Never Be Ashamed When You Suffer for Christ
By Fr. Robert J. Carr
There is a line in the Suffering Servant narratives from Isaiah that seems out of place. The passage talks about the suffering servant who will be beaten and insulted, but will not be put to shame. There is a question: how that is possible?
How is it that this suffering person is not put to shame when he is treated as described in the first reading? The answer can be seen in recognizing that God is this servant's help. It gives us an understanding of vision that is central to our faith as Catholics.
There is a prevailing attitude in our culture that life is about living it to its best while you are here because you are here for only several decades, then you die. So this world becomes a place to exist and there is nothing else. This philosophy has been growing in our society more and more. So what happens is that people believe there is no life beyond this one. They believe that since this is the only life that exists on Earth then this life is for enjoying everything possible. It is about making the most money possible, owning the most things and being entertained the most. This is not a Catholic attitude. It is also not realistic. Those who seek that attitude also do so at the expense of those for whom such pleasure is not possible.
We believe something very different. That is that this life is a preparation for the next. This is where we learn about whom we truly are and how to become everything God created us to be. This is our apprenticeship to all eternity. It is not the end of our existence but only the beginning.
The suffering servant in the first reading and, of course, Jesus in the Gospel demonstrate to us an essential element of our faith. When we are focused on doing God's will regardless of the consequences, we become people who bring his grace into the world. This is our vocation as Catholics. God calls us to be his servant and to testify to his truth. This is our vocation. No matter how much we suffer, we are never put to shame because we are doing God's will; we are pleasing our creator. We are testifying to His truth.
It is time we realize that if we are going to live our faith in Christ then the attitude we see in today's first reading is the one we are called to have from our Baptism to our death. This means that we are going to be at odds with those in and outside of our Church who maintain the growing attitude in our society. However, it also means that we can give hope to those who have been excluded from the advantages by those who are capable of seeking the materialistic dream. This includes the poor, the imprisoned, the homeless, the disadvantaged and all those who do not have the power and advantages needed to pursue the vision that has grasped our country. We also testify to those who have attained all that materialism promises them and found that it is an empty gain.
Karl Marx taught that religion is the opium of the people. This is wrong, our faith gives people a hope that is beyond the ability of any nation to promise any of its people. Further, his materialistic system and the consumerism of ours that both promise nothing but material comfort to people cannot deliver on its promises to so many who do not fit the system. Those who seek and find everything the worldly system have to offer cannot find the promises of Christ. Jesus warns us of this in Luke.
This is why you need to have an attitude that others do not have. You need a vision that others do not have. That vision is one of seeking to do the will of God and all the rights and responsibilities that entails. This means that no matter how much we suffer for doing God's will, we will not ultimately be put to shame. This means that no matter how many people seek to silence our voice because they reject our belief, they will not destroy us. This means that we have a hope that they do have and a responsibility to testify to that hope.
One of the most important pieces of literature for our time is the story The Lord of the Flies which illustrates a world with no hope and that has no belief that there is anything beyond what we can see now. This is the growing attitude in our world. If you know the story, then you know that such an attitude leads to a tribal concept the breaks down into anarchy. There is only one way to fight it, that is to be beacons of hope that proclaim to those of the world around us that they are wrong in their hopeless assessment of our society.
We need to daily give of ourselves to Christ that we may testify to those around us who have no hope that there is something beyond this existence and we find it by seeking His truth. We need to embrace Christ that we may show others hope. We need to know Christ that we may lead others to eternal life. This means that we make ourselves enemies to those who reject Christ, who reject the hope he offers and who reject the life he promises. This includes the communist and the consumerist atheists. We need to understand Christ's vision for us and to embrace that vision. We then need to teach it to those who cannot embrace the false vision of this world and those who have chosen not to embrace it. As for those who have and continue to do so, Jesus told his followers in Luke, they already have their reward, ours is still to come and it is much greater.
Father Robert J. Carr is a priest for the Archdiocese of Boston.
http://www.revrobertjcarr.com MA, US
Fr. Robert J. Carr - Priest, 617 230-3300
Palm Sunday, Suffering Servant, Lord of the Flies,
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