Month: June 2013

The Great Flood

 

Lourdes is underwater.  

 For the second time in less than a year, the little French mountain town is submerged in an unexpected and dangerous deluge. Dark, muddy waters of the Gave de Pau roar around—and almost above—the rocky little grotto where the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous.

 These latest flash floods come just after the French government let loose a different kind of flood—the legalization of gay marriage. The same France Our Lady chose as a special site of healing is inundated with a torrential wave of sickening relativism regarding love and marriage. The meaning of marriage has been desecrated, and the French must now accept a distorted form of lust as “marriage,” must not assert that this sacred bond only belongs between one man and one woman. The voice of reason has been drowned out. The destructive floods drowning Lourdes are not a consequence of the political decision; but they are an apt sign of it. 

In the United States, we are facing a similar flood. This week, the Supreme Court will decide whether to legalize gay marriage. Disney just okayed the first gay couple in its children’s TV shows. The Boy Scouts succumbed to cultural pressures to approve open gays in their ranks. The Pew Research Center just released a study revealing the striking media bias in favor of gay marriage. In short, everywhere you look, the falsehood that homosexuality is normal and praiseworthy and should be revered as socially acceptable as “marriage” is emblazoned across our newspapers and computer screens, proclaimed aloud from secular pulpits and flaunted with arrogant “pride” in our streets. The high tide of support for the gay agenda is overwhelming.
 
It is tempting to feel that our society will be swept away in this deluge: that the waters pounding about our ears will push down and wipe out our social sanity—a cultural Katrina for our country.  But in the midst of this rising tide, and thinking of the waters rising round our Lady’s feet at Lourdes in the wake of France’s sad new decision, we ought to remember another flood—a flood strangely connected by symbol to the one which we face now: the flood of Noah.
 
There is, perhaps, no little irony in the fact that the flag chosen by those who push gay rights was once chosen by God as a promise of hope to mankind: a rainbow.  The emblem which, for them, proclaims allegiance to a barren and self-destructive act, was once the herald of new life and fruitfulness for the scion of humanity stepping off the ark onto new ground. It was the promise of God that He would never flood the whole earth again.
 
It once proclaimed the end of the flood; now it proclaims its coming.

 And yet, now, when the rainbow is a banner over the tide of those forcing their redefinition of love and marriage down our throats, there is a new and subtler significance in the symbol.  Noah’s stolen rainbow cannot be fully usurped. It remains for us, even now, a sign of hope.  Even as they wave it in our faces as a proclamation of their hellish new world, where sin calls itself love and authentic love is labeled hate, we see it and are reminded of its original meaning. It is still a promise. God does not and will not abandon us. There is hope amidst the flood. 

Which brings us back to Lourdes. I visited Lourdes a mere week and a half after the murky floodwaters of last October swirled over the spot the Blessed Virgin chose for a sacred stream. Even as I arrived, the waters streamed from the sky in bitterly cold, torrential rains.
 
But that did not stop the faithful. In the freezing mountain rain and mist, pilgrims still gathered for the evening candlelight rosary procession outside the basilica. My glasses fogging in the cold, my jeans soaked through from the icy puddles pooling up at the altar of the snow-white Virgin, I was deeply moved by the incredible devotion of the many pilgrims who had gathered to pray. The floods had passed, and the faithful prayed on.
 
The waters of this cultural tide will leave wreckage and havoc in their wake. As if to remind us of God’s promise that the waters will not overwhelm us, a rainbow shines out in the very center of the battle, giving us hope even from our attackers. And while the waters still roar about us, when our prayers are lifted in hope, we ought to remember another promise, to the man who prays to God in time of distress: “The floodwaters may reach high, but him they shall not reach” (Psalm 32:6). Just as for the faithful at Lourdes, these waters will pass, and our prayers will continue. The clouds will break. The waters will subside. And God’s promise will shine in sky, untarnished—still our symbol of hope.
 
Gave de Pau in Lourdes
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Blind


“Oh, no,” I thought, as I pulled into the church parking lot in search of a Mass. “Here we go again. The 60s in all their glory.”   Against the morning sky, the irregular silhouette of the brick building looked nothing like a church.

