Monday of 33rd Week in Course 2020
In this penultimate week of the Church year, the Church gives us snippets from the Book of Revelations, the last and in some ways most difficult book of the New Testament. You see today the style of the letters; the ones we have this week are written to churches that are under persecution. If you haven’t noticed that the Church is under persecution, or at least adverse pressure, during this plague year, please wake up. And that’s exactly what Jesus is telling the first-century Christians in Ephesus in today’s lesson.
What are the temptations this church is facing. You should be able to empathize, because they are the same temptations we have been offered by the culture and the various state governments since March. The first is to quit the work of sharing the Gospel of Christ. Ephesus resisted that one. So many U.S. churches did not. We were told to shut the doors of our worship spaces and not congregate. That might have made sense for the first couple of weeks, but by then we knew that wearing masks slowed the spread, and that outside a distance of 2 meters, there is relative safety. A few churches resisted, but the vast majority did not. Now they are trying the same fascist, controlling stunts again, invoking the “second-wave” scare. Let’s all Christians stand together and tell them to arrest us. How better to witness to the reality that worship is an essential to life, and Christ stands above all other principalities?
The second compliment Christ pays Ephesus through St. John is over their “patient endurance.” The word shows up twice, so it appears that the pressure or persecution they are experiencing from the authorities has gone on for a long time. Even better, the Ephesian church is not growing weary. It remains to be seen just how long this society-wide light quarantine is going to last, but many folks are telling me they are growing weary of it. We must not do so. We must rely on the grace of Christ to carry us through, and His sacramental presence and consolation. What if it gets worse–as Biden and Harris have promised it would–and lasts for four years or eight or the rest of our lives, God forbid?
The Ephesus church also had a third “attaboy” from St. John. They refused to bear evil men and tested and threw out false teachers who claimed to be apostles. The U.S. church is not faring too well with this Scriptural command. We have bishops–many of them–who are cozying up to corrupt politicians, trying to curry favor with them for what reason? Our experience with ex-Cardinal McCarrick should teach us that is a losing strategy. They are tolerating priests going around the country teaching–contrary to the magisterium–that unnatural sexual acts should be legitimized and people of the same sex have a right to marry. That kind of malarkey plays right into the hands of left-wing politicians who support anti-family lifestyles. It is very likely close to the teachings of the Nicolaitans, which Ephesus resisted but we have not. Wayward leaders need to come with their spiritual blindness to confess their transgressions, as the faith-filled blind man came to Jesus in today’s Gospel, and be forgiven and reconciled and stand up for the faith and the faithful. They must repent of their cowardice, or millions more will be lost to the culture and atheism. It’s not too late, and it makes sense that when a corrupt Catholic politician does anything to promote abortion, he should be formally excommunicated, and I mean by everybody.
Do we have anything in common with the first-century church of Ephesus? Unfortunately, yes we do. Too much have we abandoned the love of Christ we had at first, and fallen back into doing holy things without becoming holy, as Christ is holy. Becoming holy means drawing near to Jesus. How do we do that? Repentance and confession of our sins is the first step, and Advent is a good time for that action. Secondly, we need to turn to frequent prayer for ourselves, our families, our nation and the whole church. I recommend thirty to sixty minutes a day–no less than a half-hour–in the presence of Christ. Do it all: adoration, thanksgiving, repentance and petition, and do it as a family. Fall in love with Jesus Christ, and not just with gushy feelings and pious platitudes.
No, the final thing is to get to work, the work of evangelization and church-building. Recruit others to help your church community. Sponsor a church mission or retreat, and make certain the leaders are there. Invoke the Holy Ghost to stir up the fervor of Pentecost in the whole congregation, and then in your small faith communities work to share the good news of Jesus and the Church.
It should not be necessary to say more, but I’ll do it anyway. We think in this pandemic things are as bad as they can get. Not at all. Pray that Jesus does not tire of our excuses and remove our lampstand. If we are going through this with Christ’s loving presence and support, we can’t imagine how bad it can get if He withdraws it and allows our nation to get what it really deserves.