Memorial of St. Justin, martyr
Christian morality is other-centered: to be self-forgetful, to sacrifice for ourselves, and to serve rather than be served. So it might surprise us that Paul’s tells the clergy at Miletus they must be firstly vigilant over their own lives. Service is, of course, implied. However, just as on an airplane you are told to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping another, so too in spiritual combat you must be strong, “lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).
Paul says this because bad actors will try to take out the leaders of the Church. Does this sound familiar? We do not choose the time in which we will live. Today we are more aware of corruption in our Church. Yet, this is the time the Lord chose for us to be holy, to build up the Kingdom of God, and to exude Easter joy.
Jesus Himself goes further, saying that no matter what time we live in the world will hate His disciples. Again, we should not seek a bunker or long for a golden age. Rather, the Lord intercedes to the Father and sends the Holy Spirit to protect us from evil. If that is true, then we should not allow ourselves to be victims, because nothing precludes us from thriving as Christians.
Does that seem like a contradiction? Maybe. Christianity is full of paradoxes in theology like Christ being both God and man, that His mother can become pregnant while remaining a virgin; Christianity is full of paradoxes in practice like those who vow voluntary poverty and care for the poor, and yet build lavish churches with priceless art. People hate us for our theology and practice. Yet, two things can be true at once: God loves and protects us while the world groans and lashes out at us awaiting redemption. As G.K. Chesterton wrote, we the Church want extreme white and red held in tension, and “The Church has always had a healthy hatred of pink. It hates the combination of two colors which is the feeble expedient of the philosophers.” The Father chose us for our time; Christ has conquered the world; and we must be saints no matter what.
Reflection by Fr. Pachomius Meade, OSB