END-TIMES PROPHECIES: WHAT IS THE SPIRIT SAYING?

By Ralph Martin

There seems to be two major prophetic streams flowing in the Catholic Church today that call for our attention. The main spokesperson for the first is Pope John Paul II. Some major themes of this prophetic voice are the imminence of a "new springtime", a "new Pentecost" a "Jubilee" that consists of an encounter with God, a manifestation of Christ, an outpouring of the Spirit.

The main spokesperson for the second is Mary, the mother of Jesus, speaking through a multitude of approved and "still under discernment" apparitions and signs. Some major themes of this prophetic voice are the urgency of the times, the imminence of a coming warning, followed by a chastisement or judgment possibly involving war and natural disaster, and the importance of turning to God.

People who are trying to be open to hear what the Spirit might be speaking to the Church today are sometimes puzzled by what appears to be different, even contradictory, themes or emphases in these two major prophetic currents. Of course the Pope also speaks of the dangers of the times, the culture of death, and other negative features but his emphasis is in another direction. And Mary of course speaks often of God's mercy, goodness, grace and love, but in a context of urgency, and a framework of heaven and hell, of temporal and eternal consequences for neglecting the mercy of God.

Pope John Paul II's Prophetic Announcement of a "New Springtime"

Pope John Paul II has said that the interpretive key to his entire pontificate is to understand how everything is oriented to the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 and preparing the Church for the next phase of her existence. He even sees the second Vatican Council as the beginning of this important preparation for the Jubilee. In the very first encyclical of his pontificate he had already begun to speak of importance of the coming Great Jubilee. The whole last third of his important encyclical on the Holy Spirit (Dominum et Vivificantem) published in 1986 is devoted to preparation for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 and gives some of the clearest indications of what the Pope is expecting.

The Pope has made clear, as far back as 1986, that preparation for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 needs to involve a fundamental encounter with God. He speaks of this time of preparation for the Great Jubilee as a "new time of advent, at the end of which, like two thousand years ago, 'every man will see the salvation of God' (Lk 3:6, Cf.Is 40:5)."

The Pope also makes clear that there is a great need for the Church in this new encounter with the Lord to remember what truly belongs to her yet has perhaps been forgotten or not appreciated adequately.

The Pope has frequently spoken of "that new springtime of Christian life which will be revealed by the Great Jubilee, if Christians are docile to the action of the Holy Spirit" (On Preparation for the Jubilee of the Year 2000, 18). The Pope has made clear that one of the most striking of these first signs of the new springtime is the growth of the many renewal movements and new communities in the Church. A high point of this sign of springtime, in the Pope's evaluation, was the gathering of more than fifty of these movements and communities to celebrate the 1998 Vigil of Pentecost in Rome with the Pope. The Vatican estimated that more than 500,000 attended the Pentecost meeting with the Pope, one of the largest crowds ever to gather in Rome for such an event

The Pope's words to this vast multitude were extremely significant but beyond the scope of this article. Inside the Vatican, in the editorial for its June-July 1998 issue, declared that "what happened in May in Rome was so important we believe future historians of the Church will have to distinguish between 'before' and 'after' Pentecost 1998." But as significant as this meeting was, the Pope saw it in the wider context as "this extraordinary event which launches us towards the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000".

Mary's Urgent Call to Conversion

It appears that Mary is being sent as a special prophetic/evangelistic messenger to help the Church through this difficult and dangerous time before the ultimate "triumph of her Immaculate Heart". Beginning at Fatima in 1917 and continuing throughout the century Mary has come to warn of great dangers that are affecting the whole world, and the urgent need to take seriously the gospel, believe and repent.

At Fatima she warned of the spread of communism and the coming of Second World War if there wasn't sufficient response of the call to conversion. But along with the warnings of suffering and chastisement, in the absence of sufficient repentance, there was also the promise of the ultimate conversion of Russia, the triumph of her Immaculate Heart, at which point "a certain period of grace will be granted to the world." She also showed the children a vision of hell, which underlined the importance of what's at stake in responding or not responding to the Father's offer of mercy and pardon of His Son Jesus.

