When St. John the Baptist urged the sinners of his day to repent, he stated that the Lord “will clear his threshing floor and gather His wheat into His barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12). This sorting-out process has been taking place, to one extent or another, throughout the Church’s history, but now it seems to be intensifying or approaching a climax. Not only do the tragic and degrading trends within our society and the larger world suggest that things cannot continue as they are for much longer; the various difficulties and divisions with the Church—most especially those involving the sexual abuse scandal—strongly suggest that a painful but necessary purification process is underway.
Jesus told a parable about a farmer’s wheat field found to be contaminated with weeds sown by an enemy; when his servants wanted to uproot the weeds, the landowner told them instead, “Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Mt. 13:30). Scripture scholars generally agree St. Matthew included this parable in his Gospel as a way of answering the question, “Why are there bad Christians—indeed, enemies of Christ—in the Church?” God allows the good and the bad to be intermingled for a time, but in the end, they will be separated, and go off to very different fates. We are probably nowhere close to the final judgment that will come at the end of the world, but it seems quite possible that we are near the end of an era, in which the Lord will intervene decisively in the world, chastising and punishing the wicked while preserving and protecting the just—in effect, sorting the wheat from the chaff or the sheep from the goats.
The battle lines are being drawn ever more clearly with each passing day, as a glance at the news headlines shows. I am definitely not suggesting that one political party or philosophy is entirely good and angelic, and its opposite entirely bad or demonic; there are honorable and committed people on both sides of most issues. It’s the political process itself that has become increasingly cynical, corrupt, and confusing. A few years ago, for instance, the nomination and confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court presented the spectacle of an apparently upstanding and widely-admired Catholic jurist being accused of having done despicable things as a teenager, supposedly causing great distress to his alleged victim—charges he vehemently denied. How can we know the truth with certainty? The average, decent person found this situation confusing and distressing. President Donald Trump’s many ferocious critics label him as the most unqualified and temperamentally unsuited man ever to occupy the Oval Office, while his numerous fervent supporters view him as America’s last and best remaining hope to break the sinister power of the political establishment in Washington (the so-called Deep State) and restore our nation to greatness, thereby fulfilling his God-given mission. Both the Democrats and Republicans are trying to energize their supporters by describing this fall’s elections as, in effect, democracy’s last stand, with the fate of our nation supposedly riding in the balance.
Never since the U.S. Civil War has our nation been so divided—and while it would be unfair and misleading to label one side good and the other side evil, there’s no doubt that Satan has increasingly infiltrated and subverted the political process in our country, building upon the progress he’s already made in manipulating and perverting our society’s cultural values. The criminal behavior of so many leaders in politics, the news media, entertainment, sports, education, and religion, and the vicious personal attacks launched against public and sometimes even private figures, all provide ample proof—if proof is needed—that the devil is pulling strings and trying to orchestrate events behind the scenes. His ultimate goal, of course, is to hurt God by lashing out at—and, if possible, destroying—His beloved children. Jesus warned His followers they should expect to be hated in this world (Jn. 15:18-21)—with the ultimate manifestation of this hatred being an outright religious persecution.
In his 2017 book The Paradigm, author Jonathan Cahn—a messianic Jew known for linking ancient biblical prophecies to current world events—claims that the unexpected election of Donald Trump to the presidency was actually foretold or foreshadowed hundreds of years before Christ by events in the Old Testament books 1st and 2nd Kings, with the actions or roles of the important historical characters Ahab and his wife Jezebel, Joram, and Jehu corresponding to Bill and Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Mr. Trump. Whether or not the surprise election of President Trump was foretold in Scripture, it can certainly be argued that God intervened in the last presidential election, with the fortunate result of delaying a possible persecution of Christians. The Obama Administration was very hostile to devout Catholics and other Christians—as demonstrated by its insistence that religious groups, including the Little Sisters of the Poor, include contraceptive coverage in their health insurance programs—and there’s no reason to believe a second Clinton Administration would have been considerably less hostile. President Trump, on the other hand—despite his many personal failings—has been much more respectful of religious freedom and traditional moral values. However, once he’s out of office—whether through impeachment, assassination, or defeat in this year’s election—Christianity’s political enemies can be expected to renew their assault on religious freedom, and even try to take revenge on those religious and political groups closely identified with our current president.
