On Being Willing to Die With Christ. A Holy Week Meditation for Increasingly Hostile Times

The Gospel from Monday of Holy Week presented an interesting a challenging picture for those of us who wish to be disciples of the Lord. For a brief moment the focus shifts to Lazarus. Lets consider the text and ask some questions of our selves:

Six days before Passover Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead….The large crowd of the Jews found out that he was there and came, not only because of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too, because many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him. (Jn 12:1, 10-11)

Now here are some the questions that come to mind for us, especially in the Holy Week, wherein we are summoned to walk with our Lord to the Cross and unto the resurrection. Let’s consider the questions in a kind of reverse order from the text on Lazarus.

  1. The text says of Lazarus, many of the Jews were turning away and believing in Jesus because of him. Is anyone you know turning away from the world and believing because of you?
  2. The text says of Lazarus, And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too. Is any one plotting to kill you, or is anyone persecuting you? I suppose the answer to that question would be based on the answer to the first. For if we are effectively witnessing to Christ and the teachings of his Gospel, we will experience some degree of hatred. But if we are watering down the Scripture, hiding its controversial moral demands, or striving to please this world, we will likely be loved by one and all. Jesus said, Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets (Lk 6:26). And again Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me. (Jn 15:18-21) So again the question: are you persecuted at all? Are you hated at all? Is anyone plotting your downfall? That will likely depend on whether you strive to fit in with this world, or to be a sign that will be contradicted (as was Christ and Lazarus). We are not looking for a fight, but if we are authentic to the Gospel, dislike and hatred will find us.
  3. The text says of Lazarus that Jesus had raised him from the dead. Has Christ raised you from the dead? What made Lazarus a threat was that he was alive. Are you alive? And here is a critical point: Many were coming to Jesus by way of Lazarus because Lazarus WAS ALIVE. So again the question, Are you alive in Christ Jesus? Would anyone look to you and see and understand what it means to be alive in Christ? Can you testify, like Lazarus, “I was dead, but Christ has given me life, He has put sin to death in me and raised me to new and more abundant life!”

So to stitch the questions together: Has Christ given you life and joy, and thus made you an effective witness, that turns many from the sinful and confused world to Christ? And has this witness been so effective that some hate you for it? Has your witness been so effective and joyful, but also clear and contradicting of the world’s agenda (power, sex, pleasure, vengeance, possessions, popularity etc) that many also hate you for your contrary witness and would like to undermine it and you?

Jesus did not die because he was a conformist who worked at fitting in and pleasing everyone. He is God and Lord who demanded repentance and summoned us to a faith that believed in the good news of deliverance from the sin we repented of. To a faithless generation he summons us to faith and offers it. To and unchaste and sexually confused world he summons us to chastity and offers it. To a greedy world he summons us to generosity and offers it. To an unforgiving and vengeful world he summons us to forgiveness and love of enemy and offers the grace and gift to do it.

And we killed him for it. He just didn’t fit it to this world’s agenda. Frankly, he irked just about everyone: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, and the Zealots, even the Romans. These political and worldly groups all hated each other but they all agreed on this: Jesus must go.

Outside the Gate: Scripture says, Jesus, in order to sanctify the people by his own blood,  suffered outside the city gate. Therefore go to him outside the camp and endure the insults he endured (Heb 13:12-13). Yes, outside the city gate. No city, no “polis” no “city-state” no political organization could contain him or tame him. So he died outside the gate, rejected by all. And only a very few had the courage to join him at the foot of that cross.

And so here is a question for Holy Week. Are you and I willing to suffer with Christ, and if necessary die with him, outside the gate? The world is becoming increasingly hostile to Biblical faith. Many of the ancient truths contained right in our Catechism are called bigotry, hatred, intolerance, foolishness and superstition by the world, and those indoctrinated in and enamored of the world’s ways. Are you and I willing to be humiliated, excoriated and hated for the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are we willing to have even our heartfelt and joyful defenses of the faith be laughed at, misrepresented and called hateful? Are we willing to be hated by most?

