“You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone…For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.” James 2:24-26
As Jesus returned from Bethany to Jerusalem, two odd or unexpected actions from our Lord took place: first, the cursing of the barren fig tree, and second, the cleansing of the Temple by overturning the tables of the “money-changers” (Mark 11:12-18). In many ways, especially in the West, the Church today appears both barren and in need of much cleansing, just like the fig tree and the Temple. Interestingly, the first appearance of a fig tree was during Adam and Eve’s original sin, when they ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and immediately sewed fig leaves together in shame (Gen 3:7). Prior to that, in spite of drastic God-made climate change, God’s first commandment to us was still to “be fruitful and multiply” (Gen 1:28). Fruits matter.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, based on St Paul’s letter to the Galatians, lists and defines the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit: “The fruits of the Spirit are perfections that the Holy Spirit forms in us as the first fruits of eternal glory. The tradition of the Church lists twelve of them: “charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, chastity” (CCC 1832). Although God does not approve of diversity (Prv 20:10), He offers a multitude of rewards for our virtuous deeds and faithfulness.
In his book “The Cross and the Crisis”, Venerable Fulton J. Sheen said, “If we are honest with ourselves, we cannot deny that the advance of secularism, the increase in godlessness, the decline of the sacrificial spirit, is to a small extent at least, a result of our own unfulfilled Christian duty, a failure to live out in our social and economic and political existences, the fullest implication of the Cross…” He wrote this in the 1930s.
At that time, his focus was on the rise of communism, and its destructive power over society. I once had a dialogue with a Muslim friend regarding capitalism and communism, and although the latter has proven to be vehemently atheistic, I argued that it shares a few aspects in common with Islam:
Totalitarian State: Fringe or deplorables as second class/ Control over all social aspects of life/ no freedom of movement outside own borders/ propaganda or lying allowed if it helps the party/ violence as a tool to first gain power, then to enforce obedience
Caliphate State: Dhimmis as second class, infidels…/ Sharia law over all aspects of life/ no freedom to move from Islam to another religion/ taqiyya or lying allowed if it helps Islamic cause/ jihad as a tool to first gain power, then to enforce obedience
My friend disagreed on some points and directed me to a few passages, particularly early in Mohammed’s time, as well as, explain difference between higher Jihad and lower jihad. Indeed there was a sense of tolerance in early Islam, however, I asked him how many mosques are in Rome and how many churches are in Mecca today? Then I asked how many Christians live in Mecca and how many Muslims live in Rome? Fruits of the faith matter more than mere words. G.K. Chesterton in his typical fashion, once quipped in reference to communism that “the difference is between the idea of birds building nests and the idea of birds being all exactly and equally and humanely kept in cages.” (GK’s Weekly June 30, 1928).
How easy people forget that the Berlin Wall was built to keep people from getting out, not stop people from getting in. Ironically, it’s not uncommon these days to hear politicians and celebrities call for and demand open borders, whilst living in gated communities, with locks and alarms all over their house, and security guards! St Francis De Sales in his masterpiece, “Introduction to the devout life”, stated “Of a truth, my child, the King of Glory does not reward his servants according to the dignity of the office, but according to the humility and love with which they exercised it.” Love is not a feeling but an action of the will, and therefore, inaction or indifference is not a neutral stance, it is the opposite of love.
Less than 150 years ago, Catholics in Ontario were not allowed to become doctors, lawyers or teachers. Kevin P. Anderson in his book “Not Quite Us”, referred to 1970s Toronto as “the Belfast of Canada”. Judging by the increasing attacks on Catholic hospitals and schools to comply with secularist laws, and of course, the burning of churches, it’s easy to see our province descending into another dark period, except this time, the persecution is anti-Christian in general. With that said, it’s good to remember that it’s through trials that the Church has often produced her very best saints. St Athanasius during the Arian crisis, St Augustine and St Ambrose against the Donatists and Manicheans, St Thomas More during English Reformation, the martyrs of Compiegne during French Revolution, and St John Paul 2 during Nazi and Communist occupation, to name but a few. They all kept prayer as central in their mission. St Mother Teresa of Calcutta for example, always made time to start her day with Mass before going about the grind of helping the poorest of the poor. They all also did not sit around praying and waiting for someone else to do what needed to be done. Their faith yielded fruits even they could not imagine, a faith that truly moved mountains (Mat 17:16-21). Austin Ruse, in his latest book “Under Siege”, made a hopeful call to all of us, a call to action: “But the mass of people who chose fishing on Sunday over the Holy Mass, who are stuck to their phones and homescreens, they are missing the chance to participate in one of the most glorious times in the history of the world to be a faithful Catholic.” He should know, as his work in the United Nations through his Centre for Family and Human Rights organization, is one of the few voices defending traditional values in that arena. The lions may look different over there, but they are as voracious as in the Colosseum of old.
The fruits of our fathers’ faith produced the seed for the following generation to continue to not only survive, but to thrive. My own experience is not that different: my grandfather plowed fields without machines, often working 12 hours a day, working without any prior knowledge of whether the crops he cultivated, would not be devastated by weather, by pests, and other menaces. Even when the crops did survive those dangers, he did not know whether he would be paid fairly for them – at times, the prices for those crops did not even recover the costs. Yet he continued on, never giving in to despair. My father emigrated to several countries, until finally settling in Canada. His white privilege was to work 12 hours shifts in our wonderful summer heat, laying out cement, bricks, etc. Our government bureaucrats were happy to take half his pay. Yet he continued on, and it’s on his back that I today have the life that I have.
May God grants us the wisdom, the courage, the perseverance to endure our trials, so that we may carry our children to a better future, a future where they can enjoy the fruits of our faith, the fruits of our works.
St Joseph – pray for us.
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