Saturday, November 13, 2010

Homily 33rd Sun O.T. Year C: Wisdom and Perseverance

In Jesus’ discourse that we heard this evening, his “Little Apocalypse,” he refers to many who will come forward, claiming to be the Messiah, before his Second Coming at the end of the world. At the same time there will be many wars, natural disasters and persecutions. All this he tells them in the shadow of the great Temple in Jerusalem, as it faces east to the Mount of Olives.

The apostles were staring at the Temple, amazed at its beauty and grandeur. Its platform alone covered about 35 acres. Some of the stones of the Temple were 40 feet long, weighing nearly 100 tons. The eastern wall of the Temple was almost 300 feet high. They must have thought, “There is no possible way this Temple could ever be destroyed.” Jesus uses their awe at the Temple to teach them that unimaginable suffering will come their way, things as unimaginable as the Temple being destroyed. But, as in all of the apocalyptic messages in Scripture, there is always a ray of hope. The prophet Malachi foretold in our first reading, “But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.” The light of Christ, the Wisdom of God, will be given to us when we need it. Our part is simply to remain faithful and to persevere.

stoningFr. Doherty mentioned in his homily on Friday that most of us will not be called to shed our blood, to be “red martyrs” for our faith. But, perhaps all of us will be called to be “white martyrs”, to endure many other types of persecutions because we remain faithful to Jesus Christ and the Church. I think a good model for us to follow in this is St. Athanasius, who suffered a great deal in his “white martyrdom.”

Throughout his life, he was exiled five times for a combined total of 20 years for his defense of the Nicene Creed against Arianism. He was accused of killing a bishop and cutting of his hand to use in magic tricks! He was accused of harassing consecrated virgins and sending henchmen to persecute his own priests in Alexandria. During the late 300’s, while in exile, there was a compromised pope, none of the bishops in Europe had the courage to stand up to him, and over 12 different creeds were being taught. Only the laity he catechized in preparation for their Baptism remained faithful.

Bishop Rudolph Graber, retired Bishop of Regensburg, wrote in his book Athanasius and the Church of Our Time that:StAthanasius

What happened over 1600 years ago is repeating itself today, but with two or three differences: Alexandria is today the whole Universal Church, the stability of which is being shaken, and what was undertaken at that time by means of physical force and cruelty is now being transferred to a different level. Exile is replaced by banishment into the silence of being ignored, killing [is replaced] by assassination of character.

Now is the time, while we are in seminary, to ask ourselves if we have taken seriously the challenges that lie ahead, not only those concerning celibacy and our state in life, but also those that will arise from simply being who we are: priests of Jesus Christ. Canon 247 admonishes us to be “duly informed of the duties and burdens which are proper to sacred ministers of the Church; no difficulty of the priestly life is to be omitted.” Are their certain aspects of the life of the parish priest to which we have said, “No… I don’t want to think about that right now, I’ll worry about that later.” Are there certain questions we have been afraid to ask? Certain difficulties we foresee that we are afraid we won’t be able to handle? If there are brothers, now is the time to be honest before God and bring them out into the light. Now is the time to seek the help of our mentors and spiritual directors, to be completely transparent with them about the duties and burdens proper to sacred ministers that are troubling us. And we address these not because we want to have a “pre-fab” answer for everything that comes our way, not because we distrust the wisdom Jesus promised to give us at the moment in which we are tested. No, we address the difficulties we foresee and we prepare ourselves for the ones we can’t foresee, precisely because we treasure his gift of wisdom, because we want to dispose ourselves to receiving it fully.

Tertullian said that “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of new Christians.” This is true because as their peers saw them shed their blood rather than compromise their faith, their own faith was emboldened to strengthen the Christian community often at the very site of the martyrdom. The blood of our white martyrdom, shed in the silence of our own hearts, will only bear similar fruit, unless the soil of our souls is tilled by prayer, spiritual direction, wise counsel, and orthodoxy. [[For example, how will we react to gossip or slander against us? How will we react if we are confronted because of a challenging homily or because we have closed the parish school in order to be good stewards of the Church’s resources or because we have spoken out against an injustice in our neighborhoods? Will we acquiesce or persevere? How will we react to periods of loneliness or to dryness in prayer or to times of temptation. Will we acquiesce or persevere?]] Let’s start to answer all of our questions now. Jesus wants to give us his wisdom, a wisdom against which all of our adversaries “will be powerless to resist or refute.” He promised that by our perseverance “we will secure our lives.” Let us keep no secrets from God. Let us do what we need to do now in order to be open and able to receive his gifts every time he desires to give them.

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