Take Courage in the Lord
Gospel Reflection for April 20, 2023
When the court officers had brought the Apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
"We gave you strict orders did we not,
to stop teaching in that name.
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man's blood upon us."
But Peter and the Apostles said in reply,
"We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him."
When they heard this,
they became infuriated and wanted to put them to death.
What courage! Filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles who had just witnessed the horrific death of our Lord, had denied him and had been in hiding now face scorn, torture and martyrdom unflinchingly. Imagine how shocked the members of the Sanhedrin must have been. They assumed they had but an end to the challenge to their authority by crucifying Jesus. Now, they face the greatest religious and society changing movement the world had ever, or will ever see. Their confidence must have been quite shaken when they were called murders to their face by the men they sought to silence and condemn.
I am reminded of the father at a school board meeting in Virgina, who rose to ask why a boy was being allowed to use the girl’s restroom. That boy has violently raped his daughter. The school board refused to hear him. He was wrestled to the ground by security and removed. His act of courage started a political revolution in Virgina state government and sparked a movement nationwide of parents challenging what their children are being taught in school and how they are being treated. The sexual predator who raped his daughter, a boy who claimed to be a girl, had raped another girl. Instead of addressing the matter, he was quietly moved to another school. No one had the courage to “hurt his feelings” or to challenge the ideology of those in authority.
I asked recently on social media, “Have you ever heard this Biblical passage read and preached on in any Christian denomination, Catholic or Protestant, in your lifetime?
1 Corinthians 6:9-10:
9 Do you not realise that people who do evil will never inherit the kingdom of God? Make no mistake -- the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites, 10 thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Douay Rheims says instead of “sodomites”, “the effeminate”. Other translations say, “homosexuals” or “men who lie with men.” Apparently the latter is the most accurate translation of the original. Nope. No one answered that they had ever heard or been taught that passage of scripture in any church, of any denomination in their lifetime.
Why? Lack of courage.
Somewhere in the 1970s the medical, educational, political and religious establishment began normalizing homosexuality. Now, they are normalizing the concept that gender is not biological - not determined by chromosomes and anatomy, but psychology. That concept defies science, logic, history and, most certainly, Christian doctrine. Recently (even) Pope Francis said, "The acceptance of our bodies as God's gift is vital for welcoming and accepting the entire world as a gift from the Father and our common home…" In other words, as the Bible reminds us in the very first book, “male and female He created them.”
While homosexual sex is a sin that has been documented and dealt with throughout time, the medical trans movement is something very new. It was rightly considered a mental disorder only a few years ago. At the root of the argument we find a binary choice: 1) God made a mistake and I/society am right. Or 2), God is right and I/society am wrong. If we look a little closer, we find the same conflict in all matters of sin - either I am right or God is right.
As Catholics, we know which party is right. God is God, and by definition cannot be wrong. Anything that disagrees with His law and the reality He created is, by definition wrong. So, why is this not said more clearly and boldly in our era, as it was when the Apostles stood before the Sanhedrin? Simple: lack of courage.
As my fellow Missio Dei author Kelly Ann Talent, wrote in yesterday’s Gospel Reflection, the Church is full of sinners and we are called to boldly address the sin in our own lives. With the help of God’s grace and the sacraments we must repent, reform and change if we are to do as Jesus told us and hope to make it to heaven. Yet, how often do we challenge sinful ideologies in our society and in our Church?
Yes, in our Church. I will save this topic for a later article, but I do not believe that Catholic Charities (as just one example… the China situation is even worse) is acting humanely in its work regarding illegal immigration - it appears to me that they are helping facilitate human trafficking, slavery, prostitution, child rape and drug smuggling under the guise of “social justice”… enriching the drug cartels, while getting an awful lot of both government grant money and our donations. I may be wrong. But, until I am convinced otherwise, I will no longer give Catholic Charities a cent and I urge our Catholic Bishops to consider ending fundraising drives in our churches. If Catholic Charities is facilitating illegal activity, to end their funding should not take much courage at all.
What does take courage is taking a firm stand against such social issues as the normalization of homosexuality, abortion, divorce, the trans movement, etc. It takes courage because to do so may cost you a job, friends, alienate family, put you at odds with your priest, invite scorn on social media, make enemies of neighbors, etc. But, all virtues hinge on courage. If we act cowardly and allow such evils to gradually pervade and erode our society, culture and religion, we are doing the work of Satan, not of God. Children must be instructed in what is right and protected, or they are prey to the worst evil imaginable. Those with homosexual tendencies, lusts that lead them into fornication, pornography and adultery, those who have inclinations toward addiction, anger issues, mental health issues, etc. must be treated with love and respect, but we can never normalize sin. We cannot be okay with people making their opinions and ideologies their own gods, nor can we worship their gods. Our God is one and unchanging.
Interestingly, nowhere in the Bible or the Catechism, or in the writings of the Saints is there any indication that the Christian will be popular or free from criticism. Quite the opposite. We are told we will be rejected, scorned and even killed for holding fast to the teachings of Christ and His Church. We all have our failings, habitual sins and fallen nature. We must have the courage though, not only to admit that we are wrong, but to point out evil and to not normalize it for the sake of comfort. To be a Christian means radical courage. I can only pray that I and others may have the courage to suffer what was once known as “white martyrdom”. White martyrdom was to suffer social scorn, political persecution, financial loss and ridicule for the sake of the truth, whereas “black martyrdom’ was to be physically tortured or killed for the faith. Admittedly, I too often “go along to get along”, even though I am probably called a jerk more often than most…. as an old friend once said, “I have been called everything but a child of God since I began speaking out.”
Our hope is not in vain. Our Gospel for today reminds us:
The one who comes from above is above all.
The one who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of earthly things.
But the one who comes from heaven is above all.
He testifies to what he has seen and heard,
but no one accepts his testimony.
Whoever does accept his testimony certifies that God is trustworthy.
For the one whom God sent speaks the words of God.
He does not ration his gift of the Spirit.
The Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life,
but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life,
but the wrath of God remains upon him.