- Isaiah 40:1-11
- Matthew 18:12-14
In the Douay, RSV or the NABRE with other Mass texts
All flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of the field. The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen, because the spirit of the Lord hath blown upon it. Indeed the people is grass: The grass is withered, and the flower is fallen: but the word of our Lord endureth for ever.
One of the most wonderful readings of Stalin's persecution of the Russian Church was expressed to me thus: "...when because of our sins, God allowed to fall on his church..." To think of the Church withering as the grass in the field, with Stalin being blown through the Church by the Spirit of the Lord is, well, revolutionary. Yet this idea is certainly present in Scriptures, where God uses the Babylonians, Assyrians, and Greeks to punish faithless Israel, to bring him back to the faith of his fathers. We see it too when the invasion of Christian lands by the Muslims results in persecutions for the Church and a rebirth, as in Cordova, or other glorious Martyrdoms, as in our own time under ISIS. Even though the flower (or the Martyrs) has fallen, and even though the grass (of the general Church population) has withered, the Word of Our Lord endureth for ever. The gates of Hell, says Jesus, will not prevail against the Church. What will God use against his withering people in America?
Evangelicals, back in the 70s, following Mr Hal Lindsey, Mr Tim LeHaye, and others, took comfort in this idea of "the Rapture" which would magically suck the "real Christians" out of the way of any real persecution - as if God's ever done that before. But he certainly won't teleport the church out of the way of people who don't want Nativity Scenes on the lawns of court houses. (BTW, seriously, WTF? Unless we're going to get judges who forgive everyone, even those folks who are not sorry, I don't want Jesus associated with our legal system in people's minds.)
Within triple my lifespan, more than 60-75 million Christians have been killed because of their faith. Most of them never saw once a Nativity set on their courthouse lawn or worried what the secular authorities called the holiday on Good Friday. In fact, most of them would not have had a holiday on Good Friday no matter what the name.
To be fair, the Church is only a reflection of the Culture. The people who complain about Target's bathroom policies are are exactly the same as the people who file lawsuits over non-baking of wedding cakes. The people screaming about ten commandments on walls of courthouses or prayers before football games are carbon copies the same people who demand that women be made priests in the name of "justice". The people who sell out to a fascism claiming to support one (and only one) Catholic Doctrine are exactly the same as those who sell out to a liberal sexuality whilst keeping their pretty liturgies. If the Great Cloud of Witnesses is still watchings, it's because they are rubbernecking. We are a whinging people: Americans are rats spoiled rotten on a sinking ship. The Gates of Hell will not ever prevail against Christ's Church but the whining bastages who call themselves Christians may wreck it from the inside. Then the spirit of God would do well to wither the grass and let the flowers fall, because of our sins, really, if you must know.
When reading about the Martyrs of Cordova, England, Japan, China, or the Soviet Union, I cannot help but wonder what shall become of us here in the USA, when something really bad happens. I don't mean when our 501(c)3 status gets revoked and we stop groveling to keep our gov't subsidies. I mean when men with gov't guns follow us around waiting for a quite interlude. I'm worried that I and many of us will not be strengthened and so will fall in that world. I pray to my ancestor, Blessed William Richardson, the last priest killed by Elizabeth I, that I might have some tiny portion of his courage. But seriously, I can't even wait for the bus without getting angry at the driver that won't stop. For my sins, I deserve what I get, as do we all.