14th Sunday – Year C
St. Paul almost shouted: “Leave me in Peace!” (Ga. 6: 14-18)
“Usually”, people, Christians or others, think that to be a Christian designates people without dignity or standing that all are allowed to trample, scorn, offend or ignore! Others go further, they consider Christians to be simpletons, naïve, idiots, more or less half-witted that one could easily oppress with impunity! Indeed, their model is the crucifix; therefore they have only to bear, suffer and, why not, die! They are not going to react; they will not take revenge! Nobody will lay claim to their blood, the least valuable and most widespread on this globe! Pope Francis said with objectivity that the number of Christian martyrs in our times largely exceeds that of the first centuries.
St. Paul was not a pathological worshipper of suffering, not more than Jesus Himself! As the master of the Galilee, the former disciple of Gamaliel did not accept “suffering” with complacency! He sought “not to be glorified except in the cross of Christ” (Ga. 1:16), but this could not ever be used as a pretext for his more or less opportunist adversaries, cynical and antipathetic to allow them “strip him of his dignity”, debase him and belabor him! As to the sufferings, the crosses of the apostolic ministry, the challenges of pagans and of Jews, the toils and sacrifices with forced fasts and perilous journeys, let that be! But, as to wicked people having fun to “pester him”, he indicated that Christian love and resignation forbade him from taking action! These more or less mischievous people could not have been imagined capable of turning away our apostle, a former Pharisee by character, from his mission. He was not going to fall into the trap of such worries. He will overlook the offense, ignore the challenge and proceed on his way like a rocket, if we could say that, towards the crucified Christ but who had maintained his dignity, as indicated by the beloved St. John the evangelist! In fact, in the fourth Gospel, the Crucified remained always king, in spite of the biting irony of Pontius Pilate and of the passers-by who shook their heads. The Roman, who crowned or caused or allowed to crown the Nazarene by a crown of thorns while laughing under his aquiline nose, did not doubt that a few days later the Deceased on the Calvary will be resurrected, and the “hanged” on the Golgotha will soon dethrone the emperor of Rome!
Christians are looked upon as idiots and are treated as such!
This is what we experience in the Middle East, in Africa (at least in the North), and even in Western Europe. This “even” is superfluous. It should probably be replaced by “especially”! It is easy to put Christians’ back up! One can hit them at it! They will “carry the cross”. Willingly, they will die on it! Let us profit from that! Church profanations; genocide, aggression, shows against Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Church! Our “secular” governments are as such only when it is a question of dealing with Christian symbols and values. Their “secularism” sways in favor of the others, of all other religions, of course “by respect, by open mindedness and tolerance” all the more unilateral positions, more or less directly antichristian!
What about the cross? What about the suffering, so inherent to Christianity? Our endurance does not justify the crimes of injustice, homicide and genocide against us. The yet to be Crucified declared in plain language to the cowardly Procurator, alluding to Judas, the traitor, “he who has handed me over to you has the greater sin (than yours)” (Jn. 19:11b). Let our torturers suffer a guilty conscience! Let them not think that by killing us they are offering a service to God (cf. Jn. 16:2b), as they are currently doing with cruelty in Syria by cutting the throats of and beheading Christian priests! And it will not be our Western States and our “secular” governments who will be protesting; that will not be “catholic”!
How to “hold both ends of the chain”?
By fulfilling our duties, claiming our personal and communal rights, particularly those that deal with our faith and our Christian ethics, our right for respect “like all others”, on the basis of the “secular” republican principle of equality, even if it very well seems that the others are “more equal” than we are! We have no right to give up our right for religious freedom, our right for religious worship (even in Saudi Arabia), the right for the respect of our religious and moral symbols and values. To give up our dignity and our Christian and human identity offends the Incarnation and deforms the image of God in us! Let us give respect and enforce our respect by “acting according to truth in charity” (Ep. 4:15), since well-organized charity starts within us, and this charity “does not rejoice over iniquity, but in truth and justice” (Cf.1 Co. 13:6). This is how we accomplish the divine precept: “be as prudent as serpents and as simple as doves” (Mt. 10:16)!
Fr. P. Madros