The very fact that Jesus severely rebuked his apostles when they asked Him if they shouldn’t call down fire from heaven to destroy a village of Samaritans who refused to receive Him (L’k 9:53) shows that those who stay on the reserve when they hear announcements of chastisements have good reason to do so. All the more so when they encounter those who simply delight in reading prophesies of doom that flourish here and there from time to time.
By Rev. Francis Turner, O.P.
There is, for example, a book containing the prophesies of a peasant “visionary” of western France that spell nothing but doom, wars, catastrophes, floods, epidemics and the like. Another such book has sold 400,000 copies in France, a country of 55 million inhabitants. There is an unhealthy relish in some religious milieus for this type of thing that Pope John XXIII alluded to when he opened the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962.
However, a distinction must be made between these, “prophesies of doom” and divine warnings that are given within a context of spiritual and moral messages of a wide scope. Such was the case at Garabandal.
The first Message of Garabandal carried a serious warning: “the cup is filling up … if we do not change, a very great chastisement will come upon us.” The second Message given four years later in1965, goes even further and says that the cup is “overflowing”.
How best can we get a fuller understanding of the nature of “chastisement”? Perhaps one way to deal with the subject is through a series of questions that we will try to answer. Who chastises? Why? More precisely, what is first, the principal cause and second, the purpose? While attempting to answer these questions, others may arise which also will need to be answered.
As the First Cause, of course, God chastises. The Bible could be quoted a hundred times to express it in most vivid terms. However, it is to be noted that either the devil (1 Cor 5:5) or a number of creatures (Wis 11:15) or an angel (1 Cor 10:10) serve as means. This holds true in the case of the Chastisement announced at Garabandal. In fact, it always holds true in this world.
The answer to the question of what causes a chastisement is twofold, taken from the point of view of man who suffers it, or from the point of view of God Who “sends” it. Both points of view are mentioned in the two formal Messages of Garabandal.
From the point of view of man, it is sin. This, we all know. We all say that it is the cause of chastisement. It would be better to say that it is its first and deepest underlying basic reality, a reality without which the very notion of chastisement would be unthinkable. We will not get into the gravity of sin here except to say that with sin, everything, every relationship, has changed.
And now, let us look at it from the point of view of God. Upon this basic reality (sin), that we shall call a layer, comes a second layer, the wrath of God mentioned in the formal Messages of Garabandal, especially the second. The very idea of God’s wrath seems irrational and even revolting; nevertheless, there is such a thing s the wrath of God. If we read Isaiah, chapter 30, verses 27 to 33, we will see that it’s not a pure metaphor or image. Of course, this wrath has to be purified of the imperfection that accompanies almost all human angers except that found in Jesus and the saints.
But it does exist, and it exists as the proper, and the only proper first response against sin. God has full mastery of His wrath, but it does break out when the proper time comes as foreseen in His wisdom. It springs from the jealousy of a holy love, a saving love that soon turns to mercy –(Is 54:7 ff).
Upon this second layer of God’s wrath, comes a third, that of judgment, God’s judgment which can be considered from the point of view of God Who is “the just judge” and from the point of man who is justly judged.
Whenever a chastisement is announced in the Bible, for example, that of original sin (Gn 3:14-19), the Deluge (Gn 6:13) or Sodom (Gn 10:20; 19:13), a decision of the just judge is mentioned, a judgment is pronounced. This decision exists permanently both in God and in this world (“this world is already judged”) although its execution and carrying out may be postponed, even a long time, through longanimity, mercy and meekness, not because of a weakness or flaw in God’s will.
All chastisements are first, a sign and manifestation of sin. This appears clearly in the case of original sin, that of Cain, Babel, Sodom, Nineveh, Capernaum, Pharaoh, Egypt. Secondly, chastisements are a fruit of sin, a natural, inherent consequence of sin, which in no way is arbitrary or capricious. This is especially easy to understand when there is a hardening of heart.
Thirdly, they are a revelation of God. It is the revelation of God or visible manifestation appropriated to the sinner as such, as often repeated by the prophets (Ez 11:10, 15:7). The chastisement reveals God’s wrath, “jealousy”, justice, even forgiveness and mercy—always ready to come into play—and finally, His pressing love.
There are two types of chastisements and depending on which type, they can have one or two final issues. Some are “locking-out” while others are “opening-up”. The first of the two types are of pure condemnation such as those of Pharaoh whose heart hardened—or Ananias and Sapphira who “lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:7-11). They lead to a dead end.
Others are a condemnation of sin and an invitation to conversation. That is why we call them “opening-up”. They invite those who are thus punished and afflicted to come back to God.4They remain a condemnation of the sinful past, and eventually alas, an anticipation of a “locking-out” condemnation if the invitation is ignored as in the case of the foolish virgins of the parable (Mt 25:10-12). It is not the chastisement that separates man from God, but sin, the chastisement being its consequence, its retribution (Rom 6:23).
1 .Hos 13:7; Is 5:5; Lk 13:34 ff.
2. Am 4:6-11; Is 9:12; Jer 5:3
3. Ex 7:13, 32; 8:15; 9:12,35; 10:20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8
4. Hos 2:8 ff; Lk 15:14-20
What about the chastisement suffered by Jesus, our Savior? He did suffer a chastisement, not because of sins He had personally committed, but because of the sins of men which He took upon Himself and takes away. 5 The chastisement of Calvary is two-fold, a “locking-out” chastisement of Satan and sin and an “opening-up” chastisement for all those who cling to Jesus through faith (1 Pt 4:1; Phil 3:10) and for whom He obtained full atonement, full redemption.
