The Day is Now Far Spent


Robert Cardinal Sarah (hereafter RCS) is a newly retired/resigned cardinal of the Catholic Church, originally from Guinea. He has been a voice of orthodoxy in a de-Christianizing world. In 2019, he penned a book entitled The Day is Now Far Spent, to describe his thoughts on the darkening of the world. The title piqued my interest, and on a whim I decided to read it.

While some of it is directed to the Roman Catholic community as an insider, there was much in the volume that resonated with themes in our own faith community. Of the many Christianities in the world, our own seems fairly impervious to pressure from the world to "update" its ways. Cardinal Sarah has faced down some of the same challenges as our own church, and his views are worth contemplation.

I'm not going to cover all that he has said in this book in one blogpost. I think I'll take it here a little, there a little. So now and again, we'll dip into the book. Let's start tonight.

In the opening essay of the volume, RCS meditates on "the mystery of Judas" which he believes "hangs over our time." Of course, there is the betrayal of the pedophile priests of the Catholic Church, but RCS believes this ultimate and egregious betrayal had its roots in other things which appeared less vile and thus were tolerated. I will let him speak:

"We are experiencing the mystery of iniquity, the mystery of betrayal, the mystery of Judas. . . Jesus had called him, like all the other apostles. Jesus loved him! He had sent him to proclaim the Good News. But little by little, doubt had taken hold of Judas' heart. Imperceptibly, he started to judge the teaching of Jesus. He told himself: This Jesus is too demanding, nt very effective. Judas wanted to make the Kingdom of God come to earth right away, by human means and according to his personal plans. However, he had heard Jesus tell him: "Your thoughts are not my thoughts, your ways are not my ways." Despite everything, Judas distanced himself. He no longer listened to Christ. He no longer accompanied him through those long nights of silence and prayer. Judas took refuge in worldy affairs. He busied himself with the purse, money, and commerce. The liar continued to follow Christ, but he no longer believed. He murmured.

"On Holy Thursday, the Master washed his feet. His heart must have been quite hardened, for he was not moved. The Lord was there in front of him, on his knees, a humbled servant, washing the feet of the one who was to hand him over. Jesus looked at him one last time, his eyes full of kindness and mercy. But the devil had already enetered in Judas' heart. He did not lower his eyes. Interiorly he must have pronounced the ancient words of rebellion: Non serviam, "I will not serve." During the Last Supper, he took Communion even though his plan was set. This was the first sacrilegious Communion in history. And he betrayed him.

"Judas is for all eternity the traitor's name, and his shadow hangs over us today. Yes, like him, we have betrayed! We have abandoned prayer. The evil of efficient activism has infiltrated everywhere. We seek to imitate the organization of big businesses. We forget that prayer alone is the blood that can course through the heart of the Church. We say that we have no time to waste. We want to use this time for useful social works. Someone who no longer prays has already betrayed. Already he is willing to make all sorts of compromises with the world. He is walking on the path of Judas.

"All sorts of things are challenged, and we tolerate it. Catholic doctrine is called into question. In the name of so-called intellectual positions, theologians amuse themselves by deconstructing dogmas and emptying morality of its profound meaning. Relativism is the mask of Judas disguised as an intellectual.

"The mystery of Judas is spreading. Therefore, I want to say to all priests: stay strong and upright . . . Let not your heart be troubled. On Good Friday, Jesus was charged with all the crimes in the world, and Jerusalem shouted: 'Crucify him! Crucify him!' [R]emain calm and confident like the Virgin and Saint John at the foot of the Cross . . . Despite the violence of the attacks that she may suffer, the Church will not die. This is the Lord's promise and his word is infallible. . . . Do not doubt! Hold fast to doctrine! Hold fast to prayer!

"What is to be done, then? It is not a matter of organizing and implementaing strategies. How could anyone think we could improve things by ourselves? That would be to enter again into the lethal illusion of Judas. . . We are tempted to try to purify the Church by our own strength. That would be a mistake. What would we do? Form a party? A movement? That is the most serious temptation: the showy disguise of division. Under the pretext of doing good, people become divided, they criticize each other, they tear each other apart. And the devil snickers. He has succeeded in tempting good people, under the appearance of good. We do not reform the Church by division and hatred. We reform the Church when we start by changing ourselves! Let us not hesitate, each on in his place, to denounce sin, starting with our own.

"The Church is dying because her pastors are afraid to speak in all truth and clarity. We are afraid of the media, afraid of public opinion, afraid of our own brethren! . . . We bishops ought to tremble at the thought of our guilty silences, our complicit silences, our over-indulgent silences in dealing with the world. . . We owe the Christian people clear, firm, stable teaching . . . Our unity will be forged around the truth of Catholic doctrine. There are no other means. Trying to win popularity with the media at the expense of the truth amounts to doing the work of Judas.

"Before the Divine Majesty . . . we who thought that we had so many important ideas and necessary projects, we fall silent, overwhelmed by the grandeur and transcendence of God. . . Christ asks each one of us, 'Do you love me? . . . Go and repair my Church."

As I have witnessed the fading of the light in my nation's culture, I do believe, with RCS, that it is time to turn inward and cleanse the inner vessel of our hearts, to re-embrace the power of prayer, and to learn and then teach doctrinal truth. We have not been put on earth to be popular. We have been put on earth to be true body and soul, and ring out true in our lives and in our communication. Then we will have the power to know what God would have us do to help build the Kingdom in this time of twilight. Perhaps this sounds anodyne to some, but tonight it feels anything but to me.