Word Magazine June 1993 Page 19


by Archpriest James C. Meena

Some time ago, on a TV Quiz Show, this question was asked:

“Do most people tell the truth nearly all of the time?”

The answer from the contestant was, “Yes;” but the answer from the pollsters was, “No.” Only some 32 to 38 percent considered themselves to be truthful practically all of the time. A shocking 60 to 68 percent answered that they lied most of the time. A fantastic and shocking revelation!

I wonder what St. Paul’s reaction would have been had the poll been taken in his time, or even if the answer might not have been pretty much the same. His statement in II Timothy, (4:5-8) “I have kept the faith,” is of utmost importance to us for it means always maintaining the trust of God.

Our trustworthiness must never be doubted. “Be careful always to choose the right course and to be brave under trials. Make preaching of the Good News your life’s work in thorough­going service.” St. Paul was writing to Timothy, yet not to Timothy alone, but to everyone who is called a disciple of Christ.

“Trials and tribulations” immediately conjure up images — tied to a stake, nailed to a cross, whipped, cast into a dungeon or into fire — but there are more subtle trials than these which you and I face all the time and it is those subtleties that cause many to fall. It has been proven that psychological assaults on one’s emotional and intellectual integrity can utterly destroy one while physical torture can build up stubborn resistance.

After hundreds of years of attempts by conquerors to wipe out the Christian Church, the Turks discovered that the best way to diminish us was to give us a limited amount of freedom, to make the Church responsible to the Government for her people.

The Soviet Union was a modern example of a government’s attempts to wipe out religion by every means possible. Churches had been closed, burned, turned into museums and warehouses. Priests, Imams and rabbis were murdered. Nuns were raped. Seminaries were closed. Monasteries were sealed up. But the Church resisted and grew stronger, not numerically but spiritually. Christianity suffers much in the United States and Canada, where we are allegedly free, as much as it did in the Soviet Union, because we don’t seem to need to be brave in the face of trials and tribulations which we do not recognize.

We see no imperatives for truthfulness. We care less and less about expressing our fidelity to God. We cannot run the good course when we don’t know who it is against whom we are running. We are intellectually restrained from acknowledging that the battle we wage, and that we have waged since the beginning of man’s memory, is against Satan who would make us as vile and evil as himself. For this reason St. Paul cautions us to ‘‘always choose the right course,” the course of total, absolute commitment to Christ and a willingness to say, “Lord, I am yours! Come into my life! Restrain me from my corruptibility!” And if you really believe and really surrender to Christ, He will change you and make your life more meaningful and of value.

Then your Christianity will indeed be Orthodox. Reading the Scriptures won’t be laborious. It will be a joy! Exposing yourself to the pious literature of the Church will be absolute ecstasy and not merely a scholastic chore. Worshipping, confessing, repenting, ministering, preaching the Good News all become natural things for you because that is the only way one can go who is committed to Christ’s Love.

When we baptize, the sponsor rejects Satan on behalf of the child, repudiates him and spits upon him to show absolute contempt for him. This is not merely a symbolic act. It is a witness that Satan shall not defeat us and that Christ, Who was victorious in His battle with satanic death, so fills our lives that we are emboldened with sure hope of victory.

We choose the right course, the way of truth, because we can be trusted!

Father James is a retired priest of this Archdiocese, living in Parma, Ohio. He originated this column 16 years ago.