A pro-life, pro-religious freedom president was given to us from Heaven as a final opportunity for America to avert spiritual disaster—but if Christians become complacent, and fail to offer enough ongoing prayers and sacrifices for our country’s moral and spiritual renewal, this opportunity will be wasted. A coming possible backlash from the enemies of the Church can certainly take the form of a religious persecution—and in that regard, the recently-revealed failures of many Catholic bishops to protect their flocks from sexual predators may have handed our enemies a dangerous and powerful weapon. On December 21, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order asserting authority over the property of any institution located “in whole or in substantial part, outside the United States,” found to be involved in “serious human rights abuse.” Because of widespread sexual crimes on the part of bishops and clergy, and their associated cover-ups, it can easily be argued the Catholic Church fits this description—and under this new Executive Order, the federal government has the ability to confiscate “all property and interests in property that are in the United States.” It’s almost impossible to imagine the Trump Administration using this authority against the Church, but once he’s out of office, all bets are off.
The South American visionary Pedro Regis has allegedly received many messages from Our Lady about our current times and the threats they hold for faithful Catholics. For instance, Mary said, “You are living in the time of the Great Spiritual Battle. Wicked men will act to lead you from the truth; they will confuse my poor children and many will walk like the blind leading the blind” (May 15, 2018). Elaborating on this point, Our Lady said, “The Truth of God will be rejected by men and in many places that which is false will be embraced” (July 3, 2018). Also, “Days will come when faith will be present in few hearts. The devil will lead many to abandon the truth and the pain will be great for men and women of faith” (June 8, 2018). Mary further warned, “You are heading for a future of great tribulations in the House of God. There will be great discord among the consecrated and many will have their faith shaken” (May 29, 2018).
However, Heaven does not want us to lose hope. Mary tells us, “Do not be discouraged. When all seems lost, the Lord will give you great victory. After all tribulations, the Lord will act on behalf of the righteous. There will be great joy for the faithful. Do not forget: God is in control of everything” (July 14, 2018, emphasis added). Therefore, Our Lady instructs us, “The time has come for your public and courageous witness. Open your hearts to the Lord and let Him transform you. Give the best of yourselves in the mission that the Lord has entrusted to you and you will be generously rewarded” (July 3, 2018). In other words, you and I are not just supposed to hold onto our faith in the difficult days ahead; we’re supposed to bear witness to it, influencing and inspiring others by our example.
How are we to achieve this? Our Lady said to Pedro Regis, “The Truth of My Son Jesus is non-negotiable. Listen to the teachings of the True Magisterium of the Church of My Jesus” (May 15, 2018). Thus, we are to hold onto the traditional doctrines and teachings of the Church—especially in regard to sin and sexual morality—and resist any innovations or attempts to redefine or water down the truth. As Our Lady insisted, “Tell everyone that in God there is no half-truth. Remain faithful to the true Magisterium of the Church of My Jesus. Seek strength in the Eucharist and you will be able to face all the obstacles that will come” (June 29, 2018). Reiterating this message, Mary added, “You are living in the time of the Great Spiritual Battle. Seek strength in prayer and Sacred Scripture. Feed yourself with the precious food of the Eucharist and you will be victorious” (June 18, 2018). These alleged messages to Pedro Regis speak of the crucial importance of remaining true to the traditional teachings of the Church, and we are to do this by means of prayer, reading the Bible, and worthily receiving Holy Communion. If we fail to take these warnings seriously, we are in grave danger of being deceived, misled, and swept away.
Fulfilling the prophecy of St. John the Baptist, Jesus is clearing the threshing floor, separating the wheat from the chaff. This is occurring both in the world as a whole, and especially in the Church—and as the battle lines are drawn more clearly, it will be necessary for everyone to choose a side. The days of a relatively safe, unchallenging Christianity are over; in order to stand firm, we need to become, through God’s grace, spiritual heroes. Secondly, Mary says that “the chaff is easy to identify during this process.” In today’s world of 24-hour news coverage and social media, it’s easy to “name names” and point fingers, especially in terms of the clergy sex abuse scandal; many unfaithful priests, bishops, and even cardinals who assumed their misdeeds would never see the light of day—along with other powerful and influential persons throughout our evil culture and society—are now finally being held accountable. However, it’s important for us to avoid passing judgment. False accusations are always possible, and even those persons who are truly guilty of grievous sin remain precious in God’s eyes. We must pray for their conversion, not their condemnation.
