Suffering For Christ
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
You and I are mocked for being Catholics. We are insulted by the local media, people in local universities and even there are movements to silence us. All these movements are based on one thing. They believe falsely that there is no such thing as revealed knowledge. The product of this denial is a science only ethic. This is an ethic based on one simple belief, there is no such thing as divine revelation, there is only knowledge on the human level. There is a fight to ensure that policy decisions especially as they pertain to scientific research are made in this mindset. Our very existence in this building is something that is rejected by many of the policy makers in our world, from Boston to Beijing, etc. including members of the Massachusetts State Legislature. The problem is that we are not wrong. The greater problem is that if we choose to be silent then it is not we who suffer, but it is our opponents regardless of how anti-Catholic they may be, who will suffer at their own hands more than you and I can ever know.
It is an act of love to suffer for Christ. This is because the one who suffers for Christ testifies to his love and to his truth. There would be nothing easier for us than to walk out the front door resolving never to enter a Catholic Church again. After all are there not easier ways to spend an hour on Saturday evening or Sunday morning? Yet, to do so is to say that what happens here is irrelevant. That is the predominant philosophy of the 20th Century. The fruits of that idea made that century the bloodiest for all time. You and I testify to the truth of Christ and the reality of Christ in the face of a society that seeks to deny his existence for they see freedom from Christ as the very definition of true freedom. You and I however see freedom from Christ as darkness.
MEDIA IGNORANCE ENDANGERS OUT OF ARROGANCE
This past week the Boston Globe published an article about how the youth are building their faith on their terms. One such example was the case of a Catholic woman who also practices Wicca. You do realize that this formula is not progressive thinking, it is ancient and you can find it in various Old Testament texts of the bible including Exodus. It is found in Maccabees, Kings and other works. Each time, it is the recipe for the total annihilation of the society. God cannot tolerate a people that worships two gods. Indeed, in Christianity you cannot find a better road to demonic possession than practicing your faith and getting involved in the occult. Yet, it is exactly this recipe that is praised ignorantly by the Boston Globe. You and I at this time testify to the reality that this position is at best ignorant and at worst dangerous. We also testify that some truth must be revealed. We testify to the reality that Jesus is God, that he resurrected physically from the dead, that we are only human and that those who humbly submit to Christ's authority and love find true enlightenment in Christ. Finally, it is essential that we experience and know his love personally in order to be witnesses to this truth.
As is always the case, many suffer in this witness, there are false accusations, destroyed reputations, imprisonment violence, torture and various forms of physical suffering the witnesses to this truth can expect in their lives. None of this should surprise any of us, and all of this is what Peter is talking about.
If we find ourselves suffering for Christ, realize that we are literally doing that, we are suffering for Christ. Peter, who himself suffered the violent death of Crucifixion went before us to testify to the truth that brings us to this Church this day. Jesus is alive, not all truth can be discoverable, some must be revealed to us and Heaven is in our future. Let us pray that we may truly come to know Christ personally in our daily lives. That we may know his love on a personal and intimate level and let us prepare to testify to others just what that means. We may save some souls.
http://www.catholicismanew.org MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Editor, 617 625-0029
Suffering, Peter, Persecution, Media
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