05 January 2017

If You're in Love, Show Me.


Today's Readings:

  • 1 John 3:11-21
  • John 1:43-51

In the Douay, the RSV, or the NABRE together with other Mass texts.

You were not to be like Cain, who took his character from the evil one, and murdered his brother. Why did he murder him? Because his own life was evil, and his brother’s life was acceptable to God. No, brethren, do not be surprised that the world should hate you.
1 John 3:12-13 (Knox)

Murder for one's faith is not very common in the USA, especially if one is a Christian. Apart from some social ostracization we're not likely to experience anything much at all, yet.

Recently there has been a revival of the Sanctuary Movement. As the Wiki notes, "The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe-haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. It responded to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans." And, since part of the stated mindsets of the incoming administration as well as its supporters has been opposition to immigration, registering, and deportation, Sanctuary seems perfect for a movement of Churches and Christians concerned about justice. This will, of course, cause them to be reviled by the Administration, but one would imagine this would make them a friend to others.

Yeah, not so much.

A friend (not of the Church-going sort) posted on his Facebook about the revival of the Sanctuaries and instantly he was given a reply: since churches are involved it will only be heterosexual immigrants that they care for. The mainline, liberal denominations are already lumped in with other, more traditional sorts, in the popular mindset, despite 60+ years of caving in to "relevance". In fact, as the Episcopal Church was moving forward as one of the most gay-friendly of communities, I had a fight with fellow students at NYU when a local parish posted the words of John the Baptist on their reader board, "Make straight in the desert a highway," etc. This was in 1985 when ECUSA was setting up AIDS ministries and whatall. In NYC where the then-bishop had been most outspoken about his support for gays.  Didn't matter: once you hate Christians it doesn't matter what sort of Christians you have.

Today's verses then should not come as a surprise for us. If you've committed to live your life being acceptable to God you will be contrary to social norms. My fear has never been of the political sorts in our country, to be honest, but of the religious sorts who are caving in to societal norms all over the place. I think, at some point, we may see a political power play where the more mainline folks turn over confessing Christians in order to keep their tax exemptions and their access to the corridors of power. It has ever been this way, in Germany, in Communist countries, in other totalitarian dictatorships, so it's easy to imagine it here. The power may be leftist with Episcopalians, or rightist with Evangelicals and Fundamentalists. Either way confessing Christians with their social actions, their sacraments, and their sexual morals won't fit in.

So the first of the 15 Aves in the Angelic Warfare Confraternity has us pray with this intention:
For our social and cultural climate, that it may be purified of everything contrary to chastity, and that we may have the strength to resist the pressures of prevailing ideologies.
Chastity is about sexual purity, yes, and much of our culture is tuned to the contrary frequency. However chastity is not only pressured by sexual ideologies: educational ones, commercials, political parties, a general cultural opposition to responsibility, a bias toward hedonism, a loss of joy, a philosophical embrace of nihilistic darkness; these all conspire against this virtue. Privatizing religion helps us towards a less chaste culture as well: religion that has no place in the public sphere, that has nothing to say about public ethics. Literature that glorifies sexual "exploration" even within marriage, or ideas about sex that have only the goal of "satisfaction" in mind all pressure us to discard this virtue. Mindful that Chastity includes the virtue of procreation and the proper use of the sexual gift, think of how many ways even married couples are tempted. In our modern culture almost all non-Catholic religions support the use of birth control.  Even traditional ones, like Eastern Orthodoxy, allow it with a don't-ask, don't-tell policy.

Shielding against this the prayer calls on the Virgin Mother of God for aid that we might resist these challenges, but also that our culture may be purified. And St John adds, Filioli mei, non diligamus verbo neque lingua, sed opere et veritate. (1 John 3:18) Msgr Knox renders this as, "My little children, let us shew our love by the true test of action, not by taking phrases on our lips."  The "love" there is the verbal form of Agape, that divine love that is God. Here is this love in action on our hands. Let us act-out-love not only in the uttering of phrases.

In a culture so dead set against true love, what is our action? How do we find a way to make real love present in the world?

It starts with prayer and the reformation of our own lives. Let us see where it takes us.