The New Age of Moral Darkness
The western world has entered a new age of moral darkness (see Evangelium Vitae, Building a Civilization of Love). Under the guise of “enlightenment” and modernity, human dignity and freedom are being increasingly suppressed by a secular totalitarian state. Assaults against the dignity of human life are pervasive through legalized abortion, euthanasia and embryo destruction/genetic manipulation. Culture elites, the media and liberal activists are promoting sexual “freedom”, including the “hook up” culture and the homosexual micro-culture through mass media and the Internet. Government, academic, cultural activists are seeking to both denigrate and restrict religious liberty by enacting laws and regulations to force the acceptance of contraception, abortion and homosexual “marriages” against religious conscience. There is a grave assault occurring on the Body of Christ.
The majority of people are being engulfed by the growing moral darkness. Millions of children are being aborted and many millions are being born to single women. Large and growing numbers of adults are forgoing marriage or choosing to divorce, gravely injuring themselves and their children. Depression and suicide rates, especially among young people, are growing. Worse, growing numbers are losing sight of their eternal salvation, living their earthly lives without the light of Christ.
The Faltering Courage of Modern Men
Many men are confused and afraid to respond to the darkening culture. Some mistakenly attempt to “man-up” by engaging in thrill-seeking behavior (X-treme sports, flash mobs, etc.), sexual conquest, wild partying or in “manly” activities (hunting, fishing, sports, etc.). Others retreat into perpetual adolescence, fade into feminization or succumb to homosexualization. In the face of mass moral confusion and the relentless cultural pounding of “political correctness”, rather then standing and defending the moral high ground, men are being cowed into timidity or distracted displays of false courage. Sadly, many Catholic men falter in courage and fall into cowardice.
En-courage-ment from the Courage of Jesus Christ
Christ perfectly demonstrates the virtue of courage to en-courage men. The word “virtue” is defined as a “manly moral strength” and comes from the Latin, vir, meaning “man.” Courage, or fortitude, is one of cardinal virtues (CCC 1805), is one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit (CCC 1831), is defined as “to make strong, to hearten” and comes from the Latin, cor (heart).
Jesus Christ, fortified by the Father and the Holy Spirit, comes to encourage (to make strong, to hearten) man, through His perfect demonstration of heroic courage:
Learns courage from the Virgin Mary and Joseph – Jesus Christ begins life as a refugee, His earthly father Joseph and the Virgin Mother escape Herod’s slaughter of the Innocents (Matt 2:13, 16). Jesus is raised, knowing the great courage of Mary’s fiat and Joseph’s chaste heroism and their total commitment to serve God in the face of persecution.
Stands up against Satan – Jesus stands up to and defeats Satan (1 John 3:8) when tempted in the Wilderness (Matt 4:10), by repeatedly casting out demons (cf. Matt 8:28-34) and by using the Satan-inspired evil of Judas (Luke 22:3) for the Glory of the Cross and Resurrection (CCC 2853). He defeats Satan on his home turf (Hell) when Jesus descends to offer His “redemptive works to all men of all times and all places…” (CCC 634). Christ’s courage against absolute and powerful evil is unflinching.
Evangelizes despite the ongoing plots to kill Him – After John the Baptist is imprisoned and eventually murdered, Jesus returns to Galilee to pick up where John left off (Mark 1:14). On many occasions, various groups plan and attempt to kill Him (John 5:16; Mark 7:5; John 7:30; John 8:59; John 10:20; Luke 13:31; John 11:53; Luke 19:47). Jesus courageously persists despite the murderous plots.
Stands up to false teachings of the Jewish elites – Repeatedly, He confronts the Pharisees and the Sadducees and provocatively corrects their falsehoods. He heals the paralytic (Mark 2:7) and the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matt 12:10) to demonstrate His authority (Mark 2:7). Jesus pronounces the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit of the teachers of the law (Mark 3:22). He pronounces woe on the Pharisees and the experts of the law for their hypocrisy (Luke 11:53-54). Despite constant death threats, Jesus authoritatively teaches in the temple during Passion Week (Mark 11:27-28).
Stands up against corrupt economic powers – Jesus confronts the merchants and moneychangers and single-handedly clears the massive (35 acres) temple area (John 2:2:18; Matt 11:18).
Stands up against bloodthirsty mobs – Jesus braves the Nazareth mob that tries to cast Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29). He stands up to the bloodthirsty mob that is going to stone the adulterous woman (John 7:53-8:11). He protects the disciples from the violent legion when He is taken in the Garden (John 18:8). Jesus Christ alone is unafraid and courageous against any and all ruthless mobs.
Overcomes His anguish in Gethsemane – Jesus Christ, knowing full well the physical torture He will endure, sweats blood in His anguish but courageously accepts the Father’s will (Mark 14:32-42).
Stands up against the Romans – Despite the well-known horrific tactics of the Romans, Jesus Christ does not falter when questioned by Pilate, knowing that Pilate could spare Him (Matt 27:1-26).
Endures persecution and torture courageously – Though Jesus has many chances to recant or to finesse His Gospel, He does not yield, enduring beating, scourging, being forced to carry His Cross and being crucified (Matt 27:27-50).
Accepts death on the Cross with courage – Jesus makes an infinite sacrifice, for His life is of infinite value and he gives it for the sins of all mankind. He chooses a horrible death freely (John 10:18), saying, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). In this, Jesus teaches to face the “hour of death” with courage (CCC 1014), promises to send the Holy Spirit to provide courage in old age and illness (CCC 1520) and gives men the strength to be martyrs for Christ (CCC 2473).
In the Gospel from the Thursday’s Mass (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus instructs the disciples that they must pick up their cross and follow Jesus:
 [Jesus said to His disciples], “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? “
The words about the Cross would have shocked the disciples, but many today have trouble fully grasping the shocking idea “of picking up one’s cross”.
