Summary: There is a close relationship between the testimony of Scripture and the witness given by the lives of believers.
Monday of 12th Week in Course
June 25, 2012
Exactly why were the people of God thrown out of the land of God? Exactly why were the chosen people, the Jews, supplanted in the plan of salvation by the Catholic Church? And why, we should all ask, are we now being hammered by secular culture and the department of Health and Human Services, and on the verge of being forced to call evil good as the price of keeping our schools, hospitals, and charitable works open for the benefit of all people?
The answer to the first two questions, about the Jews, is pretty clear. The people of Israel were called to orthodoxy, right worship. That means worship of the true God, the Lord, with all that implies about right living. In the years of the Davidic kingdom, the people of Israel tried to accommodate themselves to the practices of the people of the land. That meant sacrificing to Baal and Moloch and Astarte, with even the immolation of their firstborn children, and all the injustices that went along with that false worship. So, as our first reading testifies, they were sent into exile. In the time of Jesus, their worship had turned into lip service, with their energy diverted to finding ways to legally avoid keeping the ten commandments. Oh, they killed the right number of cattle and sheep, but dishonored their parents, lied and stole and condemned innocent people to death–especially Jesus, the most innocent of them all. So, in the year 70, Jerusalem was destroyed, the Temple torn down, and they were sent all over the Roman empire.
In other words, instead of being a city on the hill, attracting all people to right worship, they accommodated themselves to the culture, over and over, and became just like everybody else. So they abandoned their relationship with the Lord who loved them, and He let them become like everyone else. They ignored the Word of the Lord, in every possible way.
The Holy Father puts it like this: “There is a close relationship between the testimony of Scripture, as the self-attestation of God’s word, and the witness given by the lives of believers. One implies and leads to the other. Christian witness communicates the word attested in the Scriptures. For their part, the Scriptures explain the witness which Christians are called to give by their lives. Those who encounter credible witnesses of the Gospel thus come to realize how effective God’s word can be in those who receive it.” Here he quotes Pope Paul VI, “Our responsibility is not limited to suggesting shared values to the world; rather, we need to arrive at an explicit proclamation of the word of God. Only in this way will we be faithful to Christ’s mandate: ‘The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization unless the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are proclaimed’”.
The secular world, and many governments, are hostile to Christianity, and especially the Catholic Church, because we teach the Word of God, a word that is not based on power politics, wealth accumulation and political compromise, but on justice and charity and right worship. When the Roman emperors got into difficulty, they just rounded up Christians and used them for the popular amusement in the amphitheaters. That happens today, overtly in places like China and Nigeria, more subtly here in the US. Do you think it’s coincidental that high-profile clerical sex abuse cases are going on just as the bishops are reminding the government of the rights of religious liberty?
But the Pope concludes: “None of this should cause us fear. Jesus himself said to his disciples: ‘A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you’” (Jn 15:20). For this reason I would like, with the whole Church, to lift up to God a hymn of praise for the witness of our many faithful brothers and sisters who, even in our day, have given their lives to communicate the truth of God’s love revealed to us in the crucified and risen Christ. I also express the whole Church’s gratitude for those Christians who have not yielded in the face of obstacles and even persecutions for the sake of the Gospel. We likewise embrace with deep fraternal affection the faithful of all those Christian communities, particularly in Asia and in Africa, who presently risk their life or social segregation because of their faith. Here we encounter the true spirit of the Gospel, which proclaims blessed those who are persecuted on account of the Lord Jesus (cf. Mt 5:11). In so doing, we once more call upon the governments of nations to guarantee everyone freedom of conscience and religion, as well as the ability to express their faith publicly.” This is what we pray for during this fortnight of freedom.