At the start of this week, we hear Peter and John speak with boldness about the resurrection of Jesus. Throughout the week, we celebrate a series of saints who spoke with boldness about the issues of their day.
St. Catherine of Siena (April 29) lived in the 1300s. One of the pressing issues of her day was political fighting between Rome, Florence, Avignon and the pope. She spoke out boldly, and helped to set things on the right political path.
St. Pius V (April 30) lived in the 1500s. The principal issue of his day was the Protestant Reformation. He spoke out boldly, both about the internal reform needed in the Church and about the external response to Protestant errors. He helped to set things on the path of reform.
St. Athanasius (May 2) lived in the 300s. The issue of his day was the heresy of Arianism. He spoke out boldly about Christ as truly God, consubstantial with the Father, and helped to set things on the right theological path.
One of the most pressing issues of our day concerns the moral life. Our culture says we need to affirm whatever people are feeling as good, as their identity, and as OK to act on. We need to speak out boldly, and contradict culture on every one of those points.
First, people feel a lot of things. Some are good and some are bad. That’s the condition of fallen human nature. And that’s not just a theological doctrine, it’s a matter of human experience.
Second, none of our feelings give us our identity. Our identity is as sons and daughters of God, members of the Body of Christ, called to grow to perfection in Him. When we base our identity on our feelings we become like Esau, who sold his birthright to fulfill a temporary hunger (see Genesis 25:27-34 and Hebrews 12:14-17).
Third, some of our feelings are OK to act on and some are not. Some of them lead to our fulfillment because they’re in accord with God’s plan; some of them lead to heartache because they’re not.
Like the Sanhedrin, contemporary culture gives us strict orders not to teach these things. The proper response was given by the apostles 2,000 years ago: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
When we speak out boldly about the issues of our day, we won’t always meet worldly success. Neither did St. Athanasius, who was exiled 5 times for a total of 17 years for his boldness. Neither did Jesus, who was crucified for His. But success in God’s eyes is measured differently: by being faithful to the truth proclaimed by Jesus, and by being faithful to the way He proclaimed it.