Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Today's Office of Readings on Persecution of Christians

Some die with their boots on; this one died in his vestments.
(Father Francisco Vera is shot for celebrating a public Mass in 1927)

This is really a good set of readings to keep in mind as we move forward in a society that is becoming increasingly intolerant of Christians.  It comes from the Office of Readings in today's breviary.  The first reading is always from Scripture.  It is then followed by something relevant from one of the saints, documents of the Church, or other sources.  We have been reading from the Book of Revelations.  This is good to digest before getting into the very wholesome Second Reading (emphasis mine in bold).

I, John, saw new heavens and a new earth. The former heavens and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer. I also saw a new Jerusalem, the holy city, coming down out of heaven from God, beautiful as a bride prepared to meet her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne cry out: “This is God’s dwelling among men. He shall dwell with them and they shall be his people and he shall be their God who is always with them. He shall wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, crying out or pain, for the former world has passed away.” 

The One who sat on the throne said to me, “See, I make all things new!” Then he said, “Write these matters down, for the words are trustworthy and true!” He went on to say: “These words are already fulfilled! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To anyone who thirsts I will give to drink without cost from the spring of life-giving water. He who wins the victory shall inherit these gifts; I will be his God and he shall be my son. As for the cowards and traitors to the faith, the depraved and murderers, the fornicators and sorcerers, the idol-worshipers and deceivers of every sort—their lot is the fiery pool of burning sulphur, the second death!”

When was the last time you heard a priest or a bishop talk about fornication or adultery?  How many Catholics in a given parish or diocese are co-habitating or engaging in sex with others these days who are not their spouse through sacramental marriage?  The confession lines are empty.  Perhaps they would not be if our clerics would, out of love for their flocks, speak on these things.

We are all too aware of politicians, college professors, journalists and others who obstinately and openly promote strange teachings which are foreign to Catholic teaching and the Gospel itself, especially, sexual immorality and the culture of death. How charitable is it to them, and to those whom they lead down the wrong path, when they are not publicly rebuked by name for their public words and actions, and banned from Holy Communion?   Compare the so-called "uncharitableness" of such a public rebuke in contrast to what may await them for eternity.  Too many clerics are concerned with self-esteem to the neglect of people's souls and their eternal salvation.

Now we get to the second reading.  It says it is a letter to Diognetus, but I'm wondering, who wrote it? Do we know?  TheVatican website shows it is from: Nn. 5-6; Funk, 397-401

This was very good.  Don't be surprised by what Bill Maher may do; expect worse.

Second Reading
From a letter to Diognetus
The Christian in the world

Christians are indistinguishable from other men either by nationality, language or customs. They do not inhabit separate cities of their own, or speak a strange dialect, or follow some outlandish way of life. Their teaching is not based upon reveries inspired by the curiosity of men. Unlike some other people, they champion no purely human doctrine. With regard to dress, food and manner of life in general, they follow the customs of whatever city they happen to be living in, whether it is Greek or foreign.

And yet there is something extraordinary about their lives. They live in their own countries as though they were only passing through. They play their full role as citizens, but labor under all the disabilities of aliens. Any country can be their homeland, but for them their homeland, wherever it may be, is a foreign country. Like others, they marry and have children, but they do not expose them. They share their meals, but not their wives. They live in the flesh, but they are not governed by the desires of the flesh. They pass their days upon earth, but they are citizens of heaven. Obedient to the laws, they yet live on a level that transcends the law.

Christians love all men, but all men persecute them. Condemned because they are not understood, they are put to death, but raised to life again. They live in poverty, but enrich many; they are totally destitute, but possess an abundance of everything. They suffer dishonor, but that is their glory. They are defamed, but vindicated. A blessing is their answer to abuse, deference their response to insult. For the good they do they receive the punishment of malefactors, but even then they rejoice, as though receiving the gift of life. They are attacked by the Jews as aliens, they are persecuted by the Greeks, yet no one can explain the reason for this hatred.

To speak in general terms, we may say that the Christian is to the world what the soul is to the body. As the soul is present in every part of the body, while remaining distinct from it, so Christians are found in all the cities of the world, but cannot be identified with the world. As the visible body contains the invisible soul, so Christians are seen living in the world, but their religious life remains unseen. The body hates the soul and wars against it, not because of any injury the soul has done it, but because of the restriction the soul places on its pleasures. Similarly, the world hates the Christians, not because they have done it any wrong, but because they are opposed to its enjoyments.

Christians love those who hate them just as the soul loves the body and all its members despite the body’s hatred. It is by the soul, enclosed within the body, that the body is held together, and similarly, it is by the Christians, detained in the world as in a prison, that the world is held together. The soul, though immortal, has a mortal dwelling place; and Christians also live for a time amidst perishable things, while awaiting the freedom from change and decay that will be theirs in heaven. As the soul benefits from the deprivation of food and drink, so Christians flourish under persecution. Such is the Christian’s lofty and divinely appointed function, from which he is not permitted to excuse himself.

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The obedient are not held captive by Holy Mother Church;
it is the disobedient who are held captive by the world!

- Diane M. Korzeniewski

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