TODAY’S GOSPEL, TODAY’S CULTURE, AND THE FAITH
Today’s Gospel (Mk 3:20-21) is maybe the shortest one in the lectionary — just two verses. I am sure I am one of a vast multitude who heard this passage proclaimed today and was struck by the last six words, repeated in the headline. My pastor is certainly a member of this large group as he focused on this sentence in his homily this morning. Our thinking was along the same lines: Isn’t it the case — more and more in our day — that faithful Christians are called out increasingly for professing their faith authentically? Elites, activists, and media types do not spare the vitriol and actively advocate or implement shutting down and “canceling” the faithful believer. Despite all this, I find these attacks quite comforting, actually. If Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the perfect man, is called crazy (by those closest to Him, by blood, anyway) for sharing and living the Gospel, should I be spared? “‘No slave is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.” (Jn 15:20)
Joe Biden declares loudly and repeatedly that he is a practicing Catholic. I, too, am happy to share that conviction — it is the primary way i define myself. I have been practicing for about a half century (on this count he has me beat) and am still very far from perfection (this we have in common). I know what the Church teaches and I suspect the president does as well. The difference is that I accept it all, declare it all unhesitatingly to the world, and try to adhere to it even if I fall repeatedly (thank the Lord for His mercy!).
Pope Emeritus Benedict, as Fr. Ratzinger, famously said in 1969:
From the crisis of today the Church of tomorrow will emerge — a Church that has lost much. She will become small and will have to start afresh more or less from the beginning. … As a small society, it will make much bigger demands on the initiative of her individual members. … But in all of the changes at which one might guess, the Church will find her essence afresh and with full conviction in that which was always at her center: faith in the triune God, in Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man, in the presence of the Spirit until the end of the world.I urge you to read the longer excerpt for context and fleshing out: https://aleteia.org/2016/06/13/when-cardinal-joseph-ratzinger-predicted-the-future-of-the-church/
We are in a crisis (see this excellent article for the potential implications of a Biden presidency for the Catholic Church). I believe that, with the combination of an antithetical (on many issues) Catholic president and the ongoing pandemic, the time has come for Benedict’s prediction to be made manifest full throttle. To be sure, weekly Mass attendance has been declining for years in the West (particularly in Europe but also in the USA). But now with a Catholic president enthusiastically espousing and implementing intrinsically evil policies and the ongoing prevalence of virtual Masses along with the downplaying of the importance of the sacraments (at least in some corners) we are poised for an upheaval. I am reminded of one of the Book of Revelations’s starkest and most disturbing images (and that’s saying something):
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold, nor hot. I would thou wert cold, or hot. But because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold, nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth.Rev 3:15-16
John, the author of Revelation, was asked to write this to the church in Laodicea. Well, we are Laodicea. It is imminent (and already here for some), I fear/hope, that sitting on the fence will no longer be acceptable in society or in the Church.
As long as Mr. Biden is president, there will be plenty to write about regarding the relationship between his governing and his Catholicism. I would refer you to a few of my favorite Catholic news and opinion sites to keep abreast:
- Catholic Culture (Mirus and Lawler are incredibly insightful)
- The Pillar (new and outstanding)
- Crisis (generally quite good but I’m not always onboard with the tone and the occasional piece)
- National Catholic Register (for news)
But whether or not you take advantage of any of these resources (although I strongly encourage you to keep informed and to counter the secular media narrative), as I have already implored you in this space, please pray for the president that he comes to know and to follow God’s will (regardless of how the reader feels about any particular policy all faithful persons of good will can agree to this). Radical conversion is possible. His soul is just as precious as every other one created by God. Remember, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance” (Lk 15:7).
Such a conversion, and the (super)natural impact on the way he would govern, would be a triumph for the Faith even as it would spell his downfall from his party (impeachment, anyone?). The nation and the world will be the beneficiaries, though, as the turn back to God will bring countless blessings (and likely even more persecutions — see Mk 10:29-30).
I close with two quotes. The first is from my daily spiritual reading from a book I have touted here before that coincidentally ties in with today’s theme very well:
The genuine patriot, just because his patriotism is genuine, may not be obliged to denounce the evil and unjust courses of his own people; and the greater his love for his country, the more passionate, in all likelihood, will be his appeal to it to follow after justice and truth. For patriotism, like every other good quality, must be subject always to conscience, and cannot dictate to conscience. Its promptings must be carefully censored by prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.Fr. Bede Jarrett, O.P., Classic Catholic Meditations (Manchester, N.H.: Sophia, 2004), 166 (emphasis mine).
The second quote is a call to emulate St.Thomas More whose final words before his government-directed execution were:
I am the King’s good servant – but God’s first.
For the love of God and country, let us stay faithful to God for the sake of our country.
Threatening to throw Jesus off a cliff — Lk 4:19