As I knelt in the chapel near the Blessed Sacrament after Mass last night, I prayed my evening prayers. The above passage from Hebrews was the reading during Vespers for Holy Thursday. It’s not the first time I had read it, and each time I am more struck by it.
Jesus died outside the gate, to sanctify the people by his own blood. Let us go to him outside the camp, bearing the insult which he bore. For here we have no lasting city; we are seeking one which is to come. Through him let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which acknowledge his name.
In years past, I might not have thought about it except in the terms Saint Paul is speaking in to the recipients of the letter he wrote. His fellow Jews-turned-Christians, being rejected and shunned by their fellow Jews who do not believe the Gospel. How heartbreaking it must have been for them to be rejected by family and friends because of their belief in Jesus as Christ. Saint Paul encouraged them to hold fast to the Christ, knowing that their true home is Heaven, where Jesus promised that He would prepare a place for us.
But these days, I’ve felt under assault. I gave up Twitter for Lent, as I’ve found it to be a good way to clear my head and get away from the shouting (so to speak) that tends to occur there. There can be a lot of vitriol on all sides of every issue, and even though I’ve been culling my follow list to gradually eliminate people who have nothing but this kind of attitude, it still wears on me. So with the exception of a few hours on the Feast of Saint Joseph, I haven’t been on Twitter’s site. My blog and Flickr pictures both auto-post there, as well as Facebook, but aside from that, I haven’t been on.
Then came the Supreme Court hearing on gay “marriage.”
Suddenly, I was feeling just as assaulted on Facebook. I felt more and more frantic as the day went on. It didn’t help that I had started following the actor George Takei, who in the past had one of the funniest feeds I’ve ever seen. I’m telling you, the guy has some of the funniest graphics, filled with geek humor and puns, and it’s almost always hilarious to read. There were occasional posts of his where he’d celebrate his homosexuality or make mention of his “husband,” but it was easy to simply scroll past the posts, since the vast majority of them were just these silly puns and geeky pictures about Sci Fi/Fantasy topics.
But beginning on Tuesday, when he decided to switch his profile picture to the red equal sign, his feed changed from the occasional post on homosexuality to a non-stop barrage of nothing BUT homosexual “marriage” posts. One after another, filling my feed, in my face, with comments showing below (only two or three at a time) calling people who don’t support redefining marriage as bigots, haters, the equivalent of racists, idiots, etc. Seeing the occasional red equal sign or post in favor from family and friends wasn’t going to make me un-friend them, but a non-stop, nothing-but-gay-“marriage” stream was enough for me to un-like Takei’s page and decide to take a break from Facebook for the Triduum.
As Jayne would say, it was damaging my calm.
I’ve been feeling more and more as though our culture is less and less okay with people truly living their faith. Oh, going to church on Sundays is fine, but don’t bring your beliefs with you to work or into your business. Don’t tell us what you think if you’re in the public eye or have a big business. (Unless, of course, you support the Culture of Death; then it’s fine to talk about your beliefs and let them guide your business model.) It’s fine if your Catholic belief wants you to go out and perform the Corporal Works of Mercy, but don’t tell me that those same beliefs demand that you not give material cooperation to mortal sins like abortion and contraception. Paying for those things for other people is now considered a human right!
America is not what she once was; in fact, I’d say she’s pretty close to gone. And things are not going back to the way they were.
This isn’t said in despair. It’s a fact. Our culture worships the orgasm, as Frank Weathers would say. Our culture believes in choice as long as it’s related to unrestricted sex, but not if it has to do with actual laws written down, the right to life, or even the right to practice and live out our faith on a daily basis. The very idea that a person’s faith would inform every aspect of his life is anathema to our Culture of Death.
And yet this is exactly what we’re called to. Now that we know the Gospel, what do we do with it? What impact will it have on our lives? Any at all? Will it change us forever? Will we be as the rich young man, who was offered Christ Himself and turned away because his life as he was living it was too good, or will we be as Matthew, who saw that as good as his life might be, it was nothing in comparison to living a life with Jesus.
Even though I have seen the story about the rich young man geared towards the vocation of the priest, I also can see it as every one of us in many ways. Are we willing to give up all of our comforts, even if it’s gradual and one at a time, in order to be faithful followers of Christ? Are we willing to be different, to live differently than others (and even our past selves) in order to live as Christians?
Are we willing to endure ridicule, persecution, and the pain of lost friendships for standing firm in our beliefs and following the doctrines of our Church? Are we willing, if it comes to it, to lose everything just to be with Him?
In this life, we have no city. Our true home is in Heaven with God. One of the first questions in the old Baltimore Catechism reminded us of this fact:
Question: Why did God make you?Answer: God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.
As times become darker for Christians in this world, it will do well for us to remember: