Thursday, July 2, 2015

Opposition from Within

Original photo from Pixabay.

 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

This Sunday, the second reading will be from 2 Cor 12:7-10. I’d also strongly recommend the other readings.

God warns Ezekiel in the first reading of opposition in Israel, on account of the Israelites being a rebellious and obstinate people.

In the Gospel, Christ himself encounters resistance in his hometown, which hindered the propagation of the Gospel.

And Paul encounters problem people of his own. There are lots of valid interpretations on what this “thorn in the flesh” was. According to one of my footnotes, it is a similar expression to the English, “A thorn in my side”, which we often use to refer to obnoxious, persistent, and frustrating people.

God’s people have frustrated him from the very beginning. Israel was a stiff-necked and stubborn people that was always wandering off to follow pagan gods. People in Jesus’ hometown refused to accept that he had authority to teach on the scriptures. And Paul had this mysterious “thorn in his flesh” that was always bothering him and getting in his way. And after that, there have been heresies spring up all down the centuries.

So, does the church face opposition from within nowadays - from people claiming the name of Christ, at any rate? You bet.

We’ve all got stories, but my most vivid personal experience is from earlier this year.
In January, the Louisiana Life March South partnered with “The Response” to meet in the PMAC on LSU’s campus for a time of prayer. Near the entrance was a large crowd of demonstrators. Among other signs, they raised a cross against those marching for the protection of human life - and in so doing, claimed to have Christ on their side.
I don’t know if any of those protesters would have claimed to be Catholic, but the Catholic Church does have the problem of having a lot of open dissent from people who self-identify as Catholic. Surely this dissent damages our credibility as a whole, right?

So…how do we respond to such resistance from within, when we encounter it?

Are we afraid of it? Afraid to be called irrational, anti-woman, or homophobic?

Do we put one foot in front of the other, joylessly trudging steadily ahead because we trust in God’s promises because we know he is worthy of our trust and we don’t know what else to do?

Do we, like Paul, hate having to deal with it? Beg God to take it away, to root out the impurities in his church? Ask him not to put on us weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, constraints, and cultural battles?

Or do we, as Jesus did, simply marvel at their lack of faith and carry on doing the right thing?

There is a large measure of humility in how Jesus handled it. Note that he did not hide his head in the sand - he carried on with his mission. Likewise, Paul ended up in a place of humility - coming to gladly boast of his weaknesses - for in them lay the strength of the Lord.

So, what should we do when faced with a Catholic who openly dissents from Church teaching on morality?

Consider the parable of the weeds among the wheat. In this parable, we would be the wheat. In light of this, what are we to do?
  • Keep doing the right thing. Your consistent witness in Christ will not go unnoticed.
  • Pray for the Holy Spirit to work in them to change their heart.
  • Persevere in your prayer for them. (very important!!)
  • And be ready to talk when asked. - It might not happen any time soon, but when it does, be ready to give a reasoned defense for the hope that lies within you.

Let’s Pray:

Lord God of Israel, you gave Joshua and the Israelites victory over the great city of Jericho, and in spite of their wandering from your side, you never ceased to lead and to care for your people. We ask that you would continue to lead and to care for your flock in our own day; correct us where we are in error, and make us strong in doing your will. Let us trust that your grace is sufficient for us, just as it was sufficient for Paul, and that your word will go forth faithfully by your hand - not by our own.


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