Some years ago in a previous parish assignment, St. Thomas More, in Washington DC, I was accustomed to take a Friday afternoon walk to focus on my homily for Sunday. At the beginning of the walk I’d often stop by the nearby house of an elderly parishioner, Lillian, and give her communion. She was quite elderly, her mind was beginning to fail and for these reasons it was difficult to get to Church. In mild weather she often be in her wheel chair on the front porch and, as I’d walk up she’d say, “Oh Father! It must be Sunday!” “No, Lillian,” I’d usually say, “It’s actually Friday.” And she’d usually say, “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”
I was thinking of the calendar most times I answered her, but she she was long past worrying what day the world said it was. And so, Friday after Friday, as I’d stop by she kept asking if it was Sunday. Friday it was, but she kept looking for Sunday. “Is it Sunday, Father?”…. “No Ms. Lillian, today is Friday.”
The world has a saying: “Thank God, it’s Friday.” But in the Church, especially among African Americans whom I serve, there is an older expression: “It may be Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” It is a thoroughly Biblical reflection wherein Friday represents our sufferings, our own “Good Fridays” and Sunday represents our rising from the dead, our joy and the fulfillment of our hopes.
When Lillian saw her priest, she thought of Sunday, she thought of Jesus and Holy Communion. So, in a way for her it was Sunday, for a moment. But, to be sure, Lillian was in the Friday of her life. She had all the crippling effects of old age: dementia, arthritis, weakness, hearing and eyesight problems, sugar, and you name it. “I’s gotten ooooold, Father.” Yes, Friday had surely come for Lillian.
At her funeral I could think of no other way to begin the homily than to say, “It’s Sunday Lillian.” And the congregation nodded, some just hummed, others said, “Thank you Jesus.” Lillian had gone to Jesus and Sunday had come. Surely she, like all of us, needed some of the cleansing purgation wherein the Lord wipes away the tears of all who have died (cf Rev 21:4) lifts the burdens of our sorrows, regrets and sins for the last time. For those who die in the Lord, die in the care of the Lord. The souls of the just are in the hand of God (Wis 3:1).
Yes, Sunday, glorious Sunday, for all those who trust in the Lord. The Fridays of life will come but if we trust, Sunday will surely follow.
“Oh, Father! It must be Sunday!” ….”Yes, Ms. Lillian, it is surely Sunday.”
Heaven costs everything. This is made plain by the parable spoken by the Lord in today’s Gospel:
The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. (Matt. 13:44-46)
The most common interpretation of this parable is that we have to be willing to forsake everything to obtain heaven. But more radically, the parable isn’t saying we have to be willing to forsake everything, but that we WILL forsake, or at least lose, everything. The question is, will we do this willingly and even with a kind of joy, or will be do so resentfully and die with a hardened heart?
The truth is, there is absolutely nothing that you now have that you will not be required at some point to give up. No thing you think you own is really yours. It is God’s and you and I will give it back. There is no person you love whom you will not have to give back to God.
It has been my experience that I spent most of the first 25 years of my life acquiring but ever since I have been giving back. I have given back my youthful energy, much of the hair on my head, my slender figure, my almost perfect health. Little by little my eyesight and hearing are diminishing. I have had to say goodbye to my grandparents, then I buried my parents. My sister too I have given back to the Lord.
Now the question for me is, do I do this resentfully or with gratitude and acceptance? We live in a time where loss and difficulty in this life is not easily accepted. Loss has never been easy to accept but I am convinced we are especially challenged by the notion of loss and decline. This is because we have obtained a level of comfort and ease unknown to even our most recent ancestors. Electricity, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, endless labor saving devices and abundant consumer products, cheap and widely available, have all brought forth an expectation from most of us moderns that life is supposed to be pleasant and easy. When it is not we are quickly resentful and sometimes even threaten lawsuits. We live so comfortably today that it is rare to hear people in the general population speak of a longing for heaven.
The Older View – Our most recent ancestors often spoke of life as a valley of tears, as an exile. The Salve Regina says, “The thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve, to thee we do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears…..after this our exile show unto to us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.” This prayer, and others like it were written out the the experience that this life was often unpredictable, filled with sudden turns and sorrows; life could be brutal and short until very recently. In many parts of the world today it still is. This climate produces a much deeper longing for heaven and a sober understanding that this world is not all that fabulous. Even in the affluent West we have to admit, if we sober up for a moment, that life is difficult and that the party we are so “privileged” to be in will end.
