"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Why the World Continually Persecutes the Church

Why the World Continually Persecutes the Church
"And these things they will do you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things I have told you; that when the hour of them shall come, you may remember that I told you." (John 15: 3,4.)

From the fulfillment of this prophecy it is manifest that he who made it foresaw the future. It has been accomplished in the Apostles, whose struggles and sufferings St. Paul thus describes: "God hath set forth us Apostles, the last, as it were, men destinated to death; because we are made a spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men. . . . We are made as the refuse of this world, the offscouring of all even till now." (1 Cor. 4: 9-13.) 

This prophecy was not intended merely for the Apostles, but for the entire Church in all ages. And it has been fulfilled through all the centuries of her existence, from the bloody persecutions of the first ages up to the infernal machinations of our own days. But what is the reason of this uninterrupted persecution? Not to mention that in the providence of God the truth and glory of the Church are, thus manifested, I assign the following motives:

I. The Church is not a child of the world;
II. She combats the maxims of the world; and
III. She cannot be crushed by the world.

I. The Church is not a Child of the World; Her Origin is from above.

The world does not antagonize the Church because it believes her deserving of hatred. For what crimes has this daughter of heaven committed? To her, the words descriptive of her Bridegroom rightly apply: "He went about doing good, and healing all. . . . For God was with him." (Acts. 10: 38.) Even from a temporal point of view, the Church is the greatest benefactress of mankind. "If it had not been for the Church, Europe would have become a prey to the tyranny of despots, the theater of perpetual wars, or a wilderness for the Moguls." (Words of Herder, a Protestant.)

The true motive of the world's warfare against the Church is, because she is not one of its own. Like her divine Master, she descended to us from a better world; and hence, endowed with a spirit opposed to the spirit of the world. (John 15: 18, 19.) "If the world hate you, know ye that it hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own; but because you have not been of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore, the world hateth you." The world persecuted our Saviour, in His tender infancy, and in His manhood, and after many outrages and insults finally crucified Him. "The servant is not greater than his lord."

On this account, the spirit of the world is bitterly opposed to that of the Church.

St. John has explained the spirit of the world in these few words: "If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, is the concupiscence of the flesh, and the concupiscence of the eyes, and the pride of life; which is not of the Father, but is of the world." (1 John 2: 15, 16.) These are the three filthy and poisonous sources from which all the desires of worldlings originate.

The Church exhorts her children, if they wish to be living members of the sacred body of Jesus Christ, not to yield to the concupiscence of the flesh, nor attach their hearts to perishable things, but to conquer pride by ready obedience to God and his representatives on earth.

Therefore, the world will always be hostile to the Church. Charity or friendship cannot exist between persons of opposite spirit and pursuits. "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to them that are called * * the power of God, and the wisdom of God." (1 Cor. 1: 23, 24.) In this sense, we understand the words of our Saviour: "Do not think that I am come to send peace upon earth; I came not to send peace, but the sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law." (Matt. 10: 34-36.)

From this it follows:

That a reconciliation between the world and Christ cannot be effected but by compromise or a radical change of sentiments. Either the world must cease to be the world, or the Church must cease to be the Church. Since neither contingency will ever arise, they will continue enemies until the consummation of the world.

This combat will grow the fiercer, the more the world endeavors to accomplish its wicked designs. Hence the present warfare that is waged against the Church all over the universe, and hence men ridicule the stern demands of the Church and represent them as incompatible with the weakness of human nature. If the Church would renounce her mysteries; if she would only release men from the obligation of obeying spiritual superiors, confessing sins, hearing Mass, fasting, etc., the world would soon be reconciled to her. If you, my beloved, are hated on account of your Christian life, " rejoice and be exceeding glad, because your reward is very great in heaven." (Matt. 5: 12.)

II. The Church combats the maxims of the world.

The Church appears before the world with the intention of imposing upon men the sweet yoke of Jesus Christ. She appears in obedience to the word of Jesus Christ, who said: "All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you : and behold, I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." (Matt. 28: 18-20). "Amen, I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven." (Matt. 18: 18.) Is it surprising that the world should rise up against this claim of the Church, and the authority of her Founder, in the language of those rebellious citizens in the Gospel parable: "We will not have this man to reign over us?"--(Luke 19: 14).

