A dear pastor gave a homily on January 6 where he said that we need to prepare for persecution. Some of you have begun to experience it in at least a small way for your own worldview and beliefs. A family member said it a different way: there is a dark, dark time ahead.
There may be dark times ahead, but knowing that won’t change it. And it sometimes appears that God sits it out while His creation becomes the purveyor of evil against one another. Even in the most recent centuries it has been true. But persecutions have systematically occurred since the time of Christ. Nothing new under the sun. It is all part of the legacy from Eden, where sin entered the world.
Yet in spite of times of persecution and whether or not God removes His hand of protection (which I touched on in the previous blog; He appears at times to allow societies what they seem to be asking for), it is still only one scene in the ongoing drama of humanity.
People have tunnel-vision and are short-sighted. We tend to think our little moment in time is the most significant. It’s not; it’s a blip. The greater plan has little to do with our current problems, just as it had little to do with those of other eras. It is an on-going story that runs the same theme: will mankind continue to reject God?
But even in the darkest times there is hope. Persecution has historically been the time when the Church has grown greatly in numbers and faith. Israel is a constant reminder of that fact. Each time persecutions came, the people were confronted with whether or not they would finally turn back to God…again. And that phenomenon is what lead up to God revealing Himself in Christ as our final hope. In more modern times, we see that Christianity has exploded in numbers during the worst times of persecution. As Tertullian said, the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church. (Apologeticus, L.13)
It is shown throughout biblical history that if God’s people use dark times as their moments to corporately cry out to Him, He will listen (see previous blogpost). We as a Nation have refused to do that. Even among believers, there are far too many who just allow the evil to continue: abortion, euthanasia, same sex marriage. The issues against life are sins against God. They are ingrained in evil, and the USA not only tolerates but celebrates the evil. This is an indication of a culture that has turned from God.
Yet although we have a number of societal ills and may be facing a dark time of persecution, the dark time within the soul is a much more pertinent issue to resolve. In contrast to societal woes, in the end there is a personal dilemma and responsibility over which we do have control…something we can address and has real impact. It revolves around the one question we are mandated to pass on to our children, for the sake of their own eternal souls and destiny: Will you turn to God?
Dark times have come in the past, and will come again. What can anyone do? Preparation is wise. We see the need for it today exploited by any number of disaster preparedness companies, or in the response of citizens who hoard toilet paper. But there is a more critical form of preparation. The soul needs to be girded up. Each person needs to solidly connect his soul to Almighty God, then nurture it through prayer and the sacraments. Once we address our personal darkness, we can then address the evils of society with divine purpose, following the examples of prophets of old and standing with God on what matters. We can be voices that cry out in the wilderness of the 21st Century to a world that has forgotten God.
There may or may not be a dark, dark time coming soon. If so, it likely will come in the form of persecution for our faith, which is what Jesus foretold. But by preparing ourselves individually, when the inevitable comes (whether temporal dark times or our own personal demise) we will be prepared in the way that truly matters. Then perhaps through our example and efforts, society can find its way back to light from the current darkness.