49 parishioners and 3 priests were martyred in Baghdad, Iraq last night.
Five of the attackers are dead and are before God right now discovering the depth of their error and presumption. Eight more will hopefully languish in a jail for a great deal of time, and one day might discover the same before they leave this world and no longer have the opportunity to repent.
Did the attackers know it was the vigil of all Saints? probably not. Well we now have 52 more saints in heaven.
It was a deliberate act to destroy Christianity in Iraq and hurt Christians around the world. My instant reaction hundreds of miles away was anger and disgust. The only consolation is that the victims are in heaven and the attackers will meet the perfect justice of God.
I am reminded of an episode of Babylon 5, where the Vorlon’s (an ancient alien race) use Jack the Ripper as an inquisitor (they keep him in stasis till they need him). The far more perfect punishment for his crimes was to keep him alive and show him the depths of his evil for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Perhaps that is what those dead militants are discovering now, at least some of whom were wearing suicide belts/vests. What a punishment it would be to know you threw your life away for nothing, you senselessly murdered your fellow human beings, you attacked God’s body on earth the Church and have been used as a tool by the devil. I don’t know whether they will go to heaven or hell, but imagine the massive agonising grief of that moment of revelation.
That is God’s justice, and maybe if in that moment of realisation they can begin to reject all the indoctrination, brainwashing, ideology and hatred they have been fed and ultimately assented to, maybe God could decide to have mercy on them and give them a long stint in purgatory to make amends? what a perfect victory that would be over evil.
Maybe even after having been shown the depths of the horror of what they have done, they might still retreat into pride in their actions and reject God and would rather be damned than admit their grievous fault?
Maybe they had numerous chances to repent in this life and rejected every one and only now that it is too late do they see how wrong they were and will have to spend eternity in regret separated from God by a great chasm? God only knows.
On a different note I hope the Vatican is counting the number of martyrs in Iraq, do they have a feast day like we do for their martyrs? because unfortunately the number is going up quite rapidly.
I also hope that Islamic leaders in Iraq condemn this attack, only then will we find out if Islam has any claim to be a religion of peace. Christians in the west should sit up and take note, the toleration we afford Muslims in our lands is not being reciprocated to Christians in Islamic countries and we should realise which way our bread is buttered. Even supposedly secular countries like Egypt have a grim record of persecuting Christians, never mind Islamic states.
The Iraq war was a mistake of epic proportions, and isn’t it depressingly predictable how war almost always attacks the Church first and foremost. Saddam Hussain was far too evil to give a damn about religion. Going to the gallows clutching a Koran fooled nobody, but at least under him, so long as he didn’t suspect you opposed him, Christians were relatively speaking left alone.
It reminds me of revelation 6, the four horses of the apocalypse, Conquest followed by Murder followed by Famine followed by Death and hell followed with him. What an accurate description of the consequences of war.
I don’t know how to cheer people up after this kind of news.
The book of Revelation does however, revelation 7 shows how even amidst the apocalypse not one of God’s people will be lost, they will be sheltered in Gods presence for all eternity, there will be no more hunger or thirst, the sun will not scorch them and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
As I was reading this grim news today it struck me that we should be ready for martyrdom, and not just the kind suffered by our Iraqi brothers and sisters, but the slow and drawn out martyrdom thrown at us by secular society.
Catholic moral theology states, basically, that it is the thought that counts. It is mortal sin to hate someone, even if you do not attack them you are committing acts of violence and even murder in your mind.
Likewise, when people persecute Christians with words, despise Catholicism and shower us with abuse, it is the thought that counts. By choosing to stand tall and accept all the world throws at us we take a small share in that complete martyrdom of those who have paid the ultimate price for professing their faith in Christ Jesus, and us with them unite ourselves with the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the world.
This study of evil, brings me to the topic of all hallows eve, which has become in the west, a lighthearted mockery of morality, a celebration of evil, rather than a vigil of all Saints. Halloween has the lighthearted scoffing of sweets and watching horror movies at one end of the spectrum, and witchcraft, paganism, druidism, occultism and even full blown satanism at the other.