Thirdly, Our Lady says that as good wheat, we will be “ground and sifted,” a painful but necessary part of the purification process. Indeed, we’re already experiencing this to some extent—if, for instance, we cringe every time there’s another news story about misconduct by a priest or malfeasance by a bishop; if we’re unsure what to say when family members, relatives, or friends challenge or even ridicule us for remaining in what they consider a corrupt Church; if we ask ourselves “When is all this going to end?”; if we worry about the many problems facing our nation, and find ourselves yearning for the “good old days” when religion, patriotism, and shared values were important and respected in our society; and if we anguish over loved ones who’ve left the Church and who appear to have little room in their lives for God. If we take our Catholic beliefs and values seriously, we are going to stand out and attract hostile attention and perhaps strong opposition; even if there isn’t an outright religious persecution, it will become harder to remain faithful to Christ than at any previous point in our lifetimes. This is not bad news, however; rather, we will be given the opportunity to become like gold tested in fire (1 Pt. 1:7) by bearing our share “of the hardship the Gospel entails” (2 Tim. 1:8).
Fourthly, Mary promises that even if all seems lost, she and Jesus will always be with us and will never abandon us. At the worst moment of their lives—the three hours Our Lord hung upon the Cross—the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary were more intensely united to one another than ever, and in our own time of suffering and challenge, we are invited to share in this loving union. Our Lord has promised to help us if we take His yoke upon our shoulders (Mt. 11:29), and as Our Lady had instructed the waiters at the wedding in Cana, so she says to us: “Do whatever He tells you” (Jn. 2:5). Taking the Gospel seriously does entail some degree of sacrifice, but part of the Good News of the Gospel is that we are never alone or forsaken. It will be very important for us to remember this, and act accordingly, in the coming days.
Fifthly, Our Lady speaks of the coming victory of the Church—part of the promised Triumph of the Immaculate Heart—when the darkness of hatred and sin is finally and definitively overcome by the light of Christ. Our world will be transformed, our belief in God will be vindicated, and all our questions will be answered; we will see how our prayers and sacrifices, our freely-accepted sufferings, and all our humble efforts to remain faithful to Christ, made a difference and contributed to the defeat of the devil. The children of Mary will join her in placing their feet on the neck of the dragon, and all the world will witness a renewed and glorious Church; at the same time, we will truly see and appreciate what a great privilege and responsibility it is to be Catholic. Our Mother instructs us not to lose hope, even when all seems lost, for the power of God will accomplish something wonderful and amazing in our world.
A careful reading of the signs of the times give us some important advice on how to stand firm in our faith during these confusing, frightening, and unsettled times. First of all, we must avoid the extremes of complacency on the one hand—thinking everything’s all right, and no major changes or challenges will occur—and discouragement on the other, convincing ourselves that everything is hopeless, that nothing can be done, and that our efforts won’t make any difference. The devil is happy to see us demonstrate either of these extreme and mistaken attitudes, for doing so means we aren’t fulfilling our spiritual duties. Instead, we must ask the Lord to give us wisdom, courage, and strength so as to be authentic disciples of Jesus in these difficult times.
Second, we must avoid judging others. We have good reason to be angry at many of the cardinals, bishops, and priests whose criminal negligence and inexcusable behavior have terribly harmed innocent victims and gravely damaged the Church’s influence and reputation—but we must not let righteous anger become sinful hatred; if that happens, only Satan benefits. When Judas betrayed Jesus, this most terrible sin in history didn’t lead the other apostles and disciples to abandon their Lord in anger and disgust. Because of human sinfulness, at no point in the last 2000 years has the Church been free of imperfection—but at every single moment of the last twenty centuries, God’s saving grace has been available through the Church’s sacraments, despite the failures of her leaders and members. Anger serves God’s purpose only if we’re willing to leave all judgment to Him.
