In Times Like These, HODL to Your Faith

With two eccentric leaders threatening nuclear war, a Catholic Church churning with infighting and cryptocoins foreshadowing one-world-currency, is this the Book of Revelation? What can we do? Simple: HODL, baby!ChairThe term HODL was born out of a Bitcoin investor’s typo. The investor was posting on a forum and intended to convey that he was holding onto his Bitcoin despite a recent downfall in the price. Others began using the term and the rest is history.

An acronym quickly arose from the mistaken spelling:Hold On for Dear Life.

In the cryptocurrency investment world the term describes the discipline of not selling one’s stock of coins when it becomes bearish (drops significantly in price). The investor believes that the price drop is temporary and precedes a spike in value that will result in a profit.

This concept is surprisingly poignant to the situation in which Catholics find ourselves in today. Being a Christian has become somewhat of a liability in the world, thanks in no small part to many who carry the banner of Christ while forgetting to carry the Cross.

Introduce into any polite conversation with a non-Christian that you are a Christian, and there awakens an unspoken tension. Though not true of all people, many will begin to wonder what exactly it is that you mean by the term Christian. They may fear that they are in store for a bible-thumping oration on all the things wrong with them and how they can find redemption in your book.

Perhaps they will think of friends or family members whom members of your religion have demonized; their brother who is gay or their friend who is Muslim. Or the person may be well read on scientific issues of the day and surmise that you are vehemently opposed to any discussion of science.

You may end up having a wonderful conversation with this person, but you have already been painted with a thousand and one stereotypes before it ever began.

These stereotypes (many are justified) have made the Apostolic Commission of the Church to bring the Gospel to all the nations of the Earth far more complicated. A growing number of young people are rejecting traditional religion in favor of what they call being spiritual or even complete atheism.

These yearnings to cast off the mantle of religion (which happens significantly more often in Christianity than either of the other two Abrahamic faiths) are especially nurtured when a young person heads off to university. Most (not all) professors are passively hostile toward Christianity and they have a tremendous amount of influence over the shaping of their young students minds. This is especially true for those students who are away from their homes for school.

The compounded result of all this is a world full of people who ridicule Christianity while at the same time ensuring that they are seen as being sympathetic to virtually every other faith on the planet.

Before long, Jesus’ prediction will indeed be fulfilled: the whole world will hate us because of His name.[i] Unfortunately, many Christians do not see this as something to be cautious of; instead it is perceived as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy. This ultimately leads to a false emboldening of zeal.

There is an unusual sense of romanticism about the idea of Armageddon among some Christians. I don’t believe many of these people have actually read the Book of Revelation, and if they have, they do not understand it. Many of the events described in Revelation have already occurred. This book was written to first century Christians who were being subjected to unspeakable persecution by the Roman emperor, Nero.

Although Revelation does foretell the end of the world and the coming of Christ’s kingdom, if and when these later events in the book do come to pass, they will not be enjoyable for anybody. That’s the whole point of Our Lord revealing it to St. John: to encourage Christians to persevere with righteous acts in the face of evil and cruelty.[ii]

I don’t believe we are nearing the end of the world any time soon (relatively speaking), but I do believe the message of Revelation is relevant today almost as much as when it was written. Now is exactly the time when we must stand up, not just for our faith, but in our faith.

We must hold to the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ, take up our cross and persevere. We must honor the traditions that have been preserved and protected by the blood of the martyrs. And we must protect them for the next generation and generations to come.

This is not an easy duty, but it was never going to be. Our Lord did not promise us ease in this mission – He promised us the cross.[iii] This fallen world is in direct opposition to the Kingdom of God. Those who align with and love this world are incapable of accepting the self-sacrificing commandments of Christ. They cannot even accept their own cross, let alone carry it. And they are the very people for whom we must pray.

In order to die to self and follow Christ, our faith must be strong and we must be fearless in showing it. One cannot live as Christ commanded us to without truly believing it. It is against our instincts for survival. One who follows these commandments must either believe or be insane.

Modern Western Christianity has been flooded with too many preachers of the happy Gospel. These men and women are preaching prosperity, wealth and happiness to their followers – in direct opposition to almost everything in the New Testament. Of course if we trust in God He will protect and shepherd us, but not with material wealth.

Suffering, sacrifice and most importantly charity on Earth is how we serve God, for which we will reap the rewards in Heaven.

It’s not difficult to understand why prosperity preachers are so attractive to modern Western Christians. The world is full of lavish pleasures and to turn away from them goes against our nature. We know what God wants us to do, but it is incredibly difficult. Then, someone comes along and tells you that it’s ok to embrace these earthly pleasures and can even quote scripture to back it up. It can sound pretty good.