To all men without exception, whatever their state of life, the Church repeats the demands of her Lord and Master. She says with St. John to the kings and mighty ones of the earth: "It is not lawful for thee" (Matt. 14: 4); and to their subjects, she says with the Apostle: "Fear God, honor the king." (1 Pet. 2: 17). She says to the rich: "It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 19: 24.) She restrains the poor from violence, consoling them by the assertion of Jesus, that Lazarus, for having patiently borne his sufferings, was carried by the Holy Angels into Abraham's bosom. To the proud, she says: "Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." She threatens all sinners with everlasting punishment. Now, man's nature is such that he feels indignant under reproach and correction. "You received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus," wrote St. Paul to the Galatians; "where is then your blessedness? For, I bear you witness, that if it could be done, you would have plucked out your own eyes, and would have given them to me. Am I then become your enemy in telling you the truth?" The great affection these people entertained for the Apostle, vanished as soon as he uttered to them a word of reproach.-- Such is the fate of the Church.

The world in its assaults upon the Church is aided by the devil, the prince of the world, who trembles for his continued dominion. "What have we to do with thee, Jesus, Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time!" (Matt. 8: 29.) Thus the devils, crying out, bore testimony to the power and glory of the Lord. Satan, knowing the power and glory of the Church, as well, uses every effort to maintain his dominion, by carrying on against her a ceaseless warfare.

Do not by a sinful life and an unchristian conduct wage war against your Holy Mother, the Church, lest your passions change you from children into enemies of the Bride of Christ.

III. The Church can not be conquered by the world.

Generous combatants will never make use of ignoble weapons. The world, in its assaults upon the Church, employs the base weapons of misrepresentation, calumny, and brutal force.--Historical lies about the lives of the Popes, St. Bartholomew's Night ;--false expositions of her doctrines,--calumnies against her dignitaries and religious institutions, etc.,--what is the explanation of this bitter opposition, of these dishonorable measures? It is because her enemies know by an experience of eighteen centuries, that the Church has always been victorious. And instead of recognizing therein the finger of God, they become only the more infuriated against her. Her strength and beauty, however, have only been renewed and increased by the atrocious cruelty of the Jews, the bloody persecution of the Gentiles, the schisms and heresies of faithless children, the pretentions of kings and emperors.

The beautiful life of Joseph of Egypt is a true figure of the life of the Church. "Israel loved Joseph above all his sons, because he had him in his old age ; and he made him a coat of divers colors. And his brethren, seeing that he was loved by his father more than all his sons, hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him." Behold the Church and the world? The Church being loved by God as his bride and mystical body, being arrayed in the most resplendent garment of his grace, is hated by the children of the world.

By wonderful visions the Lord revealed the future glory of his beloved Joseph, whence, his brothers hated him the more. "Behold, the dreamer cometh. Come, let us kill him, and cast him into some old pit." And they would actually have effected their wicked purpose, but for the exertions of Judas, his brother. The doctrines of our Church and the promises made to her by her divine Founder, are mere idle dreams in the eyes of the world, and to prove them such--if it were possible--she shrinks from no cruelty. Yet the protecting brother has never yet been wanting.

After many trials, Joseph was received into the court of the king. (Gen. 41: 42). At last, his brethren, being on the point of starvation, turned to him for aid, and he saved them from death. When miseries and calamities overwhelm the nations in punishment of their crimes, the Church is once more acknowledged and praised as the refuge and salvation of mankind.

We have good reason to look confidently forward to the future. The greater the persecutions, the greater their benefits and blessings. "As only the woman of Cana touched our Lord, whilst the multitude pressed against him, so the Church is pressed by many, touched by few." (St. Augustine).

A Prayer to Obtain Final Perseverance

Eternal Father, I humbly adore you, and thank you for having created me, and for having redeemed me through Jesus Christ. I thank you most sincerely, for having made me a christian, by giving me the true faith, and by adopting me as your Son, in the sacrament of Baptism. I thank you for having, after the numberless sins I had committed, waited for my repentance, and for having pardoned (as I humbly hope) all the offenses which I have offered to you, and for which I am now sincerely sorry, because they have been displeasing to you who are infinite Goodness. I thank you for having preserved me from so many relapses of which I would have been guilty, if you had not protected me. But my enemies still continue, and will continue till death, to combat against me, and to endeavor to make me their slave. If you do not constantly guard and succor me with your aid, I, a miserable creature, will return to sin, and shall certainly lose your grace. I beseech you, then, for the love of Jesus Christ, to grant me holy perseverance unto death. Jesus your Son has promised, that you will grant whatsoever we ask in his name. Through the merits, then, of Jesus Christ, I beg, for myself and for all the just, the grace never again to be separated from your love, but to love you for ever, in time and eternity. Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me.