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The Call of Christ the King

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The Cost of Sharing Christ - Part Two

(Tape, Side 2)

St. Paul's greatest trials, I repeat, St. Paul's greatest trials were not the physical hardships he endured. Although we know they were extreme, they were not the humanly impossible travels that he made. They were by any estimation, heroic. His worst anguish was the rejection he saw of Christ by those specially chosen who were God's chosen people of the Old Law.

We should never forget that Christ wept, wept over Jerusalem. He foresaw, how clearly he foresaw, the destruction of Jerusalem one generation after his own crucifixion. During his passion, when Pilot asked them, "'If you choose Barabas, what shall I do with your king?" And they shouted. (The liars), "We have no king but Caesar." And then, "What shall I do with Jesus?" And they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him." Pilate asked, "Shall I crucify your king?" And they shouted back, "His blood be on us and on our children."

They did not realize it, they were prophesying, Christ's blood, was literally on their children. Some ninety thousand, a historian tells us, were crucified by the Romans in the siege of Jerusalem. What then is the lesson for the apostle of today, whether Pope or Bishop, whether priest or religious, whether father or mother, whether an old person or a young person, whether a child. What's the lesson? The lesson is that our greatest trial will be, nineteen centuries of history to prove it, will be to the mildest word in my vocabulary the disappointment we shall feel at seeing our efforts so often fail.

As one mother told me, who's seventh child had left the Church. She asked, ""Is this why I brought these children into the world?" Or as another mother wrote to the Handmaids of the Precious Blood who as you know pray and sacrifice for priests. Says, the mother to the Handmaids, I quote, "Pray, my second son left the priesthood."

One of the most touching statements in the New Testament, in Saint Paul's sad complaint to the Galatians, "You make me feel that I have wasted my time on you." Again, what do we learn? Do not be surprised, people are predictable, you can predict, that not everybody wants to listen to the teachings of Christ. There is much wisdom in expecting the predictable.

Let me quote, from my Father-in-God, St. Ignatius. He is writing to those whom he is inspiring to proclaim Christ to the world. First quotation, "If one fears men much he will never do anything great for God. All that one does for God arouses persecution." Unquote St. Ignatius. Again, quote, "Suffering endured for the love of Jesus Christ should be reckoned among the greatest benefits that we can receive. Once again, persecution is like a fan which excites our virtue, may God forbid that persecution should cease. If it did, our virtue would languish and we should no long fulfill our obligations to proclaim Christ." One last quotation from Ignatius, "Experience teaches that there will be greater profit, where there are more contradictions." unquote.

How well I know. How well I know. A half-century in the Society of Jesus, has taught me, how literally true, St. Ignatius' teaching is. On one condition, that you really, really, want to proclaim Jesus Christ.

We go on, confidence this is obviously our responsibility. The first is expectation. This is our duty. Along with Saint Paul's frequent suffering and the indifference and open hostility of those he was trying to bring to Jesus, he had unbounded confidence in God. Paul did not close his eyes to people's indifference or their animosity. But he never allowed their attitude to make him sad. As a priest for 46 years, I deal with too many souls who pour out their hearts to me, saying how saddened, how crushed they are, at seeing what is happening to so many once faithful and to all external appearances, believing Christians and Catholics. The suffering they endure, when they see priests whom they admired. The priests who may have witnessed their marriages, would bury their deceased loved ones, leaving the active priesthood. How saddened they are over the closing, in one large diocese after another, not one, but dozens of parishes. They tell me they are all but crushed to the ground. When I tell them to remain brave and keep proclaiming Christ, they keep telling me, "Father we admire your courage, what do we do?" I tell them what I am telling to you. Have confidence. "'Let's be clear and as honest as God's grace can make us. God being all wise, all good". God could not, He absolutely could not in his justice allow so much evil, so much infidelity, so much apostasy, unless He as God foresaw and wanted. Listen, greater good, that's the word, greater good to come mysteriously as a consequence of all this error and evil. However, on one condition, that we are confident.

St. Paul did not close his eyes, any more than we should, to what was going on then and is going on now. That is what St. Paul means by the series of contrasts he makes between what others are doing to him and the effect this has on his soul. He writes that he is in difficulty in all sides but never cornered. He had no answer to his problems, but he never despaired. He was persecuted, but and this is the most important adversative in our Faith, but he never believed himself deserted by God. By men, yes, by God, never. He was knocked down not only physically, but spiritually. But, as he attests, never killed in spirit. And there is one thing St. Paul teaches us, the spirit never dies.

May I recommend to all of you, to never speak of some one dying. It's the body that dies. The spirit never dies. But then, St. Paul gives us the supporting motivations. Here's what he says, "Wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life Jesus may be seen in our body. So death is at work in us. Seeing those he was bringing to Christ, but life he knew. My friends this is not rhetoric. It is not poetry. It is stark revealed reality.

Now we come back. How we need to ask this question, "What sustained St. Paul? It was the realization that just as Jesus had to suffer and suffer the pains of rejection by so many, so he, Paul, had to share in Christ's tribulation. Consequently, even as Christ's crucifixion, an apparent failure, was God's way of redeeming the world, Paul's crucifixion of spirit was God's way of using this chosen vessel to bring salvation to the Gentiles. We need this lesson. As we apply this message of St. Paul to ourselves, let us make sure we do not misunderstand or try to explain away in merely human terms what Christ before him, and Paul after him, experienced. All of this makes sense, if we want to accept and dare I say put up with the disappointments. Let's call them by their right name, temporary failures as a kind of self-discipline. It is the most reasonable thing in the world to tell ourselves, on one condition, that we have faith. It is one thing to physically encourage our spirit. But here, we're in the presence of mystery, the mystery of human freedom. As I tell people there are only two final mysteries in our faith. The mystery of the Holy Trinity and God, and the mystery of liberty and man.

In God's ordinary providence, He tries His apostles and gives them a share in Christ's sufferings as a precondition for saving a sinful human race. That is the way the world was redeemed by Christ, what we call the objective redemption. The meriting of grace for a sinful world. How? By the Crucifixion on Calvary. And that is the way, the way redemption is continued by our crucifixion on our Calvary.

Sin and salvation go together. Sin calls for expiation. And the expiation is suffering. Time and again St. Paul identified his own life with the passion of It is prayer of every true follower of Christ who is willing and indeed ready to pay the price of proclaiming Christ.

I close with a short prayer. Lord, Jesus, we thank you for giving us the true faith in You, our God, Who out of love for us died on the Cross. We thank You for the inspiration and such courage as your Apostle St. Paul. What the world needs today, are courageous apostles of Your word. Men, and women and children, who are so deeply in love with You that they are willing, indeed they want to, if it is Your will to lay down their lives for the propagation of your Name. Give us, dear Savior, the light we need to see our mission. But above all give us the strength to carry this mission into effect. Give us the strength of martyrs. Oh, dear Jesus, how our age needs martyrs. That like Saint Paul, our greatest joy may be to suffer for the proclamation of Your Name. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. May God bless you. Thank you for listening.

Copyright © 2003 Inter Mirifica

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