There is nothing wrong with sweets in moderation, and horror movies often have a moral logic to them and show that evil is in fact scary rather than the delicious delights that the devil often whispers in our ears.
We do need to understand the reality of evil in the world if we are to avoid being confounded by it, we also need to know where it comes from. There are some priests who don’t believe the devil exists, and if you don’t understand that reality then the spiritual warfare element of the faith is lost.
The Devil is an unfortunate reality and we must be wary of the sound of his voice, which can go from the cunning seduction of the father of lies, to the limitless rage and hatred of mankind of the prince of darkness from one second to the next if it suits his purpose.
Thankfully most of the new age “religions” were invented in the 1960’s and are an utter load of tosh, but when people start dabbling in them they may eventually get drawn towards the darker side of things, which have been around since time began.
People should not forget that virtually the only thing we know historically about the druids is that they were into human sacrifice in a big way, so much so it disgusted the Romans who were more than a little partial to bloodletting themselves. Surely the warning bells should start a-ringing before you start frivolously tinkering with something like that.
The Catholic response to evil is a personal one, a call to repentance, as Brother Lawrence Lew OP said in his sermon for all Saints “the path to holiness begins with this first step – the admission of our sins, and of our need for God’s transforming grace.”
Contrary to popular opinion I don’t believe in the stereotypical Catholic guilt, if anything I think the Catholic Church’s theology gives people a lot of benefit of the doubt, I know I should probably seek the sacrament of confession more than I do. Perhaps I don’t feel guilty enough?
1 John chapter 3 spells it out though. We are God’s children because of his love for us, thus we look forward to seeing God face to face because it will transform us into his likeness. It is this hope that begins the process of purifying us in this lifetime. (that is my reading of what the text means not the actual text)
It was one of the unfortunate accidents of the reformation, the faith vs works argument about the nature of salvation… when actually shock horror, Catholics do believe it is by faith alone that we are saved.
Well technically I’d say it is by grace alone we are saved but faith is the necessary co-operation with that grace. If our good works are done without faith they are worthless. If we say to ourselves we have faith, but don’t let it change our lives in any way, then that faith is none-existent, but still it is the faith that saves us, not the good works.
To go even further Catholicism is even more about being saved by grace alone, because our religion has 7 sacraments where grace is poured out on us in abundance on the pious and the sinner alike (which is usually one and the same person as likely as not)
If you really want to see people who believe they are saved by works then I think the best place to start looking is often evangelical/pentecostal Christianity, the belief that people must suddenly become sinless, must suddenly convert every non christian around them, or must show they have the gifts of the spirit in order to be sure of their salvation.
They do not have the constant reassurance of the ongoing process of salvation that is given to Catholics through the sacraments. So often evangelicals can feel very insecure about whether God is working in their lives. If you don’t feel like you are being saved, how can you still know you are being saved without sacraments?
This is why evangelical services often resort to inducing an emotional high in their congregations through manipulative music, sermons and prayer sessions, which gradually fades during the week, till next sunday when everyone goes back for their next fix. This is salvation by feeling saved, salvation by happiness, which next logical step eventually leads to prosperity gospel.
This is what worried me about worship songs that constantly and repetitively go on about being saved by Jesus, first there is potential for the sin of presumption, but the second and more worrying possibility is that these songs are repetitive precisely because the congregation can’t be entirely sure about how or whether or not they are in fact being saved? are they a member of the elect or not? it comes back to Calvinism. Perhaps I’ve said this before in a previous post…
Anyway, I’m drifting off the point. In fact I’m not sure this post even had one particular point. I guess, in retrospect the themes are perseverance in the face of adversity even unto martyrdom, to see evil in the world and within yourself for what it is and resist it and to avail yourself of the means God has given the Church of salvation, the sacraments, as often as you can.
Wow update, I think that was my longest post yet so many apologies for verbosity!