By Charlie Johnston
At Easter of 2007 I arrived just before Mass started at a different Church than I was accustomed to. I was travelling. I groaned inwardly, for I figured this would mean I would have to stand throughout the Mass. I can walk and I can sit just fine, but standing in place is very painful for me since my spinal surgery 12 years ago. To my surprise, the usher took me to a spot right in the front. I was alone – and they had a single spot in the front row, so there I went. I was thankful.
The gratitude faded as the homily began. The priest was clearly a modernist who did not actually believe in God. He spoke of the “resurrection event,” with a sly wink in his tone, talking about how “Jesus rose again in the disciples’ hearts.” I wanted to scream that most of the disciples ultimately went to their deaths rather than claim the resurrection was merely in their hearts – rather than an actual reality. They were more committed to living faith with their Lord than with whatever punishments mere men could inflict on them. I found myself wishing this cloying, Dr. Phil-style priest could be filled with a sliver of their spirit and devotion to the Risen and Living Christ. I was stewing, and wondering if I should get up and leave rather than suffer this near-desecration.
When communion began, one of the stations was right in front of me. I could literally reach out and touch the extraordinary Minister of Communion had I chosen. My wrath flared up as I watched desecration after desecration. Though it was not the worst, the one I remember most vividly is the fellow with the ponytail. When the minister said, “The Body of Christ,” the fellow held out one hand, gave a cheery thumbs up with the other, said, “Cool, dude!” and popped the wafer into his mouth, crunching it like a potato chip. I was steaming, one again thinking how I had to get out of there. The Lord then appeared before my eyes, gently delivering the sternest rebuke He ever gave me. “Behold my people, given into your care. Guard them well,” He said.
The first thing to remember is that ours is an evangelical, not a tribal, faith. God wants all His children brought safely home to Him. We are called to go forth and “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19) not just to condemn others for not being disciples. When St. Paul stood before the pagans in the Areopagus, he did not begin by condemning them for their paganism: rather, he began by complimenting them on their piety. “Men of Athens,” he began, “I perceive that in every way you are very religious…” St Paul went on to tell them of the one, the true God. He did not try to change the Gospel truths to fit their predispositions, but neither did he assume they were hopelessly heathen.
Before Christianity, religion was a tribal thing, based on your geography, ethnicity or lineage. Christianity proclaimed the One God, while proclaiming that all could truly be Christian – heirs to the household of God, not just visitors who were tolerated. Further, since God was Father of all, He wanted all His children safely home – and sent His apostles and disciples to gather His children together and bring them safely home to Him. Our call today is the same as it was for those first disciples – and the territory we are to evangelize is every bit as hostile.
Our task is twofold: to be fed by the Eucharist and the Word of God and then, thus fortified, to go out and make disciples of all nations – not proclaiming cleverly crafted myths designed neither to challenge nor to offend, but the simple truth proclaimed by Our Lord, Himself. To eat and to do.
You cannot work without being properly fed. If the workman thinks he will work all the harder and not waste time eating, he will soon faint from weakness. So it is spiritually. Attend Mass regularly, including Daily Masses, live some devotions well, commune with Christ in adoration, lest you faint from lack of nourishment. Then get out and work – live the prayer of doing. We are fed so we may work, so we might do the homely things that make disciples of all nations. Do it with joy. If you speak of Christ while your face is contorted with sorrow or anger or fear, you will be a poor advocate for the Master – for your face will give the lie to the joy you claim you feel.
Do NOT use the Bible as a series of sound-bites to support your existing preferences. Entire denominations have been formed by that method. Instead, read the whole Bible – and consider how it fits together without contradiction. For example, I frequently hear people cite the saying of Jesus that “he who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword,” (Matthew 26:52) as a command to absolute pacifism. Yet if this is so, how to explain Jesus’ direction to his disciples in Luke 22:36 that they should get a sword if they do not have one because He will soon be leaving them? I will not repeat my interpretation right now, as that is not the point. The point is that all of Scripture must hold or none of it does. The command to judge righteous judgment does not just mean on others’ motivations, but in your own discernment as well. If you simply cherry pick the verse sound-bites that support your existing biases, you are engaging in propaganda, not discernment. When you find a verse that seems to support what you already want to believe, look for those verses that contradict it. Then contemplate it…go deep to see what the Lord is saying to you. You may get it wrong. That’s okay…it will engender a little pleasing humility in you. But you will be engaged in actual discernment instead of mere propaganda – and when someone cites what seems to contradict your interpretation, you won’t be caught flat-footed…for you have engaged in contemplation and discernment rather than merely collecting sound-bites. This is not easy. But oh, how rewarding it is to enter into the Scriptures and really live it for a time!
