Prayers this week:
If you, O Lord, laid bare our guilt, who could endure it? But you are forgiving, God of Israel. (Ps. 129:3-4) Lord, our help and guide, make your love the foundation of our lives. May our love for You express itself in our eagerness to do good for others. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Bishop and Martyr
Born in Syria, Ignatius converted to Christianity and eventually became bishop of Antioch. In the year 107, Emperor Trajan visited Antioch and forced the Christians there to choose between death and apostasy. Ignatius would not deny Christ and thus was condemned to be put to death in Rome. Ignatius is well known for the seven letters he wrote on the long journey from Antioch to Rome. Five of these letters are to Churches in Asia Minor; they urge the Christians there to remain faithful to God and to obey their superiors. He warns them against heretical doctrines, providing them with the solid truths of the Christian faith. The sixth letter was to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who was later martyred for the faith. The final letter begs the Christians in Rome not to try to stop his martyrdom. "The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ." Ignatius bravely met the lions in the Circus Maximus. "I greet you from Smyrna together with the Churches of God present here with me. They comfort me in every way, both in body and in soul. My chains, which I carry about on me for Jesus Christ, begging that I may happily make my way to God, exhort you: persevere in your concord and in your community prayers" (Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to the Church at Tralles).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke (12.8-12)
Jesus said, "I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns Me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."
(Homily by Fr. E.J. Tyler)
Alexis de Tocqueville in his Democracy in America (1835 and 1840) wrote of the tendency for the majority of a democracy to provide opinions to individuals who then feel freed from the necessity to formulate their own. One instance of this is the influence of the democratic press and mass media. While often being a manifestation of the culture and the view of the majority, the media forms the opinions of the mass of individuals who too often take little trouble to assess what they read or hear. One result of this can be the lack of true argument in social discourse. For example, in response to a question by a journalist during his flight to Africa in 2009, the Pope, observed that condoms are not the true way to deal with the scourge of AIDS. In fact, it sets the problem back. The Western media and European government officials erupted. There was no space for true argument. The few experts in the field vainly tried to counter the prevailing clamour by presenting the statistical facts which greatly support the Pope. The very successful papal visit to Africa proceeded, Africans supported him, demographic experts gradually made their views known, and for those following the argument carefully the Pope was quietly vindicated. But what was been lacking was the opportunity for true argument. Now this is vitally important for the modern democracy. But - and this is most important - if there is to be true argument and an advance in the standard of national conversation, the argument must bring forward and revolve around first principles. A democracy above all else ought be a regime in which the first principles of life and thought are able to be argued out in freedom and respect. These first principles are the starting points, the fundamental positions, from which flow the opinions of individuals and communities. One widely held first principle which in the West emerged from the Enlightenment is that life and the world runs on its own terms. It is a weakness to depend on God. What is real is what is to be seen and empirically verified. This is assumed, and the assumption has practical results. Other assumptions could be mentioned, but the point I am making here is that a society depends for its health on public conversation involving argument. The argument must be characterised by civility and it ought be argument that involves the discussion of first principles. This brings us to our Gospel passage today. Our Lord in effect speaks of the contribution which the Christian should make to the public conversation among men and in society. Indeed, the Christian is absolutely obliged for love of Christ Himself and for love of his fellow man to engage in the argument and to strive to do so at the level of first principles. The first principle of the Christian which he considers to be the first principle of life and the world, is the person and status of Christ. Christ is the linchpin of the world and the source of its true life. Without Him man dies an ultimate death. It is of critical importance for the world that it hear the argument for this, and it is the Christian alone who can initiate and sustain the conversation. Let us consider Christ’s words. “I tell you, whoever acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns Me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” The disciple of Christ is bound to acknowledge before men the person and mission and teaching of Jesus Christ. If he does not, Christ will not acknowledge him before the angels in heaven. The world depends on this acknowledgement. A second thing is revealed by Jesus Christ, and it is that the world will not be ready to discuss it. It is predisposed against the subject. In fact, it will make life difficult for those who argue for, and live by, the basic principle that Jesus Christ is Lord - indeed, Lord of lords and King of kings, the one who has all authority in heaven and on earth. But the aid of God is promised to the disciple who bears this witness. So it is that our Lord continues, “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say” (Luke 12: 8-12).Let the Christian regard himself as an agent of change. Let him readily engage with his times. Let him enter into it and be part of the tide, endeavouring to change its course. While he does in a sense act alone, as a guerrilla, we might say, he is not really alone. He is a member of Christ’s Church and all his fellows in belief are living and acting in Christ the head. Thus society can be changed in accord with the true first principles. But the argument - ever civil - must be sustained. The conversation must not be allowed to fall silent, for evil flourishes when good people say and do nothing. In our hearts we must ever be shouting, may Jesus Christ reign!