Prosperity Gospel? – An old spiritual says, “Soon I will be done with the troubles of this world, going home to live with God.” But most people today in the affluent West, even committed Christians, inebriated with the world’s comforts, speak little of heaven. Often when we pray it is generally some prayer that God make this world a better place: Please Lord, fix my finances, fix my health, get me a better job. It is not wrong to pray for this but when that is all we pray for it is almost as if we were saying to God, “Give me enough comfort, health, and resources and I’ll just stay here forever.” We’ve all been a little infected with the “prosperity gospel.” But when in our prayer do we long for God and to be with him in heaven? When do we ask him to make us holy and prepare us to meet him? It is natural to have a fear of death but in the end, if we are faithful, death is also to be a longed-for moment that we prepare for with both sobriety and longing, for it is then that we go to meet God, our heart’s truest longing.
In this sense our comfort and affluence have not blessed us, they have cursed us and made us much harder to save. The Lord remarked how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven (cf Luke 18:24). And we in the affluent and modern west are very rich. Even the poorest among us live like royalty compared to the poor elsewhere. We are much harder to save for we are stubbornly attached to this world and most of us are exceedingly unwilling to sell everything we have for the Kingdom of God. We enjoy our creature comforts far too much to be willing to easily part with them. Paradoxically our losses and suffering can be blessings for us in that they can begin to loose this world’s strong attraction and restore in us a greater longing for heaven and a willingness to leave this inferior kingdom for the greater one. It is strong medicine to be sure and we are not asked to like it but we must learn to accept it.
And acceptance is the key for the medicine to work. That we accept it does not mean we have to like it. Loss is always painful, giving back is hard. But accepting that, in the end, we will one day give back everything we have to God brings a paradoxical serenity. God has something better for us, but it means we have to trust Him and leave here, having given everything back. It is the refusal to accept this that brings a bitterness, a resentfulness that hardens our heart and makes us very hard to save.
The fact is, the Lord must root from us every attachment and vestige of the world before we can obtain heaven or even want it sufficiently. In the end we will get what we want: heaven at the price of all this, or eternal separation from the God we have grown to resent because we consider the price too high. But the choice is ours. The Kingdom of GOD is like a man who found it and out of JOY goes and sells all that he has. Pray for detachment and a serene acceptance. The price is high, but God has something far better than this valley of tears.
To me there are three kinds of atheists, in a broad sense. First there are the lazy ones who simply want little certainty. The trouble with certainty is that, once it is manifest, you have to take a position. They prefer the vague and uncertain. Then no commitments are necessary and life can be pretty well lived as I see fit. If there is no God then I am god. I will do what I want to do and I will decide what is right and wrong. This is the lazy atheist. They have little reason for their unbelief other than as a premise for doing what they please.
The second kind of atheist is the “intellectual” atheist who claims that there is no proof for the existence of God. They tend to be materialists in that everything that is real to them must be physical, touchable and physically observable and measurable. Science, which is the study of the physical and measurable is therefore (for them) just about the only validator of truth. Thus when they claim that there is no evidence for God they usually mean scientific evidence. It seems to me that they live in a rather narrowly described world as the though the physical was all that was real. Even what most of us call spiritual, concepts like love, justice, appreciation of beauty, longing, conscience, desire. These too get reduced by them to phenomena of the brain, brain mapping, anthropological archetypes and the like. But alas, their time may be running short as modern science and physics keep bumping up against and blurring the line between physics and metaphysics. Quantum isn’t as “clean” in its distinctions and is moving the discussion in very new directions. This second sort of atheist may be walking with his science into terra incognita very soon.
And then there is the troubled and dare I say, “thoughtful” atheist who does truly struggle with some aspect of God or religion and this struggle leaves them unsatisfied. All the answers of scripture and organized religions to their questions are somehow inadequate. The biggest single issue is the “problem of evil.” If there is a God who is omnipotent and omniscient how can he tolerate evil, injustice, and suffering of the innocent? Where is God when a young girl is raped, when genocide is committed, when evil men hatch their plots? Why Did God even conceive the evil ones and let them be born?
