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home : features : people of faith

4/23/2015 9:00:00 AM
SEMINARIAN'S DIARY
Fight the culture
BY MATTHEW HOULE


This Easter season has been one of mixed emotions. The long, barren desert of Lent is supposed to culminate in the joyous and glorious celebration of Easter -- but, while I celebrate Christ's resurrection and triumph over sin and death, I cannot forget that so many Christians around the world are still feeling the pain of the crucifixion.

In other parts of the world, Christians are being persecuted. They are being driven from their homes, arrested, tortured and murdered for no other reason than the fact that they are Christian. Despite the extreme suffering and injustice, this modern-day Christian Holocaust doesn't seem to get as much play in the media as it deserves.

As Christians are slaughtered abroad, Christian morality and values are being assaulted at home. Today, in our own culture, Christians are bullied, insulted, mocked, marginalized and portrayed as hateful bigots for simply believing in God's love and morality and acting accordingly.

For a long time, western culture has been forced into a secularized, politically correct, hedonistic culture of excess where pursuit of pleasure and unlimited personal freedom are raised to the highest level. Under the guise of "equality" and "freedom," a lifestyle of sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, materialism, disrespect and selfishness has been sold to young and old alike by some of the most powerful and influential people and institutions.

At the same time, truth, morality, wisdom, beauty and love -- in other words, God Himself -- have been pushed aside.

Through all of this, we Christians have failed to evangelize effectively. I know that it seems bleak, but as a seminarian, this is the culture that I see before me and will hopefully one day enter as a priest. And I am hopeful. I believe that Christ's love is the answer to conquering the culture of death and building the culture of life.

After Easter, the Apostles went into hiding out of fear. Jesus had just been brutally tortured and killed by those in positions of power over the political and cultural scene. They were afraid and confused and not sure what, exactly, they were supposed to do.

We find ourselves in this same position today: We Christians remain in hiding. But Christ called us to evangelize the world in all times and all places. This applies no less to our current situation. The Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles and gave them the seven gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord, which allowed them to evangelize.

The Holy Spirit remains with us today, and we must step out from that place of hiding and follow Him. We must bring God's love to those who feel most marginalized: the poor, the lonely, the sick, people with disabilities, those with mental and emotional illnesses, homosexuals and all who feel bullied and unloved.

The problem is our culture's distorted notion of what love is. God is love -- but God doesn't give us everything we want and tell us to do whatever we feel like doing. That may satisfy us in the moment, but will never make us truly happy. God wants what is truly good for each of us, not just what we think will satisfy us.

God loves us more than we can imagine, and people are worth more than what the culture offers. If we look for happiness in fame and fortune, a sexual experience or a drug-induced psychosis, we will be disappointed and left only desiring more. This is the root of addiction.

G. K. Chesterton said, "If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

This is the message that Christians must bring to culture. Remember the words of St. John Paul II: "Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and Alleluia is our song."

(Mr. Houle, a native of St. Mary's parish in Albany, is studying for the priesthood at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore.)





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