March 12, 2012

If You Want Peace, Prepare for War

St. Catherine of Siena says our faith makes us lambs who roar like lions.   She has touched on a great paradox: To say "I believe in God" is both the establishment of peace and the declaration of war.

When we believe He exists, when we believe what He has revealed, when we believe because of his great love, we are like lambs who follow the Lamb of God.  At the same time, to believe in God is to take sides with the Author of human dignity and the Vindicator of all that is owed this dignity.  Whenever the freedom and dignity of the human person is at stake, we must roar like lions.

If we rise for battle, our enemy is not flesh and blood.  This is true even when those driven by arrogant hubris build new towers of Babel to wage war with Heaven.  The rich and the powerful can abuse their social, cultural, political and financial authority with chilling cruelty, but they cannot separate us from the love of God.  Attempts to mock, deride, belittle, marginalize or persecute those who try to live their faith merely signify the hostility towards God which lives in the hearts of all of us.  Just as a disease is healed not by combating the symptoms but by dealing with the cause, Christ Crucified has definitively addressed the cause of our hostility to Him.  People of faith are those who allow themselves to be used to apply His medicine.

To fight for hope, to save human dignity from the hostility that would destroy it, we must care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, defend the oppressed, comfort the lonely, and bring relief to the poor.   Against an entertainment industrial complex which mocks everything that is wholesome, we must promote healthy marriages, vibrant family life, the dignity of work and the rights of those who labor.   Any affront to human dignity and freedom is another front in our fight for the truth. Yet this battle is not limited merely to the public square and the marketplace of public opinion, we must also take the fight to those places in our own hearts in which vestiges of this hostility still linger.  

In this effort, even if we temporarily fall short, our hearts are sealed with the sign of our victory.  It is a sign of love.  It is the Sign of the Cross.  And so we pick up our Cross.   This is our act of faith.  To believe like this is to choose sacrifice, all kinds of self-denial, and whatever else it takes so that everyone in our lives might thrive, realize all the God-given potential lavished upon them, and, most of all, discover that they too are loved beyond all measure.

What does this mean? Sometimes love will demand that we courageously speak the truth, that we speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.   Sometimes love will demand that we bear things silently, trusting in our loving Father to shelter us when everything we hoped for seems to have been dashed to pieces.  Sometimes love will demand that we return a blessing for a curse and that we seek the dignity with which God has endowed even our persecutors.  Sometimes love demands that we must forgive and beg forgiveness.  Love will rebuild what we have destroyed.

The love faith makes possible is stronger than death.  How can mere mortal flesh stand in the way of God when Love by becoming flesh has made our mortality itself a threshold to eternity?  The ancient Romans learned that no law or mandate or edict or enforcement of court order can stop love.  Nazis and Communists learned that turning people of faith into outlaws and criminals cannot stop love.  Should constitutional republics devolve into a mob's tyranny, these tyrants, like those that went before them, will also learn that the meek and lowly can be humiliated to the point of physical harm, but love cannot be overcome.  The true Christian in fact learns to see all of this as a great blessing: to suffer for the love of God only means that God has found one worthy to follow the footsteps of the One Crucified by love.

When we step out in faith against the powerful cultural and political forces of our age no matter how feeble our effort. our Vindicator will step forward.  And we must rise.  The blood of the unborn - these our own sons and daughters, our own brothers and sisters, our own neighbors - their blood screams out to Heaven.  What peace can we have until their voice is heard?  Their still silent cry calls to us and reverberates with the even more silent cry of God.   Those who know this heart piercing silence lose all fear of suffering or sacrifice or renunciation or trials or ridicule or rejection.  In the peace of Christ, they are prepared for war.