The Gospel is increasingly “out of season” and we are sure to have greater challenges in the years ahead. Here too the Book of Hebrews calls us to courage:

Recall the days gone by when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. At times you were publicly exposed to insult and trial; at other times you associated yourselves with those who were being so dealt with. You even joined in the sufferings of those who were in prison and joyfully assented to the confiscation of your goods, knowing that you had better and more permanent possessions. Do not, then, surrender your confidence; it will have great reward. You need patience to do God’s will and receive what he has promised. For just a brief moment, and he who is to come will come; he will not delay.  My just man will live by faith,  and if he draws back  I take no pleasure in him. [But] We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and live (Heb 10:35-39).

Yes, are you and I willing to die with Christ? Holy Week is not just a distant memory. It is now. And if we walk with Christ on the way of the Cross, walk with him outside the city gate, we too will rise with him victorious over this world.

But for now the Cross seems clearer every day, but so does the crown that waits:

In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be courageous; I have overcome the world (Jn 16:33).

This video shows how the martyrs suffered far more than we. The first verse of the song says,

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, whether darkness or the light

26 Replies to “On Being Willing to Die With Christ. A Holy Week Meditation for Increasingly Hostile Times”

  1. Are you and I willing to suffer with Christ, and if necessary die with him, outside the gate?

    If you are apprehensive in answering, for fear of what it might entail, be very careful to discern where the emphasis in the questions should go.

    Is it —
    (1) Are you and I willing TO SUFFER with Christ, and if necessary DIE with him, outside the gate?
    or is it —
    (2) Are you and I willing to suffer WITH CHRIST, and if necessary die WITH HIM, outside the gate?

    The fact of the matter is that you do not have any choice whatsoever with respect to (1). At some point, you will suffer, and at some point, you are going to die. Suffering and death are going to come to us all. They are unavoidable.

    You will suffer. You will die. The only real question is whether you are willing to do the inevitable with Jesus or whether you prefer to do it without Him.

    All of us will have to suffer and carry a cross at some point, and this can either be Jesus’ Cross that we help carry, or it can be the Romans’ cross, that is, the world’s. A cross that causes “excruciating pain” for the mere sake of suffering and death, or a Cross that has meaning, a Cross that helps in the work of the salvation of mankind.

    The suffering and the dying are unavoidable. But will it be with Him or without Him?

    1. Bender, that might has been the most insightful and helpful comment I have ever read. Thank you.

  2. The sad fact is that the Church has MUCH historical baggage. There have been MANY injustices and ambiguities within her history. Why should we be surprised when many people reject the Church in the face of the apparent evidence of the Church’s apparent hypocrisy–I wish to stress the word APPARENT? I have actually written letters to the Pope offering to point those out and asking him–as respectfully and humbly as possible–to face that baggage head-on. I wish I stated my case to you as clearly and respectfully as possible.

    1. For all your protests about the sins of the Church (and you have your own, so does every human and humanly populated institution) the real problem for most comes down not to her sins but to what she teaches doesn’t it? But for you and for us all the question remains, are you willing to go outside the gate and die with Christ? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels (Mark 8:38)

      1. Charles Pope writes, “not to her sins but to what she teaches”
        Jesus talked about teaching at Mt 23, to the mainstream religious leaders of his time and place: “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Douay)
        He understood that actions AND words teach, and that they can teach different things about the same subject. Catholics (and “Protestants”) teach about peace, love, brotherhood and such, found in their Bibles even as commands as at John 13:34,35. Then they arm their own men to go to war to kill other Catholics and Protestants- alleged to be fellow Christians. They even put their own clergy- as chaplains- in the employ of national armies to ‘encourage the faithful’ to kill each other.
        The record of history in the Thirty Years’ War, in both World Wars, and down to the present shows the SUCCESSFUL teaching of the Churches has been by actions, not by the words of the one they worship as God.