The problem of evil cannot be simply answered. It is a mystery. It’s purpose and why God permits it are caught up in our limited vision and understanding. The scriptures say how “all things work together for the good of those who love and trust the Lord and are called according to his purposes.” But how this is so is difficult for us to see in many circumstances. Anyone who have ever suffered tragic and senseless loss or observed the disproportionate suffering that some must endure cannot help but ask, why? And the answers aren’t all that satisfying to many for suffering is ultimately mysterious in many ways.
I have some respect for atheists of this third sort. I do not share their struggle but I understand and respect its depths and the dignity of the question. At the end of the trail of questions, often asked in anguish, is God who has not chosen to supply simple answers. Perhaps if he were our simple minds could not comprehend them anyway. We are left simply to decide, often in the face of great evil and puzzling suffering, that God exists or not.
As in the days of Job, we cry out for answers but little is forthcoming. In the Book of Job, God speaks from a whirlwind and He questions Job’s ability to even ask the right questions let alone venture and answer to the problem and presence of evil and suffering. In the end he is God and we are not. This must be enough and we must look to the reward that awaits the faithful with trust.
The final and most perplexing aspect of suffering is its uneven distribution. In America we suffer little in comparison to many other parts of the world. Further, even here, some skate through life strong and sleek, wealthy and well fed. Others suffering crippling disease, inexplicable and sudden losses, financial setbacks, and burdens. It is a true fact that a lot of our suffering comes from bad choices, substance abuse and lack of self-control. But some suffering seems unrelated to any of this. And the most difficult suffering to accept is that caused on the innocent by third parties who seem to suffer no penalty. Parents who mistreat or neglect their children, the poor who are exploited and used, caught in schemes others have made, perhaps it is corrupt governments, perhaps unscrupulous industries.
Suffering is hard to explain or accept simply. I think this just has to be admitted. Simple slogans and quick answers are seldom sufficient in the face of great evil and suffering. Perhaps when interacting with an atheist of this third kind, sympathy, understanding and a call to humility goes farther than forceful rebuttal.
A respectful exposition of the Christian understanding of evil might include some of the following points. Note, these are not explanations per se (for suffering is a great mystery) and they are humble for they admit of their own limits.
The Scriptures teach that God created a world that was as a paradise. Though we only get a brief glimpse of it, it seems clear that death and suffering were not part of the garden.
But even there the serpent coiled from the branch of a tree called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and EVIL. So even in paradise the mystery of evil lurked in minimal form.
In a way the tree and the serpent had to be there. For we were made to love. And love requires freedom and freedom requires choices. The Yes of love must permit of the No of sin. In our rebellious “no” both we and the world unravelled, death and chaos entered in. Paradise was lost and a far more hostile and unpredictable world remained. From this fact came all of the suffering and evil we endure. Our sins alone cause an enormous amount of suffering on this earth, by my reckoning that vast majority of it. Of the suffering caused by natural phenomenon this too is linked to sin, Original Sin, wherein we preferred to reign in a hellish imitation rather than serve in the real paradise.
This link of evil and suffering to human freedom also explains God’s usual non-intervention in evil matters. To do so routinely makes an abstraction of human freedom and thus removes a central pillar of love. But here too there is mystery for the scriptures frequently recount how God does intervene to put an end to evil plots, to turn back wars, shorten famines and plagues. Why does he sometimes intervene and sometimes not? Why do prayers of deliverance sometimes get answered and sometimes not? Here too there is a mystery of providence.
The lengthiest Biblical treatise on suffering is the Book of Job and there God shows an almost shocking lack of sympathy for Job’s questions and sets a lengthy foundation for the conclusion that the mind of man is simply incapable of seeing into the depths of this problem. God saw fit that Job’s faith be tested and strengthened. But in the end Job is restored and re-established with even greater blessings in a kind of foretaste of what is meant by heaven.
The First Letter of Peter also explains suffering in this way: In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:6-7) In other words, our sufferings purify and prepare us to meet God.
Does this mean that those who suffer more need more purification? Not necessarily. It could also mean that a greater glory is waiting for them. For the Scriptures teach Therefore, we are not discouraged; rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison(2 Cor 4:16-17) Hence suffering “produces” glory in the world to come. With this insight, those who suffer more, but with faith, will have greater glory in the world to come.
