Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Jesus drops a rather somber warning on his disciples, “I have chosen you out of the world. . .and the world hates you. . .[but] realize that it hated me first. . .If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” We know that the world persecuted Jesus, and we know that the disciples were persecuted as well. Despite the best efforts of the world to bludgeon, burn, crucify, and exile the Good News from its realm, the news got out, and we've been here for more than 2,000 years. Like a body infected with a deadly virus, the world reacts to the presence of the Church—attacking, repelling, isolating. But we're still here. Despite the best efforts of some in the Church to surrender to the world, to bring the world into the sanctuary, and give her away like a rare virgin bride, we're still here. We're still here not b/c we are deserving of preservation, b/c we're earned the privilege of God's protection. We're still here b/c Christ promised to be with his Church always. Because the world needs an ordinary means of receiving his Father's abounding grace. So long as the Church remains, the body of the world remains infected with the saving virus of the Good News. This is why the world hates us: they do not see any need for rescue.
If you feel no danger, you very likely see no need for rescue. Sitting comfy and cozy on your couch, reading a good book, you would probably dismiss a neighbor who barges in yelling, “I'm here to rescue you from your comfy, cozy couch!” If you were kneeling in prayer in church, confident that all was right with your spiritual life, the rantings of a crazy friar from the pulpit about sin and God's love would be distracting but hardly alarming. However, if your world were collapsing, if your family, your nation, your civilization, all that you have come to rely on were spinning out of control, and someone offered you a way to leave that world behind, the first thing you would need to do is admit that your world was coming apart. You would need to see the destruction, hear the system tearing at its seams, feel the angst and anger rising. In other words, you would have to confess that the world you helped to build and operate was losing its soul, spiraling into a dysfunctional waste. If you make this confession, then rescue is possible. If you refuse, if you deny the truth, rescue is impossible, and you will grow to hate those who offer you a way out.
Christ's offer to rescue the world is an accusation. To say, “You need rescuing” is to say “You are in danger,” and I am in a position to help. The hardest part of being rescued is admitting that help is required. Why does the world hate Christ and his disciples? Because the Church sees the world in danger and knows that the only way to be rescued is to embrace Christ and leave that dangerous world behind. Leave behind contesting for social standing; compromising the truth to gain political influence; rutting with violence for the applause of mob; to leave behind self-righteous do-gooding, the easy hatred of imaginary enemies, and the lust for things and people. Christ's offer of rescue is an accusation, but it is also—if accepted—a vindication, a victory over the world, a win for those who would confess that they can only lose without God. No slave is greater than his master. If we are slaves of Christ, then we can expect nothing more from the world than he himself received. The rulers of this world fear another King, and they fear his followers. When the world stops hating the Church, we know that we have stopped preaching his Good News. Therefore, go out and frighten the world!
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