In the Gospel of Luke 21:5-11, Jesus speaks the words, “Do not be terrified, for such things, must happen” as a warning and a comfort to all those who seek the His light in their lives. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen many cults and evangelical preachers assume a role prophesying the destruction of the world. Some have even blamed natural disasters as a cudgeling response to the sinful ways of a cities inhabitants. Their narrow minded, half-hearted attempt at drawing a parallels with the Old Testament, shows a misinterpretation of the Bible and further exacerbates the ignorance of the people who choose to listen. So, why do the fear mongers who live among us, carry so much sway when they make these predictions? Well, it comes down to our need as humans, to have answers. We look for leaders in every walk of life, because they have the answers we desire, or at least we think they have the answers we need. In truth, the answers we are looking for can be summed up in this one line; “Don’t be terrified, for such things must happen”. My wife has often said, “this too shall pass”, a derivative of the first phrase, what we are instructed to do is stop the worrying our mind will ceaselessly do, and begin to focus on those who truly need our efforts. After we’ve moved past our initial shock to the cultural shifts happening before our very eyes, we must finally stop our grumbling and get to work on the objective moral solution.
Currently as I write this, there are at least 10 crisis happening in our world. From the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the cartoon character in North Korea. All are threats to peace and in some cases have outright destroyed peace. In Syria alone, estimates of death range from over 350k to over 500k; I Am Syria, a website devoted to exposing the death tolls also places the death toll over 500k. To place in context, about 600k were killed in four years during the American Civil War. So, putting it mildly there are reasons to be thankful for the peace and tranquility most of us endure on a daily basis, with only fighting the rush hour traffic, or putting up with the Holidays and those guest who never seem to leave. Our world isn’t one of bland tastes or derisive points of view as much as it is a world complex in its desires and brutish in the ways in which those desires may be fulfilled.
If we look back at those who wished to possess power the most, we see two who stick out predominantly, Hitler and Stalin, and perspective is everything when it comes to historically looking at these despots of time. Hitler, of course was on the losing side during the Second World War, and neither time nor the history books have been kind at all, as well they shouldn’t be. However, not much is said in modern context to Stalin, a thug and paranoid dictator who before the outbreak of WWII, purged the leadership in his military for fear of coup d’état, and after the war, he murdered approximately 20 million people, so as to maintain the fear and control of his country. His history is less damning, probably because he was betrayed by the other tyrant and his only choice was to join the winning side of the war. Those people who lived through such times, especially the Jews of Russia, Eastern Europe, and places like Turkey were tested with the phrase Luke writes of Jesus, and it wasn’t as if Jesus was unfamiliar with hard times. The Jews of the Holocaust were herded like cattle, into rail cars and brought to factories of death, the most prominent being Auschwitz, located in Poland. A place of sadness and doom for those chosen to walk through the gates and either face immediate extermination or be forced to work until their bodies could no longer work, and then would be summarily killed before the rest of those living. Living conditions so bad, when we read about what was eaten and the sickness which occurred, we ponder if we’d have the ability to live through what they did. Since we have nothing to base our perceptions on regarding the treatment of the Jews during WWII, we are left at a foundation of incredulity to grasp at what we can only think of as too outlandish, even for a movie. The same can be said for what we know of the time when Jesus lived, aside from His omniscience due to his divinity, ancient Jerusalem was a difficult place to be in, from sickness, to wars, to poverty, and death as the result of any one of those paradigms and Jesus lived and embraced those who were meek and humble, poor of spirit, and those who would weep. Death was at every turn, and to have the very Divinity of All, stand before us and teach us to put away our terror, elucidates just who he was and what he was here to do for us. The irony of the Jews of the early 20th Century having never read the words of the everlasting Christ, although they feared the unknown, the stories of accepting their fates are what true stories are written about.
The events of our lifetime have been, or are in constant turmoil. Everywhere we turn, there is a person, a group, or a country trying to stir up strife as a means to an end, regardless if they don’t know what this end might be. Take for instance, the black lives matter movement which took on a fever pitch in 2016 and had people (mostly black Americans) marching the streets and protesting a perceived systemic racial bias being showed to them by the law-enforcement communities throughout the country. Problem is, the statistics didn’t back their argument, and the police were being vilified by conjecture and supposition leading to the culmination of the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, and countless other brother officers throughout the nation. The rhetoric being spewed from the mouths of those who would seek their own ends regardless of the means, meant tragedy for those families forced to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. The turmoil which was created by selfish pursuits left heartache in the wake of destruction by incendiary lies, which prompted those who would find purpose in the lies the devil tells. At the end of the day, the worst part of the whole situation is when members of the movement were asked on new programs and street interviews, they could neither explain cohesively nor intelligently, why they were there or what they were fighting against. Instead, the conversation would unravel and words like racism or bigotry were used as facts were dismissed. A duplicity began to evolve with movements such as this, and although these people still exist and are still marching today, their ever-changing path to truth became too much for a mainstream to accept and it now has become a fringe element of extremism.
Over and over again, we continue to see fires out of control in our own lives, and if we just take a step back, we see much of the turmoil amount to nothing more than experience based in perspective. Like the rock which isn’t moved by the turmoil of the sea crashing into it, we must be willing to accept the wave, while we hold fast to our faith. To the person who has seen and done many things, excitability isn’t something we will see them exhibit too much, instead, a deliberation of effort and calculation of outcome is what we can expect, and when we think about the words of Christ spoken to those, who for lack of a better term, were ignorant of his ways, Jesus was deliberate in the words chosen and the actions taken. For in his divinity, he is aware of the full narrative of time, and like any of us who’ve read a book more than once, we know what’s coming up, but if the story is good we are no less moved by what happens. If we think about Jesus’s life on this earth, we are reminded of his power and ability to command legions of Angels, but as he knew this part of the story must happen, he refrained from calling upon them, that we must not lose faith and succumb to terror, because those things would happen.
