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July 20, 2018

OUR ROCK-SOLID CHURCH

Pastors corner with Fr Henry Ibe
Swift Share!

Many a time when we hear the phrase – “built to last”- our minds easily go towards concrete structures or automobiles. The reality, however, is that no matter how beautifully or solidly built a machine or device may be, time and technology would always combine to render it obsolete. That is the short-lived nature of man-made structures. The Church of Christ is the one true structure built to last, guaranteed to endure till the end of time. Despite all the attacks coming from innumerable fronts, the Catholic Church has remained most resilient – never ceasing to captivate minds and hearts in every age and culture. In spite of all the troubles coming from within and from outside, the Catholic Church has always managed to reinvent itself. What a paradox that the Church thrives more under persecution than in peaceful times.
In the First Reading, the Apostles are flogged and ordered not to preach in the name of Jesus again. They responded with defiance and joy and were, “glad to have had the honour of suffering humiliation for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41).  They thought themselves fortunate and privileged to suffer on account of their faith in Christ. The history of the Church is the history of persecutions; and many times it would seem like the Church was on its legs, but somehow it always manages to outlast the enemy.
For 300 years the Roman Empire tried to root out Christianity. In the Middle Ages, the Islamic Empire invaded Europe seeking to destroy the Church – Spain was occupied for over 700 years. In the 16th century the Protestant Reformation shook the very foundations of the Church, and being Catholic became a capital offence in many places. Till this minute a Catholic cannot be the Prime Minister of the U.K. In the 18th century the French Revolution came fighting hard to wipe out the Church – thousands were martyred with churches and monasteries destroyed. In the 19th century, Napoleon overran all of continental Europe, seizing the Church hierarchy, and imprisoning two popes in efforts to take over the Catholic Church. In the twentieth century,  Soviet Communism and German Nazism went to extraordinary lengths to destroy the Catholic Church – all to no avail. It is on record that more Christians were martyred in the 20th century than ever. But somehow, all these empires and political ideologies have come and gone for good, while the Church remains. Today the persecution rages on in Africa, the Middle East, China and parts of South East Asia – but paradoxically, these are the areas where the Church is growing fastest. The blood of martyrs is truly the seed of Christianity. The Church is built to last!
In the Western world the persecution is of a more subtle, non-violent, albeit equally devastating type. It’s is a pernicious case of cultural persecution. In today’s Western societies, it is not very “cool” to be Christian, much less Catholic. With the barrage of media attacks on the Church and its leadership, Catholics find their faith under a siege. Daily we get intimidated by forces opposed to God, the Church, the sanctity of human life, and the traditional family values that we cherish so much. The Church, the foundation stone of western civilization and the best guarantor of human rights, dignity and freedom, is under a relentless attack both from outside and from within.
It is not uncommon today to be ridiculed on account of being open to life and having a few more children. How many of us today are too shy or scared to bless our food in public? How many of us at Mass today have a friend or relative that has given up the practice of the faith? How many people around us have become practical atheists – Catholics in name only but no Mass and no sacramental life? Nevertheless, the Church endures and, as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail. The Church is built to last! This image comes to life in the Gospel passage where Peter drags the net to the shore, overfilled with large fishes and the net is not broken. The net represents the Apostles who will gather believers from every corner of the earth into the boat of Christ’s Church. Peter and his successors will guide the boat to safety, onto the shores of eternity, for a banquet with the Lord. In spite of all the sorrows, scandals and sins; in spite of all the obstacles, challenges and persecutions, Christ’s Church will continue to grow and expand under the leadership of Peter, and it will stay intact until it is brought safely home to heaven – Peter’s net will not tear. It is built to last!
Therefore, let us rejoice whenever we are privileged to suffer for our faith. Let us be glad when people make fun of our faith at the workplace! Be glad when your family rejects you for being too churchy! Be glad when friends avoid you and spread all kinds of calumnies against you because you have chosen not go on with a life of excessive consumption and debauchery. Rejoice when people think or say are crazy for choosing to give your life to God as a priest, religious, consecrated virgin or single person! Be happy when people make fun of you for choosing to stay and find ways to make your marriage work, instead of taking the easy way out! Rejoice when people blame you for choosing to keep the pregnancy no matter the circumstances. Do not worry you get ridiculed  for sacrificing material comforts in order to live and work among the poor! Let us rejoice and thank God whenever we are privileged to suffer for the sake of Christ. There’s no greater redemptive suffering than that!
May the Father of all consolation comfort us in our sufferings, and comfort all persecuted Christians everywhere. And may Christ grant us the blessed assurance and strength to rejoice whenever we suffer on account of his name.
Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Psalms 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14


 

 

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