There are still three questions that need to be answered. Are announcements of chastisements conditional or unconditional?
Jeremiah’s answer is fundamental and fully relevant. I must quote him:
Indeed, like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in My hand, house of Israel. Sometimes I threaten to uproot and tear down and destroy a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation which I have threatened turns from its evil, I also repent of the evil which I threatened to do. Sometimes, again, I promise to build up and plant a nation or a kingdom. But if that nation does what is evil in My eyes, refusing to obey My voice, I repent of the good with which I promised to bless it (Jer 18:6-10).
There is no reason to think that it would be otherwise under the New Covenant. Jeremiah’s answer deals with prophecies addressed to a people, made at a definite time, in order to obtain a conversation from them. Such is the prophecy made at Garabandal although addressed to the world.
Apocalyptic-style prophecies are global in nature and therefore different from others. The apocalypse of Isaiah (chapters 24-27, 34-35); that of Ezekiel (chapters 38-39), Joel (chapters 3,4), and Daniel (most of the book), gives a general outline of the future fate of the universe. They announce a judgment to come and a cosmic convulsion that which no human can avert. Such is the Book of Revelation that, nevertheless, is also the great epic of Christian hope, the song of triumph of the persecuted Church (note from The Jerusalem Bible). It sheds a dazzling light on all persecutions of the Church and chastisements of the Church and the world as paradoxical prodromi* of the glorious and victorious Advent of the Incarnate Word of God Who is coming.
Is the Bible of any help in trying to understand what could happen depending on the response of mankind to the Warning, Miracle and the Permanent Sign at Garabandal? The answer is positive. Because of what happened to the Babylon of Mesopotamia, the Nineveh of Jonah, and the symbolic Babylon that is Rome (see Rv 17:9 which says so clearly enough) is symbolic of what may happen to, let’s say Paris, Berlin, Moscow, or New York. It is fruitful to turn to the Bible to understand and to some extent, forecast, what may happen to such cities in a future we cannot pinpoint.
There are three possibilities, the first being a locking-out chastisement as those inflicted upon Sodom and Babylon of Mesopotamia. The second is that of Nineveh where the king, the people and even the beasts underwent severe penances although not a single miracle had been performed. The city was saved and there was no chastisement.
The third possibility is a opening-up chastisement, and such was the case of the symbolic Babylon that, I repeat, was Rome. It was ruined and almost destroyed by the barbarians. Only many centuries later was it restored and even at the time of Luther was but a small town. Even then, this restoration took place thanks to its innumerable martyrs, and because the city had given up its pagan ways. Today, to be saved, a “city” would have to give up other pagan ways; the cult of Moloch in Moscow, of Mammon in New York or of Venus in Paris.
A chastisement has been announced at Garabandal. Now what is the purpose of this announcement? That it be avoided, that the arm of the wrath of God be held back. It is the proper purpose of such announcements. And how is the vengeful arm of God to be held back? Through intercession, conversations and the righteousness of the righteous. Let’s examine these three means.
Intercession. Intercessary prayer is exemplified by Abraham who pleaded in favor of Sodom which would have been saved (because of Abraham’s prayer) if the Lord had found but ten righteous in the city
(Gn 18:13) and Moses who petitioned God in favor of the people after their worship of the molten calf, saying, “Let Your blazing wrath die down; relent in punishing Your people.” (Ex 32:12)
Under the New Covenant, we have a far more excellent High Priest than under the old one, Jesus, Who “ever liveth to make intercession” for us.
Conversion. This is expressed in almost every page of the prophets with the best, simplest and clearest case being that of Nineveh. Jonah announced, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed” (Jon 3:4). The penance and repentance of the city was such that “when God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, He repented of the evil that He had threatened to do to them; He did not carry it out” (Jon 3:10)
Righteousness of the righteous. The wrath of God can be held back by the righteousness of the righteous, some forming a “great cloud of witnesses” in heaven while others who are among us either known as such or, in most cases, not even by those close to them. It has been said by a saint that Paris was spared destruction several times thanks to the devotedness of some pious women. At any rate, this was certainly true during the time of St. Genevieve.
We must also not forget the over-riding mercy of God that is founded upon His justice as John Paul II has said in Dives in Misericordita:
The primacy and superiority of love over justice—this is a mark of the whole of revelation—are revealed precisely through mercy. This seemed so obvious to the psalmists and prophets that the very term justice ended up by meaning the salvation accomplished by the Lord and His mercy. (No. 4) 6
To conclude, let it be said that we believe in the Power, Wisdom and Grace of the Holy Trinity. Let it also be said that never before has the powerful, wise and good Lord afforded such wondrous announcements of events that manifest in the deepest possible measure His loving kindness. So that mankind may avoid this chastisement, several excellent God-given signs will occur which the reader already knows, the main ones being: The Warning, The Miracle, and the Permanent Sign.
And it cannot be doubted that all of them will be accompanied by divine grace flowing throughout the whole world, enlightening all the minds and spirits, moving all the hearts—do we hope—on earth.
6. This can also be considered from the general point of view of the complementarities of many aspects of reality, whether natural or supernatural. Human reason is unable to consider them at a glance and as a whole. It even sees but contradictions in them. This holds true not only in physics, let us say, but also in most domains of knowledge, such as this one. Chastisement and mercy seem opposed and even contradictory, but only because of the weakness of the human reason. In God, they are inseparable and perfectly united. Faith gives us a certain intuitive perception of this unity.