in the unfolding events of history when there seemed to be an uncanny, inexorable inevitability to events. One comes to mind from my reading, years ago as I commuted by train to and from my university in Tokyo, William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, a massive tome. The incredible thing about the rise of Hitler and his campaign of conquest leading up to and lasting through World War II, was a certain seemingly-unstoppable logic to events. It was amazing how rapidly he rose to power and with what ineffectual resistance he met with from his opponents. Events seemed to conspire to guarantee success-after-success. The alarms sounded by Pius XI's German encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge (1937) and various private citizens, like the Austrian Dietrich von Hildebrand, were as singularly ineffectual as they were spon-on-target. The multiple plots to assassinate Hitler -- from that involving the Lutheran Dietrich Bonhoeffer to that involving the Catholic Claus von Stauffenberg -- failed miserably, no matter how well-planned they were and how close to succeeding they came. Every strategic decision Hitler made seemed perfectly timed to exploit his opponents' weaknesses -- starting with his meteoric rise to power after the Reichstag fire of 1933 through his decision to invade Poland, Blitzkrieg-style, up through the first half of the War. Even the one fatal strategic decision, the ultimately ill-fated invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa), seemed, for a time, to be an unstoppable rout.
When I ask myself why Hitler was so successful for so long, why there was such a seeming "inevitability" and "unstoppable" quality to the unfolding events of his career, I am at a loss to account for these phenomena in purely natural terms. There seems to be an unmistakable character of the occult and preternatural about these events, if not the supernatural. I do not know how to begin explaining such events, but it does seem to me that Hitler was not simply their progenitor, but also a willing accomplice and tool, however unwittingly, of parties in a spiritual battle much larger than himself.
The unfolding drama of the US presidential election
Again, although I am on even weaker footing when it comes to current events, I cannot help bearing witness to the distinct perception that much of what we see in the drama of the presidential election unfolding before us this year, as in the events since the Wall Street meltdown of 2007-2009, cannot be sufficiently accounted for in purely natural terms. If God could use the wrath of the Assyrians to punish ancient Israel for its unfaithfulness, it seems a comparatively small thing that the events now unfolding might be seen as the inexorable hand of divine judgment upon a people who have forgotten God. President Lincoln, you may recall, made a like judgment in his Second inaugural address.
If there is a certain fatalism that some may feel about the dismal failure of the Republican party to mount a credible, unified response to the fiscal irresponsibility, constitutional betrayal, unconscionable moral evil, and spiritual suicide represented by the current administration, it seems to me that here again these events cannot be understood simply in natural terms of current political machinations. One must also consider the consequences of earlier fatal decisions made in our country, such as Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which legalized across the board contraception, severing sex from procreation and promoting a culture of promiscuous recreational sex; Roe v. Wade (1973), which has led to a holocaust of baby-killing at the rate of about 4000/day in the United States alone; and the declassification of homosexuality as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association (1973) and American Psychological Association (1975), both as the result, not of clinical data, but of political pressure from gay and lesbian lobbies. Anyone with the least degree of spiritual sensitivity who is acquainted with history (whether biblical, ecclesial, or secular) knows that decisions and actions eventually have their consequences, whether one is considering the Babylonian captivity of the ancient Jews (587 BC) or the collapse of imperial Rome (Ad 476) or of Constantinople (AD 1453). Sooner or later, as the saying goes, one has to "pay the piper."
From his mania-inspiring charismatic 2008 presidential campaign, to his latest executive order, titled "National Defense Resources Preparedness," authorizing peacetime martial law (March 18, 2012), Barack Obama's meteoric rise to messianic superstardom as revisionist president and international apologist for the sins of American tradition, has had an almost uncanny magical quality about it. Even though his job-rating tanked in national opinion polls after a dismal and mendacious record in managing the bailout, economic 'recovery', 'job-creation' and getting 'Obamacare' pushed through Congress; even though it has looked like the 'anyone-BUT-Obama' sentiments of the "Tea Party Express" made a reasonable chance of Obama's surviving re-election for a second term seem all-but-impossible; the media-spin and social "construction" of the national image of the President now makes him appear as the all-but-INEVITABLE candidate for a second four-year term. This, despite egregious violations against the U.S. Constitution, and attempts to undermine national sovereignty and transfer power from America as a constitutional republic to non-accountable global bodies and international law (as we mentioned in 2/08) and as seen in Leon Panetta's recent statements to congress concerning the War Powers Act). This, despite repeated untruthful and undeliverable promises to African-Americans, and a record of providing nothing to alleviate the dire poverty of those living in the inner cities except promoting cheap baubles like the virtually free cell phone plans for those on low income; and his unbelievable contempt in brazenly enlisting their backing through his shameless "African-Americans for Obama" initiative. This, despite his violation of the rights of conscience of Catholic hospitals and medical professionals via his HHS mandate, and his arrogant attempt to instruct the Catholic bishops in theological ethics concerning social policy. Here, too, it seems as if there could be an unstoppable inevitability to unfolding events, perhaps an inexorable logic of divine judgment, in which the whole nation is caught up and being swept along.
What to do? "My grace is sufficient for thee," said Jesus, "for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) These words of Jesus may sound comforting, but take a second look: they provide cold comfort, depending on what He means by "weakness." He clearly does not mean the weakness of sin, the weakness caused by infidelity to Himself, the weakness exemplified now by two whole generations of abysmal catechesis and Catholics behaving virtually no differently from most of their their secular counter-parts, contracepting, aborting, divorcing, and cohabiting at the same rates, and turning out in droves to oppose their bishops on the HHS mandate and to support, instead, the Culture of Death ticket.
The fact is, we have very little control, as individuals, over unfolding political events on a national and international level. True, we can and should do whatever we can even in the current election to defeat or at least hamper the further advance of the Culture of Death and ensure our freedom of conscience as American citizens. But we should be investing most of our efforts in those areas where we do have direct responsibility and control: our own lives as individuals, families, and local communities. Our strength is made perfect in weakness; but only if our weakness is that of the truly faithful -- the meek who will inherit the earth, the pure in heart who will see God, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and will be filled, the persecuted for Christ's sake who will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Let the change we can believe in begin in our hearts.
Then we can face the inexorable logic of events as Jesus Himself did, trusting in the mercy of our Heavenly Father, and declare with St. Paul: "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rm 8:38-39)