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"Radical Joy" by Maggie Eisenbarth (CatholicMom.com) By Freaky (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]67 AD. Your friend's flesh is dripping to the streets, burning as a Roman candle. You cover your face, slip into the shadows, and pray you survive this persecution. Why? Why hadn't the fever of Christ been extinguished? Christianity, referred to in the early years as The Way, was a community of believers trusting and having faith in the living word of God and the promise of eternal life. In the city of Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero those who followed Christ were imprisoned and slaughtered in his circus, torn apart by wild animals. One must be radical to believe so greatly as to risk his life. The early Christians were inspired by the Resurrection, the miracles Christ performed, the miracles that were taking place all around them. They were inspired to feed the hungry, to care for the begging widow, and take in the orphan. Who would admonish the sin of murdering defective newborns if it wasn't for the teachings of Christ? They saw lives as the body of Christ, not Roman, Greek, pagan, or sinner. Do we live this way today? Would you willingly accept being spit on and ridiculed, or being forced to walk to your grave with feet sliced by your enemy ( St Jose Sanchez del Rio, 14) or have your newborn torn from you to die for Christ, tortured in the arena, a spectacle and entertainment for a howling audience (St Perpetua)? The fire of the Holy Spirit seems to dying in this ghastly, wicked world we live in. Many call themselves Christian, a friendly label, yet lack the perseverance and radical faith to live the Way. Christianity is not a fantasy world to escape the conditions of your own life. Surely there wouldn't be any Christians left if it meant escapism; it offers eternal life, but the way to get there is covered in the blood of the martyrs. The Way offers us persecution, suffering, sacrifice -- to be strangers in our own land, yet brothers and sisters in any land. We are called to be radical, miles and miles beyond the comfort of "blessings" so many Christians rely on, living on the surface of being "nice." We are called to be radical and be an example of truth to the many who reject Christianity because they don't need a God to be nice, they have their own selves for that, their own compass. Matt Walsh wrote, in an outstanding piece on repentance:
The positive thinking Christian ignores it — ignores his Savior’s suffering and sacrifice — and becomes even more degenerate than the crowds that gathered on Calvary to spit in His face. At least they were there. The arrogant Christian, with his stupid positivity, can’t be bothered to show up.
I too am recognizing a watering-down of Christianity yet simultaneously I am seeing Christians rising up to invigorate, strengthen and inspire those desiring to live radically for love, for Christ. I read Bless me Father for I have sinned this morning and had to insert more of the same that is being recognized throughout the country. We are turning away from God and to man, yet as Christians we know we can only serve one God. Quoted in it is a comment from Andrew Sullivan on our country's opioid epidemic:
It is a story of pain and the search for an end to it. It is a story of how the most ancient painkiller known to humanity has emerged to numb the agonies of the world’s most highly evolved liberal democracy. ... The scale and darkness of this phenomenon is a sign of a civilization in a more acute crisis than we knew, a nation overwhelmed by a warp-speed, post-industrial world, a culture yearning to give up, indifferent to life and death, enraptured by withdrawal and nothingness. America, having pioneered the modern way of life, is now in the midst of trying to escape it.
Fr. John A. Perrocone, the author of Bless me Father for I have sinned, states,
The crisis of modernity has reached such critical mass that even some of its most ardent fans are having buyer’s remorse. Having exhausted every recourse, Sullivan and his tribe have nowhere to go. The abyss stares at them, and they tremble.
But do they turn to Christ? Fr. Perrocone continues,
Consequently, a man’s soul suffers a slow asphyxiation: gradual and unnoticed. As it suffocates it experiences a kind of spiritual delirium. That delirium is marked by six symptoms. The first is complacency, leading the soul to adopt a coziness with the status quo. It readily subscribes to the ubiquitous slogan of “being a good person,” the paralyzing narcotic for those who desire nothing more than to abide by the standards of the world, rather than the standards of God. As with every prescription from the secularist shelf, it reeks of solipsistic reverie.
Yet we can be ever grateful for the centuries upon centuries of men, women, and children to inspire us, those who left their families and their comforts to follow Christ. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was secretly baptized by Jesuit missionaries and as a result was ostracized and bullied, and fled her home to seek refuge. She traveled two months to reach a Christian community. Saints like Katharine Drexel gave up wealth to serve. Many, too, have radically served by offering their whole lives to pray in constant unity for the Church as sisters, brothers, monks, and hermits. We live in a world that feeds us lies: "I am not a slave to anything or anyone. I am my own man." "I am happy with my life. Why do I need to change it?" Many seem to be pleasantly living life, finding comfort in the world with food, shelter, drink, outdoor activities, entertainment, shopping for more things, or improving their look and wardrobe to display their "worth" -- where will they turn when met with adversity, troubles, and pain? They will turn to counselors, talking, medication, and to themselves with yoga, me time, me space, spa days -- therapy is their new religion. None of these offer an eternal reward or promise. Maybe that's part of the problem: They don't need eternity; this life is enough for them. But where will they turn when faced with real crisis? Maybe the crisis is that nothing is a crisis because everything has a remedy; there is no need for God. To suicide they say, "they weren't happy here, let's legalize euthanasia." To pregnancy they say, "relieve yourself safely and find comfort in being free. To death they say, "celebrate life" rather than "pray for their soul." To poverty they say, "food stamps," not compassion, community, or the comfort of friends. To divorce they say, "better off without him." To abuse they say, "I hope you get the help you need;" they offer therapy. To alcoholism and drug addiction, they deny it or offer counseling; to disease, they question your state of mind, your poor diet, your self-infliction, then offer rehab, drugs, and treatment. To trauma and violence they offer solutions, conversations, anger, and protests. They believe the lie that Christ is irrelevant. No longer needed is prayer; it is useless and lacks action. Policies are necessary. They have nothing to defend themselves against except the Christians who convict their conscience. They kneel to the world, their paycheck, their house, their car, their status, their education, their arrogance, their 401-k, their vacation, their security, and their desires. They refuse to kneel to God, to kneel and accept sacrifice, suffering, and persecution. As Christians we have to daily turn to the words of Christ, to be strengthened by them and to find hope. Matt Walsh wrote, A hopeful person endures pain, embraces discomfort, confronts wickedness, repents desperately of his sin, weeps over what is sorrowful, hates what is evil, and still has joy — a joy much deeper than the fleeting pleasure of mere optimism — because he knows that something beautiful lies beyond the suffering. He does not attempt to go around suffering to get to the destination. Instead he picks up his cross and follows Christ through it, right into the pain, right into the dark, right up that terrible hill, where salvation awaits. - Matt Walsh We must be radical in our love for Christ for it has always called radical people. Follow with joy, at all cost.
Copyright 2018 Maggie Eisenbarth