Regarding the apparent injustice of uneven suffering it will be noted that the Scriptures teach of a great reversal wherein many who are last shall be first (Mat 20:16), where the mighty will be cast down and the lowly exulted, where the rich will go away empty and poor be filled. (Luke 1:52-53) In this sense it is not necessarily an blessing to rich and well fed, unaccustomed to any suffering. For in the great reversal the first will be last. The only chance the rich and well healed have to avoid this is to be generous and kind to the poor and those who suffer (1 Tim:6:17-18).
Finally, as to God’s apparent insensitivity to suffering we can only point to Christ who did not exempt himself from the suffering we chose by leaving Eden. He suffered mightily and unjustly but also showed that this would be a way home to paradise.
To these points I am sure you will add. But be careful with the problem of evil and suffering. It has mysterious dimensions which must be respected. Simple answers may not help an atheist of this sort. Understanding and an exposition that shows forth the Christian struggle to come to grips with this may be the best way. The “answer” of scripture requires faith but the answer appeals to reason and justice calls us to humility before a great mystery of which we see only a little. The appeal to humility before a mystery may command greater respect from an atheist of this sort than pat answers which may tend to alienate.
Here is the video which got me thinking all this. I saw it over at Patrick Madrid’s Blog. He posted it as a reason why you shouldn’t let you kids watch MTV. I agree, don’t let them! But the video is a kind of cry to God from an atheist who is struggling with the problem of evil. Not every charge leveled in the video is fair but overall it illustrates well the problem of evil and suffering from an atheist perspective. It is not a view I share, but has one who has struggled alongside with some who have experienced appalling suffering and evil I cannot simply dismiss questions like those asked in this video. Another disclaimer, I have no idea who XTC is and have heard none of his other works. Posting this video amounts to no endorsement by me of any sort. It is not an easy video to watch.
Enough ink has already been spilled objecting to Pat Robertson’s comments describing Haiti’s disastrous earthquake as the result of a pact they made with the devil 300 years ago. If you’re unfamiliar with the comments you can view the video below. Not only are the remarks insensitive and ill-timed, but they bespeak an flawed mentality common in biblical times that Jesus himself moves away from. I’d like in this post to examine the passages where it seems clear that Jesus himself would have something of a rebuke for Mr. Robertson.
First, just a few facts. Whatever pact Mr. Robertson thinks Haitians made 300 years ago with the Devil, the current population of Haiti is overwhelmingly Catholic and Christian. Approximately 80% of Haitians are Catholic. It is true that there are vestiges of voodoo intermingled with the Catholic Faith of some Haitians. Haitians who observe some voodoo rituals still think of and refer to themselves as Catholic. The Catholic Church to be sure condemns this intermixing of ancient voodoo with Catholicism though it persists in some places, especially in rural areas. But voodoo is not satanism. The Church condemns it as idolatry, not as satanic. False or imperfect religious practice and intermixing of idolatry are not unique to Haiti. But lets be clear the vast majority of Haitians are Catholic Christians, even if some are imperfectly so, they are NOT worshippers of Satan.
Now, let’s return to Pat Robertson’s remarks. The premise of them seems to be a philosopy not uncommon in biblical wherein those who suffered catastrophic loss must have been guilty of some sort of sin for this misfortune to have happened. Perhaps they were born blind, then their parents must have sinned. Perhaps they were killed in a sudden accident, then they must have sinned. At least this was the thinking.
Now such a thinking carried forward into Jesus’ times and he both encounters and deals with the attitude. In effect he sets such thinking aside or at least dispenses with the notion that God singles out certain people or groups out for punishment. Let’s look at these texts.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3)
Note how the disciples manifest the typical attitude of the day that it must have been the sin of the man or his parents that he is blind. But Jesus says that he is not blind sue to the fact that he sinned and then goes on to set forth an entirely new understanding that suffering is often an opportunity to manifest the glory of God shining through our human weakness. Suffering and the cross lead to glory. But it is clear that Jesus does not accept the notion advanced by his disciples that link this man’s suffering to his or his parents sin. Hence, even if we were to accept Pat Robertson’s rather questionable historical data that the ancestors of these Haitians made a pact with devil it hardly follows from Jesus’ teaching that they are suffering today due to that. Let’s consider another text:
Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.” (Luke 13:1-5)
Here again Jesus refers to the attitude that those who suffer calamities are worse sinners than the rest. He refers to it only to reject it. But then Jesus turns the tables on those with such an attitude and warns them that something far worse than the physical loss of life will await them if they do not repent. He warns them that they will perish unto hell. This much is clear for he goes on to tell a parable (not reproduced here) of a fig tree that comes under judgement. It will be spared for one year more but it still does not bear fruit it will be cut down and thrown into the fire (cf Luke 13:6-9). So here again, Mr. Robertson’s theory that the Haitians have suffered due to some sin that makes them as the parable puts it worse sinners than all the others, is rejected quite explicitly by Jesus.
