Monday, May 11, 2009

A Sign of Contradiction, Part Three

The deep aspect of the Church—called forth by Simeon during the presentation of the infant Christ in the Temple (Luke 2:34)—that so often becomes lost in the modern world, with its comfort, ease, tendency to go along to get along, and lack of easily perceived martyrs—though are not the millions of aborted babies such—yet as Pope John Paul II reminds us, the Church is surely a sign of contradiction in the world.

Over the next eight days (first of ten posted on May 9th) I will continue to post excerpts from the final chapter of the first book published in English by John Paul—in 1979—Sign of Contradiction, which is a collection of talks then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla preached during the annual Lenten Retreat in March 1976 to his predecessor, Pope Paul VI.

A related series of articles by Dr. John C. Rao is available online at the Roman Forum, which examines in depth the ongoing war against the Church, as noted by Rao: “For the Church is a force which has proven to be a powerful, effective, rage-provoking “sign of contradiction” to all the many opponents of Christ.” (2nd para., 1st p.)

Excerpt from Sign of Contradiction.

“Certainly there is in this world a powerful reserve of faith, and also a considerable margin of freedom for the Church’s mission. But often it is no more than a margin. One need only take note of the principal tendencies governing the means of social communication, one need only pay heed to what is passed over in silence and what is shouted aloud, one need only lend an ear to what encounters most opposition, to perceive that even where Christ is accepted there is at the same time opposition to the full truth of his Person, his mission and his Gospel. There is a desire to “re-shape” him, to adapt him to suit mankind in this era of progress and make him fit in with the programme of modern civilisation—which is a programme of consumerism and not of transcendental ends. There is opposition to him from those standpoints, and the truth proclaimed and recorded in his name is not tolerated (cf. Acts 4:10, 12, 18). This opposition to Christ which goes hand-in-hand with paying him lip-service—and it is to be found also among those who call themselves his disciples—is particularly symptomatic of our own times.

“Yet that is not the only form of contradiction of Christ. Alongside what can be called “indirect contradiction”—and incidentally there are many variations on it, many shades and blends—alongside that there is another form of contradiction probably arising out of the same historical basis as the first one—and therefore more or less a result of that first one. It is a form of direct opposition to Christ, an undisguised rejection of the Gospel, a flat denial of the truth about God, man and the world as proclaimed by the Gospel. This denial sometimes takes on a brutal character. We know that there are still some countries where churches of all denominations are closed, where priests are sentenced to death for having administered baptism. Perhaps in those areas of persecution there are still traces of the ancient Christian catacombs, of the circuses where witnesses to Christ were thrown to the lions. But present-day persecution, the kind typical of these last years of the 20th century, occurs in a context quite different from that of ancient times, and it therefore has a quite different significance.” (pp. 199-200)