Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Escape!

We saw yesterday that God’s grace and our faith and virtue enable us to escape from the corruption of the world. St Peter told us that once we make our escape we are prepared to enter the Kingdom of God. But since he knows human nature all too well, he has to give us an additional warning.

“For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2Peter 2:20-21). This is why he urged us earlier to confirm our call and election through steadfastness in virtue—for it is possible to lose it and then be worse off than ever. He then gives us a rather graphic quote from Proverbs to illustrate what falling away from righteousness means: “The dog turns back to his own vomit, and the sow is washed only to wallow in the mire.” I am reminded here of Jesus’ saying about the evil spirit that returns to its former dwelling with seven worse spirits, making the last state of the man worse than the first.

In an age when people only want to be assured that all their desires, preferences, and practices are approved by the “non-judgmental” God, and when almost any rejection of the Magisterium of the Church is applauded by the media, passages of Scripture like the one above can have little relevance. But we are not called to be “relevant” to the current corruption; rather, we are to escape it. So where do we go? To that South African bishop (Lord have mercy!) who just said, flying in the face of over 3000 years of tradition, “Moral injunctions do not help people”? (Evidently Moses and Jesus played no part in the formation of his opinions. Nor St Peter, who says of such men: “They promise freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.”) No, we can only go to the word of God and the sacraments, and to those who uphold and promote the tradition and teachings of the Church.

Too many people do not take the word of God seriously enough. Nobody wants to be an unpopular prophet. They want to make compromises with the “world,” to accommodate the Gospel and the Church to today’s worldly trends. But St James, in his characteristic directness, says simply: “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (4:4). I used to think that St Peter’s long description (in 2Peter 2-3) of the deceivers and false prophets was a bit overdone, but no more. It is an accurate description of what we see in the world—and all too often among Christians, even their leaders—in our present time and society.

So what can he (or we) say in the face of the corruption and defilements of the world? Escape! You can’t literally leave the world, but you can escape its evil, its seductions, its propaganda and practices, by holding fast the word of God and choosing to live by the Gospel of Christ. For “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly” (2:9), and He will protect and assist all who do not compromise with the ways of the world. “Live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God” (1Peter 4:2).

We must escape, spiritually seen, if we are to be saved. Within two verses the Apostle uses these words for what happens to those who don’t: they are overcome, enslaved, entangled, overpowered (2Peter 2:19-20). Choose the true liberty of the children of God over the false freedom the world offers. Escape from its defilements and look with hope to the Rescuer of the righteous, who expects (and enables) us to be faithful, come what may.