Let Them Bark as Much as They Wish, for My Heart Looks to Jerusalem
The Confessions of St. Augustine (Week 13 of 15)
For those who deny these things, let them bark as much as they wish, make only a din for themselves. I will attempt to persuade them, so that they may become quiet and leave open a way into themselves for your Word. But if they refuse and repel me, I beseech you, my God, “do not be silent to me.” Speak in my heart, with truth, for you alone speak thus. I will leave them outside, blowing into the dust and raising up dirt into their own eyes. I will enter into my chamber and there I will sing songs of love to you, groaning with unspeakable groanings on my pilgrimage, and remembering Jerusalem, with heart lifted up towards it, Jerusalem my country, Jerusalem my mother, and you who over her are ruler, enlightener, father, guardian, spouse, pure and strong delight, solid joy, all good things ineffable, all possessed at once, because you are the one and the true good. – The Confessions of Saint Augustine (Book 12, Chapter 16, Paragraph 1)
Let Them Bark as Much as They Want, for My Heart Looks to Jerusalem
There has been a growing tendency among Christians to promote Corinthians 13:4-8 (You know, “Love is patient, love is kind…”) and Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that you be not judged.”). And that’s pretty much the extent of the Christian message these days. No cross. No death. No Resurrection. And ultimately…no crown. Just sort of live out our lives in this world, loving everyone, accepting everything, going with the flow, while stepping aside for our Sunday obligation.
But this message would not be recognizable to a first century Christian. Instead, it sounds more like talking points from a politically correct, anti-Christian culture. As 21st Century Christians, we seem to have set aside the majority of the gospel in the interest of social harmony.
But Christ did not intend for us to just “get along” and “go with the flow.” Instead, He admonished those who followed Him, saying:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34).
That message hasn’t changed, as Christ clearly knows that harmony isn’t going to take us where He wants us to go!
According to a Pew Research Report, as of May 2015, just over 70% of Americans claim to be Christians. This number is down from 78% in 2007. When you break believers into age brackets, the numbers are even more startling. 86% of adults born 1928-1945 call themselves Christians, while only 56% of younger Millennials identify with the term.
What did we expect? For quite a while now, Christians have been enduring an all-out assault on our way of life. As I turn on my TV or listen to the news, it is evident that we in the throes of a tumultuous culture war. And without a doubt, we are losing.
According to Bishop Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska:
America today is becoming what I would call an atheocracy – a society that is actively hostile to religious faith and religious beliefs. And, I might add, the faith that our society is most hostile toward is Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular.
How is it possible that 70% of the people in this country are being shut down by the other 30%?
As we send our children to school and out into the world, we are immersing them in a culture that does not support our values. When we turn on our television, allow them to participate in any form of social media, we are immersing them in a culture that does not support our values. When we allow them to see movies, at the theater or in our homes on Amazon or Netflix, we are immersing them in a culture that does not support our values.
With three teens in our home, we’ve been dealing with this reality for a while now.
Recently it occurred to me that if over 70% of Americans claim to be Christians, and yet the culture continues to deteriorate, then clearly the 70% are not living as Christians. Otherwise, a mere 30% of the population could not even begin to drown us out.
Is it possible that we’ve watered down the Gospel because we’ve been lured into playing their game? The game of materialists? Of secularists? Of atheists? Have we, as Christians, been trying so hard to get along or get ahead in this world, that we’ve forgotten about the world to come?
And I’m not pointing fingers, referring to other Christians who practice a Cafeteria-style faith, while we devout Christians sit in our nice little prayer circles, praying and fasting for all those sinners around us. I’m talking about you. I’m talking about me. Those of us who openly (and perhaps a little too proudly) declare our devotion to Christ (in some areas of life). Maybe we attend daily Mass. Maybe we even pray the Rosary daily. Some of us might pray at abortion clinics. Or volunteer at our local outreach center. Perhaps we even moderate or participate in a spiritual reading book club.
The question is, what are we doing with the rest of our time? Are we living for the almighty dollar? Are we making sports a top priority in our home by playing vicariously through our kids? Running our families so ragged that there’s no time for Christian family life? Are we listening to music and watching shows that do anything but glorify God or do we use language that would make a sailor blush?
What we do with our time says a lot about our priorities. Are we living as true disciples of Christ? Or are we so busy trying to make a name for ourselves in this world that we are sacrificing the next?
Christ has promised us that if we stand tall and stand firm, He will remember us in His Kingdom.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” – Matthew 10:16-22
We must wake up and stand firm, America! We have lost more than 5,000,000 soldiers to the “other side” in seven years, and that number continues to grow.
While I would never hold them up as a role model, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from the influence of ISIS in the world. Apparently, their ranks are growing and they have been particularly successful at attracting the young. The powers that be have concluded that their allure has something to do with economic opportunities. Of course, that’s their conclusion. Materialism has but one answer to every problem: more materialism.
But could it be that the young are realizing that materialism is not what they were made for? Could it be that this shallow temporal world in which they immerse themselves is not fulfilling? Perhaps they know deep down that they were made for much more. And perhaps, left to their own devices the uninformed would rather be drawn to unfettered evil than be satisfied with the status quo.
Perhaps ISIS and other terrorist organizations would cease to exist if Christians would preach Christ Crucified rather than Kumbaya.
If every Christian lived the life of Christ with passion and zeal, isn’t it possible that there would be a monumental shift in the state of our country? And even the world? What if we set our hearts toward Jerusalem? What if we realized that this world is not our home and lived accordingly? What if we were filled with passion for our homeland and sought only God’s kingdom? Would not His Kingdom “come” on earth, as it is in heaven? Then, let them bark as much as they wish, for their din could not possibly be heard above our symphony of voices as we carry our crosses and sing praise to Our Lord.
NOTE: We have only two weeks left of Confessions! Beginning September 8, we plan to give our brains a little break to cool down after the fabulous workout they’ve received over the past several weeks. Our break will last through September, as fall schedules swing into high gear (Don’t forget to take time for prayer and spiritual reading!), and then we will gather together again beginning October 6 to begin our next adventure: Finding God Through Meditation by St. Peter of Alcántara. This timeless book was edited by our own Dan Burke.
Book 13: Chapter 1-20
1. Do you struggle with things that make you feel like you are not only in the world but of it? What do you do to get back on track?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
For More Information on the Book Club: http://spiritualdirection.com/csd-book-club
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