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Korean Martyrs vs Hell

Do you ever wonder what it would be like if things were like how they “used to be?”  We imagine that back in the day our American culture was not so hostile to Christianity.  The Catholic churches were full and everyone went to mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.  Whether or not Christianity in the US was really as alive as many think it was is a topic for a different article.

I want to focus on our reality now.  We definitely live in a culture hostile to Christianity as a religion.  Christians are bombarded with false accusations of bigotry, judgmentalism, and hypocrisy.  Some of these criticisms are accurate.  Most are not.

There definitely is a gap between what Christianity is and what many think Christianity is.  A wise bishop once said that there are not more than a hundred people in the world who hate the Catholic Church.  But there are millions who hate what they think is the Catholic Church, but is not.

Now our response should not entail a pity party.  Many great thinkers and writers have commented on the hostility and confusion surrounding religion in general and Christianity in particular.  Sometimes we use this to feel sorry for ourselves and become defensive in the face of attack.

The truth is, we have a mission.  We are sent by our Lord Jesus Christ to proclaim the Gospel to the nations.  Hostile, ignorant, and confused people are included in these nations.  Many of them will not accept the Gospel no matter how we proclaim it.  In Luke 7 Jesus describes those who do not listen to his message no matter what:

                                                                    For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of man has come eating and drinking;                                                                             and you say, ‘Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ 35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”1

This constitutes a simple rejection of our message.  Yet, for some, rejection of the message is not enough.  Some want to kill the message.  We see this with the Jewish leadership, such as the pharisees and chief priests.  They were directly responsible for handing Jesus over to the Romans to be crucified.

Today, Christians are literally being handed over to death all throughout the world.  The pharisees and chief priests have been replaced by Communist dictators and Islamic terrorists.  Christians are killed by atheistic secularists on one side and religious radicals on the other.

How do we respond?

The Korean martyrs Sts. Andrew Kim and companions provide us an example.  We celebrate their memorial on September 20.  These martyrs, canonized in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, stood with great courage and love before the threat of death in 19th century Korea.

The Korean government threw St. Andrew Kim, the first native Korean to be ordained a priest, into prison.  How did he respond?  Not with complaints nor with self-pity.  He responded by writing a letter of encouragement and thanksgiving to his fellow Korean Catholics.

He recognized three things in this letter, which can be read in the Office of Readings for September 20, in the Proper of Saints.

First, that persecuted Christians follow the example of their founder, Jesus.  Jesus, who IS the Gospel message, was killed:

Dearest brothers and sisters: when he was in the world, the Lord Jesus bore countless sorrows and by his own passion and death founded his Church.

Second, that persecuted Christians, by bearing their sufferings without compromising their mission as disciples, actually advance that mission:

Now he gives it (the Church) increase through the sufferings of his faithful.

Third, that the powers of hell which work through these persecutions will not prevail against the Church:

Hold fast, then, to the will of God and with all your heart fight the good fight under the leadership of Jesus; conquer again the diabolical power of this world that Christ has already vanquished.

If the Korean martyrs held this attitude in the face of death, what should be ours in the face of cultural persecution?

We should respond first by reflecting on the fact that God allows these persecutions so that we may serve as humble, courageous, and lovKorean_martyrsing witnesses in a world that badly needs them.

Second, we should encourage each other, just like Fr. Andrew Kim, recognizing that we do not really fight other people, but the forces of hell trying to steal as many souls as possible.

Third, we should look at the enemies of the Church not with hostility.  Rather, we should look at them with the eyes of Christ crucified, who said, “forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”  At the moment of his death he said, “I thirst.”  He thirsted for our salvation.

Let us thirst for the salvation of others.  Let us recognize our own sufferings in the name of our Lord as instruments of satisfying the thirst of our Crucified Lord, against whom the powers of hell will not triumph but have already been defeated.  Therefore, we look past the superficiality of our sufferings and into the deeper victory of the Christian.

  1. Catholic Biblical Association (Great Britain). (1994). The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition (Lk 7:33–35). New York: National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.

 

John the Baptist and Iraq

The beheading of JBapIt appears that in some places not much has changed.  Herod beheaded John the Baptist because of his witness to the truth of his unlawful and incestuous marriage.

Today, especially in Iraq and Syria, IS literally beheads Christians because of their witness to the truth of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, news outlets in the United States speak little of this horrendous persecution.  What Christians are going through in that region dwarf the persecutions under Emperors Diocletian and Marcus Aurelius in ancient Rome.

There are a few lessons to be learned here.  First, religion was not, is not, and will not ever be a private matter.  This is especially true of the biblical religions such as Islam, Christianity and Judaism.  They believe in a God of history, a God who is intimately involved in the lives of human individuals, communities, and entire civilizations.  Part of his involvement includes divine law which guides how we are to live together.

Because of this, biblical religions, if they remain faithful to the public aspect of their faith, will always influence everyone around them even if they claim that religion is strictly private.

This leads to a potential for great and transformational good as well as great and destructive evil.  Jesus Christ calls his disciples the light of the world and a leaven of the Kingdom of God.  This means that Christians are to influence the world by bringing the light of Christ to bear on all.  This takes place through gentle charity and mercy in both words and deeds.  It includes a civil aspect in that Christians must engage in the public sphere of politics and institutions in order to be that transformational leaven.

Because of that, the history of the world shows how Christianity forever shaped and molded the entire world.  It also shows how the influence of Christianity threatened the existence and power of those who wished to impose other kinds of orders.  These powers include the governments of Ancient Rome (initially), Nazi Germany, and Communist Russia.  Christianity diametrically opposed, by it’s very existence and mission, the worldviews and influence of these powers.  This is especially true in the case of the Catholic Church, which exists as a tangible and global institution.

In these cases, this diametric opposition motivated these powers to deal with Christianity in a most brutal matter–oppression, forced conversion, and murder.  Since much has been said about Christians doing the same in it’s own history, I need not do more than to mention it.  I propose only to concentrate on the topic of Christian persecution because of current events, which are under-reported.

In Iraq and Syria, non-Muslims, especially Christians, are slaughtered by the thousands and driven out of their homes by the 10’s of thousands.

children-iraqThat this takes place in the modern world shows the need for constant vigilance in maintaining a culture of friendship and religious tolerance based on the dignity of the human person and the recognition of religion’s place in the public sphere.  It also necessitates strong opposition to all forms of religious persecution by the media, the public, and governments.  Such opposition should include the possibility of the use of force in the form of sanctions, blocking of resources, and diplomatic pressure.

Let us pray for the end of all religious persecution, a growing friendship among Christians and Muslims, and peace among nations.

Anglicans Joining Catholics

We live in a very significant time in which the Catholic Church has made it easier for Anglicans to enter the Church and live in a space that is a bit more familiar to them.

This space is called the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.  What is that?  It is a Church entity that is within and part of the Catholic Church which allows for Catholics who were formally Anglican to continue to enjoy their theological, pastoral, and liturgical life that was uniquely Anglican but not at all opposed to the life of Catholicism.  Indeed, this ordinariate enriches the Catholic Church.

You probably have a million questions about this.  But I think the best place to start is with the ordinariate’s website:

http://www.usordinariate.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=160

Also, as an example of why Anglicans are moving so quickly into the Catholic Church, watch this video from EWTN featuring Fr. Steve Sellers, a priest of this ordinariate (who is also one of the teachers at Resurrection Catholic School in Houston, Texas):

Let’s continue to pray for the unity among all Christians!

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