“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked… but his delight is in the law of the Lord,” is in Psalm 1. Likewise in Jeremiah: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man… Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:5ff). And Jesus tells the disciples something similar in Luke’s Gospel: “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! … Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets” (Luke 6:17ff).
These verses set up a contrast between the way of the fallen world and the way of God, the way of the one who follows the world’s “wisdom” and the way of the one who follows God’s wisdom, the way of the people of the world and the way of the people of God. The fallen world praises false prophets, while it persecutes the true people of God. However, the people of God are blessed by Him, while He despises those who speak ill of His people.
This split between the ways of the world and the ways of God began with the Fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Ever since then, the world has been divided between those who look to God’s salvation through Christ and those who despise this promise of God. Adam and Eve’s son Seth believed, while Cain did not. Noah and his family believed, but most in their own time as well as most of their descendants did not. Down to our own day, we have those who “delight in the law of the Lord” and those who “walk in the counsel of the wicked.” And as Jesus points out, those who reject the Lord and His law are often praised most by the world, precisely because the world has rejected God itself. They also often happen to be the loudest voices around us.
Murder, euthanasia, abortion – these come from a world that has rejected God. Life, grace, and mercy – these come from God and radiate through His people. God demonstrated a self-sacrificial love for us in coming in the flesh to be crucified for us to save us from eternal death and from separation from Him and each other; that sort of self-sacrificial love is what we are called to show to others.
The Apostles demonstrated this type of love. Paul traveled throughout the Mediterranean to preach Christ crucified and risen to people so that they too may share in God’s love. Peter did as well, even fulfilling his God-given vocation as “Simon bar Jonah” – “Simon, son of Jonah” – going to the Gentiles from Joppa to proclaim him who was three days and nights in the earth, like Jonah who had departed from Joppa before going to Nineveh. Tradition has it that Peter and Paul were both executed by the Roman emperor Nero. The other Apostles also preached Christ throughout the world, enduring beatings and death as a result. St. John was the only to survive to old age, but that was so he could watch over the Virgin Mary, as Jesus instructed him to from the cross; so great was Jesus’ love that in his dying agony he made sure that his mother would be cared for.
The next generation after the Apostles did similar things. And faithful men and women have been doing this throughout the ages, like Polycarp, Justin, Perpetua, Felicity, Agnes, and others – including the 20th century martyrs depicted at Westminster Abbey. They traveled, they preached, they died as witnesses to Christ at the hands of scoffers and revilers. And yet the Church grew, because this sort of self-sacrificial love for others creates life.
So, I ask: would people such as these murder another person out of hate? Would they kill the old among them who were no longer “useful?” Would they kill a baby in the womb because he or she was seen as an “inconvenience?” God forbid! Men and women who sacrificed their time and energy for others and then willingly went to their own deaths so that others might live would never do such a thing. In fact, they wrote and preached against these sins.
It is not empowering to commit these sins, it is not merciful to take life. There is forgiveness, though, for those who have committed these sins. God is merciful, and His Son died at the hands of sinners for their sins, even as they scoffed and ridiculed him as he hung on the cross for them. It can be a difficult thing, though, for someone who feels the pangs of sin – even if they are unable to name the cause – to let themselves receive forgiveness. First, they must acknowledge that they need forgiveness, and making this acknowledgment can itself be very painful emotionally. Then, they must go to the source of all forgiveness: Jesus Christ. This too can be difficult for those who have previously reviled him, because it requires an acceptance of the fact that they were in the wrong. So, an all too common response to the feelings of guilt and sin is to deny what they are and to rage against those who call these things what they are. People flee from God and His Church because the light is too bright for them.
God has warned us that there is a battle waging in this world between darkness and light. We have been called out of the darkness into the light (cf. 1 Peter 2:9ff) and so the darkness desires to overshadow us too. And yet despite whatever evils rage against us, we will be victorious in the end, because our Savior has already been victorious over death, Satan, and evil. And the Church, as Christ’s people and very body, are destined to dwell with him and each other forever, seeing as how he gave himself up for us. So we are called to proclaim Christ to others so that they too may be counted among those who are blessed through trust in the Lord. Amen.
(Image: Way to Calvary. By Duccio di Buoninsegna – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15453163).