Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thinking of Getting a Tattoo

The humility that gives way to what has been found and does not try to manipulate it should not, however, become a false modesty that takes away our courage to recognize the truth. All the more must it oppose the pursuit of power, which is only interested in dominating the world and is no longer willing to perceive its inner logic, which sets limits to our desire to dominate.”
Truth and Tolerance, 159
Reflection – This passage follows directly upon yesterday’s, regarding the call to live in truth, to have truth and not our desires and whims be the guiding force in our work and lives.
Here, Ratzinger clarifies that this commitment to truth is meant to be a bold one. We are not to be all wussy about it: ‘well, I don’t know, and maybe it is, and let’s wait and see, and I’m not sure, and….’ Blah, blah, blah. Pussyfooting around.
No, we are a prophetic people. When we apprehend the truth, we are to fearlessly and faithfully proclaim it and bear the burden Christ bore, of opposition, ridicule, persecution and even martyrdom, if that’s where our witness to truth takes us.
This is so utterly crucial today. In Egypt, Christian babies are often tattooed with a cross on their wrist, so they cannot be kidnapped by their Muslim neighbors. This means that a Christian in Egypt goes through life with the mark of Truth displayed for all to see, even though this causes them great suffering and loss. They know what it means to bear witness to the truth of Christ in face of persecution… and the Coptic Church of Egypt is vibrant and growing, even as it faces intensifying attacks.
What about us? Where is our ‘tattoo’? Governments in the Western world are increasingly compelling Catholic and Christian institutions to provide services that contradict our basic religious beliefs as they apply to human life and sexuality: contraception, abortion, adoption to same sex couples. It is increasingly becoming dangerous, or at the very least extremely unpleasant, to simply speak the truth about the moral law as we believe it has been revealed to us by God.
For example, homosexual intercourse is gravely evil. Same sex marriage is a contradiction in terms. Human life begins at conception, and any action taken to end a human life is gravely evil. Assisted reproduction techniques which separate the marital embrace from the act of conception are gravely evil. The use of contraceptive devices or medications is gravely evil.
So there. Come and get me, you who wish to force Christians to shut up about these matters. You’ll never take me alive, coppers!!! Top of the world, ma!.. Oh sorry, started channeling Jimmy Cagney gangster movies there for a minute…
But in all seriousness, Christians have lost their jobs recently for simply saying some of the things I just said, even in private conversations. In a way, it’s easy for me: I’m a Catholic priest, and I don’t think I’m going to get fired for expressing Catholic moral teaching on a blog post. I realize this, that I have a somewhat privileged place, at least at this time. It may not always be so easy…
But it’s not so easy, I do realize, even now for Christians in the work place and the secular world to do this. So we need to remember those brave Egyptian Copts and their tattoos. Where the Church is persecuted, the Church grows strong and vibrant. When the world turns on us, heaven turns towards us. The blood of martyrs is the seed bed of faith. And we’ve had some significant ‘crop failures’ of faith in the past century or so in the Western world.
Truth, and the passionate proclamation of it, the fierce commitment to it, the willingness to bear any burden, pay any price, suffer any resistance—this is our prophetic mission as Catholic Christians in the coming year 2012. Let us pray for one another, for all those who are particularly in the crucible right now, and for the grace to do what we need to do so that Christ be proclaimed to the world until he comes in glory.

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