These themes of warning of imminent danger, the call to conversion, but a promise of ultimate triumph are characteristic of most of the significant apparitions, locutions and special signs connected with the ongoing mission of Mary throughout the rest of the century. A number of these Marian interventions have been judged worthy of belief by the local bishop after a time of investigation. Others are still being investigated with a final judgment not possible until the apparitions or locutions cease and the events that are prophesied either come to pass or not. Some have been investigated and have been found wanting.

I believe that two scripture passages provide us a key for understanding the different emphases of these important messengers of the Lord. Both, I believe, are playing a very important "John the Baptist role" in helping prepare us for a coming encounter with the Lord, in judgement and great mercy.

The first passage is Luke 7:29-35: "What comparison can I use for the men of today? What are they like? They are like children squatting in the city squares and calling to their playmates, 'We piped you a tune but you did not dance, we sang you a dirge but you did not wail.' I mean that John the Baptizer came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' God's wisdom is vindicated by all who accept it".

Pope John Paul II is piping a tune of "new springtime" of "new Pentecost" of "Great Jubilee" - and there are many refusing to dance, to undergo the preparation "in the Holy Spirit" to become "docile to the Holy Spirit" which are preconditions for the coming of the new springtime.

Mary is weeping, is singing a dirge, weeping for her children who are in danger of being swept away by the immense and proximate danger, the closeness of chastisement and judgment, the danger of eternal death, of hell. And there are many who are refusing to have their hearts broken by her tears, there are many who are refusing to respond to the profound simplicity of her repeated calls to conversion.

Another passage also sheds light on these two prophetic emphases, Luke 19:37-45. "Coming within sight of the city, he wept over it and said: 'If only you had know the path to peace this day; but you have completely lost it from view! Days will come upon you when your enemies encircle you with a rampart, hem you in and press you hard from every side. They will wipe you out, you and your children within your walls, and leave not a stone within you, because you failed to recognize the time of your visitation'".

A visitation from God is a two-edged sword, peace, the fullness of God's blessings, for those who are prepared for it and welcome it, destruction for those who have failed to heed the preparatory messengers and are not prepared to recognize and respond when the fullness of the visitation arrives.

"The entire populace that had heard Jesus, even the tax collectors, gave praise to God, for they had received from John the baptismal bath he administered. The Pharisees and the lawyers, on the other hand, by failing to receive his baptism defeated God's plan in their regard" (Lk 7:29-30).

A baptismal bath of conversion, of repentance, of docility to the Holy Spirit, of intense sacramental life, is being administered by the Pope and Mary, to prepare us for an encounter with God that is coming. If we do not participate in the preparation we may not be ready for the encounter.

I believe we are now in a time of visitation. God is visiting us in the ministry of John Paul II, in the ministry of Mary, and in many other ways as well. The time of preparation is well advanced. According to the message of John Paul II and Mary we are on the very verge of a significant action of god, an action that will function as a two-edged sword, depending on our preparation and willingness to respond to the prophetic message we are being given. And is it possible that the fullness of the "new springtime" will not come until we are first purified through chastisement, and awakened to the holiness of God?

John Paul is calling us to a dance of preparation for "the greatest Jubilee the Church has ever celebrated". He has unveiled a church-wide six year plan of preparation, a few months of which remain.

Mary is weeping for those in danger of missing the visitation and has unveiled a personal plan of preparation for what is coming that involves prayer, fasting, repentance and Reconciliation, daily Eucharist, rosary, conversion and faith.

The messages are complementary. They are two sides of one coin, two edges of one sword. It is urgent that we respond.

(this article was taken from ICCRS Newsletter Sept-Oct 1999 issue, with permission)