Further, consider the over all approach of Jesus toward the crippled, the lepers, the blind, deaf and others with similar physical maladies. Jesus does not say to any of them that they have these problems due to sin that they or their ancestors committed. He heals them without mention of sin being the cause of their distress. There is one exception to this in the paralyzed man let down through the roof (cf Mark 2:1-12). When healing him Jesus says, have courage son, your sins are forgiven. This causes a stir among the Pharisees who declare that God alone can forgive sins. To prove his power to forgive sins Jesus heals the paralyzed man. And this seems to be the general context of the passage which is more an affirmation of Jesus’ power to forgive sins than a teaching that the man was paralyzed due to his own sin.
Finally, a couple of disclaimers. Jesus teaching does not exclude ANY relationship between sin and suffering. First of all, in a general sense, ALL suffering is traced back to Original Sin which brought suffering and death into the world. Secondly there are surely some sufferings we experience in relationship to sins committed. Maybe it is a hangover from too much drinking, or a sexually transmitted disease from fornication, and so forth. But it is not as though we can claim that everyone who suffers anything is guilty of some sin or that God singles some people out for special punishment. These are things we cannot know, especially in the case of natural disasters that affect so many people.
Let’s be honest, most of us have never gotten the the punishment we really deserve. If God were “fair” we’d all be in hell. As it is he is merciful, thanks be to God! To point to others in a disaster and say, “Look at them, they must have sinned” is to invite disaster upon ourselves. Because as Jesus in effect says above “If you think they are worse sinners than you, wake up, I’ve got something coming for you that might be far worse if you don’t shape up.” So careful Pat Robertson, not only are you at odds with the New Testament and Jesus himself, you also risk a stern warning from Jesus that you repent or experience something far worse.
There is a mystery to suffering. But the word “mystery” in the Christian tradition does not refer to something wholly shrouded in darkness and completely unintelligible. Rather “mystery” refers to something which is partially revealed, but much of which lies hidden from plain sight. Hence, we cannot fully understand the mystery of human suffering and problems but God does give us some insights. An old Gospel Hymn says,
Trials dark on every hand
And we cannot understand
All the ways that God will lead us to that Blessed Promised Land
But he guides us with his eye
And we follow till be die
And we’ll understand it better by and by.
At times when we feel overwhelmed it helps to step back and ponder the purpose of problems. What follows is just such a pondering that I found years ago and adapted for one of my sermons.
Here are five ways God wants to use the problems in your life:
God uses problems to DIRECT us. Sometimes God must light a fire under you to get you moving. Problems often point us in a new directions and motivate us to change. Is God trying to get your attention? “Sometimes it takes a painful situation to make us change our ways,” Proverbs 20:30….Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inner most being. Another old gospel song speaks of the need of suffering to keep us focused on God: Now the way may not be too easy. But you never said it would be. Cause when our way gets a little too easy, you know we tend to stray from thee. Sad but true, God sometimes needs to use problems to direct our steps to him.
God uses problems to INSPECT us. People are like tea bags.. if you want to know what’s inside them, just drop them into hot water! Has God ever tested your faith with a problem? What do problems reveal about you? ” Our problems have a way of helping to see what we’re really made of. I have discovered many strengths I never knew I had through trials and testings. There is a test in every testimony and trials have a way of purifying and strengthening our faith as well as inspecting our faith to see whether it is really genuine. 1 Peter 1:6 says, In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These trials are only to test your faith, to see whether or not it is strong and pure.
