Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Of Bread and Circuses and the Church Militant

I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect "history" to be anything but a long defeat -- though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.
J.R.R. Tolkien
More than ever today I am reminded of our society's resemblance to first century Rome. The masses have spoken and overwhelmingly plumped for bread and circuses over harder issues of life. So be it. We have seen grandiose promises. Now there are no excuses for not delivering.

Not for nothing are Christians on earth called the Church Militant. Ours is a warrior's lot, albeit that of a warrior who changes things through personal actions versus slinging arrows (or hard words). Time for us to remember that and toughen up.

Personally, I feel a sense of relief that the election is over and that we know quite clearly what we face. I also feel a sense of emotional emptiness. Some of that also may be the fact that I discovered a couple of days ago that my mother is experiencing kidney failure (reports vary on the extremity of this condition). As well, we continually struggle, as do many, with money and all that jazz.

Whatevah. That's the point of our faith is it not? God is with us always and everywhere and the point of our lives is not to have everything always go our way. Life isn't all sunshine and lollipops and the evidence is all around us. As Paul reminds us:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin. So let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help.
Hebrews 4:15-16
Also, as a friend of mine reminded me this morning, we have the words of Blessed Julian of Norwich:
All will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.
We have learned much during the campaign. Foremost in my mind:
  • Our bishops hopefully will remember this wake up call that the disgracefully poor catechesis of the American faithful has led to a wrongly ordered set of priorities.
  • I was stunned at the weak excuses and self-justification grasped by some friends who loudly profess faithful Catholicism, in order to justify votes. They were helped with both hands in this by expert logic twisters like Douglas Kmiec but most of them are smart enough to see the faults, had they cared to dig deep enough to try to find the real truth. Likewise, I was reminded just how little logic most people use ... and it is very sad to realize this about friends. However, we are all human and none of us perfect. It is for me to remember this and not be stunned when I am reminded of it.
This morning I inadvertently turned to the wrong week of my In Conversation with God devotional and found the perfect commentary for those feeling overwhelmed at the struggle ahead to maintain the culture of life.
... We can find it difficult to understand many of the things the Lord permits in our life -- pain, sickness, economic ruin, unemployment, the death of a loved one ... Yet God's plans are ordered to our eternal happiness. Our mind can barely make out the most immediate of realities. Shouldn't we put our trust in the Lord, in his loving Providence? Are we to trust the Lord only when things are going our way? We are in God's hands. We could never find a safer refuge. The day will come at the end of our life when the Lord will explain his ways to us, down to even the most insignificant occurrences.

In the face of every setback, of every failure, of every incomprehensible event and blatant injustice, we should reflect on those consoling words of the Lord: What I am doing you do not know now, but afterward you will understand. [Said to Peter when he asks why Jesus is washing his feet.] Then there will be no resentment or sorrow. ... If what happens to us is good, God wants it for us. If it is bad, He does not want it for us, but allows it to happen because He respects man's freedom and the order of nature; in such unlikely circumstances it is nonetheless in God's power to obtain good and advantage for the soul -- even bringing it out of evil itself. (F. Suarez, The Afterlife)

... The Lord will also show us how to view our problems with objectivity. We should take care to see things as they really are. We should not invent problems because of a lack of humility or an over-active imagination. There are many times when a contradiction can be born quietly without making a big issue of it and allowing it to develop into some kind of Greek tragedy.
So onward Christian soldiers. Let us pray. Let us fast. Let us go into the world and make a difference in our own lives, families, and work. That is the leaven the first century Christians brought to the Roman empire that changed the world. They put their faith in the concrete reality of Christ's promises and the example of his life.

We are no less than they. Onward.

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