In a recent discussion of a parish men’s group, our local chapter of the Men of St. Joseph International (MOSJI: mosji.org), we were discussing how we need to act and to profess our faith in this secular, morally relativistic world. During the discussion, the phrase came up, “Be a Nathan,” referring to Nathan the prophet.
In this cancel-culture world of relativism we are currently living, the “woke” society wants us to hide our faith. They want to silence the voices of any who disagree with them. They not only disregard the thoughts and beliefs of others, but they totally disregard and try to circumvent the first amendment of our Constitution, which declares our God-given rights to freedom of speech and religion.
So, how should we respond? Should we cower and hide our heads in the sand? Should we forego Christ’s command to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation”? (Mk 16:15) NO! Jesus said to them (and, by extension, to us), “Do not be afraid.” (Mt 28:10) And “Why are you afraid? Have you not faith?” (Mk 4:40) And, during the storm, “It is I, do not be afraid.” (Jn 6:20) “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give you. Let not your hearts be troubles, neither let them be afraid.” (Jn 14:27)
In the storm of today’s society, we need to take Jesus’s words to heart, because He is always with us. We are at the state described by Pope Leo XIII in his encyclical Immortale Dei: “Where liberty is mistaken as license, the State, troubled as it will be, must grow. The State stands in for God. Some men will try to alter for their purposes the unalienable nature of marriage. The liberty of the Church will be curtailed, for the State will seek, either to forbid the action of the Church altogether, or to keep her in check and bondage to the State.” But we are called to witness to Christ. As St. Paul said, “… proclaim the word; be persistent, whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth, and will be diverted to myths. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardships; perform the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (emphasis added) (2 Tim 2-5)
And what is our ministry? Our ministry is to evangelize. We are, as Pope Francis noted, in a missionary environment. As such we need to follow the example of Nathan, the prophet, who did not hesitate to confront David, the king, saying, “Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?” (2 Sam 12:9) We need to do the same with our wayward politicians and our heretical bishops, for as Venerable Fulton Sheen told us, “You the people, … Your mission is to see that your priests act like priests, your bishops act like bishops and your religious act like religious.” Pope St. John XXIII went further, “Our sons, the laity especially, must not suppose that they would be acting prudently to lessen their personal Christian commitment in this passing world. On the contrary, We insist that they must intensify it continually.” (Mater et Magistra)
We also have the example of St. Ambrose, who, as Bishop of Milan, made the Roman Emperor, Theodosius, sit with the laity as it was not his place to be in the sanctuary. Furthermore, when notified of an unspeakable atrocity committed by this Christian emperor, Ambrose “urged him to repent publicly for his crime.” (M. D’Ambrosio, When the Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers) Ambrose required the emperor to do public penance before being readmitted to the Blessed Sacrament. Theodosius did several months of public penance outside the church as Ambrose demanded.
We need to be Nathans and Ambroses, not only with our fellow men but with our politicians, our priests, our religious, and our prelates. We have an obligation to be bold witnesses to our faith. For, as Pope Benedict XVI said during his visit to the U.S., “In Christianity there can be no room for purely private religion: Christ is the savior of the world. … To the extent that religion becomes a purely private affair, it loses its very soul.”