Abandon Hope, all ye who enter here.
I passed through the vast lobby into the angular church: sterile, bare, and plain. The one artistic touch was the stained glass windows, but I’m pretty sure I had seen them before–in the nightmare I had after reading Dante’s Inferno. Worst of all, behind the sanctuary the brown brick wall was broken only by a large, white square. The boring stucco outline reminded me vaguely of a parking garage. No colors, no aesthetic appeal. Just a blank backdrop.

To be fair, what the church lacked in design, the priest made up for in reverence. While I find it hard to feel I’m in a church when the decor tells me I’m in a town hall or modern art museum, by the consecration the “jaws-of-hell” stained glass windows had ceased to distract me.

But suddenly, as the priest raised the consecrated host above his head, it disappeared. I blinked in astonishment. Against the blank cream-white square of the sanctuary, the cream-white host was virtually invisible. “Behold the Lamb of God,” proclaimed the priest, as I could behold nothing but his raised hands and arms stretched up above the altar.  Just as I made an act of faith that the host was no longer bread but the Body of my Lord and God, so too I had to make an act of faith that the host was even there.  I simply could not see it.  My mind raced back to Thomas. “Blessed are those who do not see, but believe.”

Coming out of that church, I realized: when you paint your world one color, all distinctions and meanings disappear.  As I mused upon my invisible God and my blindness caused by the bad backdrop, it reminded me of another kind of blindness I encounter every day. “Why can’t they see?” I have cried in disbelief at the headlines I read this week. Radical gay-agenda activists are ranting more and more about “marriage equality,” and daily I discover that for many people, who man is and the purpose of sexuality have disappeared. They have gone blind.

What to me always has been, and always will be, an obvious and self-evident truth, is to them simply invisible. “Love is love,” they declare–a tautology disguising their ignorance of what love means. Their blindness is all-encompassing. Men can be women. Women can be men. Even children are sexualized to push the gender-destroying agenda. It is truly heartbreaking to witness their open-eyed delusion and wonder how they can be shown the truth.
LGBT activists chose a rainbow as their emblem, but I believe a blank, single color–like the wall of a parking garage–would be much more appropriate. They use one and only one standard by which to measure their actions: sexual satisfaction. Human nature, the love of God, natural order written in our heart–none of this matters to them. All that matters is the satisfaction of their sensual desires, even if they are self-destructive and unnatural. Blinded by their overriding misconception of love, they cannot see the reality of the love of God.

Ignoring the contrasts and harmonies of men and women in their God-intended roles, they obliterate distinctions between genders. They level all things by one crooked ruler, paint all the earth one color, all one theme: so it is not surprising that their ability to see the truth disappears. They deliberately discard the context in which sexuality is meant to be understood; so they cannot see what sexuality actually means.  Sex is for two inseparable ends: the loving union between a man and a woman in a permanent relationship, and the procreation of children as the fruit of that love. If you reject that–as we did in the 60s when we embraced contraception in our marriages and modern art in our churches–then the authentic context is gone and the truth disappears. Divorce, abortion, and gay marriage logically follow as steps along a blind path, deprived of the light of truth.

Soon the Supreme Court will decide whether to legalize gay marriage in the United States, and gay rights activists are pushing hard to erase all lines between men and women. Against the backdrop of their disordered desires, God’s design disappears and they can no longer see the truth; and they want everyone else to see it their way, too.
But though many will keep telling me, when it comes to differences between men and women, that there is nothing there to see–just as some tell me the Eucharist is only bread–I believe that men and women are intrinsically different. I believe God made it that way. And I believe that that is not only incredibly good, but incredibly beautiful. It may be a long time before we leave behind the inheritance of the 60s, the backdrop which robbed our churches of their designed beauty and threatens to rob our marriages of their beautiful design. But I know that even if we cannot see the restoration of truth in society, the truth is still there. The Lamb of God is still raised on high, invisible though He may be, and He still shall take away the sins of our dark, blind world.