Today’s Liturgy of the Hours, like much of the liturgy throughout lent, seems tailor-made for applying the rising attack on Christianity by the forces of atheism, secularism, and recently, the United States government. With these psalms, we can complain and state our problem to God:
Lord, why do you stand far off and hide yourself in time of distress?…for the wicked man boasts of his heart’s desires…in his pride the wicked says: “he will not punish. There is no God.” such are his thoughts…mischief and deceit under his tongue, he lies in wait among the reeds; the innocent he murders in secret. (Office of Readings)
How long shall my enemy prevail? Look at me, answer me, Lord God! (Daytime Prayer)
Yet at the same time the psalms help us keep things in perspective, remember that God is always with us, and that we must trust and rejoice in all circumstances:
But you have seen the trouble and sorrow, you note it, you take it in hand…it is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care and protect us for ever from this generation. (Office of Readings)
In the land of my exile I will praise him and show his power and majesty to a sinful generation.
Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield.(Morning Prayer)
Finally, Evening Prayer points us in the direction of hope and ultimate victory:
God singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong. He chose the world’s lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing to reduce to nothing those who were something, so that mankind can do no boasting before God.
That being said, are we American Catholics just being a bunch of drama queens, posing as persecuted victims where no persecution exists?
Well, yes and no. It’s true that Christians in northern Sudan, China, Egypt, parts of India, and much of the Muslim-controlled world would just love to have our little problems. It’s true that, at the moment, no one is being arrested or imprisoned. We’re only at the stage of being threatened and insulted. And yes, we should be fighting back with all the spiritual and legal weapons we can, so that threats and insults don’t turn into arrests and imprisonment anytime soon. Otherwise, in a year or so, we’ll be reading the psalms of complaint quoted above with a whole lot more feeling than we can possibly muster up now.
Right now, Canadian pastors who read out loud what the Bible and the catechism state about homosexuality get into a lot of trouble. And the British governent wants to allow employers to fire people who wear a cross necklace at work. In our country, military chaplains are now, um, permitted to officiate at same sex “weddings”, and one wonders how soon the permission will turn into an order. Now, with the healthcare mandate and our president’s pointed talk of ‘freedom of worship” rather than religion, we’re not exactly imagining those dark clouds over there on the horizon.
Please pray that the Supreme Court gets it right this week, striking down the healthcare mandate that will be a vehicle of persecution. Pray that our enemies become tongue-tied and confused in their arguments. That our friends before the court are effortlessly given all the words they need to say.
At the same time, remember how the apostles rejoiced at being worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus, and get ready for the possibility such rejoicing ourselves.
I was talking to a priest this morning, who says he can easily imagine the day coming when the government tries to force him to perform a same sex “wedding”: “Hey, I’ll just go to jail, ’cause it’s not happening. I figure jails have food, beds, television, and fitness rooms. That’s everything I need….and Christ will be there, too.”
Father has the right idea, don’t you think?