In the context of the world we live in we need to keep a few things in mind before we abandon all hope. Our perspective of life is limited, which is why embracing patience and compassion in all situations can never not benefit us, but may limit our exposure to material desires we truly don’t need. Think about those situations where you failed or even when you succeeded, the failures for me usually came when a lack of preparation and planning was replaced by speed and quick results. More often than not, when I forced an issue, any issue, I was greeted with mixed results, but when I’ve taken the time to measure out a proper decision, I am greeted with results I planned on and gladly except. Which is the overall purpose, because there are some who will read this and think to themselves, “it doesn’t always work to take my time and deliberate”, but fringe exceptions to the rule should never be the acceptable proving ground to break a rule of thumb.
Overall, the words Jesus spoke in any context, soothe our weary minds, calm those seas which risk to stir us up into a lather, and above all give us a peak at what is to come if we’re just patient enough to allow the story to be told. In the major motion picture, “Paul: Apostle of Christ”, Jim Caviezel, counsels the Christians in the temperament needed to face certain death. He indicates the pain will be there, but in an instant it will be gone, and the light of life will greet every one of them. As some may find this sophomoric in his attempt to “sugar-coat” a horrific action, and they may be right, the other we can be sure about is the light they will receive by their martyrdom. Bishop Robert Barron, in his book, “To Light a Fire on the Earth”, makes use of the beauty of both the Saint and the Martyr, not because their lives are full of luxury and desirable to the common person, but because their lives are examples of the beauty which awaits all of us. Those are the leaders we should follow in life, not the CEO’s or the alphas who exist in every group, but those who have been given the proverbial light to follow and beckon us all to come with them through their unselfish actions. Barron, remarks in his book, more people have come to Christ through the actions of martyrs than just about anything else. The beauty in the sacrifice is evident, but above all, the embracing of Jesus’s words is inspiring.
When we face those events in our lives which prove to test our souls, and when we feel just like we’d break at any second, what we need to focus on are the words resonating in our heads. “Do not be terrified, for such things must happen”, sometimes we need to break down a little, how else can we learn to trust God? Sometimes, we need to set the structure we designed in our heads and our actions, ablaze because burning it down and rebuilding is what is needed (figuratively speaking). In my own life, I needed to tear down the structure and the façade my life had built up to a certain point. Remember, building your life and its structures without the light of God, is like building a house in the dark, with no light whatsoever to look upon your work and make corrections where needed. When we have the light to illuminate what we do, we still need patience to guide us to the right decisions, and we must overcome the fear of the unknown. Just like those who’ve come before us, accepting our cross simply means, we’ve are nailed to it, and we have accepted what it is we must do. It is not a matter of simply removing ourselves from what we don’t like, but instead, making the best of any situation we happen to be in, and praying God will guide us into his love.
I will leave you with this one last story to put your mind of the martyr at work. Maximilian Kolbe was a priest who was sent to Auschwitz prison, during World War II, and while he was there, a function of the evil employed against the prisoners, was a selection of ten prisoners to be killed when someone escaped or tried to escape. They would be lined up and selected at random (or if someone looked as though they couldn’t work, they would undoubtedly be selected), and during this process of selection, a sickly man was selected, but he protested the selection indicating his family needed him. So, Kolbe, took his place, and was placed into a cell for two weeks without food, as a means of starving to death. However, Kolbe, and a handful of prisoners were still alive at the end of the two weeks, and were summarily shot to death. He was granted sainthood in 1981, by St. John Paul II. This story is sad, depressing, and full of remorse over the lives of those chosen to die at the hands of the evil. However, I wanted to point out one most intriguing points which my mind was affixed to, and which I’ve tried to point out in my writing here. Kolbe, through his own sacrifice, saw the light of Christ clearly, he was moved to take the place of another, solidifying those nails as he was placed on his own axiomatic cross. His enduring ability to stay alive, for two weeks, and then have it ended by an assassin’s bullet, makes for what seems to be and anti-climactic end to such a magnanimous effort. However, this is where God exists for us. In the spaces between, in the cracks of the hardened exterior, and in the silence of our hearts. Can’t you remember a time, when you’ve done something for someone else, and they showed little response? Perhaps there was a time when you unselfishly did something for another, and they thanked you, and you walked away, and no one ever knew what you did? This is the step I am referring to, the fear of putting ourselves out so that others may ridicule, and the willingness to accept our fate is where the light of Christ exists.
Do not be terrified, for such things must happen, is the first words anyone should hear, especially when they begin their journey to Christ. For many years, I allowed my fears to control my actions, and what pitiful actions they were, but fear is liberating, for many reasons, not least of which, overcoming our fear is where God stands, he needs us to do this if we are ever to love him. Think of when you loved someone dearly, and then they broke your heart, God would never do this. If you’re willing to give your heart to those people, who most assuredly have a chance of breaking your heart, it seems a waste not to at least try the same with God, who will always lift you up because you are his beloved. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!
“10 Conflicts to watch in 2018” Robert Malley; https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/02/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2018/