FRIDAY HOMILY: Remaining Faithful in a Culture of Death
making the British Olympic team.
The son of missionaries to China, Eric also had prepared for this same work and was expected to return to the mission field. His time overseas was delayed, however, by his amazing feats in track and field. In this one scene from the movie, his sister, Jennie, was objecting to his involvement in sports and challenging him to remember his call to missions.
His response was priceless. Recalling it in my words, he said, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure."
3. He expressed fortitude
Another aspect that was exhibited in the life of John the Baptist was fortitude. Fortitude is defined having strength as well as endurance in a difficult situation.
St. Thomas Aquinas says that this virtue basically can be witnessed in two types of acts. First, we exhibit fortitude when we do good without faltering even if there are trials and troubles. We also display this virtue when we resist evil without becoming downhearted.
With the Baptist we see both.
We may not be called upon to offer up our lives as a martyr for the truth, but all of us are called to be steadfast about our faith in the midst of trials.
Over the last several days we have celebrated the feasts of several martyrs. Two women, Saints Agatha and Cecilia both offered up their lives during times of persecution in the early Church rather than abandon their faith.
Legend has it that Agatha was imprisoned by one of her suitors, who was angry that she was committed to remaining a virgin for the Lord. He had her placed in a brothel in order for her virtue to be compromised. She remained steadfast.
Cecilia converted many souls to Christ and was condemned to death for her faithful ministry. They were unsuccessful at suffocating her in a steam bath and even beheading her. After three attempts, she finally bled to death after three days.
St. Paul Miki and companions, another recent feast, remembers the fortitude of missionaries to Japan and Japanese Christians during a time of persecution at the end of the 16th century. These steadfast martyrs were marched 600 miles to the place of their execution where they were crucified. All the while they cried out in pray and encouragement to those watching, that they should become Christians. They also forgave their captors.
It doesn't take martyrdom, however, to build the virtue of fortitude. Like all other virtues, it can be build up in us.
It can come by exercising our ministry for Christ during times of inconvenience or controversy. It can also come as we remain strong and steadfast during times of testing.
Many years ago while serving as a bishop in the one of the Anglican jurisdictions, I was holding a seminar for clergy in the Philippines on one of the middle islands. A young priest was present who had walked a long way to get there, taking almost an entire day hiking the volcanic mountains to get there. He told me that his father had just died, but on his deathbed made his son promise he would still attend the clergy training.
After his father passed away, he did just that, taking to the trails for the long trek to the city where we were staying. I was so taken back by this young man's fortitude, convicted of the times when I complained about being inconvenienced in ministry.
As I said at the beginning, this section of Scripture is not particularly joyful or uplifting in the traditional sense. It does, however, challenge us to live our lives to the fullest for Christ no matter what.
Almost 2,000 years later no one thinks of Herod any longer yet John the Baptist's legacy remains strong and vital. His life, although it was cut short, counted for something. He was the voice crying in the wilderness. As the forerunner of Christ, he opened the way and the work of the savior began.
When I lived in Michigan many years ago, I met a man named Jim Vander Horst who had opened a series of fast food restaurants called Chicken Coop. He and his wife were very committed to Christ. Every bag of chicken that left their restaurants had a phrase printed at the top, reminding customers of their potential place in the Kingdom of God. The phrase was, "Only one life twill soon be past, only what's done for Christ will last."
Father Randy Sly is the Associate Editor of Catholic Online and a priest with the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (http://usordinariate.org) established by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, through the Apostolic Constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus." He is currently the chaplain of the St. John Fisher Ordinariate Community, a priest in residence at Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church and Director of Pro-Life Activities for the Ordinariate.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: John the Baptist, Vocation, Fortitude, faithfulness, Truth, legacy
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