Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sunday, Nov. 29, 2015
1st Sunday of Advent, Cycle C

“Progress” for the Secularist and for the Christian



   On this first Sunday of advent, the Church proposes to us a Gospel reading which is striking, in which the Lord teaches us about the end times in rather breathtaking, even frightening terms. Why is this passage chosen for today? Because the whole world is progressing forward to its end, when Christ will come for the second time. In advent we prepare to celebrate the first coming of Christ, as a rehearsal and reminder to be prepared for his second coming.

   As this progression towards the end of time continues, we should think of this word, “progress,” as it is used very differently by Christians and by the secular world.

   Indeed, there is a whole ideology called “progressivism,” which is a broad movement more than a clearly defined concept. Yet at the same time, the Church and the saints speak of progress. But the way either the secularist or the saint understands “progress” is radically different. The secular progressivist will in fact see religion as an inhibition to progress, while the opposite is true. That is why we should look at these concepts today. And we shall do so by looking at how the secularist progressivist things, then how the Church thinks, and then draw some conclusions for our lives.

   The progressivist is often also called a “liberal.” This is sad, because the word liberal is a very Catholic word, and there is nothing more anti-progressivist than an education in the liberal arts. Sometimes the progressivist is also called a “modernist,” for his love of some things unique to the more recent years; but this too is confusing, because “modernism” has unrelated definitions in various fields of art, literature and music, and also an unrelated and unique definition for Catholic theology. Therefore, the words “progressivist,” “liberal” and “modernist” can be as confusing as misleading. What does the so-called “progressivist” believe?

   He is one who thinks there is a conflict between faith and reason, and that reason is superior. Progress, for him, is measured by how effectively society can repress religion, Christianity in particular, and Catholicism above all. Progress, for him, is measured by technology, but also by certain points of view of economy, hostile to private property, in which only politicians or certain kinds of experts should be given absolute authority to decide everything, which alone can produce, in their minds, prosperity. Therefore, the progressivist tacitly presumes that a small minority is enlightened in all things, and should have all power. The progressivist is, therefore, a smug [engreído] totalitarian.

   The Church sees the world speaking of progress in this way, and distinguishes that there is a certain material progress in the world (think of technology, inventions and medicine, for example), but admonishes us to remember that this kind of progress is a double edged sword. Being enthralled with material benefits can “enslave him, if he comes to regard it as the supreme good and cannot look beyond it. When this happens, men harden their hearts, shut out others from their minds and gather together solely for reasons of self-interest rather than out of friendship; dissension and disunity follow soon after” (Paul VI, PP, 19). To call this “progress” is, simply put, a lie.

   Indeed, earthly progress, by which we mean improvements in temporal affairs, is not the same thing as the growth of Christ’s kingdom (CSDC, 55). Secularist progress, in fact, often poses a threat to religious freedom or persecutes Christians (155). Progressivism has brought evils such as socialism in its various forms, for example Marxism, Nazism, communism, to perpetrate some of the greatest evils of the world, and have even claimed that man should serve the progressive state or the progressive tyrant, instead of making progress a principle that should be serving men (326).

   St. Augustine, in a sermon (Sermo 256), is not fooled by this anti-human version of secular progressivism. He writes, “Keep on making progress. This progress, however, must be in virtue; for there are some, the Apostle warns, whose only progress is in vice.” The Old Testament speaks of progress in observing the law of God, which is essentially supernatural charity, and in wisdom (cf. Sirach 1:1, 51:17), and the New Testament refers to progress in the fulfillment of one’s sacred duties (1 Tim 4:15), in joyfully living the Catholic faith (Phil 1:25).

   The secularist, then, wishes to portray [retratar] technology, practical efficiency, godlessness and socialist tyranny as progress, and therefore as the only future the human race should pursue; he also makes enemies with religion, freedom, private property, free markets and every other real boon of man and peoples. But let us not be gullible, and recognizing such superficiality as sheer idiocy. To the degree man takes steps towards our God and Lord Jesus Christ is the only real measure of true progress. For this same reason, godlessness and sin represent regression; and for this reason, the secularist and the atheist are mere barbarians with advanced technology, and stand as the worst enemies in this world of the true advance of those who desire eternal life.

   During this advent, on Dec. 8, the Jubilee Year of Mercy will begin. May more and more men embrace the mercy of Jesus’ Sacred Heart, so that, overcoming the regression into sin, they may achieve great progress in holiness, the only true progress which a wise person should ever care about. This and every other grace we ask through Mary’s intercession. Amen.





























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