Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Saint Andrew Dung-Lac, priest and martyr and his companions

(Revelation 15:1-4; Luke 21:12-19)

Eastern Europeans are largely oblivious to wide-eyed Western idealists who show little stomach for arms. Tempered by the bitter experience of iron-hand Communist rule, Poles, Czechs, and Ukrainians suffer few illusions that nations will live in harmony anytime soon. They would resonate with John, the Presbyter, in the first reading. After being exiled, he only revels at the dream of angels preparing plagues to be hurled at his people’s persecutors.

On the other hand, people who have not experienced persecution can barely stomach the Book of Revelation when it describes divine retribution. They believe the accounts fanciful and almost un-Christian. But they should recognize at least the possibility of a fearful justice being realized. After all, the gospels are full of phrases warning of teeth-grinding and hell-fire. Perhaps, however, the fear warranted by such admonitions is more properly intellectual – that of missing out of life’s fulfillment – than physical – burning in oblivion.

In any case those who strive for righteousness will feel awe before the Lord as he rescues his people. This transcendence is John’s vision of the saved standing victoriously over their nemeses. We can easily imagine the hundred plus Vietnamese martyrs, whom the Church celebrates today, in this throng. Assured that their suffering would not go unnoticed, they persevered in their faith to the bitter end.