I have come to see more on how powerful a spiritual weapon terror is for the satan. Always, there must be a balance struck between justice and mercy. In the west we have abandoned justice. Almost all the terror in the world is committed by young, Middle Eastern men. Yet in the west, to subject such to extra scrutiny is denounced as racist, so we scrutinize Irish grannies in a pretense of taking security and justice seriously. More terrorism results – and so we set up a backlash. Because we did not judge righteous judgment to begin with on the front end by setting up rational risk protocols and acting on them, the satan seduces us into not judging righteous judgment on the back end by rejecting all, including families fleeing the terror. The problem is that we have not judged righteous judgment at either end, so the satan wins in both cases. Set up real security protocols, cries of racism notwithstanding, and having done that, show compassion to those fleeing from the terror. There is a country which does that: Israel. So it can be done – even though it draws the denunciation of all the faculty-lounge pretend leaders and sycophants in the world. Judge righteous judgment.
I featured Quis ut Deus’ request here for help for a man rescuing refugees a few days ago. Some have wondered if I wasn’t helping to facilitate a soft invasion of Europe by Muslims – particularly when in Dallas last month, I adamantly said that tight screening processes must be put in place and the Arab World must be pressed to take in many of the refugees – for there is an invasion involved here. That criticism is enhanced by the revelation that one of the terrorists in France came in by boat to Greece. Here is how I made the call:
I looked up news information on the work Joby is doing. The people he rescues are largely families – Mom, Dad and children. In southern Europe, the huge columns of refugees are about 90% comprised of young males. Those are not primarily refugees, but an invading force. When I saw that Joby was rescuing families, I was pleased to highlight and support his efforts. Faith, family and freedom – those are my watchwords….and family is at the center. It won’t prevent all ills, but it balances mercy with justice. I respect those who disagree with my position on it, but I say judge righteous judgment on both ends – and the problem will diminish dramatically, even as the conversion of the truly terrorized is facilitated.
I have said many times it is vital now that all play their positions well, with a minimum of meddling in others’ positions. It is the prudential responsibility of the laity to make decisions on war and peace, politics, economics and science. It is wise for them to take counsel from their Bishops, Priests and Pastors – but they cannot abrogate their responsibility before God. It is the prudential responsibility of Bishops and Priests to direct us to Final Things and the licitness of means to attain them. It is wise for them to take counsel from wise laymen – but they can’t abrogate their responsibility before God. Though he deeply wanted to build a house unto the Lord, King David was forbidden by God, for he had much blood on his hands from the defense and establishment of the Kingdom of Israel. This was not a smirch on David’s dignity: rather, his purpose as king was incompatible with a purpose he merely wanted. Building a house unto the Lord was outside of David’s position. In fact, it was in part because he played the position God gave him so well that disqualified him from something he wanted. God has His purposes for each of us – and embracing the purpose God has for us may well disqualify us for another purpose we want. Live your purpose, play your position.
I do not call for a truce between the laity and the clergy. That is not it at all. Rather, I call for us to behave as the Family of God, each doing our work and building each other up in the process. I call for church to be the center of community, for the faithful to compete on how they can care and build each other up. I call for priests to behave like trusted, beloved uncles and fathers to those in their community rather than mere administrators. I call for the laity to behave like the sons and the daughters of the household, tending the crops and the cattle, maintaining the house and the barns – and honoring their spiritual fathers who are called to feed them meat, not pabulum.
We are called to rebuild the City of God, welcoming all who will embrace it and defending it from all assaults.
With respect to all here, I have spent almost two years explaining many things. Now my emphasis turns to doing – to actually having people across the world get outside of themselves to act as missionaries wherever they are. My writings now will emphasize family – which is both the First Church and the authentic cradle of democracy. It is why the satan so furiously attacks the family: if he can destroy – or even enfeeble – it, he strikes a great blow against both faith and freedom. The will to power ends in misery and despair. The fiat to God ends in joy and hope – and it runs through family. Next month, I will begin talking more directly and frequently to the many coordinators I met during my travels who are completely committed to acknowledging God, taking the next right step, and being a sign of hope.
Coming up I will have pieces on the Divine Symphony – and my long-awaited piece for Priests on building their communities. As we build each other up, we assault the gates of hell. In fact, satan’s furious rage is in response to that assault by the faithful on his realm. But we know that the gates of hell will not prevail over Our Lord’s Church. Through it all, we have two profound spiritual weapons: the Cross of Christ and the Rosary. I have come to believe the Chaplet of Divine Mercy to be a primary tool of conversion in these times.
So that is what I will focus on: how to be Soldiers of Christ and Missionaries of Mercy. When you see people shrieking in rage, attacking the foundations of faith and civilization, I want you to vigorously defend both the faith and civilization. But I also want you to hear the voice of Christ telling you to, “behold My people, given into your care. Guard them well.” We are all our brother’s keepers.