Sermons

Summary: The wisdom of every age considers the Catholic faith a folly. The only promise Christ made about this life is that we would be blessed through the agency of persecution.

Thursday of the 22nd Week in Course 2018

St. Donatian of Africa

The wisdom of any secular age considers the Christian faith to be folly. The reason for this is that the wisdom of a given secular age is focused on how to attain pleasure, status or power. It is essentially centered on the magnification of the self. How do I get more property, more adulation, more money, more influence over others, so that I can feel better about myself, or enjoy my life more? You can see the result all around us. People have more of everything and the suicide rate is at historic highs, even among the people who have more of everything. When you’ve been on the way up and up, just one little decline can cause you to feel like you’ve lost everything.

The wisdom of God is not a theory or a lifestyle. The wisdom of God is Jesus Christ, His Son. Christ poured Himself out for human beings. He emptied Himself of His status, His property, His power so that He could be one of us in all things except sin. And by doing so, all the way to the cross, He became the human being that God had intended all along, and enabled us to become the human beings that God had intended–self giving, selfless, and thus empowered with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In a word, saints.

We can see this power in today’s Gospel. Peter and his crews had been fishing and were cleaning their nets. The implication is that they’d caught little or nothing. But the Word of God, Jesus, then began teaching the word of God from their boat. This is the word of power, the word of self-giving. So when Jesus told Peter to put out for another catch, although Peter told Him there were no fish to catch just a little earlier, he had been inspired by the word of God and obeyed at Christ’s word. And the catch was overwhelming. This is the background to Jesus’s summons to these first apostles to come and catch men with the word of God. But when we are caught, when we fall in love with the Blessed Redeemer, then we are not trapped, we are truly free to do good and avoid evil and be one with all other believers in the Church.

Northern Africa has been Muslim for so many centuries that we tend to forget that it was a fertile ground for conversion to Christ in the early part of the first millennium. Many saints came from that vast land, including St. Augustine of Hippo. But there were many martyrs during the early period, including the martyr bishop whose traditional feast day is today, St. Donatian. In the fifth century, when St. Augustine was active in that area, the Vandals invaded north Africa. In fact, they laid siege to Hippo Regius. Augustine was trapped there and died, maybe of starvation, three months into that siege. The Vandal king Huneric “issued edicts against Catholics in 483 and 484 in an effort to marginalise them and make Arianism the primary religion in North Africa. Generally most Vandal kings. . .persecuted Trinitarian Christians to a greater or lesser extent, banning conversion for Vandals, exiling bishops and generally making life difficult for Trinitarians.” St. Donatian was a bishop of North Africa. Along with “Fusculus, Germanus, Laetus, Mansuetus, and Praesidius, all bishops of northern Africa he opposed the closing of [Catholic] churches by King Hunneric of the Vandals, an Arian. After being tortured, these bishops were abandoned in a desert, where they died of exposure. Laetus was burned to death.”

With all the episcopal scandals of our day, we tend to think that it would have been better to live back in a more settled, Catholic age. But we are deceiving ourselves by a misreading of history. The wisdom of every age considers the Catholic faith a folly. The only promise Christ made about this life is that we would be blessed through the agency of persecution. For that we must give thanks, and particularly pray for those Christians who are suffering bloody martyrdom because of their witness to the Gospel.

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