Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

If the World Hates You...

If the World Hates You…

Jesus said to his disciples: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you do not belong to the world, and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you.  Remember the word I spoke to you, ‘No slave is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  And they will do all these things to you on account of my name, because they do not know the one who sent me.”      (Jn. 15:18-21)
This was the Gospel reading for Saturday’s morning Mass.  I had heard it many times before, but this time it spoke to me very directly.  “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”
As Catholics, we have always been counter-cultural.  We have always had to fight the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil.  But I think that American Catholics are finding ourselves in a somewhat new situation in our attempt to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
This is certainly not the first time we have found ourselves “hated by the world.”  And that can always be a struggle.  It’s nice to be liked; it’s nice to be accepted; and it’s nice to be affirmed.  This temptation has always been a dangerous threat to our mission of evangelization.
But our culture, in many ways, has become what Isaiah warned about: that which calls good evil, and evil good (Is. 5:20).  And this places us in a new position with respect to “the world.”  We are made to feel bad, morally bad, for following Christ.  In times past, we may have been scorned, we may have suffered prejudice, but the values we stood for were generally recognized as a worthy ideal.
Things have changed.  Now, for following Christ, for living the Gospel, we are ridiculed, and accused of being intolerant, old-fashioned or even bigots.  We are told we are judgmental; that we lack compassion.
This can take a toll.  Not only may we be bullied into silence so we don’t have to suffer the insults; not only may we begin to abandon the Gospel in order to assimilate; we may begin to question whether what “the world” says about us is true.
If the culture feels so strongly that our values are bad, could they possibly be right?  Are we a bigoted and uncharitable people?  Hopefully these questions sound ridiculous, because they are.  But it is human nature, after being beaten with the same stick enough times, to begin to wonder whether we deserve it.
It is important for us to examine our own motives and personal behavior, that’s true.  The values we stand for are secure, but we can sometimes defend them with a spirit that does not reflect our Lord.  We should regularly examine the charity with which we fight this battle.  I like to remind myself of the way Louis Martin, the father of the Little Flower was characterized: a man of uncompromising faith and overflowing charity.  Can that honestly be said about me, not by the world, but by Christ?
After that, though, we need not worry about the hatred of the world.  “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.”  If we are constantly being affirmed, we may not have enough backbone.  We are in a battle; we should have some wounds to show for it.  The accusations of the world are of no consequence; I don’t think it’s a coincidence that satan is called “the accuser.”  If we can truly say that we are people of genuine charity, and humility, with a concern for souls and a love of God, we need not let the persecutions we are sure to encounter trouble our consciences.