This reflection was taken from the Sunday Mass Readings of May 11, 2014:
As it is said in today’s first reading, “If you are patient while you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God.” This is backed up by the last two Beatitudes: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” It means sticking up for what is right, despite the cost to self, and it means accepting God’s eternal will, despite the worldly circumstances.
Sticking up for Jesus can be a tough task; many people will hate us for it, many will become “offended,” and many will think that we are “preaching,” or “intruding on their views.” But who among us, if we saw a friend misrepresented, would not wish to defend them? Would it not be cowardly, to sit by and watch as they were lied about or slandered?
Imagine this “friend” had done a similar favor for us. Say that one of us was being unfairly insulted, or even just misrepresented, and they came and stuck up for us. That would provide a lot of incentive for us to do the same for them.
Jesus suffered His Sorrowful Passion for us; yet, how many of us will just sit by and watch as people lie about Him and insult Him? He would see Himself scourged and crucified so that we could gain eternal inheritance with Him. So many of us would not even see our reputations (in the eyes of our “friends”) ruined to stick up for His integrity. Why?
One reason would be just what I said above–that we’re afraid it will make us “look bad,” or that it will make us be “disliked.” Or perhaps we just think it would be “inconvenient” to defend Him. When we think these ways, we are forgetting at least two things: one, what Jesus went through in order to individually save each and every one of us; and two, the eternal reward to be reaped if we happen to be “persecuted for the sake of righteousness.”
The other reason is more justifiable: we are afraid that we are not knowledgeable enough to stick up for Jesus, that what we say will either get shot down or sound ridiculous. It may be true that, if we lose an argument for Jesus, it will cause others to turn further away from Him and into themselves, as it will make them feel ever more smug and knowledgeable about their opinion. If this is the case–this second fear–then all we must do is seek the truth.
I mean, if a person knows the truth, and they know the arguments supporting the truth, then they really cannot lose a discussion concerning the truth. Truth and reality themselves will back the person up. It just wouldn’t make sense that the greatest arguments supporting something that isn’t true could prevail against arguments supporting something which is true.
This does not mean we should grow complacent. There are some very persuasive arguments in favor of untruths, which explains why so many people are lead astray by them. For example, when we are sticking up for the truth, someone may say to us, “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, so you shouldn’t try to intrude on mine.” How do we refute this?
It may very well be true that everyone is entitled to their “opinion;” but does that mean that everyone’s opinion is right? No–because someone who held the opinion that everyone didn’t have a right to their opinion would be “wrong.” This demonstrates the objectivity of truth–right at the heart of an argument trying to tell us the subjectivity of truth. The speaker is giving their opinion of the concept of opinion, and is trying to objectively (and, in their opinion, truthfully) state the subjectivity of truth.
The thing is, while there can be many opinions on a matter, only one of them is going to be one hundred percent correct. For example, imagine someone was under the impression that three squared equaled six. That would be wrong; three squared equals nine. If the mistaken person were to take a test on this topic, would it be intrusive or misunderstanding to try and help them reach the truth? Of course not; you would be helping them pass a test by righting their wrong. There is little doubt that they would be grateful when the test was over and they had passed it.
How much different is it, then, to correct someone who is spiritually making a mistake? If a person holds a certain “opinion” which has potential to introduce them to eternal fire and despair, then any “friend” in their right mind would try to help them to see their misconception–for that person’s own sake. It is exactly the same as the last example on a much larger scale: different opinions, one truth, one correct path toward success.
We do not stick up for the truth to try and force our opinion on others (which in itself is something we must watch out for, but isn’t the point I’m trying to make here); we are only trying to help them to see things as they really are, to get through this life and into the next with passing grades. For there is only one real, complete, objective truth in existence, and that is God’s.
That’s another mistake people tend to make: when we spread truth, they think that we are merely promoting our own opinions. Again, they are wrong. Unlike them, we are not trying to conform God to our beliefs; rather, we are trying to conform ourselves to God’s truths. It is not our own personal truths which we are trying to spread, but God’s. You know, it’s not like the Lord and His Church just happen to think the same ways we do. The point is that we support the truths He offers us, and that we are (hopefully) willing to sacrifice of ourselves in order to share those truths with others.
Back to the main focus, which I fear I’m beginning to lose: we are sticking up for the principles and integrity of Jesus. Some people have false beliefs regarding those things; some people have no beliefs regarding those things. Therefore–for those people’s sakes–we must stick up for Him and His truths whenever we can. At the same time, we must remember–for our own sakes, as it won’t do much good to those on the opposing side of the argument–that, even if we do not know the arguments needed to defend Jesus, the arguments do indeed exist. If we lose an argument for the Lord, we should merely take it as a lesson in humility, seek to find out the truth for ourselves, and try our best to do better for Him next time. There are always those who have greater wisdom in such matters than us.
“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Mt 25:40). Sticking up for Jesus does not pertain to Jesus alone; it also includes God’s other children, or “brothers.” We must remember what Jesus told us: “Jesus replied, “The first [commandment] is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is God alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mk 12:29-31).
There’s something in particular I remember Mother Angelica saying–I think I’ve mentioned it in a past post, but I’ll mention it again. Apparently someone was complaining that she always talked about the same thing, and that he wanted her to talk about something “different.” She said, essentially, that she always talked about the same thing because there was only one message. That really is an amazing point; for there is only one Jesus, who–as Scott Hahn points out in his book Consuming the Word–really is the Gospel.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter the sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep…I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will come in and go out and find pasture.” Let us not allow ourselves to be snatched out of God’s pasture by the snares of sins and Satan and evildoers; rather, let us always remain in His security, His strength, and His everlasting salvation.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kindgom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.”–Jesus (Mt 7:21).
by Cameron Daly