The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883)
In His earthly ministry Jesus was kind and merciful, but He didn’t go easy on people. Even the times when He seems to let people off the hook for their sinfulness, His presence and interactions with them are always powerfully life-changing.
“Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”
~ Finley Peter Dunne
The culture of comfort in which we now find ourselves is antithetical to the Christian life. The life Jesus led was anything but comfortable, neither was that of the Early Church. Too many of us have taken refuge in the technological advances and the perverted, self-centered, idolatrous ideologies of our time. We have come to worship comfort in all aspects of our lives, especially in the practice of our faith.
I believe that the religious freedom we are so concerned with in our country has played a big role in this problem. Of course, it is a good thing to be able to freely and openly live and practice our faith, however, it has also robbed us of an extremely vital part of the Christian life, namely, suffering. The Early Church suffered persecution in many forms, yet it was always in those times that the Church grew stronger and that God raised up more saints to boldly bear witness to His love.
In our comfort we are not concerned with the state of our souls and even less so with the souls of others. Our primary preoccupations are finances, fitness, and entertainment. The religious freedom that we so ardently defend, that our forefathers fought so strongly to uphold, is actually a big part of why so many of us have turned our Sunday worship, the free practice of our faith, into another item on our endless to-do list. Ours is not what C. S. Lewis meant by Mere Christianity, merely fitting God into our lives instead centering our lives around God.
Maybe a little persecution would be a good thing, a catalyst in kickstarting a much-needed renewal in American Catholicism. After all, the “blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church”. It’s not wish pain and suffering on anyone, after all in many parts of the modern world people are being slaughtered in large numbers for the creed they cling to, for the cross of Christ.
Perhaps some persecution would be an opportunity for God to raise up new saints, men and women who will be the bold witnesses that He has created us to be, to purify the Church, to remind us why we claim to be Christians at all.