        1. Sorry Doug, words and teachings are important too. And when you start to live your own words perfectly come back and do your preaching. Until then you’re just in the same boat as the rest of us poor slobs.

        2. 30 Years War! 1614 to 1648. Really. If you keep one eye closed, plug one ear and don’t think to hard you can insure you only see that bad that reinforces your preconcieved ideas. You might be happier if you don’t take distant historical events and create a thread of causation that ignores inconvenient facts and draw conclusions about current events.

          Gonna say a prayer for your Doug. May the Lord grant use peace.

    2. Christ forgave Peter for rejecting him and placed him in charge of His Church. Why can’t people forgive the Church just a bit. The Church that Christ founded is perfect but he left us in charge of it and we are far from perfect so the Church here on earth populated by sinful people will stumble, fall but hopefully get back up and continue His mission. Of course wthere will be hypocrisy in th eactions of the Church. God did not send down a team of perfect people to run it. I heard this monring than Blessed John Paull II went to confession daily! That is the pope confessing daily! Don’t ignore that hypocrisy but let’s get some balance people. Less than 1% of the priests in the world were involved in the abuse scandals. So just to be careful we could double that for maybe missing some. 98% of Christ’s priests are trying to helpo us get to Heaven. Let’s put 98% of our focus on the good! Yes there is wrongdoing and evil done by Catholics either personally or as an insitution. But here are also Mother Teresa’s and very holy people taking care of each other. There is sin in excess. We need to be aware of the failings of the Church, work to correct these but not let these overwhelm to larger whole.

      1. I am not referring simply to the current scandals. I am referring to centuries of baggage.

        1. absolutely centuries of failings. Thank the Lord His Church has existed for centuries for the good the Church does do. We can trade tit for tat on good versus bad. You can say the Crusades and I can talk about the creation of the modern univerisities throughout europe in the medieval years and so on. If the Pope came out today and say the Church is sorry to everyone for all of its failings since the day it was founded, would that be enough? Would we need to write a check to every possible family that lost a loved one during the Inquisitions? Humans fail but they also are blessed. I could write you a litany of problems and failings but I have stood outside Notre Dame in Paris and saw the love of Christ that those craftsmen put into their work. I am certain somebody received personal gain from their work but they were also blessed by God for the beauty they created. I am not saying ignore the failings but if you/we don’t weigh the good and bad in a proper scale then what chance do any of us have? I am a weak man without question. My only hope is that someone is not watching and I can sneak into purgatory. But if Christ can forgive Peter for denying him three times and turn around and make him the first leader of His Church then we have to be a forgiving people and a merciful people even to the Church. My opinion only of course. Brian may the Saints in Heaven pray for His Church and us both.

        2. You’re comparing men to gods.

          If you want to start comparing the Catholic Church to other human organizations me and the other commenters on this board will take you to task all day. There simply is no organization that has achieved even a thousandth of the glory that the civilizations who were guided by the Church in some way or another have created.
          The sins you speak of are what? “The Inquisition”. Do you hold the United States accountable for prosecuting thieves and rapists? Was it a sin for Catholics to have a justice system? Can you name for me which justice system has never done evil to the innocent? Should we all return to the forests and live like animals because justice systems all fail some of the time?
          What other centuries of baggage?
          Your “baggage” is whatever evil in men that the Church couldn’t cure. You say “well the Church came into existence, and yea society got WAAAY better, but the Church didn’t stop every person and SHUTTER not every Catholic from doing evil, so in conclusion the Catholic Church is evil”.
          This is utter nonsense and makes it clear that you either haven’t had a logic class or didn’t take it very seriously.

          If we have to answer for “baggage” (which I think I just made clear is nonsense), then you have to answer for modern science, universities, hospitals, professional guilds, human rights, abolition of slavery, suffrage of women and basically every other blessing that fool secularists take credit for because they usually aren’t in situations where anyone will correct the record!