Here is something that will shock you (more…)
In today’s Gospel from the Mass (Luke 9:22-25), Jesus gives us the Good News and the bad news (more…)
“Pain” – From Latin: poena, meaning ” torment, hardship”; ” condition one feels when hurt, opposite of pleasure” and “punishment.” “Suffering” – From Latin: sufferer,meaning “to bear, undergo, endure, carry or put under.”
The Pain and Suffering of Jesus (Catechism and Bible references noted; for other references regarding the pain and suffering of Jesus, see footnote below).
- Experiences the pain of being human – Jesus “became flesh in assuming a true humanity“ (CCC 476) and felt the many physical and emotional pains of being human. Thomas Aquinas assures us that “Christ endured every human suffering” and that “Christ’s pain was the very greatest.” (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae; III, q. 46).
- From an early age, Jesus feels a longing for the Father – At 12, Jesus feels the longing for God in the temple, though He obediently returns with Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:41-50).
- Suffers during the Temptation – Jesus fasts for 40 days and felt hunger (Matt 4:2).
- Lives a physically demanding life – A first century carpenter needed great physical strength and stamina and Jesus experienced fatigue and soreness. As itinerant preacher, Jesus walked many miles (one source suggests almost circumference of the earth; 25,000 miles) and felt fatigue.
- Anticipates the great suffering of the Passion – As early as the Marriage at Cana, Jesus realizes that His “Hour” is coming (John 2:4). He predicts His Crucifixion and death multiple times.
- Feels sorrow – Prior to raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35). Later, after the cleansing of the Temple, Jesus poignantly laments and weeps over the waywardness of the people of Israel (Matt 23:37-39; Luke 19:41-44).
- Experiences the desecration of His Father’s House – He violently cleanses the temple of the money-changers and traders which He refers to as a “den of robbers” (Mark 11:17). The disciples interpret Christ’s emotion as “zeal” (John 2:17). (more…)
“Sacrifice” – L. from sacrificus “performing priestly functions or sacrifices,” from sacra “sacred rites.”
“Heroic” – L./Gk. Heros “man of superhuman strength or courage,” “demi-god”, “defender, protector”, “to save, preserve, protect, watch over.”
The Heroic Sacrifice of Jesus
- Infinite lowering of Himself in the Incarnation – The Eternal Word pre-exists with infinite existence and ability. The Creator sacrifices to become man, a heroic action to save all mankind from sin (John 3:16). He forgoes heaven to take on the pain/suffering of human life.
- Incarnation into poverty and chaos – He is born as a vulnerable little baby into poverty in the ‘backwaters’ of Galilee, the son of a carpenter, during the political domination of Jews by Romans and Herod, tyrannical puppet king.
- Jesus remains obedient to Mary and Joseph – The Genius of Jesus is evident at the age of 12 when He astounds the priests and scribes at the Temple with His Wisdom (Luke 2:41-52). Despite his superiority, He remains heroically obedient to his earthly parents for another 18 years.
- Submits to Baptism by John – Despite being God and without sin, Jesus allows Himself to be identified with sinners when He lowers Himself to be baptized by John (Matt 3:13-17), heroically sacrificing His rightful place of being without sin for the sake of mankind.
- Undergoes suffering in the Wilderness when called by the Holy Spirit – Voluntarily sacrifices to go into the Wilderness without provisions for 40 days. After surviving this ordeal, resists Satan’s temptations and forces Satan to “be gone” (Matt 4:1-11). By doing this, Jesus connects symbolically with Israel’s history of trial in the desert and overcomes temptation.
- Chooses to live among the poor – Choosing men who appear to be unlikely leaders (e.g. fisherman, tax collector, without education, etc.), Jesus lives among the poor and rejects attempts to make Him king (John 6:15).
- Submits Himself to ridicule by sinners – Throughout His ministry, Jesus is repeatedly challenged, harassed and hunted by Jewish leaders who seek to kill Him. He does not yield.
- Jesus heroically reaches out to the “unclean” – After the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus touches and heals an unclean leper (Matt 8:1-4), heals the slave of a Centurion (enemy and Gentile) and exorcises a demoniac in Gentile lands (8:28-34). By doing so, Jesus willingly accepts being shunned and hated by many Jews.
- Jesus demonstrates heroic self-giving in His ministry – Jesus spends three years in a grueling ministry that is physically challenging, traveling long distances, working long hours with minimal comforts and constantly giving Himself to all who seek Him.
- Jesus confronts the dominant Jewish religious leaders with Scriptural Truth – Despite not having a “pedigree”, Jesus has a superior knowledge of Scripture (and God’s will). On multiple occasions, Jesus willingly teaches the ignorant and ungrateful Jewish leaders, despite consciously knowing they plan to kill Him.
- Heroically accepts the Cross – Despite the common knowledge of the brutality of crucifixion, and His own perfect knowledge of what He would endure, Jesus willingly submits to beating, scourging, taunting, humiliation and crucifixion. He sacrifices dignity, His righteous right to glory and His physical life. He endures the injustice and horror of being killed by His own children. He witnesses the betrayal and denial of those closest to Him. In His heroic Sacrifice on the Cross, Jesus takes on the sins of all men and redeems us (CCC 616-17).
- He courageously descends to Hell – After His brutal death, He is buried in the ground and then descends to Hell to free the just who had come before Him (CCC 633).
- He returns to love before the Ascension – Jesus foregoes heaven to returns to provide proof of His Resurrection and encouragement to His disciples (Lk. 24:13-53).
- He heroically continues to give Himself in the Eucharist– Jesus continues to return to give of Himself in the Real Presence of the Eucharist (CCC 1322-1419).