Why is the Church Hated and Persecuted?
by Fr. Robert D Smith
Why did the Scribes and Pharisees have Jesus put to death? The world's version of Christ would never have been put to death. A consistent picture of Christ emerges from secular sources, from references to Him in the secular media, from movies about Him. He is presented as having forgiven the adulteress (John 8:1-11), as having delivered a number of the Beatitudes-"Blessed are the poor in spirit,", etc. (Matt.5:3-12), as having said from the Cross, "Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34). They consistently present to us only the mildest Gospel passages they can find, and leave us with the impression that this is the whole picture. And very often, indeed, they pick out some mincing fellow to play the role of Christ.
Even Christ's claim to be God, which the secular media will admit He made, was not the reason He was put to death. It was only the excuse. He was already in court. His enemies already desired His death before they found this pretext. Even the possibility that this Man might become king would have been no real threat to any thinking person, if Christ were as accommodating as He is presented on television. Nor was it His claim to be the Messiah. There were others claiming to be the Messiah at that time who were not put to death.
Why then was the real Christ hated; hated so much that His enemies went to great lengths to have Him put to death? Christ, Himself, told us. He said to His brethren who did not believe in Him that He was not going to the festival in Judea: "It is not yet the right time for Me, whereas the time is always right for you. The world is incapable of hating you, but it does hate Me because of the evidence I bring against it that what it does is evil." (John 7:6-7). And this is what the Gospels are mostly about, what Christ's own message is mostly about: the absolute need for repentance, for holiness. Salvation depends on it. Unholiness leads to damnation. The breaking of any one of the major parts of God's moral law, the Ten Commandments, leads to damnation....to Hell. He spoke about this Hell much more than He did about Heaven! But the secular world ignores all this and tries to get us to do as well, and to live on in this world complacently, not by God's standards, but by the world's.
The world now, as in the time of Christ, tries to pretend that every idea of morality is acceptable to God. And the world now tries to pretend that this was what even Christ Himself was saying. But He was saying something quite different. For instance, in His time, divorce and re-marriage was thought to be unfortunate and to be discouraged. But the pagan Greeks and Romans, and the Jewish religious leaders of the time all told themselves that it was basically permissible. Christ shocked them all by telling them that divorce and re-marriage is not merely unfortunate, not merely something to be avoided, but that it is adultery.(Matt,5:31-32; 19:9). On this and other issues, what the world in general proclaimed tolerable before God, Christ said was not. What the world in general was doing was not good enough for salvation. This has also been the message of the Catholic Church ever since.
Why is the Church hated and persecuted? So many people hate the Church, so many are anti-Catholic in every generation, just as many as hated Christ in His own time. Why? Is it just the result of an historical accident? So many, in fact, who persecute Catholics even claim not to know much about the religion. They do not know what goes on at Mass. Words like "Immaculate Conception" and "Incarnation" are complete mysteries to them. They do not even know what these words refer to. Why, then, the persecution? Why the fear? Because, whatever they do not know about Catholic doctrine, they do know certain things about Catholic morality; that Catholics accept the Third Commandment ("Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day"), the obligation that all people have to worship God frequently, "frequently" defined as at the very least once a week. They know that Catholics accept Christ's teaching that divorce and re-marriage is adultery, against the Sixth Commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery"). Catholics are hated, in short, because of the evidence they bring against the world that what it does is evil. All the rest of the reasons for anti-Catholicism, as with the reasons for the death of Christ, are only a smoke screen. The world today, and the world in general at the time of Christ, and every generation before or since, has consistently tried to convince itself that everything is morally acceptable to God. Christ came with a very different message and was put to death for it. The Church has followed in His footsteps.
Whenever we see a picture of Christ with the crown of thorns on His head; of
Christ carrying His cross, we are not only looking at an individual who lived two thousand
years ago. We are looking at a picture that is recreated in every generation. The Church,
the assembly of the faithful, is called the Body of Christ. We all, in a sense, do form
Christ in every generation. This is not just a positive spiritual thought; it has its negative
elements as well. The Body of Christ is always hated and persecuted in every generation. When we see a picture of Christ on that first Good Friday, we are also looking at a
picture of the Church in every generation since.
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