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Suffering For Christ

4/19/2005 - 6:00 AM PST

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By Fr. Robert J. Carr
©Catholic Online 2005

I remember talking to a priest friend of mine in another assignment, actually he is an order priest. He mentioned to me that some parishioners left his parish because he and others who preached there made some people feel uncomfortable. They challenged the parishioners on all the hot button issues of the day from the war in Iraq to gay marriage. This particular parishioner felt challenged to the point he decided to leave. "I want a church that makes me feel comfortable." He said. His position was for a church that validates the parishioners, that makes each one feel good about what they are doing right and that does not make judgements on moral decisions and lifestyles.

The priest friend of mine, sad that the man left, felt that he could do nothing about it, after all our Church is not in the business of making feel comfortable as much as leading people to follow Christ. St. Peter reiterates that well. He writes in chapter two of his first letter: "If you are patient to suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God, for to this you have been called."

EXPECT TO SUFFER FOR YOUR FAITH

Where does it say that those of us who follow Christ should feel comfortable and validated in everything we do even if it is sinful or against what Jesus taught? It just does not. Peter really makes it clear that suffering for our faith is to be expected. Granted he was talking about a different time. Now two thousand years later, people are still suffering for their faith.

ARCHAIC ANTI-CHRISTIAN THINKING IN CHINA

Recently, I was reading an account of a woman who suffered torture at the hands of the Communist forces in China. When she refused to reject her Christian faith and slander her pastor, the torture continued for they said, according to her, "Jesus is a foreigner’s God. Now is the time for the rule of the Communist party." ("Tortured Chinese Christian Testifies at United Nations Commission on Human Rights" religionjournal.com)There is little in that statement that would differ much from the words of those trying to silence Christians on behalf of the Roman Emperor 2000 years ago. The communists’ reasoning is so archaic they should be embarrassed by those who spoke it in the name of something equally archaic, imprisonment and torture of people of faith.

Never forget that we are at war. St. Paul reminds us that we are battling against not human forces but principalities and powers that manifest themselves through human forces. He also reminds us of the war between the spirit and the flesh. Today we are also in the midst of a war of understanding. When we comprehend that war, we understand why we as Catholics are the object of so much propaganda in this country and others.

WHY PERSECUTION HAPPENS TO FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST

Jesus and his disciples suffered not for the sake of suffering, but they had a reason. St. Maximus the Confessor preached that Jesus’ suffering prior to his death was a vicious temptation to get him to stop loving for so much as one millisecond. The law that he came to fulfill requires that we love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength and that we love our neighbors as ourselves. If the devil could have gotten Jesus to fail to love for the tiniest millisecond, then he would have won the battle and humanity would have been lost. However, for St. Peter and the rest of the disciples, suffering actually was an opportunity to witness to the truth of Christ. We suffer as a way to witness that Jesus lives, that he did resurrect from the dead and that every word about him is true.

This is why Catholics are so quickly the target today. First, we must expect the persecution we have received. This is what Jesus said would happen. Yet, the reason from a worldly perspective is that we stand for a different kind of knowledge than does the rest of the world. There are two types of knowledge through which we understand our world. One is discovered truth, also known as scientific knowledge. The other is revealed knowledge, which comes to us through scripture and our traditions of faith. Our world today does not believe in this revealed knowledge. Therefore, those of us who live our faith represent a way of thinking that secularists do not comprehend. They even find it a threat to their way of life. What is worse is that only the humble will understand this knowledge. The prideful are incapable of knowing it at all. St. Teresa of Avila said that with humility we can draw God into our heart with a thread. Our tradition teaches us that pride goes before the fall.

We need both types of knowledge and to be in a personal and communal relationship with Christ in order to be fully human and fully alive. The two levels of knowledge work together.

FAITH VERSUS THE SCIENCE ONLY ETHIC

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