Reanimating Judas: Examining [Materialism/Relativism] in the US

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This is the first examination of the three principles of communism taught by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen on his Life is Worth Living television program which currently airs on EWTN and The Church Channel. After viewing the program that aired last week on The Church Channel where Archbishop Sheen spoke on the deceitful tongue of communism and how it followed the same pattern of betrayal of Our Blessed Lord as Judas‘ I decided to examine Sheen’s three points (materialism, myth of coexistence and betrayal with a kiss) in light of modern secularism and relativism.

Materialism
Dictionary.com defines materialism as the “preoccupation with or emphasis on material objects, comforts, and considerations, with a disinterest in or rejection of spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.”

In order to disarm the faithful the first step for any of these false doctrines is to deny the spiritual needs of the human person and focus solely on the material or physical. This appeal often takes the form of addressing some grave social ill while ironically encouraging personal greed at the same time. For example, socialists try to make the case (sometimes with supposed Biblical support) for the redistribution of wealth by stating that because wealth is concentrated among a very few, elite groups and persons, it remains inaccessible to the average person and thus is the cause of starvation and poverty – and of course Jesus said to the young rich man in Matthew 19:21, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” On the flip side, persons I refer to as “relative capitalists” make the case that personal ambition should be the sole barometer of success stating that opportunities abound for all humans who wish to make the necessary decisions. They too can quote scripture, “If any one will not work, let him not eat”  (2 Thessalonians (RSV) 3:10).

Materialism Causes Spiritual Doubt
Without Holy Mother Church to properly guide and form our consciences this first volley of the Enemy can lean many into mortal sin. Judas provides for us a biblical case study for this materialism and its effects on the soul and the body. Remember that long before he “was paid…thirty pieces of silver” (Matthew (RSV) 26:15) for his betrayal of Our Blessed Lord, the apparent material/monetary desire of this former apostle and disciple coupled with an even more sinister doubt and acceptance of the Evil One was first made explicitly manifest right after the “Bread of Life Discourse” (John 6:22-59), in what my translation (RSV-CE) subtitles as “The Words of Eternal Life” (John 6:60-71):

Many of his disciples, when they heard it, said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples murmured at it, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you that do not believe.”

For Jesus knew from the first who those were that did not believe, and who it was that would betray him. And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him.

Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?”

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was to betray him.

In this passage, one gets the sense that Judas finally came to the realization that the Son of Man was indeed the Son of God and that His kingdom would not be of the earth. Moreover, Judas began to realize that that continuing to follow Jesus could lead to his own death. What Jesus is saying is completely radical and without the gift of faith makes one think of cannibalism (so much so that the pagan Rome persecuted early Christians do to their misunderstanding or lack of faith concerning the Eucharist).

But as I stated before, materialism is more that just an offense against spirit vis-a-vis faith. It is also an offense against integrity as Judas can attest to:

Mary Anoints Jesus
Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at table with him. Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box he used to take what was put into it. Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

This incident, which occurs after the Bread of Life Discourse, demonstrates to us how materialism if left unchecked eats away at the faith creating a vicious cycle that leads to out-right lies and that conceal the true nature of a person’s intent. Many today, knowingly and unknowingly make similar claims of the Church often siting the seemingly immense wealth that she has as proof of her hypocrisy. They ask the same question Judas did of why Jesus allowed Mary to anoint His feet with such expensive oil, “Why is it not sold and given to the poor?” The faithful combat such doubt and heresy with the Holy Eucharist and obedience as Jesus explains, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” Jesus is speaking of the Mass and our worship of Him.Because of the concupiscence of man, the poor will always remain but as with all things God takes care of them and us. So we should always protect the dignity of human persons as we would do ourselves but ensure that all glory is given to God first. Sometimes that means that we provide for Him the purest of gold for His tabernacle and the finest artisans for His sanctuaries. And sometimes that means we simply, with an earnest heart, make for Him a place of worship not unlike His first tabernacle and sanctuary: a poor, humble Jewish girl who gave birth to a King in a cave set aside for livestock wherein “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Guidance from Materialism
Without the “pillar and bulwark of truth,” which is the Church (1 Timothy 3:15), the well-sounding but contradictory messages of materialism lead many to a confused state wherein their only option to make order of the disordered is to apply the principles of relativism. These principles always elevate the individual above the community no matter the original intention.

Let me give you an example. Back in college, I theorized that the linear spectrum of political ideology is not accurate. Those who are furthest to the right or left are actually closer in ideology and practice than those who remain centered (especially God-centered). For me, the political spectrum is best represented by “sleep/standby icon” 

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often used on many of today’s electronic gadgets. This image shows the supposed divide between left and right (in the “one/on” line), placing them nearest to each other in their most radical sense by forming the zero or off. The function of the icon is equally representative of present state of our relativist world; reminding me of Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”

If this icon/button represents the lukewarm state of a machine, so it represents the lukewarm nature of a relativist person who is first a materialist like Judas.

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