Christians wield a different kind of strength
May 14, 2020
In the first centuries of Christianity, the church suffered continual persecution as both the Jewish and Roman authorities tried to suppress the preaching of the apostles and the very name of Jesus Christ.
In the fourth century, after Constantine erected Christianity as the official religion of the empire, the church often enjoyed both the assistance and the protection of the state. As the centuries wore on, however, this marriage of church and state proved strained at best.
As the powers of the world sought to use the influence of religion for their own benefit, so too the church’s ministers often grasped for authority over the things of the world. Again and again, political ideologies paved the way for opposing philosophical and theological visions to germinate, and the church’s unity suffered schism after schism.
The temptation always is to put our hope in the powers of the world, be they political, social, technological, economic or military. But the history of the church has proven that the powers of the world will always seduce and betray.
Jesus promised, however, to give us a different kind of power, a power that the world neither understands nor accepts: the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:17). The power of the Spirit cannot be grasped by the world because the Holy Spirit’s power is rooted in love. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, is the very communion of love that flows from and binds together the Father and the Son in their unbreakable unity. It is that same Spirit that binds us to Christ our Head and to each other as members of his body.
In his first letter, St. Peter urges us to “be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks (us) for a reason for (our) hope” (3:15). When Christians are rooted firmly in the love of God, nothing can shake us. Our strength is unconquerable. This is the strength that gave the martyrs their victory. This is the strength that bound virgins to their Divine Spouse. This is the strength that gave all the saints their ability to overcome every temptation. This is the strength that liberates us from the futility, worry and fear of the world!
How important then for us to be able to share that witness with those we encounter. In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that Philip’s success in preaching the Gospel was rooted in his simple witness to Jesus Christ. Not only did he proclaim Jesus to the people he met, but also he transformed the world around him, making it a place of healing, peace and freedom (Acts 8:5-8). He did not rely on the power of the world; rather, he transformed it through gentleness and reverence (see 1 Pt 3:16).
By the Spirit’s power, each of us can do likewise. Simple acts of love – especially the meekest and humblest – are most powerful in conquering hearts and transforming the world around us.
Father Jeffery Loseke is pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Gretna.