          1. I wish I could go more in more extensive detail. I simply cannot do so within a simple comment. I have been hunting and digging. I am trying to find the truth, warts and all.

            I refuse to believe that people reject the Church simply because she tries to spread the Gospel of Christ. There has to be a real reason that people see only death and destruction. There are many real historical reasons, are there not? I will not deny that many Catholics have done good (though I doubt that traditionalist Catholics can rightfully claim to monopolize it), but neither will I deny that many have spoiled the face of Christ through vilifying, silencing, burning, torturing, and enslaving the other.

            I really am trying to find truth and goodness wherever they are found, mainly in Jesus Christ. I have tried harder especially during this past Lent to be more tactful and respectful in my questions and critiques. I will surely continue my search. May God be with you on Easter.

  3. Often, what comes up when you witness to the faith is the question: “how can you be so sure you are right” “people of other religions think that they are right as well.”

    When you claim or imply certitude, you are charged with expressing a kind of arrogance.

    When, years ago, I brought my 10 year old niece to Mass and was teaching elements of the Faith, a friend of my sister said that I was imposing my particular beliefs.

    Yes I know – the claim that one cannot know a certain truth is a claim to a certitude that the human mind cannot know.

  4. For me, I am just learning the significance of the scripture to be in the world but not of it. I also am coming to realize that it is indeed more important to live, that is, as an individual, to become aware of my ‘own sins’, in the hope that this will avoid any hypocrisy involved in saying but not doing. I believe I must learn to practice what I understand and interpret the scripture and the teaching of the church to be. This I hold is the essential and primary focus.

  5. “Yes I know – the claim that one cannot know a certain truth is a claim to a certitude that the human mind cannot know.”

    Sometimes if I am in a cheeky mood, I refer to these types as graduates of the University of Pontius Pilate where the only requirement for a degree is to constantly ask, “What is truth?”

  6. We priests, and our bishops in this country over the past half century have not well-prepared our people for sacrifice. The Catholic Church in the US is a house of cards that even now is collapsing with just the slightest breath of the Administration, with the jails and executions of real martydom nowhere in sight. A large percentage of the monied organizations of our Church– the universities, hospitals, and Catholic Charities– are going to bolt and serve “in the Catholic/Jesuit/Baalist tradition,” but that PR boilerplate will not reflect the reality that they will sever formal ties to the Church in favor of governmental funds. Large percentages of our people don’t have a clue in the world why the Church would stand up to the HHS mandate over contraception. Heck, tens of millions of Catholics cannot even connect the Cross and Resurrection with the Mass, much less connect the Faith with salvation, since large majorities are universalists or indifferentists. Why? Because catechesis has been broken for decades and when the laity happen to darken the doors of their parish church, they listen to vapid homilies by their priests. The native clergy is full of burnouts, dissenters, and “professional Catholics” going through the motions. The orthodox among them have learned to keep their head down in seminary and take that coping mechanism with them into the priesthood: the light shines, but only through the gaps of the bushel basket. The foreign-born clergy include many full of zeal, but also many with no interest in learning about American culture in order to serve the People of God. The latter are interested more in an enhanced standard of living than trying to right the capsizing American Church. Many priests, native and foreign, are not faithful to their clerical promises of prayer, celibacy, and obedience. Breviaries are caked under inches of dust. Large numbers of priests seem unable to preach the Gospel: whether that comes from lack of conviction, lack of familiarity with the Gospel and Sacred Scripture, general unsuitablity for Orders, or not living in the state of grace is for God to know. And parish priests are a model of holiness compared to the average chancery! I am embarrassed to even call our contemporary and future suffering white martyrdom. These sufferings are simply the inevitable by-product of a national Church locked into the capital sin of sloth. That a remnant of the Catholic Church in the US will even survive is proof of the existence of the Holy Spirit. Our immigrant ancestors of the Church Triumphant and Suffering who came to these shores must be bewildered by what has come of their legacy to us, even as they rejoice that God’s will be done and His Justice made manifest.

