“If you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God’s eyes” (1 Pet 2:20).
In this complex twentieth-century I suggest that one of the most excruciating forms of suffering is to stand up for the truth, to endanger the security and comfort of one’s own life for the sake of a crucial principle—and then have no one pay attention. To challenge some basic deceit or corruption in our system, to suffer the pain of confrontation and misunderstanding in the process, and then to discover that the rest of the world is “too busy” to pay any attention—what a cross!
In his novel The Vicar of Christ, Walter Murphy puts these words on the lips of a brilliant judge who is evaluating the hero of the novel, Declan Walsh: “(he had) the stubborn courage to hold on to values when reality offered little hope of success.”
What a great tribute. What a painful process. To retain one’s values when all the “real world” around one tends to say, “That will never work,” and goes on it’s merry way paying no attention to the courageous challenge.
Athanasius, the great bishop of Alexandria in the fourth century, was considered foolish by his peers and by multitudes of the faithful in his diocese. He tenaciously affirmed the divinity of Christ when the majority of those around him swung to the teachings of Arianism (that Jesus is only semi-divine). Athanasius replied to his antagonist: ”if the world goes against truth, then Athanasius goes against the world.” Athanasius suffered greatly. He was ignored, ridiculed, then exiled. But he never stopped confessing that Jesus is God.
In this changing, complex, complex, confusing twentieth century, it can be painful, almost tortuous, to adhere to the teachings of Jesus, his eternal principles, and then we get ignored. We cannot explain why it is valuable to suffer in this way. With Peter, we can only say that we believe it: “If you put up with suffering for doing what is right, this is acceptable in God’s eyes.”
Yours in Christ,
Fr. Gaspar Masilamani, CMF