Thursday, September 15, 2011

In No Way Can a Man Redeem Himself

September 16, 2011

Memorial of Saint Cornelius, pope and martyr, and Saint Cyprian, bishop and martyr

By Mel Rigney

Indeed, religion with contentment is a great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. (1 Timothy 6:6-7)

Yet in no way can a man redeem himself, or pay his own ransom to God; too high is the price to redeem one's life; he would never have enough to remain alive always and not see destruction. (Psalms 49:8-9)

Jesus journeyed from one town and village to another, preaching and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod's steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources. (Luke 8:1-3)


Lord, let my decisions be guided by Your will, not by what is popular or politically correct.


Sometimes, the middle ground, guided by prayer and measured in love and God, is the right position, even if it gets you into trouble. Even if you die for it.

St. Cornelius became pope, a job he really didn’t want, in 251 A.D., fourteen months after the previous pope, Fabian, had been martyred during the Emperor Decius’s persecution of Christians, which included the requirement of public sacrifices to the gods (or purchase of certificates in their place). Two factions existed in the young Church—those who wanted to welcome back easily and freely the Christians who had been apostasized, and those who said had renounced Christianity could never return.

Cornelius took the middle ground, welcoming the apostates back, but with appropriate penances. Despite the support of Cyprian, the bishop of Carthage, and most Eastern and African bishops, an internal battle. And as the internal battle raged, external evil re-emerged. After only about two years as pope, Cornelius was exiled and died in 253, the year the next Roman emperor required Christian clergy to sacrifice to the gods.

Following Christ in the third century was fraught with peril, just as it was in the first century when all but two of the original twelve, Paul, and countless others were martyred, and just as it is today for those spreading the Word in places like North Korea, Iran, Eritrea, China, Vietnam, and Malaysia. It is even sadder and more sobering when we as Catholics or we as Christians focus too much on pleasing or currying favor with our friends or political bases and not enough on dialogue and doing the job the way Christ desires. For when we stake out positions based on our ego and not on His teachings, we provide fertile ground for valid criticism—and an opportunity for the evil to grow.


As the political rhetoric heats up this fall, consider whether you are supporting a candidate whose positions are based on political calculations—or whose positions are informed by Christ’s teachings, easy or hard.