A half-hearted Easter isn't enough ...
“I am worried about you …”
That is one of the responses I received to last week’s column: “Reconciling realism and Paschal joy.” This kind, faithful soul, with a generous spirit of prayerful intercession, wrote:
Praying for you, Father. I know it isn’t an easy time in the Church (it’s even worse outside!) … I began to read a Catholic publication which made it its aim to denounce abuses in the church. Three years later, I had to cancel the subscription, deciding that I’d rather spend my reading time on Scripture, catechism, and lives of the saints … Not that I chose to be oblivious to the state of things, but it re-balanced my spiritual life …What I am trying to say is that I am worried about you. If your focus is the darkness in the Church, (inescapable in your line of work!) you lose sight of the light. God reigns.
I am grateful to those who pray daily for me and the whole Church. They keep the sky from falling! And they help weak souls like me to fight another day. The “realism” I spoke of trying to reconcile with Paschal joy last week isn’t real, so it can’t be reconciled with anything. The “realism” I spoke of is looking at the world through the lens of a merely natural view. Naturally speaking, it does look like the bad guys are winning. The true realism of genuine Paschal joy stubbornly clings to the supernatural view, rooted in a deep love of Christ. Another dear friend/intercessor brought this home to me via Houselander:
… If we judge by the newspapers, it would seem that Christianity is a failure …This after 2,000 years of Christianity! Certainly it looks like a failure. What did it look like when Christ was in the tomb? Christ had claimed to be the life of the world—He was dead. He had promised His people a kingdom, He had been hanged outside the city. He had claimed to be king, He had been crowned with thorns. Only a handful of men had kept their faith in Him and the handful had fled … He was stripped naked, made mock of, He died with nothing of His own, even His grave was borrowed. Certainly it looked as if Christ was a failure. At that time the faith of the whole world was kept alive by a few devoted women. Even the apostles doubted them when they told them (what they should have known) that Christ had kept His word …Those women believed it because they had the faith which discovers through love. They had never wanted any earthly triumph for Christ, never expected it. They believed in Christ the poor man, the forsaken man, even the crucified man. If they could not have Christ with all His humiliations and stripes, they would not seek to comfort themselves with anything else. So they came, asking who would roll back the stone, to find it already removed and Christ alive, with the wounds our sin had inflicted on him blazing like stars in his risen body. Today it is in the Catholic Church that faith in the resurrection is kept alive. Often enough too, some pious old woman is the keeper of the Church’s faith, faith that is nourished by intimate personal love for the suffering Christ—the very tender love that seeks for Christ, crucified in man.
That resurrection faith, rooted in love, is so very different from the pandering and manipulations urged by those who would seek to conform the Church to current fashions rather than bring the world into conformity with Christ by means of the one Church he founded. The fads and ideologies of today, unheard of a few years ago, seeming so urgent and final but sure to be replaced by new enthusiasms tomorrow—these worldly aspirations, like all idols, must fail us, and, worse, draw us away from the living God.
We must seek to be hated by a world in rebellion against God, because the world hated the Christ of God first. (John 15: 18) The Apostles rejoiced when they found that they had been judged worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. (Acts 5:41)
Our Lord is faithful.
Our Lord is faithful. Our Lord will not and cannot abandon us. He provides free for the asking (but do we ask?) the grace necessary to persevere faithfully to the end. Along the way he promises us a peace and joy that the world cannot give and that the world cannot take away.
Yes, in this life a storm is raging against the disciples of Christ—as always. Let’s keep our eyes fixed, not on the storm, but on the one who has already defeated sin and death.
When I write next, I will conclude our series of Easter reflections. Until then, let’s keep each other in prayer.