I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Suffering for the faith glorifies Jesus and the Church

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The first and third readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time tell about the incredible future that awaits beyond our troubled times.

Malachi is a prophet, not a Dale Carnegie. He tells how it is, not how we would like to perceive it. His imagery is frank, direct and even brutal. "Lo the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch."

Stubble is the dried-up remnant after wheat or oat stalks are harvested. Once a match is set to a field of stubble, the fire travels over the field rapidly, turning the stubble into black-charred ashes. Through Malachi, God tells us that on the last day, the proud and evildoers will be destroyed. They lack a life-giving principle that would have saved them.

On the other hand, "but for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays." Here the term "fear" doesn't mean a slavish, self-serving terror of God, but rather the attitude of reverence and awe of God, so much so that one doesn't want to offend or disgrace His holy name.

In the Gospel, Jesus takes the imagery of the first reading and embellishes it. He states that the beautiful temple, which the disciples were admiring, will be torn down, and there will not "be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down." Aside from God's word, the Jews considered the temple to be the most permanent sign of God's presence in their midst. Jesus tells them that this temple will be destroyed.

Curiosity gets the better of Jesus' listeners, and they ask the magic question as to when this will happen. In responding to this question, it's almost as if Jesus says, "I am so glad you asked that question, even though you will not like my answer."

He then says that you will "hear of wars and insurrections ... nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom ... there will be powerful earthquakes, famines and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky."

As we hear these words, we might ask, "Is this the good news of the Lord?" Well, there is even more to come: "... they will seize you and persecute you, they will hand you over to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name."

He then throws in a chocolate chip cookie by telling us, "It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute." Suddenly He identifies us as being one with Him in His passion.

What greater joy could anyone on earth experience than being taken over by Jesus Himself in our ordeal of giving witness? Since this is the case, I want to shout to Jesus, "Yes, Lord, bring it on. Use us to glorify Yourself and Your Father. This is exactly what we have been preparing for all our life."

All of the apostles and martyrs were sinners like us who have repeatedly denied Jesus. Yet, when their final moment came, Jesus proudly displayed their faithfulness before His Father and the persecutors. The moment of giving witness and suffering for the name of Jesus is the moment of joyful triumph to a lifetime of struggle.

Whether young or old, we're living in end times. We live in a secular world, and its secularity is sifting us every day.

Catholic positions on the beginning of life issues, the end of life issues, human sexuality issues, gender issues, are under attack. In leaked emails, there's a hope for a new "Catholic Spring" in which some of the Church's "medieval teachings" would be supplanted with progressive ideas that come from the godless secular agenda. There are suggestions that some Catholics within the Catholic Church change the Church's teachings to bring these teachings more into conformity with the secular agenda.

So often, today's suggestions become tomorrow's way of life.

What is to be our response? We must keep ourselves informed on what the Catholic Church really teaches and be ready to give evidence of our faith on these issues. Our role isn't to attack the persons who espouse other beliefs, but to oppose these beliefs by our witness of faith.

If our faith causes us to suffer daily, we should rejoice that Jesus is the ferment inside of us that causes the pain of spiritual growth. Even the sins of those with whom we live and work enhance the growth of Jesus within us. Our role is to have the courage to witness to our beliefs, not to apologize for them. Suffering public ridicule in the public square is the price Christ paid, and it's the price we need to be ready to pay.

Father Wilfrid Stinissen, in a book entitled "Into Your Hands, Father," wrote, "God makes use of evil in such a superb way and with such skill that the result is better than if there had never been evil." Paul wrote "where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more." Tertullian said, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church."

We need to simply ask Jesus to use us to glorify the Father, even if that means the shedding of our blood. 

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