Faithful Remnant

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There is a perceptible cycle in the Scriptures that continues to repeat itself throughout Church history: God purifies His People through suffering and saves a faithful remnant to seed new growth in the next generation.

  • Adam and Eve produce more children to continue the human race after Cain slays Abel.
  • Noah's family is selected to re-seed the human race after the Flood.
  • Shem and Japtheh preserve the covenant family when Ham sins against his father.
  • A tiny remnant of Gideon's army defeats a huge enemy army. Three hundred soldiers were selected from 32,000 men (less than 1% of the whole); they routed a numberless horde from Midian (Judges 7).
  • David, a youth fighting without armor, defeats Goliath, the giant Philistine.
  • Judah survives the secession of the Northern Kingdom (Israel) from the kingship of David's descendants.
  • A remnant of Judah returns to Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity, rebuilds the Temple, and renews devotion to Torah.
  • Jesus, son of David, single-handedly defeats sin and death, offering life to the whole world.
  • The eleven faithful apostles, a tiny remnant of the thousands who witnessed Jesus' miracles during His public ministry, repent of their sins and preach the gospel of Jesus.
  • The Church perseveres in spite of the short-term success of various heresies:
    • Gnosticism.
    • Arianism.
    • Donatism.
    • Islam.
    • The Great Schism between East and West.
    • The Protestant Schisms.
    • Modernism.
  • The Church has survived huge cultural upheavals that threatened her existence.
    • Death of the Roman Empire in the West (the "Dark Ages").
    • Rise of the print industry.
    • Enlightenment materialism.
    • The Age of Revolutions.
      • Destruction of the monarchies descended from the so-called Holy Roman Empire.
      • Industrial Revolution.
      • Media Revolution.
      • Sexual Revolution.
      • The Rebellion of the Culture of Death against life.
      • The Scandal of Priestly Sins.
John Henry Newman, Essay on the Development of Doctrine: The Church has died five times in the eyes of the world; each time, God has raised it from the dead and granted it victory over her enemies--not by violence but by the beauty of holiness.

Scriptural References

1 Kings 19:18 But I will spare seven thousand in Israel—every knee that has not bent to Baal, every mouth that has not kissed him.
Is 10:22 Though your people, O Israel, were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return; their destruction is decreed, as overflowing justice demands.
Hos 2:1 The number of the Israelites will be like the sand of the sea, which can be neither measured nor counted.
Rom 9:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, “Though the number of the Israelites were like the sand of the sea, only a remnant will be saved.”
Rom 11:2-5 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is God’s response to him? “I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.” So also at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
Rev 12:17 Then the dragon became angry with the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring, those who keep God’s commandments and bear witness to Jesus.
John 15:1 "You are the vine; my Father is the vine-dresser."

In our day

"Be watchful and strengthen what is left, which is going to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God" (Rev 3:2).

The faithful remnant is almost always in the minority.

We must not judge what God is doing by human standards. In the world, "there is strength in numbers" and we have a bias in favor of "majority rule." "Eat snails. Forty million Frenchman can't be wrong."

The vast majority of Catholics are Catholic Buts. They are cultural Catholics on the surface but Protestants inside. They do not believe or teach what the Church believes and teaches.

The small minority of Catholic Catholics are today's faithful remnant. They are "spes gregis," the hope of the flock.

The New Evangelization is the work of the faithful. Our job is to hand on what has been handed on to us, without fear or anxiety about our littleness. God is great; our faith is in Him, not in us. He wants to save the world infinitely more than we do--God, the Son, died so that sinners might be saved. Our David will prevail against Goliath.

"Be the change you want to see"--or, less awkwardly, perhaps, make the change you want to see. If we want others to love Jesus whole-heartedly, our first responsibility is to examine our own conscience and make sure that we love Jesus whole-heartedly. If we want to see the Church endure, we must keep the faith ourselves.