To one who has never really read scripture, this can be convincing. (Those who have should know better.) Nowhere in the Christian charter are we promised comfort and wealth in this life as God’s appreciation for trusting in Him. St. Paul himself describes at length the sufferings, beatings and near-death encounters he endured for doing the work of Christ.[iv]

The problem with the so-called positive preaching or Prosperity Gospel is that they deceive us and separate us from the truth. They shield us from the fact that there are a lot of good and innocent people suffering in the world. There is no intrinsic problem with being happy and pursuing what one wants in life – provided it is done to serve God’s will.[v] But the first step to solving any problem is recognizing there is one.

How can we possibly recognize the pain of others if we are focused on our own pleasure?

The simple truth is there’s a price we must pay for our faith. It will not always be pleasant. It won’t always be fun. It won’t always be appreciated. But if we are to fulfill the mission with a will, it must be done. The Christian must never seek the easy way, the comfortable way or the popular way. The Christian must always seek to follow Christ’s way.

Just before penning this article, I was fortunate enough to view the video of a surprise speech given by actor Jim Caviezel to an assembly of Catholic students.[vi] Caviezel has long been an actor I highly admire. I was a huge fan of his version of The Count of Monte Cristo. He is best known, of course, for his inimitable portrayal of Jesus Christ in Mel Gibson’s masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ.

Caviezel is currently promoting his newest film, Paul, Apostle of Christ, to be released around Easter 2018, in which he plays the Acts of the Apostles and Gospel writer, St. Luke the Evangelist. Caviezel’s speech was a fiery and passionate call to arms for young Catholics to stand up and stand out against this world of corruption and sin. He noted that there is much suffering involved in Christianity and it is to not only be expected, but embraced.

“There was a lot of pain and suffering before the resurrection.” – Jim Caviezel

The message is simple and it has been the same for 2000 years: regardless of what happens in this world, place our trust in the Lord and do His will. If the United States and North Korea end up in a nuclear war, God will be here. If crypto currency makes us all slaves to the elite, God will be here. If the world ends tomorrow, God will be here. There is nothing to worry about, except our own indifference.

We Catholics are blessed to have so many resources but we have an obligation to utilize them. We must be reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church regularly. We should be having that true encounter with Christ by attending Mass weekly. We should be observing the sacraments. In short, we should be holding fast to our faith and the promise that has been made to us. Above all else, we have the wonderful gift of the Catholic Church, the church founded by Jesus Christ Himself when he gave the great commission to St. Peter and the Apostles, which will stand upon the rock for all time and against which the gates of Hell will never prevail.[vii]

With all this, and more, there is a responsibility for us to stand firm in the storm. Now is not the time to abandon our faith in God – now is the time to embrace it and show the world what true faith really is. The world is off kilter; it needs a stabilizing force. The world needs Jesus Christ. It needs the true Jesus Christ: compassionate, empathetic, forgiving – and absolutely uncompromising.

Jesus never compromised because He didn’t ever need to; He submitted to the will of the Father. His actions never required rethinking. He followed the two great commandments: He loved the Lord Our God with all His heart, all His soul and all His mind; and He loved His neighbors as Himself. Embracing these two commandments will always ensure that we make the right decisions.

We must hold fast to our faith and when we don’t know what to do or feel lost, we look to Jesus’ example. When He could help people, He helped them. When He could teach them, He taught. When He was alone and scared, He threw himself down and prayed.

This world is full of unimaginable suffering and we are not immune to it. We will have blessings and misfortunes, and others will witness it. (Some will be rooting for our downfall) How we respond will send a message that will ripple through the cacophony of negativity that fills our world. We must set the same example the early Christians did.

As the fledgling faith struggled to survive in the face of unrelenting persecution, the first Christians held fast to their trust in God. So strong – and seemingly counterintuitive – was the faith of the early Christians that the Romans could never truly figure them out. Christians were afraid of nothing. Death itself held no sting, for they knew the loving embrace of Our Lord Jesus Christ was waiting on the other side. It was this truth that drove the growth of the Christian faith throughout the world, led by the Apostles.

We descendants of those early faithful have been entrusted with a precious gift and we must not let it fall. Jesus showed no fear in the face of Pilate; early Christians showed no fear in the jaws of the lions; we must show no fear in the face of this broken and corrupt world. We must stand up unashamed to proclaim the truth that has been entrusted to us. And we must stand up for those who cannot stand for themselves.

In all circumstances, regardless of what challenges or dangers stand in our way: do not be afraid – just have faith. And let that faith shine.

References:

[i] Matthew 10:22

[ii] Revelation 22:11-13

[iii] Matthew 16:24-26

[iv] 2 Corinthians 11:23-29

[v] 1 Corinthians 10:31

[vi]Student Leadership Summit, January 2-6, 2018. Chicago, Illinois; Sponsor: The Fellowship of Catholic University Students;

[vii] Matthew 16:18

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