The subject of my lectio divina last night:
As they left Jericho, a great crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!” The crowd warned them to be silent, but they called out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have pity on us!” Jesus stopped and called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They answered him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” Moved with pity, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight, and followed him.
This was chosen semi-randomly, and happens to be Matthew’s account of my lectio from Mark’s Gospel a few weeks ago. This time, instead of focusing on the instructions given to the blind man after Christ notices him, I prayed on the initial reaction of the mob.
How often do we, in our desire to be loved by the world, wish other Christians would just be quiet sometimes?
-Gosh, why are they so intolerant?
-Can’t they see how bad they’re making us look?
-I wish they would just calm down. It’s embarrassing
And the worst, which I’ve said to many a friend:
-Oh, I’m not one of those kinds of Christians.
All of these reactions to loud, unashamed—and, of course, orthodox—witness are born of a disordered desire to make Christianity tolerable to the world. Shouting about the evils of things like abortion, cohabitation, homosexual activity—it comes with a price: losing our standing societal standing. In the grand order, it is not a consequential price, but for humans who must operate in the 21st-century mortal plane, the world’s ire is a heavy burden.
We don’t always want to admit that this is what we are afraid of. I’ve often caught myself withholding true witness in the name of “charity”—I don’t want to come right out of the gate with this; it’ll push them away from the faith. The real underlying thought? I don’t want to come right out of the gate with this; they probably won’t like me anymore.
Such self-deception is antithetical to our purpose in this life. It prevents us from knowing ourselves, from discerning God’s will, and from true witness. We must uproot our desires for comfort and acceptance, and instead take up the mantle of true holiness.
Achieving true holiness is simple. It is clear in Sacred Scripture and Tradition what we must do: Pray, fast, and give alms. But simplicity does not imply ease. In the past, almsgiving was the most onerous requirement. But now, in our wealthy—dare I say, decadent—society, where almost anyone can afford to give, prayer is the new stumbling block.
Again with the excuses: I’m too busy to pray. I’m too tired to pray. Does anyone really pray anymore? I go to church on Sundays; isn’t that enough?
With every excuse, we sink lower into the muck of the modern, antitheist West. Every missed opportunity for prayer is a cudgel to our faith and will. Lack of prayer enables the world and its values to beat our faith into submission, demanding private practice and public (and lately, private) conformity, lest we be cast into liberalism’s outer darkness, full of wailing and grinding of teeth.
The Church is under attack throughout the West. Australia just passed a bill mandating priests violate the seal of confession in cases of child abuse. I anticipate many priests being jailed for refusing to do so. God bless them and their courage.
And what are we doing? Does any part of our lives come close to the heroic virtue that is being asked of our holy priests? I suspect not. We must change that if we want to survive.
Start with this question: Would my friends and family be surprised if I had to miss an event on Sunday or a holy day of obligation due to Mass? If yes—you have some prayers to say.