Third, it’s important to stand up for and defend our religious freedom while it still exists. The time of danger isn’t while President Trump is in office, but when the enemies of Christianity gain the upper hand—and if we wait until then to speak out, it will be too late. Embarrassment and anger over the sexual abuse scandal shouldn’t cause us to remain silent when the Church is under attack; we must not allow the other side to win by default. If necessary, we can remind people that there are very few current allegations against Church leaders and clergy; that the abuse of minors is just as big a problem in other religions, and a far bigger problem in the government school system and in society as a whole, than it is in the Church; and that since 2002 young people are statistically safer in Catholic parishes and schools than virtually anywhere else. Also, we must vote for pro-life, pro-religious freedom candidates, for this fall’s elections may well play a crucial role in determining the course of our nation’s history over the next few years, especially in terms of religious liberty.
Fourth, we’re warned not only in private revelation, but especially in Scripture (cf. Mt. 24:24) that there will be efforts to deceive the elect—and so we must be on our guard against being led astray. Holding onto the traditional teachings of the Church—especially in the areas of personal behavior and sexuality morality—is more important than ever. Be wary of any bishops, priests, or parish personnel making light of, or watering down, the Church’s teaching, especially as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church; pay attention if anyone tries to introduce liturgical innovations (such as changing the words of Consecration at Mass) or downgrades the importance of the Eucharist or the Rosary. As in all things, we need to be submissive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit; if something doesn’t seem right, pray for enlightenment, and then ask the person responsible, in a polite and respectful way, for an explanation. When it comes to your faith, it’s primarily up to you not only to understand it and grow in it, but also to protect and preserve it.
Fifth, as Our Lady said in one of her messages, we must rely upon Scripture and upon the Eucharist. Regularly reading the Bible will not only enlighten and encourage us; it will also make it easier to discern the truth and recognize false teaching. Regularly receiving Holy Communion while in a state of grace will more closely conform us to Christ and give us the strength to resist temptation and bear witness to our faith. It’s important to nourish our souls as we head into spiritual battle. If we rely on our own wisdom, courage, and strength we will fail; we need God’s Word and Sacrament if we are to stand firm.
Sixth, we must offer sacrifices for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls—no matter how small these sacrifices may be; God can use everything we offer, as long as it’s given with a generous and trusting heart. All of life’s joys and irritations, blessings and burdens, can—if we choose—serve a higher spiritual purpose; all our daily experiences—pleasant or difficult, unique or routine—can become moments of grace that we offer for the spiritual well-being of others. Our Lady in particular delights in taking all our simple offerings and, by uniting them with her perfect and loving submission to God, making them into a holy and loving sacrifice in her Son’s honor. It takes very little effort on our part to pray, silently or aloud, “Lord, I offer up this meal, this time of rest, this headache, this chore, this irritation, this challenge, this blessing, for Your glory and for the conversion of sinners.” The more we form the habit of doing this, the sooner we’ll see the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the coming of God’s Kingdom.
Lastly, we must pray—for our president, that he will have the wisdom and courage he needs to fulfill his mission from God; for our nation, that it will repent of its sins and humble itself before God; for peace in the world through an end to all hatred and violence; for the purification of the Church and the rooting out of all spiritual rebellion and corruption; for the Holy Father and all the members of the hierarchy and clergy, that they may be good and faithful shepherds; for all our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world who are undergoing any form of persecution; for the conversion of sinners and the salvation of souls; for all our loved ones who have fallen away from the True Faith; for our nation’s safety and its moral and spiritual renewal; and for our own spiritual growth and fidelity in the face of opposition and danger.
Prayer can be very powerful and effective. Early in 2018 several alleged visionaries were told by Heaven that America was in grave danger of a deadly terror attack sometime before October that year, but that it could be averted with sufficient prayer. This attack didn’t occur, showing that there was sufficient prayer and penance to prevent it. On other occasions contemporary alleged prophets have spoken of various chastisements being averted by the prayers and sacrifices of God’s people. We praise and thank the Lord for such an outcome, but we mustn’t become complacent or lessen our efforts. The more we pray, the more we bless our nation and our loved ones, while also making ourselves better prepared for whatever may come. It’s especially important to pray that the results of the upcoming elections this fall be pleasing to God. The Rosary, the Divine Mercy Chaplet, our prayers at Mass, and our simple conversation with God throughout the day, are all important ways of making a difference in the world and of living out our vocation to become saints—and saints are needed in today’s world more than ever before.
Through God’s grace, we can stand firm; we must stand firm, and we will stand firm. The Lord is about to separate the wheat from the chaff. You and I are given a role to play in this process—and if we’re willing and ready to fulfill it, God’s Name will be glorified and we will be forever blessed.