Grace to you and Happy Easter!
History has a lot to teach us. Knowledge of history can inspire and empower us for greater things.
Take for instance the history of the Church. Reading from the Acts of the Apostles to the very recent history of the Church in our contemporary world, we have so many things to learn.
Reviewing Church history, I made some discoveries. One has to do with a pattern, which I believe is significant.
The 2000 plus years of the Church may be grouped into two non-chronological phases that follow a pattern. There are phases of great spiritual growth and evangelization when the Church suffered great persecutions from the outside world and was not dining with those who wielded political powers. Examples abound from the early Church, to the Roman persecutions, from Emperor Nero to Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, Galerius, the medieval period, as well as the renaissance.
Persecutions, trials and sufferings bring the best out of the Church, proving what Jesus said, “If you want to be my follower, take up your cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
In contrast, review the history of the Church throughout the times she was dining and wining with those in power or those periods the Church wanted to be like the world. She became so comfortable as to lose being the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).
A recent example is the grave evils of the sexual scandals, which are traced to the sixties running through to the early 90s. The Church was so comfortable that some ministers lost sight of their calling. Comfort devoid of sacrifice is the seed of Church decay, and the weak become the victims. Though the Lord Jesus has promised the gates of the netherworld will not overcome the Church, many souls could be lost because of scandals.
A persecuted Church is a thriving Church. This isn’t simply my idea. It is the wisdom of the Church. Recall the famous quotation of a second century Church father from Africa, Tertullian; “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
A line in Acts 8 describes how persecution leads to spreading of the gospel: “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). The persecution of the early Church endorsed by Saul led to the spread of the Gospel to far distant lands.
Many times people ask: How can we lead a more proactive approach to evangelization? Begin denying yourself, be ready to suffer, go beyond your comfort zone—serve, and be ready to endure oppositions. Doing so equips us to bring the Good News to people who are settled in their own ways of life.
Remember, this doesn’t mean we have to force our opinion on others. That would be the opposite of true evangelization. It means we profess and propose what truths we hold dear. The world forces its will, not the Christian. Believers, though bold are equally gentle, wise as an owl, and innocent as a dove.
May the true spirit of evangelization, not deterred by suffering, inspire us today. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Easter Week 3: Act 8:1b-8; Jn 6:35-40]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.