God uses problems to CORRECT us. Some lessons we learn only through pain and failure. It’s likely that as a child your parents told you not to touch a hot stove. But you probably learned by being burned. Sometimes we only learn the value of something … health, money, a relationship by losing it. Scripture says in Psalm 119:71-72………It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees and also in Psalm 119:67 Before I was afflicted, I strayed. But now I keep you word.
God uses problems to PROTECT us. A problem can be a blessing in disguise if it prevents you from being harmed by something more serious. A man was fired for refusing to do something unethical that his boss had asked him to do. His unemployment was a problem-but it saved him from being convicted and sent to prison a year later when management’s actions were eventually discovered. Scripture says in Genesis 50:20 as Joseph speaks to his brothers…You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
God uses problems to PERFECT us. Problems, when responded to correctly, are character builders. God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. Romans 5:3 says We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us they help us learn to be patient. 4And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. And 1 Peter 1:7 says You are being tested as fire tests gold and purifies it and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold; so if your faith remains strong after being tried in the fiery trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day of his return.
This reflection does not fully explain or solve the mystery of suffering. It only opens a little window where we see a little. For now we trust in God’s providence and accept that he allows difficulties for our good. Romans 8:28 says “All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to his purpose.” Notice, “all things” not just the good things. In the end all is gift. I know, it may not feel that way now, but we’ll understand it better by and by.
The Gospel for today has Jesus clearly telling us he must carry his cross and we must carry ours. Generally we flee the cross. But somewhere deep inside we know the need for the cross. Where would you be today without the crosses you learned to carry. The cross is more than suffering, it is self discipline, it is generosity, it is obedience, it is doing what is right even without immediate reward, it is working hard when we’d rather sleep. Where would you and I be had we not learned to accept corsses like these. Most of our progress comes at the cost of sacrifice, ours and others for us. We know, deep inside, that the corss is necessary.
The following video is a little silly but it makes a good point, so learn while you laugh at a corny but clever video:
Here’s another rather clever but corny video which I’ve posted before. In it a pastor and his cat try to explain suffering.
Some were burned alive, others thrown to wild beasts. Some had their skin flayed off. One had her breasts cut off, another, her eyes gouged out. Some were beheaded, others thrust through with swords. These are the Martyrs and great heroes of the early Church. They suffered much and gained everything. Their death was like seed that caused the Church to grow by God’s grace. New life comes from the Cross. Jesus proved it and the martyrs demonstrate it. The more the world hates and kills us the stronger we become. After almost every widespread persecution the Church grows more numerous and more intense. It is the words of Jesus Christ that foretold this: “And I, when I be lifted up from the earth (i..e on the Cross) will draw all people unto me.” (Jn 12:32). Where ever the Church is persecuted, Christ is still lifted up on the Cross in his mystical Body. Sure enough, in this way he draws even more unto him.
So many of us have it easy compared to the martyrs. They were willing to suffer death for the faith, many of us cannot even bear to be unpopular for it. Pray for courage from the intercession of the martyrs. It seems it will become increasingly necessary in the years ahead.
I put this video together to commemorate the Early Martyrs, especially those listed in the Roman Canon. Along with the pictures is a hymn to the Martyrs, Monteverdi’s setting of Deus Tuorum Militum. Here is the translation:
Deus tuorum militumO God, thou who art the portion
Sors et corona, praemiumthe crown and the reward of thy soldiers,
Laudes canentes Martyrisabsolve from the chains of sin, those
Absolve nexu criminissinging the praises of thy martyr.
Poenas cucurrit fortiter Bravely he/she ran the way of torture,
Et sustulit viriliter and suffered courageously,
Fundensque pro te sanguinemand shedding his/her blood for thee,
Aeterna dona possidet.(now) possesses eternal gifts.
Laus et perennis gloriaPraise and continual glorybe
Deo Patri et Filio to God the Father and Son,
Sancto simul Paraclito likewise the Holy Spirit
In sempiterna saecula. Amen unto eternal ages. Amen
Now this video is very homespun but the point Father makes is actually quite good. It is on the question of suffering and a call to humility. Now ,just like me, Father could have gotten to his point just a bit faster by skipping the part on cat vocabulary etc. but it’s still only 3 minutes so hang in there. I think the main point is excellent. Well done Fr. Jeffrey.