|To Follow Christ Means to Carry the Cross.
The Fourteenth Friday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the secondary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Hosea 14: 2-10.
• Psalm 51: 3-4, 8-9, 12-14, 17.
• Matthew 10: 16-23.
The Third Class Feast of Saint Elizabeth, Queen & Widow.*
Lessons from the common, according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Proverbs 31: 10-31.
• Psalm 44: 3, 5.
• Matthew 13: 44-52.
The Seventh Friday after Pentecost; and, the Feast of the Holy Great Martyr Procopius.**
First & third lessons from the pentecostarion, second & fourth from the menaion, according to the Ruthenian recension of the Byzantine Rite:
• I Corinthians 11: 8-22.
• II Timothy 2: 1-10.
• Matthew 17: 10-18.
• Matthew 10: 37—11: 1.
8:25 AM 7/8/2016 — I know that it is very tempting, in light of recent events, to succumb to the temptation of believing that the world is falling apart. There is no silver lining in such a time of civil unrest, but there are always spiritual lessons to be learned.
The Church publishes a small book every year called the Ordo—in the Byzantine Churches it's called a Typicon—which contains all the information a priest needs to know to properly celebrate the liturgical services on each day of the year: what feast day it is, what orations are sung, what lessons from Scripture are read, what psalms in the Divine Office are prayed on that day. I had the good fortune to be trained in a seminary that took the time to teach us how to figure all this out without relying on an Ordo, and I've always prided myself on knowing what's the proper thing to do each day by simply reading the Breviary and the Missal; we were trained to look down on people who needed an Ordo as lazy and liturgically inept.
That being said, I do get one every year because, in addition to providing a liturgical “cheat sheet,” it also contains a necrology for the metropolitan province for which each separate Ordo is published, which lists the names of all the priests who have died. In other words, the Ordo for the Province of Newark, of which the Diocese of Metuchen is a suffragan see, will list, for each day, the names of any priests in my diocese who died on that day and what year they passed, which is very helpful if one wants to pray for the souls of ones brother priests.
Another thing the Ordo does is attempt to summarize the theme of the day's Mass by condensing the lessons from Scripture into a single sentence to help the priest formulate his homily; but, this feature I find not so helpful as, nine times out of ten, I find these thematic statements to be rather artificial, and sometimes just plain wrong. Case in point: the Ordo sums up today's Gospel lesson by stating, “In preaching the gospel, one may encounter opposition and persecution.” Well, that's not what our Lord says. What He says is that, in preaching the gospel, one will encounter opposition and persecution. It's not just a possibility; it's a certainty: “You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10: 22 RM3). Not “You may be…”, but “You will be….” And as we witness the spectacle of Christians in our own country suffering because they won't cater to or surrender to the secularist agenda—whether it's the culture of death, or the gay agenda, or the fornication culture fueled by the contraception mentality, or whatever it may be—our Lord's words take on an immediate significance for us:
Remember, I am sending you out to be like sheep among wolves; you must be wary, then, as serpents, and yet innocent as doves. Do not put your trust in men; they will hand you over to courts of judgment, and scourge you in their synagogues; yes, and you will be brought before governors and kings on my account, so that you can bear witness before them, and before the Gentiles (10: 16-18 Knox).
And in light of recent events, it's particularly painful for us because none of us ever thought that such a thing could happen in what started out as a Christian country.
Of course, if we learn any lesson at all from Church history it's that persecution has a cleansing effect: at some point it becomes impossible to remain neutral, and one is forced to choose sides, and it becomes impossible not to see which among us was really a wolf among the sheep all along. What's more important, I think, is how those of us who are the Lord's sheep can maintain our spiritual equilibrium during times of persecution. In other words, not only does persecution cleanse the Church by revealing everyone's true colors, it also gives us the opportunity to cleanse ourselves: if we find ourselves wringing our hands and descending into despair, unable to pray and constantly disturbed in mind, then the persecution acts as a diagnostic tool that reveals the extent of our own lack of Faith and failure to cultivate the virtue of Hope. Our Lord's promises to His Church are not invalidated during times of persecution, but our faith in those promises is tested. What would be the point of the Church having us celebrate the feasts of so many martyrs in the course of a year if not to inspire us to recognize that certain things never change, that what was true from the time of the Apostles remains true, and will always be true? To follow Christ means to carry the cross. It will never mean anything different.
So, we pray for our Church and we pray for our country, and we pray for those among us who have already given the good example of suffering for the Gospel, knowing that our time will come, too. And, rather than wringing out hands and moaning about it, our job is to press on with smiles on our faces and the joy of the Gospel in our hearts, comforted by the fact that we are truly blessed to live in a time just like that we read about in the Scriptures:
Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but whoever endures to the end will be saved (10: 21-22 NABRE).
* Known popularly as Elizabeth of Portugal, the daughter of the King of Aragon and the grandniece of St. Elizabeth of Hungary married Denis, King of Portugal. After her husband's death, she entered the Order of the Poor Clares and died in 1336.
** Procopius was the first victim in Palestine of the persecution ordered by Emperor Diocletian in 303.