    And then I could move to Europe where things are really bad!

    1. Well Fr. I gather you are an exception all this? While I do not disagree with a good bit of your assessment, you do come off as a little above it all. I am mindful that when Elijah lamented being the only one left to love God, God told him that in fact 7000 men had never bent the knee Baal.

      1. Oh, I’m in there, Padre: “The orthodox among them have learned to keep their head down in seminary and take that coping mechanism with them into the priesthood: the light shines, but only through the gaps of the bushel basket.” I’ve taken a few blows for the Truth– a trip to the Chancery here, a bad assignment there, occasional ostracism among the brethren for an impolitic remark– but all-in-all I’m fat, dumb, and happy like most priests, content that my own parish is stable for now. I also know that there are the 7000– I’m just looking for Elijah.

    2. You might want to re-run the Serenity posting Msgr. Pope. Everything changes and can’t be stopped. We must grow the Church toward the future wihtout losing the scared and holy. We seem to have got a bit wobbly of late but the history of the Church has lots of Catherines and Francises to help us get back on Christ’s path for us. But too many priests like this though and I might start to lose hope.

  7. I was confirmed in the Catholic Church four years ago after a Saul like conversion. Christ is in every moment of my life. I have lost my friends and half my family. I have new friends and I pray for my family. There are those who avoid eye contact with me at work because I convict them of their own failings and those who come and sit at my desk when I am gone because the surroundings bring them a great sense of peace. It is solid Catholic. 🙂
    There is no thing and no person in this world that would ever be worth denying Christ for. We must be Catholic first in all our actions and then people will listen to our words.

    I am amazed at how poorly Catholics have been catechized. The ignorance of the faith and the history of Christianity, which is the Church, is sad. However, I have great hope because I am seeing great change, even within my five years of coming to the Church. I am blessed to reside in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. We have a very holy Archbishop and Assistant Bishop and I believe the great majority of the priests are dedicated servants of the Lord. The priests coming out of our seminary are orthodox and joyful and full of the Holy Spirit. There are still some priests who do not teach the Catholic faith and even seem to be actively working against it, but they are of the old order and they will die off and retire. They will be replaced by fresh, obedient and loving priests. I believe this is a glorious time for the Church! She is Holy, her members are not. She will become smaller, but stronger. We will be persecuted, but that has always been and will always be and the fact that the Church survives in all her glory all of these years is proof that the Holy Spirit is still guiding her and protecting her. I love the Catholic Faith and the Church and have no doubt that all She teaches is the Truth of Christ Jesus. She has guarded it and handed it down since day one.
    Let THEM attack, we will only continue to strengthen and it is when we suffer, that we draw others to us. God is in charge. Trust in Him. Stand with Him. Never take your eyes from Him. Let the outside world try its best, they will lose in the end. Pray that each one of those souls who attack the Church will be given the grace to see the truth and to come to know, love and worship Our Lord Jesus Christ before it is too late.

  8. I die daily to the world, sufffering the slings and arrows of outrageous insults and misfortune. That’s life as a Catholic. I don’t go throwing myself to the lions but we manage to find ourselves on the floor of the arena because of others hunger and lust for power, control, recognition, greed, and respect. Such is the nature in the valley of the shadow of death. Lucky thirteen-th psalm.

  9. For my conviction in my faith I have lost everything, a wife who died hating me and five of my six children who have not talked with me for some 30 years. But I shall love them with the truth no matter what. I have written books about my life’s history and my religious convictions, they were read by Bishop Ambrose who says that they are a combination of my life’s experiences, Philosophy, Theology and Psychology. The kind Bishop writes that he is praying and hoping that i publixh them, imagine, me an uneducated man who realizes the low place that belongs to him. http://www.gustaveverdult.com

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